We recommend you visit the following:
Windmill Hill (Jews’ Gate) Cemetery
by Rabbi Roni Hassid
The Windmill Hill cemetery is situated close to the entrance of the Nature Reserve, around fifty yards from the barrier. The oldest Jewish graves in Gibraltar are to be found here, the earliest known dating back to 1746. The cemetery was closed a century later, on 6th May 1848.
The origins of the cemetery are shrouded in mystery. The Christian population at that time were burying their dead in an area now covered by the airport runway. Why did the Jews use the more distant and less accessible site on Windmill Hill? One theory connects this with the fact that the area used by the Christians, in practice a sort of no-man’s-land between British Gibraltar and Spain, was in fact Spanish territory, subject to the laws of the Decree of Expulsion disallowing Jewish presence.
Until recently, many of the graves were covered over with mud and peat. Those are the best preserved. Others that were exposed to the elements have become illegible, and many of the stones have crumbled.
During the winter and spring months, the vegetation is allowed to grow rapidly and profusely giving the impression of neglect. In fact, the place is the favourite mating ground of the rare Barbary partridge and it is in deference to the Ornithological Society that the vegetation is left until after the nesting season. Lag BaOmer sees the traditional annual pilgrimage to the tombs of the Tsadikim (Righteous people) and by then the shrubs have usually been cleared.
A pathway over the gravestones leads to the main enclosure surrounding the graves of some of the Dayanim (Judges of Religious Law) of the town, known as the Tsadikim.
The first tomb from the left, that of Rabbi Shelomo Abudarham, is the oldest of the six. The inscription reads: “Tomb of the crown of our head, the sage versed in every area of the Torah, famed Dayan (judge), Light of the West, the eminent rabbi from distinguished family, honourable teacher and rabbi Shelomo Abudarham of blessed memory, called to the Heavenly [Heavenly]court 4th Heshvan 5565 (December 1804).
(R. David Abudarham who lived in Seville in late 13th-14th Century Spain and authored the famous book ‘Sefer Abudarham’ on the prayers and blessings, was probably a forebear.) This R. Shelomo Abudarham (“he second) grandson of Shelomo Abudarham the First of Tetuan, came to Gibraltar from Morocco in 1790, during the evil decrees of Yazid. Among his pupils in Tetuan were R. Menahem Nahon and R. Moshe Halevi (who both taught R. Yitshak benWallid author of Vayomer Yitshak). His stature in the eyes of the generation can be judged by the fact that his Haskama - approbation was printed at the beginning of the book “Melehet Hakodesh” written by the Meknes sage R. Moshe Toledano. He followed R. Yehuda ben Yitshak Halevi as Chief Rabbi of Gibraltar.
Shortly after his arrival in Gibraltar, a number of merchant families decided to build themselves a new synagogue. It seems that the service in Sha’ar Hashamayim had become more Moroccan in style over the years. In the new synagogue, services would be conducted in the style of the Portuguese Talmud Tora Synagogue of Amsterdam. Officially named Nefutsot Yehuda, the synagogue built on Line Wall Road became known colloquially as the Esnoga Flamenga or the Flemish synagogue.
When the synagogue was inaugurated in 1800, it was the Chief Rabbi, Shelomo Abudarham, who laid the memorial stone bearing his name which can still be seen on the right door post of the synagogue. He died just four years later in a yellow fever epidemic.
The Dayan had his own Bet Medrash (school of Jewish religious study) in Parliament Lane, which after his death was left to the congregation as a place of worship. It is still active today, known as the Abudarham Synagogue. The little that remains of his writing includes a ruling from 1802 concerning the exemption of Tora (Bible) scholars from taxes.
The next tomb chronologically is that of Rabbi Raphael Moshe Hassan, third from the left. We know nothing of him other than what is inscribed on the stone: “Tomb of our master, teacher and rabbi, a sage complete in his knowledge of all areas of Tora, Dayan and teacher, pious and humble, his honour our teacher and rabbi Raphael Moshe Hassan, of blessed memory, called to the Heavenly Court …5th Adar 1 year 5570 from the creation (1810). Next chronologically and fifth from the left is R Avraham Haim Burgel. Again, nothing is known of his activity in Gibraltar other than what is inscribed on the stone: “The tomb of the sage versed in all areas of the Tora, our honourable teacher and rabbi Abraham Hayim Burgel, son of that Tsadik the rabbi “Hok Natan” of blessed memory, and his repose was on Wednesday 22nd Elul 5573 1813).
