Cantors Mission to Spain Day 8

Granada and Seville

As I mentioned yesterday, Granada was the last Muslim stronghold. We skip forward to the yer 1500, where Granada is now the home to forced conversions. Our guide, Rosa, paints a picture of 1502, as Muslims lined in front of their former mosque (now a church) ready to be baptized. Conversion often created more rifts within the Christian community, as new Christians were designated separately from the old by being classified as “Moriscos.” In many instances, the “old” Christians were deemed clean (implying impurity for those newly converted). The church had long viewed converts on an equal playing field.

Rosa led us on a morning tour of Granada as we saw this juxtaposition once again of Islamic and Western architecture. In fact, the style of architecture changes like in Granada later on than in other communities, strengthening the tie to a more moorish style.

Our tour takes us to the museum of torture (Leora and I visited a Museo Della Tortura on our honeymoon while in San Gimignano, Italy), with a second floor tribute to the history of the Jews. The museum hosts a number of Jewish artifacts from Spain and throughout Europe with the hope of sharing the rich culture of the Jewish people (and therefore showing what was lost). We saw letters of conversos renouncing their Jewish faith, while using a secret code to communicate (writing in lemon!). Straight out of a National Treasure movie. My favorite artifact on display had to be the Arbol de Jesse from Granada (1618).

As we glanced over the hillside with a majestic view of the Alhambra Palace, Rosa explained that at one point during Muslim rule, occupants of Granada received their own land to become self sufficient. This makes a lot of sense given the way the Alhambra layout also has space for gardens in order to be self-sufficient. When the Christians took over, they kept hearing about all this land, called “Karen” (or Keren, as in Keren Kayemet Liyisrael), but they thought the locals were saying Carmen, so that’s why there are so many “Carmen” spaces throughout the region.

As we depart for a 3 hour bus ride to Seville, we learn about the vast number of monasteries and convents. One monastery is now a boarding school, yet there are “19 convents and counting” within Granada. Sounds like a reality tv show in the making to me!!

Berk Lecture

We were treated to a brief talk while on our way to Seville. Some of Berk’s insights:

We left off at the end of the 19th century. Setting the stage for the mood of the people:

There were revolts amongst peasants, workers, middle class; strong anarchist and Marxist movements. The low point is La Semana Tragica, July 25-Aug 2 1909, known in English as the Tragic Week- a series of bloody confrontations between the Spanish army and the aforementioned working classes/anarchists/socialists.

This unrest of 1909 couldn’t be seen in a Spanish vacuum when political theories and movements didn’t stop at the boarder crossing.

With the Russian Revolution in October 1917, we see the appeal of communism and the fear of communism. The appeal had a messianic feel to it- families like the Rosenbergs appealed to the idea of communism (not for the $$$). The leftists were motivated to action while the right (against Lenin), stayed socialist.

At the same time, since this is still a lecture on Spain, we see the last remnant of the Spanish empire in Spanish Morocco (we’ll learn later from our evening speaker of the various types of Moroccan Jews- Spanish, French, etc). The unpopular war in Morocco (in which 14,000 were slaughtered), with the humiliation of the Spanish armies contributed to the military coup of 1923. Primo De Rivera becomes dictator until 1930, when he leaves the country, followed by the monarchy (now the second expulsion of the monarchy of 1931 finally has context!!).

Massive rioting eventually leads to the republic establishment in 1931. When Hitler ran for office in 1932, Stalin said he would be out in 6 months. However, when Communists and socialists would not make any alliances, Hitler had his stranglehold. In 1934, the Kremlin party line changes. Now, it’s all against fascism, known as the Popular Front.

Socialists and Communists win mass majority in Spain. The Church and Republican army are obviously against it. With the summer revolt of 1936, Spain begins its Civil War. 1 million people die in the civil war. This civil war is the Vietnam of the 1930s.

Franco’s side has unity, but it also has guns and aircraft. The Republic has nothing. Salazar, Mussolini and Germany provide funding to Franco and support Guernica.

For the Republic side, the British and French send nada with their policy of appeasement in full effect. As Berk puts it, “no one wants to go in the meat grinder again.” America, too, is combatting isolationism.

Consequences of Civil War

Berk points out people turning their backs on Jews because they didn’t support their cause during the civil war. This is right out of the second paragraph of the shema- you pat my back, I’ll pat yours, but if you don’t pat my back, I’m not going to pat yours.

Stalin looks at the world through the prism of Leninism: as Hitler advances west, it must be a capitalist plot to release him eastward. As we know, perception is reality. We hear the story of Max litvinov, the Jewish foreign minister of Russia, replaced by Molitov. Molitov meets the German foreign minister as Hitler is about to invade Poland (Britain and France have alliance with Poland). The question arises- would Russia attack Germany from the east and make it a two front war? Or could Germany promise something in return for Russia’s help? Germany offers up Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and part of the Ukraine. The Soviet people will not know about the deal until Gorbachev.

This is all context for Franco’s iron fist rule from 1939-1975. Franco cracks down on all areas that would dare challenge him. For example, 7,000 high school teachers are executed during his reign.

Evening Program

It’s getting late so I’ll just mention that we had a wonderful meeting with Moses Hazan, from Morocco (most Jews in Seville are from Morocco), who teaches us about the Jews of Seville (lowlight includes June 6 1391 progrom, Spanish Inquisition beginning in Seville in 1478, last trial in 1781) . Cantor Aaron BenSoussan led us in a Moroccan maariv and Cantor Dov Keren led a powerful El Malei prayer for those in the Sephardic community that perished.

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Posted on July 12, 2016, in Cantors Mission, Cantors Mission to Spain. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Andrea Novotny

    Thank you for this detailed portrait of the history of the region and of its context in world history. – Andrea Novotny, Forest Hills Jewish Center

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