Spain

Northern Spain (Galicia, Basque Country, and Navarre)

The historical province of Navarre, straddling the Spanish-French border, was violently disputed by the Castilians and counts of Champagne. It was also where Jews from Arab Spain came together with those of Castile and France to take advantage of the famous pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela and thus contribute to its commercial prosperity. The important center of Nájera gave its name to the eleventh century charter in which the king allowed the Jews the same rights as Christians and, most important, gave them liberty to organize themselves in accordance with rabbinic laws. In 1492 the Jews of Navarre, along with refugees from neighboring provinces, obtain respite from the ultimatum to convert or leave, but in 1498 the king of Navarre bowed to the pressure of the Catholic monarchs. Most of the community preferred conversion to exile.

Yehuda ha-Levi, Abrham ibn Esra, and Benjamin of Tudela are some of this region’s Jews who made an important contribution to the arts.