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But it is widely believed that Catalonia saw some of the very first Jewish settlers in Spain, who came there after the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.The town of Gerona, situated 50 miles north of Barcelona, was the undisputed capital of Jewish life in Catalonia and a hub of Jewish Sephardic learning.
In Barcelona, the issue of independence is divisive in general and in Jewish circles, leading the Jewish community there to adhere to a policy of neutrality.“It’s a matter of ‘shalom bayit,’” Victor Sorenssen, the president of the community, told JTA earlier this month, using the Hebrew expression which means maintaining the peace at home.The umbrella of Jewish communities of Spain, of which Barcelona is a member, also had a policy of neutrality, which it abandoned Friday when it came out in support of a unified Spain and against Catalan independence.But Israel is unbound by such considerations and its neutrality may be a good beginning to a relationship with what could very well become Europe’s newest country within the foreseeable future.In the wake of the Catalan crisis, some supporters of Israel suggested that Spain is in no position to credibly object to Catalan unilateralism because of its own inconsistencies on this issue abroad — for example, when its federal congress unanimously voted in 2014 for a motion favoring Palestinian statehood.But neither argument is clear cut, according to Yigal Palmor, a former senior spokesman of the Israeli Foreign Ministry who has served in Spain.
Catalans have traditionally been more “open to Europe” than the rest of Spain, he said.
Jewish and pro-Israel supporters of Catalan independence sometimes suggest that Israel is more popular in the region than elsewhere in Spain.
Opponents underscore Spain’s own overtures toward Israel and partnership with it, including a recent judicial fight against anti-Semitism and discriminatory boycotts of Israel.
President Shimon Peres kicks the ball to FC Barcelona's Argentinian striker Lionel Messi during a football clinic session in Broomfield stadium in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, Aug. (photo credit: AP Photo/Ariel Schalit) JTA – After simmering for decades, national aspirations in the region of Catalonia in northeast Spain plunged that country into a major crisis with far-reaching international implications.
The current crisis began earlier this month when federal police clashed with voters over an illegal referendum on independence.
(Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images via JTA) As Europe nervously studies this potential test case for nationalism and separatist projects across the continent, the developments in Catalonia are dividing Spaniards — including Jews.