The Benardouts are back !!!
It may possibly be of interest to learn how I was received during my 5 days in Tarazona at the beginning of August, 2014. Perhaps an effective way of summarising it is to compare this visit to one to Salonika in October, 2013, - (where I visited with the same family-research objective but with absolutely no results). In Salonika there was no interest in Jewish history and seems never to have been any since the Second World War - The Greek sleeps through the night whilst the City's synagogue burns.

But in Tarazona, (with all due modesty), I was received almost like the Prodigal Son. As mentioned elsewhere, a contact had been established a few years ago with a local archeological professor who has been the leading light for the research and recording of the Jewish presence in the Town 700 years before. By the way, he had very kindly, and perhaps surprisingly, downloaded this site's original chapter on Tarazona to his own local web-site, - not translated, true, but something since it puts our Family back on their Map.

Javier Bona Lopez has been exchanging e-mails ever since, pointing out published material and reacting very positively to my own growing interest. He called at the Hotel within a couple of hours of my arrival there, laid out a programme for visiting and a few events which were incidentally to be held during the short period of my stay. In fact, he was the complete guide, arranging for a Heraldo de Aragon newspaper Article and a video shown by the local TV station : Un judio Israeli visita Tarazona en busca de informacion sobre antepasados sefardies.

I now watch the MoncayoTV videos weekly and try to follow what they say and how they said it with some care, trying to keep abreast. Although they surely have at both the back and the front of their minds the importance of Tourism to the Town, I could sense their genuine intellectual excitement, just as I myself felt it, and a mild pleasure at the visit's seeming to justify their own retorno policy and beliefs that we are or can still be a part of the Spanish People.

With Benardout aplomb, - which has never previously been noticed in this family member, - I seem to have been the right person in the right place at the right time.

Whilst not pleading anyone's case here, (since personally I see no point to dual nationality), one tries to understand how they see the Returning Jew. As to the very recent (2015) amendments to current Spanish Law offering Sefardim a much easier route to dual nationality, one could wickedly argue that the system for applying for citizenship and the conditions for granting it could become counter-productive, onerous and ultimately not at all attractive to those seeking the second passport. I am a cynic perhaps but also a lawyer for 60 years, and I can see the snags from a mile away !

Although this is only a narrow (and perhaps mainly fiscal) aspect of the Spanish Government's policy, since anyone can apply for Spanish citizenship today although under even more stringent conditions, it seems to me that the Morisco Lobby must inevitably put its oar in and present Spain with a much larger challenge with today's threatening atmosphere from Muslim extremism, and at a time when the whole of Europe is being brought face to face with the hundreds of thousands of refugees from North Africa and the Middle East.

As another example of its attempted even-handedness, it was recently announced that Spain would train several hundred Iraqi soldiers for service against the Jihadists.

During a musical concert I attended one evening in the Juderia and where I was introduced and quite warmly received as being a "Returning Jew from Israel ", I encountered one small indication of Spanish attitudes, (not necessarily towards Jews in general), when a local came up to me with his wife and said "Gaza ". I politely acknowledged, no more, for this was at the height of the 2014 destruction of that city. He then added "Holocaust ", turned his back and they walked away. Very much the polite Spanish style of expressing a very strong opinion.

On one other evening a "Free Palestine " demonstration was held, - (not in my honour presumably) - held cautiously opposite the police station, with about 100 attending, several of them clearly Muslims themselves. It was not particularly noisy, didn't draw in a crowd from passers-by and was demonstrably democratic.

As against this, several people made less than polite remarks about Israel's neighbours when learning where we were from, - which we were always asked with favourable reaction in the main. Balance in everything - the Spanish way.

Whilst I do not see this as having direct relevance to our subject by the way, the Resolution adopted by the Spanish Parliament (November, 2014), that the Palestinian Authority be recognized as a State, seems only to clarify the Spanish style.

If you go through Motis's second volume, - the one with the detailed Notarial sources, - 1,575 validated documents, - you can find the family name there some 20 or so times. All this really meant was that we had a little property for taxation purposes in those days, and of course owed some people money , - Plus ca change - plus c'est la meme chose !

The very first Protocol Motis deals with at all (12th June, 1300) does not relate to us - alas - but to King James I's permission for a Jewish Doctor of the de Portella family to return to the town, the once all-powerful Moshe de Portella having been murdered and his immediate family expelled to neighbouring Borja some ten years previously. The de Portella family is regarded to this day as a major presence in the Town's Middle Ages history.

Our most famous Son was from Huesca, - Eliazer ibn Ardut who was the personal doctor to the Reconqueror of Aragon, - no Tarazona-resident Benardout doctors have been come across.