“His father, Rabbi Nathan Burgel (or Aburgel) was born around 1740 and died in 1792 in Tunis. He was a giant in Tora and Kabala. During those years in Tunis the Tora scholars involved themselves almost exclusively in the study of Seder Kodashim, matters concerning the Temple, ritual purity etc. R. Nathan’s book Hok Natan is a world-class classic, and is now printed together with all editions of the Talmud. It was studied by the greatest torah scholars in Europe, including the Hofetz Hayim. Only five of his many children survived infancy, three daughters and two sons, R. Eliyahu Hai and R. Abraham Hayim who somehow found his way to Gibraltar.
At the extreme right lies Rabbi Yeshaya Anahory, who died just two weeks after Rabbi Burgel. The inscription reads: “This is the tomb of the sage in all areas of Tora, the famed judge, the pious and humble honourable teacher and Rabbi Yeshaya Anahory of blessed memory, and his repose was in honour on 6th Tishri 5574 (1813).
“Second from the left lies Rabbi Yosef Elmalech ben Ayush. He took his first rabbinical post in Rabat-Sale(Morocco) in 1788. He fled from the authorities in his home town and fully intended to return when possible. He might have had thoughts of continuing to Erets Israel in the interim, but if so he never realised his plan. The first leg of his journey took him to Gibraltar, where he accepted the position of Dayan and remained till his passing. The inscription states “Tomb of our master teacher and rabbi, crown of our head, the Haham hashalem vehakolel, famed judge, pious and humble, the eminent rabbi light of the West, the G-dly kabalist honorable teacher and rabbi, Yosef Elmalej z”l who was called to the heavenly court on Monday 11th Elul in the year “and Hashem was with Yosef”(5583=1823). His Teshuvot ‘Tokpo shel Yosef Vol. 2’, contain responsa from Gibraltar from 1809 till 1821. (Vol. 1 was republished in 5764 by the Bnei Issachar Institute with an extensive detailed biography. A collection of his earlier teshuvot (responsa) from the first period of his life in Rabat, it was published after Vol. 2.)
Fourth from the left is R. Avraham Yisrael: “Tomb of Eshkol Hakofer - the wreath of glory and testimony, testimony to Israel, Judge who became witness, exceedingly good to The House of Israel, sought the good of his people, his name was known in high places amongst the Children of Israel highly praised as rabbi the honourable teacher and Rabbi Abraham Israel called to the Heavenly court on the day of “Joy of the Cohen” (day after Kipur) in the year “I will put instruction complete on Israel” (5604=1844).
Continuing along the path to the south end of the cemetery one comes to another enclosure containing a single tomb, that of R. Yisrael ben Yeshaya. He studied in Rabat under R Yosef Elmalej whose tomb is in the large enclosure. In Rabbi Elmalej’s book Tokpo Shel Yosef is a ruling in 1789 when they were both in Rabat exempting him from taxes. He inherited his teacher’s position as Av Bet Din (Head of the Religious Court of Law) in Gibraltar; his signature is on rulings made in 1830 and 1834. He died in 1841. The inscription states: “Tomb of the Haham hashalem vehakolel elder of Judgements, our teacher and Rabbi Israel bar Shaya z”l called to the Heavenly Court Thursday night, 16th Iyar “Mesharim Ahevuha” (5601=1841)
After the passing of R Israel ben Shaya, the position of Chief Rabbi remained vacant for forty years. Though there were several sages in Gibraltar during this period, none was recognised as the Chief Rabbi.
Adjacent to and perpendicular to the enclosure of R. Israel is that of R. Yitshak Halevi the third. He died in Tevet 5607 (1847) just one year before the closing of the cemetery in May 1848. By that time there was precious little space left, which would explain the south-north orientation of his grave as opposed to the east-west orientation of the other graves, with the head towards Jerusalem.
