CASTRILLO MOTA DE JUDIOS, Spain — Israel’s ambassador joined Spanish officials Friday in celebrating the name change of the ancient Spanish town of Castrillo Matajudios (“Camp Kill Jews”) to Castrillo Mota de Judios (“Jews’ Hill Camp”).
The event came a year after the north-central village of some 50 inhabitants voted to change the name after the mayor argued it was offensive and the village should honor its Jewish origins.
Documents show the village’s original name was “Jews’ Hill Camp” and that the “Kill Jews” name dates from 1627, after a 1492 Spanish edict ordering Jews to convert to Catholicism or flee the country. Those who remained faced the Spanish Inquisition, with many burned at the stake.
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Ambassador Daniel Kutner said the town’s decision to celebrate its Jewish past was to be praised. “It must be remembered that the expulsion from Spain was for Jews a traumatic event of historical dimensions and set out the trajectory for the Jewish people from there on,” he said at a brief ceremony before a road sign bearing the new name was placed at the town’s entrance.
The name change was formally approved by the regional government of Castilla y Leon in June.
Researchers believe the village got its previous name from Jewish residents who converted to Catholicism and wanted to reinforce their repudiation of Judaism to convince Spanish authorities of their loyalty. Others suspect the change may have come from a slip of the pen.
No Jews live in the village today but many residents have Jewish roots and the town’s official shield includes the Star of David.