The Rediscovered Jews of Xueta Island

In 2014, Dani Rotstein accepted a video-production gig in Majorca, a Spanish island in the Mediterranean. While there, he stumbled across a very small but active synagogue. As Bernard Starr recounts from an interview with Rotstein, “That’s when Rotstein first heard the word ‘Xueta,’ (pronounced ‘cheweta’), which is the name given to descendants of Jews murdered during the Spanish Inquisition.” The discovery prompted Rotstein to delve into the tragic history of Majorca’s Jews and devote himself to renewing Jewish life on the island; his story is now the subject of his new documentary, Xueta Island.

Rotstein learned that in 1435, after the earlier massacre of 300 Jews, Majorca’s entire Jewish community was forced to convert to Catholicism or face public trials and execution. The Inquisitors subjected any Jew suspected of being a pretend Christian to imprisonment, torture, and even execution.

As further punishment, the family names of Jews executed during the Inquisition, from 1645 onward, were posted in a prominent church (the Santo Domingo Convent). Thus Xuetes—descendants with the same family names—would be demonized, shamed, and shunned for generations. Most were then only able to marry within the Xueta community.

After the forced conversions and executions, Judaism appeared to be gone from Majorca forever. But miraculously, as with other attempted genocides of Jews throughout history, the obituary of Judaism in Majorca proved to be premature. Ironically, the very posting of the family names of the murdered Jews became the vehicle for the revival of Judaism by modern-day descendants. A surprising number have acknowledged their connection to Judaism, and some have converted (or returned) to fully embrace Judaism.

Read more at Algemeiner

More about: anti-Semitsm, Marranos, Sephardim, Spanish Inquisition


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount