At Spanish festival on Inquisition, new play tackles blood libel
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At Spanish festival on Inquisition, new play tackles blood libel

‘Black Soul,’ set in 1492, tells of the murder of a young woman which locals blame on their Jewish neighbors

'Black Soul' by Miguel Gómez Andrea, performed in 2017. (Screen capture: YouTube)
'Black Soul' by Miguel Gómez Andrea, performed in 2017. (Screen capture: YouTube)

The world’s longest-running festival dealing with the Spanish Inquisition features a new play about a medieval murder mystery that was blamed on Jews in a blood libel.

The play, titled “Black Soul,” will be performed next week at the Los Conversos festival in the town of Hervas, in western Spain, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) east of the capital Madrid. Taking place for the 22nd consecutive year, the festival’s name means “The Converted” and it celebrates the culture, heritage and history of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were forced into Christianity after 1492.

That year, where the play is set, the Spanish Catholic Church and royal house initiated the Inquisition campaign of persecution of Jews and other non-Christians, which spread in 1536 to neighboring Portugal. Hundreds of thousands were forced into exile, and thousands were converted under duress. Thousands more were murdered.

At the center of the fictional play “Black Soul” by Miguel Gómez Andrea is the murder of a young woman named Juanita. It provokes an eruption of suspicions and hatred and but also some valor by locals vis-a-vis their Jewish neighbors, according to the Hoy news website. The four-day festival features plays, songs and various activities. The first edition was put on in 1996.

Hervas has one of the Iberian Peninsula’s best-preserved Jewish quarters. It has very few Jews today, including Abigail Cohen, an Israel-born bakery owner.

Separately, in Portugal, the northern town of Moimenta da Beira said it would open a Jewish history museum in one of its oldest and best-known buildings, the Casa de Moimenta, also known as Casa do Carrasco, the Jornal do Centro reported.

As in other towns in Portugal that used to have large Jewish communities, the Jews of Moimenta da Beira felt confident enough to advertise their Jewish identity even after they were forced by law to convert to Christianity. The town has no Jewish residents today.

Some forcibly-converted Jews carved into the exterior walls of the homes marks that read “horror” in Hebrew when read inversely. Others chipped off from the stone door frames of their homes the section that would have seen the mezuzah affixed to it.

Spain and Portugal passed laws in 2013 that grant citizenship to descendants of Jews who left because of the Inquisition.

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