PERPLEXING PORTUGUESE PIECE
Having visited Portugal this summer, we looked forward to reading your story about touring the country (“Walking the Portuguese Way,” October 18).
On our trip, we were also impressed with the natural beauty and historical locations. However, we cannot understand why the Magazine devoted five full pages to a trek by Brian Jablon to the church burial site of a decapitated apostle without a single mention of the long historical connection between Portugal and the Jews ending, at least publicly, with the Inquisition in 1497.
Recently, considerable information has appeared testifying to the heroic efforts of Jews to maintain and transmit their Jewish identity in secret, despite the risks entailed. Inquisition-related executions continued until 1824. The town of Belmonte, not far from the Spanish border, is one community with hundreds of years of confirmed genealogical records of continued marriages only within the Jewish community. Hidden synagogues, mikvaot and Jewish ritual objects are some of the evidence of secret Jewish life being discovered.
It is disappointing that the travelers did not seek out anything connected to Judaism, described their Shabbat travel and completely non-kosher diet, and celebrated the Christian pilgrimage connection, which incidentally has only tragic meaning to Judaism. Traveling on a trail seems fascinating, but couldn’t you have put this article in the paper in July instead of the Jewish high holiday season?
We could write a five-page article celebrating the 30% of the Portugal population that are proud of and reconnecting with their Jewish roots. The Magazine presents a variety of articles, but it was in poor taste to present a visit to a place of strong Jewish identity and not even give passing mention to that while emphasizing destructive traditions. SARAH AND DAVID MASLOW
I found your five-page article on Portugal totally inappropriate for the intermediate Sabbath of the Sukkot holiday, one of the three pilgrimage festivals to Jerusalem. The article relates to the writer’s participation in a 12-day trek that the Catholic faithful make on foot from Porto in Portugal to the burial place of Jesus’s apostle James, in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
Was this intended as some kind of counterbalance to the march of Christians from several countries who join Israelis in Jerusalem annually, evoking biblical prophesies on the festival of Sukkot??
DONYA MEIJER Jerusalem