Wutzupham visits: Toledo, Spain

My Favorite City | Of every town I visited in Spain, Toledo is hands down my personal favorite! Located about an hour south of Madrid, the ancient city of Toledo is in my opinion the cultural and historical heart of Spain. One of the former capitals cities, Toledo also served as the religious seat of the nation with 4 of the most beautiful cathedrals and monasteries and 2 of the oldest Synagogues in Spain. The city was originally built by the Romans in 192 AD as a fortified military town, but almost nothing remains from the Roman occupation other than a few reconstructed builds and mosaics. By the 6th century, everybody’s favorite Visigoth invaders had set up shop in Toledo until 100 years when the good ol’ Moors came into town bringing their scientific and architectural genius! In my opinion, I think the Moorish occupation was probably the best economic development in the middle-aged Iberia and even today you can see the Moorish legacy all throughout Spain. Toledo’s landscape is absolutely glorious! Deep ravines, large rocky hills, everywhere you see groves of trees and plants. Mountains fill the Toledo’s backdrop and beginning of the Tajo or Tagus River flow right through the city’s landscape.

The Jerusalem of Spain | Having spent 6 months living in Jerusalem and the Judaea Hills, believe me when I say Toledo looks and feels like old Jerusalem. The landscape, the hills, the city wall and ramparts really make you feel like you’re on the Har HaTzeitim in Jerusalem! According to the famous Sephardic Jewish sage the Abarbanel, Toledo was found by Jewish settlers in the 5th century BCE and even the name is perhaps derived from the Hebrew word Toledot (generations) or Taltol (wonder). Later in history Toledo was the most important Jewish center in all of Spain with over 12,000 Jewish citizens, 10 large Synagogues, and a thriving Jewish quarter. After being there I know why Jews loved Toledo so much…it feels like home. The streets of old Toledo feel like the streets of Jerusalem and even the color of stones and bricks reminded me of the famous Jerusalem stones. I was totally blown away at the preservation of the Jewish Quarter and various Hebrew bookstores and souvenir shops that exist today. Even after the Christian reconquest of Toledo in 1085, the city’s Christian, Muslim, and Jewish populations lived in mutual tolerance for hundreds of years thriving together until the start of the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 at which point the population of Toledo was cut in half as the Muslims and Jews found new homes or suffered the consequences of non-conversion. Apparently, the expulsion had such a large blow on the financial situation of Toledo that King Felipe II had to move the capital of Spain to Madrid in 1561. That’s what happens when you kick out all the rich people! Out of the original 10 Synagogues, only 2 remain today and one has been ironically renamed to Sinagoga de Santa Maria la Blanca (Synagogue of Saint Marry the White)…needless to say this name was given AFTER the Jews were kicked out and the Christians went a little nuts with the Catholic Christening Naming Trend. If you are Toledo you MUST visit the Sinagogas and the Museo Sefardi which does an amazing job of preserving the Jewish legacy. As a Jew, this was one of the most fulfilling sites to see. As Sefardi Jews, we are always thought that our people thrived in Spain, but its something else to actually see the legacy that still survives hundreds of years later.

 

 

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