JEWISH TOUR SEVILLE
The mythical origins of Seville date back to the Phoenicians, who, it is said, established an ancient city with the aid of Hercules. An ancient tradition places Jews in Seville at the time of the destruction of the first Temple (586 BCE). In fact, several influential Jewish families of Seville (Abrabanel included) claim to be descendants of King David.
Amazingly, there is even some speculation that Jews settled in this region as far back as the 11th century B.C.E. The source of this belief rests on the identification of Seville with the distant port of Tarshish which is mentioned in the Bible. For the king had a Tarshish fleet on the sea, along with Hiram’s fleet. Once every three years, the Tarshish fleet came in, bearing gold and silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks(I Kings 10:22).
During the Ummayad Caliphate, Seville prospered and the Jews who lived there were engaged in commerce, medicine and the dyeing industry. Under the Abbasid dynasty (1023–91) prominent Jews served in various capacities at court. Under the rule of Al Mutamid (1024–69), the city maintained a wealthy, picturesque and vibrant society.
The wealthy scholar Isaac b. Baruch Albalia served as court astrologer and head of the
Jewish community. His son, the scholar Baruch b. Isaac Albalia, uncle of the historian Abraham Ibn Daud, was born in Seville. Abraham b. Meir ibn Muhajir also served as vizier and head of the Jewish community under the Abbasid king. Important families included the Ibn al-Yatom, Ibn Kamneill, Ibn Mujahir, and the Abrabanel families.
When Seville was reconquered by the Christians (1248), the Jews welcomed them with open arms. They presented Ferdinand III with a key to the city, which has been preserved in the cathedral treasury. For a period of time, the Jewish community was revived. Though they were taxed heavily, they received real estate, and good land for farming. Those who participated in annual fairs and were granted freedom to trade and exemption from taxes. At one point, tax registers indicate that the Jewish community of Seville paid 115, 333 maravedis and 5 solidos; a staggering sum for a community of about 200 families.
The Jewish quarter of Seville is probably the Jewish quarter with the largest urban area in the Iberian Peninsula. A beautiful neighborhood that fell in love with the romantic European travelers of the 19th century and that continues to fascinate all those who visit it today.
Seville also witnessed the birth in the year 1478 of the Spanish Inquisition. The foundation of the Inquisition in Seville is not by chance, since the end of the 14th century this city had an important community of New Christians. The suspicion that many of them continued to practice Judaism in secret encouraged Queen Isabella of Castile to find this terrible institution in the city, destined to watch over the purity of Catholicism.
Without a doubt, Jewish Seville has a fascinating story to tell us.