Town formerly known as "Fort of Jew Killers" victim of repeated anti-Semitic vandalism

Over two years ago, the small bucolic town of Castrillo Matajudíos held a referendum to change its name and shed the dark legacy of the Spanish Inquisition.

May 5, 2016 08:28
2 minute read.
Holy Week

Penitents of the Siete Palabras (Seven Words) brotherhood make their penance during a Holy Week procession in the Andalusian capital of Seville, southern Spain. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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A tiny Spanish village formerly known as "The Little Hill Fort of Jew Killers" has now become the victim of repeated acts of anti-Semitic vandalism, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Over two years ago, the small bucolic town of Castrillo Matajudíos held a referendum to change its name and shed the dark legacy of the Spanish Inquisition.

It is now called Castrillo Mota de Judíos, which roughly translates to "Little Hill Fort of Jews."

But now the town has experienced a rash of anti-Semitic vandalism, which the mayor says stem from unknown right-wing activists that have no affiliation with the village.

Mayor Lorenzo Rodríguez Pérez said he filed a police complaint after the latest incident, in which signs and traffic posts were defaced with anti-Semitic hate speech and fascist slogans, according to The Times. The town's public buildings and benches have also been targets.

“A name change, sadly, doesn’t only bring about positive consequences and the respect it deserves,” Rodríguez Pérez said. “There are some people who want us to forget the Jews — and certainly not get closer to Israel — but we will not bow to any attempt to create a threatening environment here.”

In May of 2014, the town convened its 60 resident families and held a vote to change its name.

Since then, the village has taken a number of steps to reconnect with its Jewish roots. An archeological dig is being planned in order to excavate the remains of an ancient synagogue, the mayor said, and a delegation of the town's representatives will be traveling to Israel for an official diplomatic visit. 

The Israeli ambassador to Spain has also come to visit the town while Jewish leaders in Spain have praised Castrillo's efforts.

The reforms have not come without resistance, however, with pro-Palestinian activists protesting the town's rapprochement with Israeli officials, Rodríguez Pérez told The Times.

In parts of Spain, and especially in the north, locals use the term “killing Jews” (matar Judios) to describe the traditional drinking of lemonade spiked with alcohol at festivals held in city squares at Easter, or drinking in general.

The name originates from medieval times, when converted Jews would sometimes be publicly executed in show trials at around Easter, Maria Royo, according to the spokesperson for the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain.

“Regrettably, this type of expression exists in Spain in ceremonies and parties,” she said, but added that “the people saying it are mostly unaware of the history. It is a complicated issue that is ingrained in local culture.”

JTA contributed to this report.

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