If only in an effort to retain your attention !! - current researches have thrown up a publication entitled : Aportaciones al studio de la familia Avenardut, medicos reales " [Seferad 7 (1947): 303 348] by two Spaniards, Antonio Cardoner Pianas Francisca Vendrell Gallostra which, when examined, may well throw considerably more light upon our earlier years in Spain. This Article seems to be highly regarded and has itself been the subject of on-going published research by others.

On the YouTube site of Moncayo TV you can see there how they relate to the de Portella family and its founder. Historically, Moshe, (who always called himself Moussa in the Arabic style), is still seen as the local Baron of his time, with he and his brother Ismael having a permanent place in the town's history since they held posts of tax-collector and general local representative of the Court. Later Moussa became Bailiff for the whole Kingdom of Aragon.

Before going any further, it is worth mentioning the largish number of Jewish family names collated by Matis for a period of only 118 years and brought in one or more of the Arabic, Hebrew or Spanish forms. By way of example and just for starters, here are a few, recorded in the Spanish style - names which are perhaps more familiar to us today....Abenabez, AbenCahadia, AbenDavid, AbenNahamias, AbenPesat, AbenRabi, AbenNatan, Abraham, Alazar, Algranati, Almali, Alpargan, Amariello, Aruetti.

There are 7 individual Benardut names included in Matis's index, seemingly three generations of the same family residing in the Town but, it would seem, only this one, single family there. In some cases other families' business is recorded and witnessed by Rabbi Alazar Benardut before the Notary. I have brought the direct family items before, in the Tarazona chapter, and can add only a little more here :
Simuel and Solenit his wife, together with their son, owed 250 sueldos in 1405 to Lope du Conchiellos and his wife, (as did many other residents of tTarazona and the local district) . Simuel himself had houses of rateable value in 1405 of 250 sueldos in the Juderia -seemingly in the middle of the price range where the highest value in the same list is 1,000 sueldos. Even today on the Town's maps of the Juderia they refer to the upper, middle and lower streets - with the rich living on the upper one of course. The society of the Juderia was clearly managed in ways copied and maintained in Salonika at least.

And in 1379 Alazar owned an olive grove valued at 30 sueldos and two separate vineyards, untilled sites to which I was taken if my guide was accurate, for the lands are described in a system similar to that of the Ottoman Mejelle. I stood there and wondered.........

Even if one more than reasonably attributes a fiscal motivation as prompting today's Juderia activists in Tarazona, - What's wrong with that ? Even bearing in mind their dedication to development of the town's genuine tourist attraction, it seems to me to be a very substantial matter that my hosts took the trouble and went out of their way to work out, or even to guess, where the family's one-time olive groves and vineyards were to be found, - on a hillside outside the town. To me it's still pretty impressive behaviour. I use one of the photos for my Facebook page now, - quite cheers me up !

It was perhaps inevitable that some-one should have offered to sell me a house in the Old Juderia, - (quite beautifully located at the heart of the Quarter, for position is always everything !!) - at a price which raised several doubts but upon reflection, thinking about the new roof and repairs needed, may have been quite reasonable.

Whilst I was there the Town held its two-day Retorna de Sefarad Festival - there's always a Festival coming up or one you have just missed, - and this one was already firmly inserted into the Town's annual calendar from 2001. The occasion provided items of academia, music, theatre and - sefardi cooking. The two days included -

** A musical tour and explanation of Ladino songs - with guitar and vocals presented by an Argentinian-born (one-time Israeli) resident of Spain. This produced a sing-song which the audience of about 200 honestly seemed to enjoy as they took to the music easily enough and they had the Ladino words before them. I was introduced to this audience as the Prodigal to modest but totally embarrassing applause, (politely acknowledged after which I escaped to the back of the crowd).
** Later in the evening a colourful, full-dress parade and quite lengthy open-air theatrical was put on, telling the story of de Portella and his activities through the medium of a reporting session to the then Queen of Aragon, as tax collector, arbitrator requiring royal approvals, presenting Muslim-Jewish disputes for resolution and the like.
** The Saturday included open stalls displaying aspects of Sefardi culture, from cooking through clothing, via handicrafts and wine-growing, - (Garnacha Peluda "Benardut " 2009 ?) - with a musical parade to follow and then a food-tasting before talking again.
** Afterwards - lunch - then discussing "the Essences of Aragon " and such-like, dinner at an Hotel with a Menu we would have truly enjoyed - (even if without the Turkish embellishments from Salonika) - Ensalada de Berenjenas yverduras Asadas. In Tarazona they take gastronomy very seriously indeed !

I alas had to miss out on the latter part since I was already on my way back to Barcelona the Beautiful at the end of an exhilarating but short stay, but next year, all being well.....
Feel free - I will always relate to what you say