Nothing to do but frown;
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.
- Carpenters song, 1971
Given the high volume of weekenders, most of the major tourist attractions in Spain close on Mondays. That conspires to make entertaining oneself on a rainy Monday a challenge.
We’d seen the forecast and identified that an interpretive centre dedicated to the history of the Jewish Quarter of Seville was open. Armed with a daypack of umbrellas and raincoats we set off to locate the one museum open that day.
It started as a light drizzle and got increasingly wetter and heavier as the hours passed.
On the upside, the lack of people braving the weather made for nicer photos as we traipsed through some of the oldest streets of Seville to find the Centro de Intrepretation Juderia de Sevilla.
Along the way we - well OK then, I - browsed among the shops. We saw a street filled with cafes and tavernas and tucked under a table umbrella just as the day’s first heavy rains started. After a huge platter of battered fish and a real deal on delicious tapas (5 for 9.5€. Sufficiently sophonsified, we wove through a few more streets and pretty plazas before arriving at the interpretation centre.
It was a very small and intimate space. The ticker seller acted as a front-of-house guide and provided a verbal history lesson before we passed through a curtain into the tiny one-room gallery there were only five other people there, and still we jostled to read the same info panels from time to time.
In providing the heartbreaking history of the Jewish experience through the Middle Ages, the Diaspora and the Inquisition this centre focusses not on the gruesome (like the torture museum in Toledo for example) but on the resilience of the generations of Sephardic men and women who were impacted.
One of the important points I learned is that the Jewish quarter was established by the King himself. He needed to entice top intellectuals, academics and financiers to his new capital city. To do so he promised the newcomers the best land between the Alcazar and the river. The local people were very upset by the privileges extended to the Jewish community, and so the king built the wall around the quarter. Not to keep them in, as is the case in later-day ghettos, but to protect the well-to-do residents from random robberies and murders.
Then, during a four-year period when there was no strong king that the Catholic priests incited the general population to attack the Jewish quarter, which the spread hatred and violence throughout the country.
Every visitor should come away with deepened respect for the complexities of the interrelationships between the people of Jewish faith/heritage and the political goals of various Catholic Kings and their respective Popes.