Spanish town previously named ‘Kill Jews’ twins with Israeli town

The ancient Spanish town of Castrillo Matajudios, meaning Camp Kill Jews, which last year changed its name to Castrillo Mota de Judios (Jews’ Hill Camp) has officially twinned with the northern Israeli town of Kfar Vradim (Village of the Roses).

A delegation from the town arrived in Israel on Sunday for a ceremony declaring the two as twin towns to promote cultural, touristic and commercial ties.

The official ceremony was attended by the mayor of Castrillo Mota de Judios, Lorenzo Rodriguez, and the Spanish Ambassador to Israel, Fernando Carderera.

“We’re here in the Promised Land to safeguard the roots of the town, established in 1035, “said Rodriguez alongside the head of the Kfar Vradim local council, Sivan Yehieli.

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Rodriguez hailed the move as a “new chapter in the history of Castrillo Mota de Judios,” announcing that archaeological digs recently began to “rediscover ancient roots” and set up a Jewish culture museum in the town.

Yehieli also welcomed the agreement, saying that when he first received the request from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “and after learning the story of the town, we didn’t decide for a moment.”

Last October, the town officially changed its name from Castrillo Matajudios to Castrillo Mota de Judios, or “Jews’ Hill Camp” in a ceremony attended by Israel’s ambassador to Spain Daniel Kutner.

Kutner told the AP at the time that the town’s decision to commemorate its Jewish past was to be praised.

“It must be remembered that the expulsion from Spain was for Jews a traumatic event of historic dimensions and set out the trajectory for the Jewish people from there on,” he said at a brief ceremony where the town’s new name was unveiled.

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The ceremony came after the town officially changed its name in June 2015 to Castrillo Mota de Judios following a referendum and regional government approval.

A vote by residents of the town in May 2014 went 29-19 in favor of scrapping the name, which has been in existence since at least 1623.

The decision brought an end to the embarrassment of locals, who frequently found themselves trapped into giving awkward explanations to outraged outsiders.

“When you travel elsewhere, you always have to explain, because people say, ‘You kill Jews in Castrillo’,” Rodriguez told AFP at the time.

“It makes no sense because we are descended from a Jewish community. We have a star of David on our coat of arms.”

He said the town, near the city of Burgos, was founded in 1035 as a haven for a persecuted Jewish community, which settled on a hill, or Mota, in the area.

A Jewish community remained until 1492 when they were mostly expelled by the Spanish Inquisition, a brutal religious tribunal. Angel Palomino, an archaeologist, said it was thought those who converted to Roman Catholicism decided to change the town’s name to prove the purity of their faith.

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