Gibraltar – An Overview
First settled by Moors in the Middle Ages and later ruled by Spain before being claimed by Britain in 1713 Gibraltar is a unique experience with remarkable Jewish history. Known as “The Rock” Gibraltar maybe tiny but is jam packed with interest and intrigue.
Surround by both the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea shoals of dolphins are easily found in the famous straits of Gibraltar whilst you can drift inland and up the rock to visit the only free roaming apes in Europe. Across the ages the endless caves and tunnels have sheltered many, including neanderthal man.
Now a British territory Gibraltar enjoys tax free shopping and boasts an incredible marina, home to a luxury floating hotel. The British influence is obvious but their is considerable Jewish influence to be found here, and Yaya Tours offer unequaled local contacts who can give you a unique insight into this thriving and influential community.
What you will find in Gibraltar is endless stories. From Napoleon’s body being brought ashore after being killed in battle to John Lennon marrying Yoko Ono Gibraltar has tales a plenty. And if you play with those pesky, and cunning, Barbary Apes you may well have your own story to tell long after your visit to “the Rock”.
Gibraltar – From A Jewish Perspective
Today, the Gibraltarian Jewish community numbers around 600, many of whom are Sephardim with their roots in Morocco. Four historic synagogues are still in use.
Jews were readmitted to Gibraltar, the tiny peninsula on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, after the British took the territory from Spain, in 1704. By the mid 18th century, the community comprised about one third of the Gibraltar’s population. Today, the Gibraltarian Jewish community numbers around 600, many of whom are Sephardim with their roots in Morocco. Four historic synagogues are still in use.
The oldest of these little known buildings, Sha’ar HaShamayim [“Gate of Heaven”] or the Gibraltar Great Synagogue, was founded in 1724 by Isaac Nieto of London. Rebuilt several times, the present building largely dates from 1812. The Windmill Hill cemetery is situated close to the entrance of the Nature Reserve, around fifty yards from the barrier. The oldest Jewish graves in Gibraltar are to be found here, the earliest known dating back to 1746.
Aaron Cardozo, 1761-1832, a Jewish magnate living in Gibraltar and a close friend to Lord Nelson, foiled a plot to turn Gibraltar over to Spain shortly after the Great Siege of 1778, one of many attempts to remove the British from Gibraltar over the centuries. As well as antiquities and war paraphernalia there a porcelain bust of Lord Nelson and medals awarded to soldiers who defended Gibraltar during the Great Siege.
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As one would expect given Gibraltar’s location and history the cuisine carries influences from across Europe and Africa. Gibraltar may be small, but it can be big on flavour.
The colloquial term for a local Gibraltarian is “llanito”, hence many Gibraltarian dishes have come to be known by the same name. Some of these unique llanito dishes include
Calentita,an oven-baked, pancake-like dish made with chickpea flour, Rosto, a pasta dish consisting of carrots, penne pasta and meat in a tomato and white wine sauce.
Other local favourites are Torta de Acelga, a chard or spinach pie, and the Menestra de Verduras, which is a stew of blended vegetables mixed with thick spaghetti. These, like many of Gibraltar’s meals, are comforting, hearty and full of flavour.
Gibraltar has very limited agriculture; however a few indigenous crops do grow on the Rock. Search carefully and you can find prickly pears, wild asparagus, pine nuts and figs.
Food is a large part of being Mediterranean, and Gibraltar is no exception to this archetype: family gatherings are always centered on meals.