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Madrid's Casa Sefarad-Israel - also known as Beit Sefarad-Israel - a Spanish Ministry of Cooperation and Foreign Affairs project, opened its doors to the public for the first time Tuesday evening with the first offers of its Summer Cinema Club, showcasing Israeli film. Its triple billing included Hahesder, Afula Express and .Broken Wings and was accompanied by a talk by Jewish film director, producer and screenwriter, Herve Hachuel (Of Love and Shadows, The Last of Philip Banter.)
Later this week, under the auspices of Casa Sefarad-Israel, Spanish Radio and Television (RTVE) will present a Sephardi dessert cookbook, Dulce lo Vivas (May Your Life Be Sweet) at the Madrid Book Fair. The book - by Ana Bensadon, originally from Tangiers - includes typical Sephardi recipes from Tetuan, Tangiers, Montreal, Buenos Aires, Lisbon and Tel Aviv.
Casa Sefarad-Israel was founded with three main objectives: in-depth study of the Sephardi legacy; increased knowledge of Jewish culture; and closer ties of friendship and cooperation between Spain and Israel. The facility was inaugurated on February 8 in the Santa Cruz Palace in a ceremony attended by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, Madrid Mayor Angel Ruiz Gallardon and the President of the Community of Madrid Esperanza Aguirre and President of the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Spain Jacobo Israel Garzon.
Radio Sefarad reported at the time that Livni expressed her hope that Casa Sefarad-Israel would become "a useful tool in the eradication of Jewish stereotypes."
Moratinos describes Casa Sefarad-Israel as "the culmination of an ancient longing of the Sephardi community, presently dispersed and mainly present in Israel, Turkey, Salonika and Morocco."
Radio Sefarad also reported Casa Sefarad-Israel's general director, Ana Salomon, as confirming that the earliest evidence of Jewish presence in Spain is a second-century grave of a child who bears her name. Since the 1492 expulsion of the Jews from Spain, Sephardim have preserved their culture and their language, Ladino, now protected by Spanish Royal Academy and the Cervantes Institute.
Aguirre believes that Spain has much to learn from Israel, "a young nation that has known how to protect its freedom and independence in a difficult region... with no other tools than the resourcefulness of its inhabitants."
An agreement creating Casa Sefarad-Israel was signed on December 19, 2006 between the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation (AECI), the Community of Madrid and the Madrid Municipality. These institutions have undertaken the financing of Casa Sefarad-Israel.
Casa Sefarad-Israel plans to become a common space and a meeting place for Jewish communities and organizations, both local and international.
"This common space for Jews, Israelis and Spaniards will enable the rich historical Sephardi legacy to be disseminated, as well as the political, economic, social and cultural realities of the Jewish communities around the world, including Israel and Spain," Salomon said.
To listen to the inauguration ceremony, in Spanish, go to www.radiosefarad.com.