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News from Spain

Good for bike racers, bad for medieval souls

Julie Subrin
July 02, 2009

Every year, epic bicycle race Le Tour de France changes its route and incorporates a bordering region; this year, riders will traverse northwest Spain. Should you want to stand on the sidelines, we recommend Stage 6. It begins in Girona, which boasts one of the largest Jewish Quarters in medieval Catalonia and is overlooked by Mont Juic, or, “Hill of the Jew.” Get there the night before and you can enjoy a concert by viola de gamba master Jordi Savall in the town’s Cloister of the Cathedral.

To the southwest, in Toledo, less boastful are the town officials who allowed a new school to be built over a 13th-century Jewish cemetery, prompting international protest after excavators unearthed the remains of 103 bodies, in violation of Jewish law. According to the director of the regional government’s culture department, “Nobody knows the importance of Spain’s Jewish heritage better than we do in Toledo,” once the capital of Spanish Jewry. “But we can’t put 1,000 pupils on the street.” Yesterday, the conflict was resolved, not entirely to everyone’s satisfaction, when the bones were re-buried near their original resting place.

It may serve as some consolation to know that the Jewish cemetery atop Mont Juic was designated a cultural heritage site this past May. Those who lie there shall go undisturbed, except by the passing of 180 sweaty cyclists this Thursday.

Julie Subrin is Tablet Magazine’s executive producer for audio.

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