SPAIN EXPEDITION - NORTH
Explore the Wonders of Spain and Reveal the Secrets of Jewish Spain,
Spain, the enchanting land of castles, flamenco music, olive groves and orange blossoms; of modern vibrant European cities and unspoiled whitewashed villages. Rich in history, it is the land not only of Cervantes, El Greco, Columbus and King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, but of the Rambam, Ramban, Abarbanel, and Ibn Ezra. Join us as we explore the wonders of Spain and reveal the secrets of Jewish Spain, hidden for more than 500 years.
For the Jewish traveler one visits Spain to explore its glorious religious past. One-third of Iberia once contained Jewish blood. Jewish history does not record a similar success story of the “Golden Age” where Jews lived as harmoniously or creatively as they did in Spain. Today the synagogues have become churches, vanished are the Hebrew academies and libraries but evidence of a vibrant Jewish age can still be seen throughout the country. Join Kosher Expeditions as we explore the cultural wonders, spectacular scenery and rich Jewish history of Spain.
(Su) Day 1: Depart US
(Mo) Day 2: Barcelona- Arrive:
Arrive in the exciting city of Barcelona on the Mediterranean Sea. We will take an afternoon/evening stroll along "Las Ramblas," one of the world's most famous thoroughfares, passing flower stalls, vendors and street performers. Starting at the monument of Christopher Columbus by the sea, we will stroll up to the elegant shopping district, passing the enchanting Gaudi architectural masterpieces lit up at night. Next, we will have a group dinner and orientation with our scholar in residence, a former resident of Spain, UCLA professor and expert in Spanish Jewish History, who will accompany the group for the duration of the tour.
(Tu) Day 3 – Barcelona: Full day tour:
1. The Gothic Quarter that dates from the 14th century. We will walk through the medieval "Call" and see the medieval synagogue.
2. Antonio Gaudi's extraordinary Casa Mila, Casa Batllo and Park Guell, one of the famous UNESCO World heritage sites, built by the architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) in Barcelona testify to Gaudí’s exceptional creative contribution to the development of architecture, transforming buildings into magical experiences.
3. The Picasso Museum (optional or free time)
(Wed) Day 4 – Barcelona-Gerona-Besalu-Figueres- Barcelona:
Full day tour of the area around Barcelona. We will follow the Mediterranean "Costa Brava" highway north into the heart of Catalonia and the city of Gerona, a major Jewish center prior to 1492. Gerona is the hometown of Moses Ben Nachman, also known as Nachmanides or Ramban (1194-1270), the foremost Halakhist of his age. Much of the El Call, or Jewish Quarter where he lived, has been restored to its medieval appearance.
Next we’ll explore the Moorish Baths and the Archeological Avenue that runs below the walls of the Old City, offering picturesque views from its watchtowers. This will be followed by a visit to the Centro Bonastrucca Porta, home of the Catalan Museum of Jewish Culture. We will then tour two homes in Gerona’s “Seven Doors of Jewry Tour,” part of a project delving into the ongoing discoveries of Gerona’s Jewish past.
Girona’s medieval quarter is surrounded by ramparts that rise from the original Roman walls. At its heart is the old Jewish section, known as the "Call", which was restored in 1980. From its main street, once an old Roman Road, steep and narrow cobbled alleys wind under archways and between stone buildings that sunlight rarely reaches. In the heart of the quarter is a new educational and cultural complex called the Bonastruc Ca Porta Center, which recreates Jewish life through art exhibits, musical events and food tastings. Surrounding a patio on the site of an ancient synagogue, the complex includes a Catalan Museum of Jewish Culture, the Institute for Sephardic and Kabbalistic Studies and a library that houses important medieval Jewish manuscripts. These documents were discovered in 1987 while city officials were rebinding books in the municipal archives. Inside the binding of a 16th-century Latin real estate ledger they found a parchment dated July 1492, a month before the expulsion, with the story of Girona’s last synagogue and how it was sold.
