Balearic Islands honors 33 Jews massacred 3 centuries

agohttp://www. jpost.com/ JewishWorld/ JewishNews/ Article.aspx? id=219087
By GIL SHEFLER gilshef@jpost. com>
05/04/2011 03:14

The local government of the Balearic Islands
<http://newstopics. jpost.com/ topic/Balearic_ Islands> in Spain will, for
the first time, officially acknowledge the suffering of a local
community, whose ancestors were Jewish, at a ceremony in Palma de
Majorca on Thursday.

Balearic Island President, Francesc Antich Oliver, will attend the
commemorative event held on the 320th anniversary of the killing of 33
locals who belonged to the Cheuta minority, and were executed by the
Spanish Inquisition for secretly practicing Judaism in 1691.

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"We don't know for sure if they will apologize or express
regret, but just the holding of the event in of itself is of
significance, " said Michael Fruend, the head of the Shavei Israel
organization, who first proposed the idea to hold the ceremony last
year, and will be in attendance.

The Cheuta (also spelled Xeuta), is a community of about 20,000 people
living on the Mediterranean islands whose ancestors were forcibly
converted from Judaism to Christianity in the 15th century.

While the group by and large ceased to practice Judaism because of the
Spanish Inquisition, they continued to be discriminated against, and
remained an isolated group on the island well into modern times.

Presently, most decedents of the Chuetas are said to be unaware or
indifferent to their Jewish heritage, but about a dozen individuals
have returned to Judaism – including Nisan Ben-Avraham, who
underwent an official conversion in New York
<http://newstopics. jpost.com/ topic/New_ York> , and lives in Palma as an
ordained rabbi.

Shavei Israel, which helps people claiming Jewish ancestry to convert
around the world, has been active on the island for years. Freund
suggested the idea to hold such an event last year.

"I visited the islands, and we met with the vice president of the
Balearic Islands," Freund said. "In [a] conversation I asked if
they apologized for what they had done to the Jewish community and the
Cheuta, who were subject to terrible discrimination. I asked him to
consider apologizing, and including their story in the school

Over the past decade, a plethora of Jewish museums and heritage sites
have sprung up across Spain. While some say the new-found interest in
the scant remains of Spain's Medieval Jews (who were expelled from
the country in 1492) is motivated by a genuine desire to preserve their
legacy, others say it is exploitative, and aimed at drawing tourists.

Fruend rejected the notion that the event set to take place in Palma on
Thursday was part of such a trend.

"Palma, as you know, is already a major tourist site. It's very
popular among the Brits and Germans, and others," he said.
"It's never too late to try and make up for the past, and try
to bring about some form of reconciliation.

"The first step in such a process is acknowledgement of guilt for
what happened. This is important because this is an open wound on
Spanish society <http://newstopics. jpost.com/ topic/Spain> ."