Much more research remains to be done on the Rabbis of Gibraltar, and many of the graves in the old cemetery remain to be identified.
Gibraltar City Hall
Gibraltar City Hall is the city hall for Gibraltar, located in John Mackintosh Square.
The building was a private mansion built in 1819 by Aaron Cardozo and a prosperous merchant of Jewish Portuguese descent who had settled in Gibraltar, as his family home. It was the grandest private mansion ever seen in Gibraltar. The three-storey house dominated John Mackintosh Square.
How did it happen that Cardozo was granted this site, and permission to build, by the British Military authorities? According to the current law, property in Gibraltar could only be owned by British Protestants, and Cardozo was a Jew of Portuguese origin. Officially, it was granted to him in exchange for property in Market Lane which he had conceded to the Government in 1793, but in the interim he had made himself very useful to the British in the wars with France, by obtaining provisions and water from Morocco, and also, in 1798, he had exposed a "dangerous conspiracy to give up the Fortress to the Enemy."
The site had housed the old hospital and chapel of the Hospital de la La Santa Misericordia (‘Hospital of the Holy Mercy’) in Spanish times, and later a Debtors’ Prison, but was now derelict, and on it Aaron built an elegant three-storey house for himself and his family. Later additions, to the North especially, have ruined its symmetry, but many original features remain in its interior, and the Mayor’s Parlour was lovingly restored a few years ago by the Gibraltar Heritage Trust.
Aaron was a hospitable man: North African notables spent months at a time in his house, and in the 1820s he opened his doors to at least twenty liberal refugees from the oppressive regime of Fernando VII, including General Quirogas and Sir Robert Wilson, who was to return, many years later, as Governor of Gibraltar (1842-48).
Cardozo’s wife had died in 1820, and he spent less and less time in Gibraltar after that, living in Portugal or London, where he died in 1834. By that time, the building, administered by his nephew and heir, Isaac Cardozo, was let to the Gibraltar Garrison Club as their club-house. Over the next few years, balls and meetings of various societies were held there, including the Scientific Society which later announced the discovery of the Gibraltar Skull.
In 1839, Isaac let the building again. It became the Club House Hotel, and Gibraltar’s leading hotel, run initially by a widow, Mrs Crosbie. Balls continued to be held there, as well as concerts. By 1844, however, it had deteriorated, and Thackeray, who stayed there, called it “mouldy and decrepit”, but it improved under later owners and housed many eminent guests, including Prince Adalbert of Prussia, who had been wounded when his ship, the Dantzig, had been fired upon off the coast of Morocco.
In 1868, the hotel was leased to John Ansaldo. At that time it was being used by sporting clubs for their meetings, including the Calpe Hunt, the Jockey Club, and the Garrison Cricket Club.
In 1875, Ansaldo gave up the hotel, and Isaac sold the building to Pablo Antonio Larios, a wealthy Gibraltar-born businessman and banker of Spanish origin, who completely refurbished the building. Pablo promptly made it available to Queen Victoria’s third son, the Duke of Connaught, who was on a tour of duty on the Rock. The Duke lived there for some months. When he left, Pablo Antonio Larios moved in with his family.
When Pablo Antonio died, after a riding accident, his son Pablo inherited the building, by now known as Connaught House. Finding it too small for his needs, he erected an extension to the north, which in its present form gives the building its lop-sided look.
In 1920, Larios, by now the Marques de Marzales, (Master of the Royal Calpe Hunt for 45 years), had fallen on hard times, and sold the building to the Gibraltar colonial authorities, which intended to turn it into a post office for £39,500. The intention was to convert the building to a general post office, but funds were lacking, and only the ground floor housed a parcels post office.
The building suffered later some additions (as the addition of a new storey or a new body to the North) that modified its original symmetry.
In 1924, the first City Council was elected, and Cardozo’s building became the City Hall, by which name it is still known, although the City Council has long given way to the Government of Gibraltar. The City Hall now houses the Mayor's Parlour.