After having lunch, we’ll continue to Besalu. About 20 miles north of Gerona, the medieval village of Besalu has a preserved Jewish Quarter and a 12th century mikvah (ritual bath), one of only three in Spain. Discovered in 1964, the vaulted stone room with 36 steps has strategically placed openings through which the rising river floods it to the correct water level each spring and fall.
On the return to Barcelona, we will stop at the village of Figueras, birthplace of the surrealist Salvador Dali, and visit the Dali Museum. Return to Barcelona.
(Th) Day 5: Madrid
Transfer to Madrid by high speed train, enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Spanish countryside and the luxury and adventure of a train ride on a state of the art European train.
Arrival to Madrid, transfer to hotel and check in, followed by an afternoon walking tour right from our hotel off the famous Castellana street to some of the most exciting Madrid neighborhoods, including the Puerta del Sol (Spain’s Time Square), and the Plaza Mayor, the most famous plaza in all of Spain, where Spaniards gather in outdoor cafes to sip cool drinks or coffee and enjoy the afternoon sun. As a special treat, for those interested in shopping during your free time, you will be guided to the elegant shopping district near the hotel for some of the greatest shopping bargains in all of Europe, from handmade leather footwear, to the latest European fashions, to finely hand embroidered tablecloths.
(Fr) Day 6: Madrid, Shabbat
Full day tour of the city, since the summer days in Spain are very long and Shabbat does not come in until late. The tour will include a visit to the Prado and Reina Sofia Museums, Retiro Park, and the Royal Palace, and of course, more strolling through the exciting Madrid neighborhoods. Evening Shabbat at the famous Madrid Synagogue with the local Jewish community.
(Sa) Day 7: Shabbat Madrid
Day at leisure, Shabbat with the Jewish community of Madrid. After Shabbat, stroll through the enchanting squares and see the famous Cibleles Fountain at night. Watch the city transform at night as it lights up its streets and squares and entrance to a Flamenco show at the Night Club Florida Park, located in the Park of Retiro, with a show of Spanish Folkloric dancers and Ballet Flamenco.
(Su) Day 8: Madrid - Toledo - El Escorial - Madrid
Named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the entire city is a preserved jewel that will transport us back five hundred years. Rich in Jewish history, the city will reveal its hidden secrets with the help of our scholar in residence. We will visit the Jewish Quarter, with its two synagogues, observing the ornate Hebrew inscriptions, still preserved after over 700 years, as well as visiting the famous El Greco paintings.
Afternoon, we will travel to another World Heritage site, the dramatic El Escorial. Built at the end of the 16th century, the El Escorial stands in an exceptionally beautiful site in Castile. It was the retreat of a mystic king and became, in the last years of Philip II's reign, the center of the greatest political power of the time. The museum displays ancient Hebrew manuscripts and other fascinating pieces.
(Mo) Day 9 – Madrid – Avila - Segovia - Madrid
Explore the city of Segovia. Built on the old Roman city, Segovia’s centerpiece is the Roman Aqueduct, another World Heritage Site, built around two thousand years ago. The city is also the location of an elegant Cathedral, the Alcazar fortress and the most spectacular castle in Spain, on which the castle at Disneyland is based.
On the way to Avila, we will stop at an enchanting perfectly preserved village of Pedraza de la Sierra. Off the beaten track and unspoiled by any modern construction, we will stroll through the plaza that will transport us back hundreds of years. On to Avila, a UNESCO world heritage site, one of the oldest cities in Spain and one of Europe’s best examples of a fortified city, completely surrounded by well-preserved medieval walls built sometime in the 11th century. We will walk along the walls, visit the Plaza Mayor, and visit the Convent of Santa Teresa, a Spanish catholic mystic, granddaughter of converted Jews.
Return to Madrid for our farewell dinner as we share pictures and stories of the past 10 days together.
