The Jewish people always had a great connection with the Iberian peninsula since it was the host country of these, which they called Sepharad. The legend indicates that the first Jews arrived in the Iberian Peninsula back in the 6th century BC after the destruction of Solomon’s temple by Nebuchadnezzar, however, the historical sources do not mention the presence of the Hebrew people until the time of Roman domination, concretely from the year 70, year of destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and his armies which caused the Jewish diaspora throughout the Roman Empire.
The Hebrew people settled in large cities and performed all kinds of professions such as artisans, merchants, bankers and doctors. During the domination of the Germanic peoples, specifically in the Visigothic period, they were the target of envy and political pressure for their financial activities, so at the time of the Muslim conquest in 711, the Mohammedans were received as saviors. The subsequent centuries of Muslim occupation, were of splendor for the Hebrew people who lived in their own neighborhoods called Jewish quarters and bequeathed to be respectable members even of the Caliphate court. They were only persecuted by intolerant people like the Almohads.
After the Christian conquests from the 12th century, they continued to live more or less calmly and even formed part of the courts of Christian kings as councilors, but progressively they suffered pressure in even racist attacks such as those that occurred in 1391 with the burning and killing of numerous Jewish quarters like Seville, Cordoba, Zaragoza, etc. The Jews were always associated in a pejorative way with the responsibility in the death of Jesus and even in having brought the black plague through Europe, in the fourteenth century, which decimated the population except for them because of their healthier health habits than those of Christians, which led them to be identified as guilty. Its situation was no longer the same as its period ended in the fifteenth century with the expulsion of the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon and a new diaspora for the world.
Of the Hebrews we have left their rites, religious buildings (synagogues), the constructions of their neighborhoods called Jewish quarters and their gastronomy. In this post, we indicate the best-known and best-preserved Jewish neighborhoods in Andalusia:
1. Jewry of Seville: Located in the neighborhood of Santa Cruz, Santa María la Blanca and San Bartolomé, was the area ceded to the Jews just after the Christian conquest in the thirteenth century. At that time the Jews were given 4 mosques to convert them into synagogues, Santa Maria la Blanca, Santa Cruz, San Bartolomé and the convent of Madre de Dios, now converted into churches. The neighborhood of Santa Cruz underwent a major reform in the 20th century due to the Ibero-American exhibition of 1929. Its corners, houses and balconies evoke a city that has not passed the time and very close to the great monuments of the capital of Seville. .
2. Jewish quarter of Córdoba: example of cohabitation of the three cultures, it was the Hebrew district of the Caliphate capital between the 10th century and the 15th century. The Jewish street is the nerve center and where the synagogue is located, one of the few preserved in almost complete manner even with the seven-branch candelabrum. On the street there is the statue of the Hebrew philosopher Maimonides who lived in the Almohad period and was a reference for Cordoba worldwide. today it is a pilgrimage center for Jews from all over the world.
3. Judería de Jaén: it was the most lasting since the Hebrew presence was maintained for twelve centuries and the Hebrew families that lived there were very important. It also has a 13th-century synagogue now converted into the Church of San Andrés. Curiously, its narrow streets also have the name of San Cruz district as in Seville. It is of great importance because the Arab baths of the city were located.
4. Judería de Lucena: the city located on the Caliphate route, has a Jewish quarter so large that in fact, between the 9th and 12th century, the city was inhabited exclusively by Jews, becoming a benchmark. It has a large synagogue and a cemetery, but it should be noted that in the 12th century, when they fell into the hands of the Almohads and due to the intolerance of this North African people, these Jews emigrated to Toledo, contributing to the cultural wealth of the city of Castellana .
5. Judería de Úbeda: it was of great importance during the centuries of Muslim occupation however part of its splendor and architecture disappeared due to the Renaissance reforms in the sixteenth century and its monumentality. However, we still have buildings like the Water synagogue, where a mikveh (Jewish ritual bath), a patio, a main hall with pointed arches, a women’s room and a warehouse for oil storage have been found.
Undoubtedly the heritage of Safarad, has significantly enriched the culture and has influenced the development of the Andalusian people.