Contributions of the Jews to Toledo City in Spain
We must now pass over the influence the Jews exerted on Toledo in different spheres of industry and commerce, as well as culturally, spiritually and socially, and on the appearance of the city. Both they and the Saracens contributed greatly to progress in all fields Toledo Painters of public activity.
From Cordova, fleeing from the upheavals and struggles of Arabic Spain, they brought the famous School of Translators, a brilliant centre of encyclopaedic culture which radiated its light, not only upon Toledo, but to the whole of the country.
In the square called the Plaza de la Judería they had one of their celebrated alcanas, a busy market which sold Persian carpets, silks from Damascus, Indian pearls, Arabian perfumes, cloths from Kashmir and spices from Ceylon. if we shut our eyes to the humdrum realities of the present day, we can perhaps visualize this market, near Santa Maria la Blanca and extending into the alleys round about, a clamour of voices of buyers and sellers, haggling over every kind of surprising merchandise; awning covered stalls beneath the mediaeval sun, canvas fluttering in breezes from the Sahara like sails of ships upon the Mare Nostrum… And men with pointed beards, greedy eyes, and skins still tanned by the suns of biblical lands. And women with faces the shape of a hazel-nut, with dead-white skin and deep bright eyes and mysterious gaze, with rhythmical walk and willowy waist, women of whom we seem to have a faithful copy in Dominico Theotocopuli’s «Lady in Ermine». She was probably Jerónima de las Cuevas, the Cretan painter’s only love, amid the arduous hours of his glorious work. Such types, both male and female, we can still encounter if we walk about the Judería a little and keep our eyes open as we peer into the pretty patios of its narrow alleys, where the Hebrew women, beneath the cool shade of awnings, used to weave linen with their white hands.
When the Jews were finally expelled from Spain by the Catholic Sovereigns, they carried with them to countries in the south-east of Europe (where the sweet Old Castilian speech can still be heard) the keys of their houses as a token of the ownership which their descendants have for centuries dreamed of recovering some future day.