Lisbon: A Jewish Traveler’s Short Guide

by Kosher River Cruise Kosher Tour Operator
Lisbon, or Lisboa in Portugese, is the capital of Portugal, and also it’s largest city. It has five hundred thousand inhabitants, and another three million people live around the city.  This also makes it the largest urban area in the country. 

Lisbon is the westernmost capital on the European mainland and is spread over a small area of 85 square kilometers, around 52 square miles. The current city boundaries closely defined with its original historical core.  All its suburbs such as Loures, Odivelas, Amadora and Oeiras are considered separate municipalities within the metropolitan area.

According to archaeological findings, the area that would later be Lisbon was a Phoenician commercial center since at least the 12th century BC. The Phoenician term Allis Ubbo (or "safe harbor") is one of the possible interpretations of the origin Lisbon’s name. The settlement was known to the Greeks under the name Olissipo, which was taken over by the Latin Olissipon, from which Lisbon was created.

During the Punic Wars, Olissipo was on the Romans' side. It was rewarded with great privileges by the Roman Empire and renamed to Felicitas Julia. Lisbon prospered under Roman rule and was one of the focal points of Christianity on the Iberian peninsula.

In the 4th and 5th Centuries, the city suffered greatly during the invasions of the Alans and the Vandals. It was subsequently incorporated into the Vizigoth Empire. 

Sometime around 711, the city was conquered by the Moors, and again renamed to Arabic as الأشبونة or al-Ishbunah. The Moors controlled it until 1147, when Lisbon was reconquered by first Portuguese king Afonso with the help of English, French and German knights. Lisbon became the the capital of the Kingdom of Portugal in the year 1255.

On 1 November 1755, the city was struck with a catastrophic earthquake that, along with the subsequent fires and tsunami, destroyed much of the city. About 60,000 to 100,000 inhabitants died--approximately half of its population. The Napoleonic troops also caused significant damage to the city in the early 1800s, during which many ancient structures were lost. 

As the city sorely needed to be modernized, many monasteries and church buildings were brought down. at the end of the 19th century, many new buildings were erected. The city was expanded and several parks and cultural institutions were established. Today, Lisbon boasts many cultural and sporting venues, as well as some of the country’s most prestigious academic and research institutes. One of Europe’s most respected soccer club Benfica Lisabon is based in the city.

Lisbon and the Jews 

The Jews have existed in the area even before the country of Portugal was founded, during or even before Roman times. However the earliest documentation of a Jewish presence was in 482.
After the fall of the Romans, the Jews were heavily persecuted by Visigoths and other kingdoms that followed. It was only until the Moors invaded when the Jews underwent a golden age in the Iberian Peninsula.

During medieval times, Lisbon was home to Portugal’s largest Jewish community. It was also the home of the Chief Rabbi and had several streets occupied by Jews. During the 1400 and 1500s, the Jews experienced much persecution and were eventually expelled from  Lisbon, partly influenced by the Spanish Inquisition. Although officially no Jews resided there, many lived publicly Christian lives while secretly following Jewish laws.

It was not until the 19th century that Jews felt safe enough to return. 

The Gates Of Hope

The Synagogue in Lisbon, called Shaare Tikva (Gates of Hope), is the first synagogue built in Portuguese territory since the end of the 15th century when Portuguese Jews were forced to either accept baptism or leave the country. 

The synagogue, which serves the Sephardic Jewish community numbering about a thousand members, was built in Lisbon at the beginning of the 20th century. The author of the architectural design is Miguel Ventura Terra. In 2004, the synagogue celebrated its 100th anniversary. The celebration was also attended by Shlomo Moshe Amar, Chief Sefardi Rabbi of Israel, and then Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio.

The rich history of the Jews in Lisbon and in Portugal as a whole has made it a popular destination of Jewish travelers and for kosher tours that are operating in the area. Kosher cruises in the Douro have also become popular as well.

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Created on Nov 30th 2017 03:43. Viewed 1,243 times.


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