Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday Then and Now

These passionate floats were lined up in a plaza in Girona, Spain on Good Friday 2008, waiting to be in procession on Easter.

We were there with a Jewish history tour of Portugal and Spain.  I was looking for a glimpse of La Convivencia, "The Coexistence," the past time when Jews, Muslims and Catholics not only got along, but experienced a rich and deep cultural interplay.  It did fall apart, but it did also exist.  What might we learn from La Convivencia?  That insight is more urgently needed now in 2016 than it was in 2008.

This Museum of Jewish History in Girona is around the corner of the plaza where the floats were.  We got there fifteen minutes before it closed early for Good Friday.  The employees were Catholic, and were being given time off for the holiday.  

As it is this year, in 2008 Purim was close to Easter.  The previous evening, some of our group had gone to the synagogue in Barcelona to celebrate Purim.  They reported a festive time, enclosed in careful security.  The men were instructed to remove their kippot, (skullcaps), 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.  Historically, Good Friday had been a time for attacks on Jews, accused of being Christ-killers.  

 We saw this stencil repeated on many walls in the city, urging rejection of fascism.  It made the Good Friday anti-Semitism  feel visceral, especially when I saw the one where someone had scratched a fresh swastika. 

Also disturbing was this costume, seemingly connected with an Easter ritual. Who are the Hermanidades?

All I could think of was the KKK.  I have no idea where their costumes originated.  But what is this medieval Spanish tradition which persists?  

If resurrection really does follow Good Friday, then may we all rejoice in the renewal of nature at this blossoming season, and experience a blossoming in our hearts towards each other, including towards the millions of refugees and immigrants, displaced by violence, war, and oppression around the world.

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