HISTORY OF THE SEPHARDIM IN SPAIN

Sephardim is the name given to the descendants of the Spanish / Portuguese Jews. Even before the end of the Jewish State in Israel, Jews had already settled on the Iberian Peninsula. When between 132 AD and 135 AD, yet another violent revolt against the Roman occupying power in Judea broke out, Jews were killed or sold into slavery. Many fled for their lives. From then on, Jews were forbidden to enter Jerusalem - offenders faced the death penalty. On the Iberian Peninsula, Jewish culture soon revived and flourished. But soon after the conversion of Constantine the Great to Christianity, the Jews once again found themselves in desperate straits. The Christian landowners called for the conversion of the Jews to Christianity. Times of peace were replaced by forced baptisms and evictions. When, at that time, the Muslims from North Africa were advancing on the Iberian Peninsula, the Jews were accused of collaborating with them. In 711 AD, Spain was conquered the Arabian troops, thus temporarily putting an end to anti-Jewish sentiment. Indeed, Jews, like other non-Muslims, were subject to adhere to restrictive requirements and laws; on the other hand they were respected as the 'People of the Book'. The first century of Arabian rule brought a time of peace and a golden age in culture and science for the Jewish community. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the situation changed. New Arabian rulers ushered in a period of growing persecution. At the same time, warlike clashes between the cross and the crescent became more and more frequent.

Finally, Christian Spain celebrated the victory of the 'Reconquista', the re-conquest of Spanish territory from the Arabs.

The policy of the Christian king and the aristocracy in Spain, which at first was favorable for the Jews, was soon opposed by anti-Jewish sentiment from the church and the citizens.
In 1391, following a rabble-rousing sermon by the Catholic priest, Ferdinand Martinez in Seville, the mob stormed the Jewish quarter of the city, killing thousands of the inhabitants. Survivors were sold as slaves to the Moslems if they refused to be baptized. Within a few weeks, the 'Holy War' had gripped Cordoba and Toledo. Further rioting led to the killing of tens of thousands of Jews, an even greater number escaping death only by renouncing their faith; these Jews chose to be baptized rather than face death and were called 'Conversos' (converted) or 'Marranos' (pigs).

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Nowadays, a surprising number of Jews live in North, Central and South America, as well as in the Caribbean, having no awareness of their true identity. However, many of them have recently been discovering that their real roots are not to be found in these countries, but in Israel. This has awakened an increasing desire in them to deal with their past.
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