Secrets of Jewish Majorca
2 hour walking tour
Our Culture Walk starts in the old town at the entry point to the old Jewish Quarter, which dates back to the Muslim era of Mallorca, the Call Major. The term “Call” is in Catalan and means the same thing as “Juderia” in Castellano. Whenever you visit Jewish Quarters in and around Catalan-speaking regions of Spain such as the Balearics, Valencia, and Barcelona you will see the signs “Carrer del Call” or “Street of the Jewish Quarter.”
The Call Major is home to remnants of synagogues. You will see where the statue of famous 14th century Jewish cartographer Jafuda Cresques , who along with his father Abraham Cresques, were the first to complete a world atlas and to help elucidate Christopher Columbus’ travels. Many Mallorquins still believe today that Cristobal Colon was originally named Cristobal Colom and was a Converso from the town of Felanitx, Mallorca.
You will learn about the Inquisition, forced conversions, and the emergence of the ‘Crypto-Jews’ or Xuetas who publicly professed Catholicism while privately adhering to Judaism. Synagogues were secretly built in private homes. We will visit the specific streets that the Xuetas were forced to live and work on up until as recently as the 1960s. Signs of this ‘secret’ community can still be found today with many of the current jewelry shops having been kept within their families for generations beforehand. Even the famous Mallorquin pastry, the “ensaimada” is specifically cooked with pork fat as a reaction to their centuries-old prejudice and discrimination.
We will see the sites of the smaller synagogue as well as the main synagogue – now home to the Mont-Zion Church. We will visit a roof terrace within a small boutique hotel in order to appreciate a stunning view of the main Cathedral of Palma that has a Magen David within its famous Rosetta stone window. We will end the walk at the house of a famous Jewish merchant Maimo ben Faraig which now is home to the Interpretation Center of the Palma Jewish Quarter, displaying beautiful maps and photos of Palma’s rich Xueta and Jewish history and heritage.
You will also learn about the tragic events of 1691, when a group of Crypto-Judios tried to escape on the ship of an English captain but a storm prevented their departure. Subsequent torture and imprisonment within the Inquisition’s Black House, now the site of the town’s Plaza Major, took place until their execution in Plaza Gomila, underneath the city’s Bellver Castle. Three out of the forty victims chose to not give up their Judaism and were subsequently burned alive. In 2018, the city renamed a street after one of these martyrs – Caterina Tarongi – as well as putting a small but poignant memorial in the same Plaza Gomila location. An extended version of this walk can also include a visit to this memorial.
As our guides are members of the current and active Jewish community of Palma feel free to ask questions about the current synangogue, Jewish cemetery, and cultural events that take place during the year on the island. Depending on the time of your visit you may be able to participate in events such as an Israeli Cinema Film Series and Limud Mallorca – a volunteer lead group that organizes events throughout the year to share and celebrate Jewish culture and learning. We can also tell you where to find the best falafel in all of Palma!