Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Looking for Convivencia

We got to the Museum of Jewish History in Girona, Spain, fifteen minutes before it closed early for Good Friday. The employees were Catholic, and were being given time off for the holiday. Worst of all, the bathrooms were out of order. It had been a long bus ride through gridlocked holiday traffic .

The previous evening, some of our group had gone to the synagogue in Barcelona to celebrate the Jewish Holiday of Purim. They reported a festive time, enclosed in careful security. The men were instructed to remove their kippah, (skullcap) upon leaving - that is, to remove overt signs of being Jewish. The group was told to disperse quickly afterwards, or go back into the building while waiting for the bus.

Today, back at work, I was telling my office neighbor about the trip. Her face froze in shock. She had never heard that the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, under threat of forced conversion or extermination. Same for the Muslims a little later on. And that Good Friday had in the past been a time for attacks on Jews.

We had signed up with a traveling university group, in search of La Convivencia, "The Coexistence," - a time when Jews, Muslims, and Catholics not only got along, but experienced a rich and deep cultural interplay. We treasured any glimpses both of Convivencia in the past, and hope for the present and future.

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