The cornerstone at Parròquia Sant Esteve: War and Diaspora

Thursday, 10 February 2022 , Olot

The cornerstone at Parròquia Sant Esteve: War and Diaspora

The cornerstone at Parròquia Sant Esteve: War and Diaspora

My dad's family migrated from Iraq to Israel in the 50s. The family's original last name can be traced back 3000 years to the time of the Babylonian exile. My mum’s family is from Bulgaria. They are “Sephardi Jews” - Jews who were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula in the late 15th century, and carried a distinctive Jewish diasporic identity with them in Southern Europe and North Africa. My grandma spoke Ladino, the language spoken by Sephardic Jews living in the Balkans, North Africa, Greece, and Turkey. Ladino preserves many words and grammatical usages that have been lost in modern Spanish. 

My mum does not speak that language. I don’t speak my mother tongue, nor my father’s. Migrating from Israel to the UK I have lost my own language. I am now always speaking the language of the lost… 

 Olot knows that language. It holds remarkable evidence of the ongoing displacements of the Jews in and from Europe. In the midst of the 2nd World War, a dedication stone (cornerstone) with Hebrew text was found in the ruins of the chapel of the Cemetery of Olot that was burned down at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. It is currently exhibited at the museum of Sant Estève d’Olot church. 

The inscription on the cornerstone mentions the city of Béziers as the place in which Jews were settled after their alleged exile from the Holy Land and lived relatively free under the Catherinian rule. In 1209 the inhabitant of Béziers were slaughtered and the city was burned to the ground by the Catholic Albigensian Crusaders in what is depicted by historians as "one of the most conclusive cases of genocide in religious history". The family of the founder of the synagogue, to whom the dedication is written, managed to escape Béziers to Olot, just to probably escape 300 years later from the Spanish Inquisition.

 An escape that my mother’s ancestors had to take as well.  

This website only uses session cookies for technical and analytical purposes. It does not compile or assign users’ personal data without their consent. This website does, however, use third-party cookies for statistical purposes. You can obtain further information or manage or reject cookies by clicking on "+ Info".