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Virtual Jewish World: Granada, Spain

Granada, the capital city of the Province with the same name, is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Andalusia (Southern Spain) at the confluence of the Darro and Genil Rivers. The city is divided by the Darro, which runs underground through the center of the city. On the right lies, Albaic“n, the city's oldest quarter; on the left rises the imposing Alhambra. Granada lies 426 km south of Madrid and 126km northeast of Malaga and has an average temperature of 60 degrees F. The population is approximately 260,000 people with a very small Jewish presence.

The picturesque city of Granada rests in a fertile plain that was settled as early as the 5th century B.C.E. The Romans (200 BCE - 400 C.E.) called the area Iliberias. The Visigoths (400-700) established the city, but it was the Moors (711) who developed the region and gave the city its name. Some scholars theorize that Granada means "pomegranate." The Berbers (1013), whose origins would later be ascribed to Goliath the Philistine, left the greatest mark upon the city. For the next two centuries, a series of Berber dynasties - the Almoravides and the Almohades - ruled the city. After the capture of Córdoba by the Christian armies in 1236, Granada increased in importance, reaching its brilliant zenith under the rule of the Moorish Nasrites, who were tolerated by the Castilian kings. The famed Alhambra (The Red) fortress was built at this time. Granada was the only surviving bastion of Islam in Spain until Ferdinand and Isabelle conquered it in 1491.

Legend has it that some of the Jews who were exiled by Nebuchadnezzar (586 BCE) settled in Granada. Even the Moors recognized this ancient tradition by referring to the city as "Granada of the Jews." But the earliest extant evidence of a Jewish presence in Granada is a reference to Jews helping man the garrison, built after the city's conquest by the Moors in 711. Like all Jewish communities in Spain, Jewish Granada prospered under the Ummayad caliphate (755-1013). But when Cordoba was sacked by the Berbers in 1013, and Moslem Spain broke up into a number of petty kingdoms, Granada began to grow in importance. At the center of this ascendancy stood Samuel Ha'Nagid, a Jewish refugee from Cordoba. After living for a brief time in Malaga, Samuel was invited to become the secretary to the King's vizier in Granada. It wasn't long until his exceptional abilities were recognized by the King and he was promoted to a position of respect and authority. In a struggle for succession to the throne (1038), Samuel backed the winner, and was ultimately rewarded with the title of chief minister. With each sparkling achievement of their dynamic leader, the Jewish community grew in stature. Under his guidance, Granada became an important center of Jewish learning and culture.

Unfortunately, upon Samuel's death (1055), the Jewish community of Granada began a steep decline which reached a horrible climax in 1066. Leading the community was Samuel's son, Joseph, who lacked his father's humility. Though well educated and groomed, he was ostentatious and arrogant. He soon alienated the ruling Berbers as well as the Arab masses. On a Shabbat in 1066, Joseph's palace was stormed and he was murdered, crucified on a cross. The entire Jewish community came under the riotous siege (December 30th) resulting in 4,000 deaths and the destruction of most property. Incredibly, the community quickly recovered, only to fall again, this time at the hands of the Almoravids in 1090. Later, under the rule of the Almohads regime (1148-1212), only Jews who had converted to Christianity were allowed to live in the city. Jews returned to the city when Granada was ruled by the Naserite dynasty (1232-1492). On March 31, 1492, the saga of the Jews of Granada came to a crushing conclusion, when Ferdinand and Isabelle signed the edict of expulsion in the "City of the Jews."

The Juderia in Granada was never located in one specific spot during Moslem rule. Instead, it was moved, expanded, or contracted depending on the dictates of the various dynasties

Sources: This material was originally published in Sparks! - an e-zine for Jewish families located on the Internet at