(Tu) Day 10: Madrid Depart to US
Sample Lecture Topics
1. Spanish Jewish History, an introduction and timeline- how did Jews get to Spain, the Four Captives, the Muslim invasion, the Reconquest (or why are there so many castles in Spain?)
2. Northern Spain and Kabalah- Ramban, Moshe de Leon, the Rosh, the Bal HaTurim
3. Easy conversational Spanish
4. Arabic words and names in modern Spanish and what they tell us about Spanish history
5. Judeo Spanish music and folk ballads
6. Flamenco- what is it, how to listen and understand; Arabic and Jewish elements
7. The portrayal of Jews in Spanish Literature- (not a pretty picture:
8. Quevedo, El Cid and others)
9. Blood Libel in Medieval and Golden Age Spanish Literature- Berceo, el Nino de la Guardia, Lope de Vega
10. The treatment of Jews in Medieval Spanish Law- Alfonso X and the Siete Partidas
11. The Myth of Convivencia- with friends like this…
12. Columbus- the Jewish connection
13. Don Quixote-Secret Jew?
14. Inquisition, Conversos and Marranos- what really happened?
15. Spain and Jews in the 20th Century- Franco, the Civil War, the Jewish Community today
16. The Idiot's Guide to the Prado
*Optional Southern Spain Extension
Day 1 -2 Granada: During the period of Muslim domination of Spain, Granada was the finest city on the peninsula. Today it is still home to the greatest Muslim legacy in Europe, and one of the most inspiring attractions on the Continent – the Alhambra. Rich in a prosperous Jewish past it was once called “Gharnata al-Yahud”, Granada of the Jews.” Here we explore the city including the Alhambra, Generalife, and take in an evening Flamenco show.
Day 3 - Seville & Western Andalusia: The Capital of Andalusia is a city of poetry, romance and art. All who visit are captivated by its exuberant atmosphere - stylish, confident, ancient, proud, intimate and fun-loving. In keeping with the slow-burn nature of the city's charms, two great monuments - the Muslim Alcázar and the Christian cathedral - reveal most of their glories only once you're inside them. These, along with many other buildings and areas around Seville, are World Heritage Sites. Explore the city including the Santa Cruz Quarter and a cruise of the panoramic Guadalquivir River.
Day 4 - Cordoba: Cordoba is a Moorish city with narrow winding streets, gardens, olive and orange groves. Famous for its libraries and bookshops, Cordoba was the high-water mark of Arab civilization in Europe. The past and its rich cultural mix can be seen in the La Mezquita building. The cities old Jewish quarter evokes memories of a brilliant Jewish intellectual center in the Golden Age of Spain. Three ancient synagogues still stand, gaze at the statue of Maimonidies in Tiberias Square, walk the narrow alleys of the famous Juderia, or sip coffee at cafes in the Plaza de Juda Levi.
Custom group departures (minimum 18 or more participants) are available upon request. Please call us for details..
City walking tours of:
Custom group departures (minimum 18 or more participants) are available upon request. Please call us for details.
Hotel Barcelona 4*
Located in the heart of the tourist and shopping area, it is deal for tourists that want to experience the spirit of the city. This boutique hotel has 200 rooms decorated with a unique modernist style. The perfect location for us to explore the wonders of Barcelona.
Hotel Madrid 5*
Located just steps away from Madrid main square ' Plaza de España', this modern Hotel offers spectacular views of the Royal Palace and Casa de Campo. Perfectly situated within walking distance of Gran Via, Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol and Madrid's main museums (Prado, Thyssen, Reina Sofía). In addition, a Metro stop can be found right at the entrance of the hotel allowing convenient travel to Madrid's main local attractions. The hotel offers 274 spacious contemporary luminous rooms, all with superb views. All rooms offer surcharge access to the Spa and indoor pool. Hotel is in Walking distance of the local synagogue for a memorable Shabbat with the Jewish community of Madrid.