Jewish Spain: A Mediterranean Memory

Jewish Spain: A Mediterranean Memory

Jewish Spain: A Mediterranean Memory

Jewish Spain: A Mediterranean Memory


What is meant by "Jewish Spain"? The term itself encompasses a series of historical contradictions. No single part of Spain has ever been entirely Jewish. Yet discourses about Jews informed debates on Spanish identity formation long after their 1492 expulsion. The Mediterranean world witnessed a renewed interest in Spanish-speaking Jews in the twentieth century, and it has grappled with shifting attitudes on what it meant to be Jewish and Spanish throughout the century.

At the heart of this book are explorations of the contradictions that appear in different forms of cultural memory: literary texts, memoirs, oral histories, biographies, films, and heritage tourism packages. Tabea Alexa Linhard identifies depictions of the difficulties Jews faced in Spain and Northern Morocco in years past as integral to the survival strategies of Spanish Jews, who used them to make sense of the confusing and harrowing circumstances of the Spanish Civil War, the Francoist repression, and World War Two.

Jewish Spain takes its place among other works on Muslims, Christians, and Jews by providing a comprehensive analysis of Jewish culture and presence in twentieth-century Spain, reminding us that it is impossible to understand and articulate what Spain was, is, and will be without taking into account both "Muslim Spain" and "Jewish Spain."


One of the most emblematic locations in Barcelona’s medieval Jewish quarter, El Call, can be found at the corner of Marlet and Sant Ramon in the heart of the city’s Gothic quarter. Three plaques are affixed to the walls of the house located at I Carrer de Marlet, a building that was restored in 1820. the first plaque, with a Hebrew inscription, is a copy of a plaque from the early fourteenth century, now kept in Barcelona’s history museum, Museu d’ Histöria de Barcelona (MUHBA). the second features an inaccurate translation of the Hebrew inscription. the owner who commissioned the nineteenthcentury restoration was probably responsible for encasing the original plaque inside the outer wall of the building and placing the panel that contains the translation.

The replica of the original plaque from the fourteenth century was vandalized: a close look at the plaque with the translation reveals traces of the words “Palestina Libre,” written diagonally across the text. Even though the graffito has been removed and the words are now barely visible to the naked eye, their presence can still be detected in Figure 1. the third plaque—affixed during a campaign that muhba initiated in the medieval Jewish quarter in 2007 to place explanatory signs on the streets and landmarks of the medieval Jewish quarter—provides a revised translation into Catalan and English of the original Hebrew text and also situates the inscription in the geographical and historical context of Barcelona’s medieval Jewish quarter (see Figure 2). the Hebrew text on the plaque from the fourteenth century actually reads: “Pious Foundation by R. Samuel ha-Sardi. His light burns on forever.”

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