Spanish street sign honoring local Jew vandalized amid Hanukkah dispute


(JTA)  — A street name sign honoring a Spanish Jew was damaged in the southern Spanish city of Torremolinos amid a debate over the municipality’s decision to celebrate Hanukkah.

The sign named for David Haim Melul, the founder of the local Jewish community, was knocked down last week, two months after it was put up, the online edition of the local newspaper Diario el Sur reported.

The vandalism occurred as local politicians were debating the placing this month of a neon sign reading “Happy Hanukkah,” which critics said was in violation of the separation between religion and government.

The criticism comes from delegates of the center-right Popular Party to the municipal government of Torremolinos, where one of the ruling parties is the left-leaning Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, the newspaper reported. The local politicians are unhappy over the absence of a municipal nativity scene to celebrate Christmas. Torremolinos has about 800 Jews.

Elsewhere in Spain, the northern municipality of Estella-Lizarra celebrated Hanukkah for the first time last week. Estella-Lizarra is one of the 24 municipalities that form Spain’s Rede de Juderias — a network of locales that was formed in 1995 and whose members have undertaken to restore their Jewish heritage and celebrate it.

Spain was home to hundreds of thousands of Jews before it expelled them or forced those who stayed to convert during the Spanish Inquisition. Approximately 45,000 Jews live there today.

The municipally organized Hanukkah celebration at Estella-Lizarra, where only a handful of Jews live, was the initiative of a local Jewish couple, Yosef Rajmiel Fernández and Rivka Herrera Gonzalez, the local Diario den Avarra daily reported Sunday.

One of the most colorful Hanukkah events this year took place in Toledo near Madrid, which used to be a major Jewish hub. The municipality hung  neon Hanukkah decorations over streets in its old Jewish Quarter and projected them onto the roads. The celebration began with the lighting of the first candle of Hanukkah on a large menorah on Dec. 6 at what used to be the Synagogue of El Transito, which was converted into a church and currently serves as a museum.

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