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ÁVILA , city in Castile, central Spain. Jews are mentioned there in 1085. The first documentary evidence of a Jewish community is from 1144. In 1176 the king granted one-third of the taxes levied on the Jews to the bishop of Ávila. However, they evidently refused to pay it to him, although ordered to do so by the crown in 1285 and again in 1293. By the end of the 13th century the community was one of the largest in Castile. Among some of its leading members was Yuc'af de Ávila, a very important tax collector under Sancho iv. In 1303 the community numbered about 50 families, or about 250 people, occupying 40 houses on diocesan land. The majority were artisans and shopkeepers, some were moneylenders, and others engaged in farming and sheep- and cattle-raising. Prominent were "R. Judah the dyer" and Yuc'af de Ávila, mentioned in 1285 as tax-collector for the province of Ávila, and owner of several houses in the city. By the end of the 13th century Ávila had become a center of mysticism and messianic activities (see Ávila, Prophet *of). Yuc'af was a patron of mystics and scholars. The famous kabbalist *Moses de Leon resided for a while in the city. During the civil war in Castile, when a moratorium was imposed on debts to Jews in 1366, the Jews in Ávila and other communities were attacked by rioters who seized their promissory notes and securities. The Jews of Ávila were forced to attend a religious disputation in church between the apostate *Juan de Valladolid and *Moses ha-Kohen of Tordesillas in 1375. Nothing is known of the fate of Ávila Jewry during the 1391 massacres. In the 15th century the community was still important and consisted of 107 families, more than 500 Jews, constituting some 8% of the city population. In 1474 the community had to pay taxes amounting to 12,000 maravedis, and in 1489 a war levy of 86,900 maravedis. Abraham Melamed of Ávila farmed various taxes in this period. Anusim ("forced converts") were already living in Ávila in the 15th century. During the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella a number of restrictive measures were imposed, and in 1480 the Jews were segregated into a separate quarter of the city. In 1490 the *La Guardia blood libel trial was transferred from Segovia to Ávila. The proceedings so inflamed the populace that after the accused had been burned at the stake a Jew was stoned to death. Later a royal order of protection was issued. After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, the two synagogues of Ávila were sold and the Jewish cemetery was given to a monastery in 1494. An inquisitional tribunal was set up in Ávila in 1490. In 1499, 75 victims were burned at the stake, as well as the bones of 26 who had already died "in sin."

A document from 1303 shows that the Jews of Ávila lived then with Christians in different parts of the city. Many, however, were concentrated in the area of the Mercado Grande and the Mercado Chico (today's Reyes Católicos and Vallespín). Near the San Vicente church the Jews had a synagogue and a slaughterhouse. In 1412 the Jews had to live within a judería situated on the southwest part of the city wall, in the Santo Domingo quarter. In 1481 the judería was completely enclosed. Another Jewish quarter was on the east side of the wall. The documents refer to many synagogues in Ávila.


P.L. Tello, Judíos de Ávila (1963); Baer, Spain, 2 (1966), index; idem, in: Zion, 5 (1940), 1–44; Beinart, in: Tarbiz, 26 (1957), 76; L. Suárez Fernández, Documentos acerca de la Expulsión de los Judíos (1964), index; Scholem, in: Madda'ei ha-Yahadut, 1 (1926), 17–18; Baer, Urkunden, 2 (1936), index. add. bibliography: M.A. Martín Sánchez, in: El Olivo, 7/8 (1978), 73–88; J. Belmonte Díaz, Judíos e Inquisición en Ávila (1989); J. Bilinkoff, The Avila of Saint Teresa., (1989); J.L. Lacave, Juderías y sinagogas españolas, (1992), 214–8.

[Encyclopaedia Hebraica /

Yom Tov Assis (2nd ed.)]