Spanish officials have helped rededicate two ancient Jewish cemeteries, as Portugal kicked off a $6 million project for preserving its Jewish heritage sites.
The rededication ceremonies of the Jewish cemeteries of Lucena in southern Spain, dated to the 10th century A.D., and in Avila near Madrid, which was in use in the 12th century A.D., took place on Sept. 29, marked as the European Day of Jewish Culture, in the presence of representatives of the Jewish community of Spain.
Isaac Querub, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain, said during the ceremony in Avila that the rededication — paid for by the local municipality — constituted some “reparation” for the expulsion of the Jews from Iberia in the late 15th century during the Spanish Inquisition.
“This is Avila assuming its identity as a city where Jews, Muslims and Christians lived – part of a reparation for an injustice of historical proportions,” the news site Avilared.com quoted him as saying during the ceremony.
The report did not say how much the municipality spent on rededicating the cemetery, but the city of Lucena has spent $160,000 on the rededication of its Jewish cemetery.
Portugal announced Sept. 28 that it will allocate $816,000 toward creating touristic routes dedicated to its past Jewish population – its contribution to a $6.1 million project co-funded by several European states, according to Lusa, the Portuguese news agency.
The money will go to adding 25 routes to Portugal’s Rede de Judiarias, which was inaugurated two years ago – 16 years after the creation of a similar initiative in neighboring Spain.
Municipal bosses in Spain and Portugal have said they hoped to attract Jewish tourism against the effects of a blistering financial crisis. In parallel, both countries have seen non-commercial gestures aimed at honoring the memory of their former Jewish communities.
Earlier this year, Portugal passed a law aimed at granting citizenship to Jewish descendants of Jews that fled the country in the 16th century.
Portugal and Spain have fewer than 50,000 Jews combined, according to the European Jewish Congress.