From Monday 19th to Friday 23th September 2022, Peace and Cooperation attended a series of lectures organised jointly by the Sefarad-Israel Centre and the Diplomatic School. This series of lectures, entitled “Judaism. History, contributions and presence in contemporary society” aimed to refine participants’ knowledge of the History of the Jewish people, its culture, role and contribution in our society.

The lectures were held within the Diplomatic School and included among the speakers many academics and important personalities of the Jewish community of Spain : Macarena GARCIA, hebraist, doctor and assistant professor at UCM ; David TOROLLO, hebraist, doctor and assistant professor at UCM ; Isaac BENZAQUEN, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain ; Rosa Méndez, hebraist at the Sefarad-Israel Centre ; Mercedes MURILLO, deputy director general for religious freedom of the Department of the Presidency, Relations with Parliament and Democratic Memory ; Jaime MORENO, director of the Sefarad-Israel Centre ; Antonio ALVAREZ BARTHE, Ambassador of the Special Mission for Middle East and Mediterranean ; Javier FDEZ VILLINA, professor of the Department of Hebrew and Aramaic Studies and the Institute of Religious Sciences of UCM ; José Antonio LISBONA, political scientist and historian ; Uriel MACIAS, researcher at the Isaac Abravanel Centre and bibliographer of Judaism ; Esther BENDAHAN, director of the Cultural Programme of the Sefarad-Israel Centre ; Gil GIDRON, President of the Spanish-Israeli Chamber of Commerce ; Juan José HERRERA DE LA MUELA, Ambassador of the Special Mission for Public and Global Affairs ; Israel DONCEL, director of communication at the Sefarad-Israel Centre.

First of all, Macarena GARCIA offered a very complete panorama of Judaism, its history, languages and communities. At a second conference, she presented key points of Jewish identity, including ceremonies, cult places, customs, books and ritual objects. These two lectures on Judaism and its culture provided the participants general and complete knowledge about Judaism, which allowed them to better understand the rest of the series of lectures. They were supplemented by a brief study of Jewish literature by Esther BENDAHAN.

Then, numerous lectures highlighted the history of the Sephardic Jewish community and its presence in contemporary society, mainly in Spain. David TOROLLO retraced the history of the Jewish community in the Iberian Peninsula, from its origins to the Sefarad diaspora of nowadays. Uriel MARCIA completed this presentation with a lecture on the return of Sephardic and Jewish people to modern and contemporary Spain. Isaac BENZAQUEN and Jaime MORENO respectively presented the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain and the Sefarad-Israel Centre, the objectives and activities of both organisations. Moreover, the Jewish diaspora in the United States being the largest Jewish diaspora in the world with nearly 5 200 000 Jews, Juan José HERRERA DE LA MUELA presented the history and presence of Jewish communities in American society.

Moreover, antisemitism being a scourge still present in our 21st century, several lectures were held on this subject in order to understand its appearance, history, ideology and various manifestations, and thus better fight it. Rosa MENDEZ retraced the role of Spain during what was one of the most important genocide in our history, Holocaust, as well as the State’s duty to remember and commemorate. Javier FDEZ VALLINA allowed the participants to understand the emergence of antisimitism and its evolution, from religious anti-judaism to contemporary antisemitism. The fight against antisemitism continues. International organisations, the European Union and governments are setting up laws and campaigns to eradicate this ideology contrary to the values of human rights defended by the United Nations. Mercedes MURILLO presented the European and Spanish strategy to fight against antisemitism. His presentation was completed by the one of Israel DONCEL on the fight against hate and antisemitism in the digital age. He gave participants advice on how to fight hate and antisemitism on Internet, including social networks. For example, reporting hate and/or antisemitic accounts and publications.

The State of Israel was the subject of many lectures. Antonio ALVAREZ BARTHE explained the (difficult) relations of Israel in the context of the Middle East and José Antonio LISBOA the relations between Spain and Israel since the creation of the Hebrew State in 1948. Finally, Gil GIDRON explained the importance of innovation in the Jewish identity, in the economic and entrepreneurial fields, taking the case of Israel as a Start Up Nation.

Thus, the history of Judaism, its culture and its people has been written for more than 3 000 years and continues to be written today, in diasporas around the world and in Israel.


Cléo Martel, Political Science student, Sciences Po Rennes University.

Peace and Cooperation

Article published in: Galicia Digital