Sicily loses much of its rich Jewish history

I HAVE been to Sicily with my adult son to explore the roots of the Jewish community in Palermo, the islandís largest city.

And a fascinating experience it was, too.

But the regionís rich Jewish past belies its tenuous Jewish present. There are a few physical reminders of the community that once existed there but much has been destroyed or expropriated over the centuries.

As we learned in school, Sicily is an island, kicked into the Mediterranean by the toe of the Italian boot.

It only became part of Italy in the 19th century when its people agreed (and some argue that their consent was not entirely voluntary) to join the newly formed Italian state.

In the preceding centuries, Sicily was ruled by the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spanish and French, and developed its own language (Sicilian) and culture.

Consequently, there are rich, overlapping layers of diverse civilisations that can be seen even today in the local traditions, handicrafts and architecture.

Palermo is known as the most conquered city in Europe. The Jewish presence in Sicily dates from Roman times and developed into a significant community in the Middle Ages.

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