Council meetings were held here until 1969 when the Council was merged with the Government.
Local historian, Salvador (Joshua) Marrache has contributed this ‘historical’ piece about local Jewish hero, Lt. Benzecry. It is a letter from Mr Solomon Benabu who is addressing himself to Messrs Abraham B. M. Serfaty and Solomon H. Cohen. Lt. Benzecry’s relief and heroism is recorded on the ground floor of the House of Parliament, formerly known as ‘The Exchange’ on the Main Street in Gibraltar.
“My Dear Friends,
Prompted by a justifiable pride in our fellow countryman, Lieut. Benzecry, I cabled you a few days ago, giving you an abbreviated excerpt of the leading article in The Star of the 21st February last.
I chose this article because it expressed the feelings of ANY MAN who realises what Capt. Stone, Lieut. Benzecry and their gallant and unconquerable company of Heroes did on that memorable day: [but], The Times, The Telegraph, in fact, all newspapers, had nothing but high praise for the valour of those MEN who fought their country’s battles and who died, every man of them, the deaths of MEN, the deaths of Heroes!
Lieut. Benzecry was a Gibraltarian. You and I, all our fellow Townsmen, knew him and his father before him.
Gibraltar is a proud town for being able to count such a Hero amongst her sons. "Lives there a man with soul so dead that he is not touched by the deeds done by these Memorable and unconquerable Heroes?"
Lives there a Gibraltarian whose chest does not swell with pride at the deeds of his brother townsman Benzecry?
Lives there a Gibraltarian who is unmoved at such a tale of heroism? Lives there a Gibraltarian whose eyes are not dimmed
with tears at the thought of the brave way in which our dear Lieut. Benzecry met his death on the battlefield?
We must erect a memorial (not a monument) to perpetuate the gallant deeds, the bravery and the sacrifice of our fellow citizen. I know that if an appeal is made to my countrymen they will respond nobly and generously like they always respond to just and good causes.
Tell all Gibraltarians that Benzecry sacrificed his all for his country, for the world at large and for the benefit of many generations to come. He gave up his life, his career, his all. Is it too much to ask of you Gibraltarians to sacrifice something and thus honour the name of he who has honoured our Rock, for ever?
Do you Gibraltarians realise what Benzecry (and with him his Captain and his MEN) did? The Soldier who goes over the parapet to meet the fiendish despicable "Hun" [German], has a sporting chance - he may be wounded, maimed perhaps, but he fights for his life, and I repeat has a sporting chance BUT that gallant Company of men decided to DIE to save a position; they knew it was either surrender or death, and like the MEN they were, worthy of the name of Britons ... they did not surrender ... they died - to live for ever!!!
Their heroism may be equalled, but, surely, never surpassed!
I am hoping that you will collect a substantial sum of money, and I beg to assure you of my co-operation to try and raise funds here in England.
As to the form of the memorial, I would suggest, subject to wiser opinions and decisions, that a Tablet be placed in a suitable and prominent place, say in The Exchange, setting forth the deeds of Benzecry of the 17th Royal Fusiliers (13th Essex Company) at Bourlon Wood. After this has been provided for, I would suggest that the funds be utilised to create one, two or more, scholarships to be known as the Benzecry Scholarships, for the benefit of those children who must necessarily finish their education at an early age owing to their parents’ lack of means to continue the same. (The details could be arranged by a suitable committee appointed for the purpose in due course.)
In my opinion we could not honor our friend's name better than by perpetuating his memory in such a noble way. Education is the greatest asset and perhaps the greatest form of riches: and by providing for the young, we automatically provide for old age.
Thus, we would say that not only Benzecry did not die in vain, because he died for his country and for the cause of Mankind, but that through his glorious - yes, more than glorious - death, Civilisation had gained, as it certainly would if we contribute to the education of the young.
In conclusion, may I suggest the formation of a committee of Gibraltarians - if you have already done so - to help raise the fund for which I appeal.
Yours very truly,
S. D. Benabu
9 & 10 Fenchurch Street,
(Click here for more info) Arrangements for tours can be made with the MBJC on Tel: +350 20075965 or by e-mail