Jewish Heritage in Spain and Portugal

Tortosa (E)


This town is one of the first settled on the Iberian peninsula, and has some of the best-preserved archeological remains; one of the oldest is a section of the primitive Iberian wall dating from the 2ndcentury B.C.E.  It later was of key strategic importance to the Romans, because from here they could use the Ebro River to gain acces to the interior of the peninsula. 



Tortosa had one of the oldest Jewish communities in the Iberian Peninsula. A tombstone inscribed in three languages (Hebrew, Latin, and Greek) belonging to the first centuries of the Christian era (opinions conflict as to its exact date) attests the early existence of Jews in the city.  During the Muslim period, many Tortosa Jews engaged in agriculture and in the flourishing maritime trade, maintaining commercial ties with Jews of Barcelona and southern France. The city was also a center of Jewish learning as is shown by 10th- and 11th-century responsa which indicate a high level of talmudic knowledge and devout religious observance.  By the 12thcentury, the call of Tortosa was one of the largest and most important in Catalonia. 



As in the rest of Spain, the community of Tortosa suffered during the pogroms of 1391, and the Disputation of Tortosa (1413-14) was the most important of the Christian-Jewish disputations forced upon the Jews in the Middle Ages.   It resulted in a rise in anti-Jewish violence and, under severe pressure, Jews in several towns in the region finally submitted to baptism.