Mallorca. Fresh air and a secret Jewish history.
So you thought this post would be all about rest and relaxation. Yes, I had a little of that, but there is more to Mallorca than meets the eye, and I had a chance to see a few sides of the island, and learn about some fascinating Jewish(!) history.
I also had views like this one.
Travel is always an adventure, so arriving in Mallorca I discovered that my luggage hadn’t made it. I was a bit flustered and frustrated upon arrival to my hotel, but appreciated my decision to rent a car and be in a place where finding last minute items was easy (thank you to the equivalent of Meijer/Walmart where I found $6 green shoes - it's the little things.)
Anywho, I spent the first few days on the island at a resort style hotel, with a balcony and wifi and caught up on work stuff. I also hosted a webinar for the JSC fellows about some resume writing and job search tactics. It was nice to be able to relax and get work done, in the sun. It’s hard to have a normal day when you travel like this, so these catch up days can be wonderful.
Mallorca and Jewish Community
When I decided to come to Mallorca I didn’t really realize what I was getting myself into. I saw an opportunity advertised in an email (Side note: I have a trend of reading my email, inquiring about interesting opportunities, which leads to doing cool things - just sayin' read your emails). Mallorca seemed like a good place to catch my breath and if I could add some Jewish communal research then even better.
The history of the Jews and Mallorca is fascinating, it’s old, and it involves some of your typical Jewish story with persecution, execution and expulsion - always uplifting I know, but it also has conversion, hidden identities and a recent interest in discovering and embracing Jewish history, a vibrant community looking to grow and more. I won't share all the history here and I'm not the right person to share it, but it is interesting. Throughout the weekend I celebrated Shabbat in the one synagogue on the island, had a tour of the Jewish quarter from a very passionate leader in the community, and interacted with Jewish community through a Limmud conference.
There is a lot of energy around creating Jewish life in Mallorca right now. One of the "locals", an expat, Dani has started giving Jewish tours in old town Palma, showcasing the history of the Jews of Palma, explaining the Chuetas and their history, and sharing his vision of wanting a Jewish community on this island he calls home for his (and his wife Carla’s) new son.
It brings a whole new layer to a lot of what I’ve discovered and learned the past few months, here is a place where most of us don’t know any aspect of Jewish history. It’s also a place that today has some similar challenges in building Jewish community as some of the other cities I’ve visited. There’s an added element of figuring out who is Jewish, what does Jewish community mean, when does or should the balance cater to tourists, expats, locals, and people from varying backgrounds and knowledge, and how can you pull it all together. These same questions came up for me in most every place I’ve been. So in some ways it’s nice to realize this community is no different (although arguably better weather and killer views).
One of the many ways the community is coming together is through the Limmud conference, which was ultimately the reason that the group of young people came together for the weekend. Limmud happens around the world, and is a day of Jewish learning (think of it as like a Ted conference). It’s another example of a way of building, educating, and bringing community and people together. Mallorca happened to be the first one I’ve actually attended, and it was truly a day of learning!
I signed up for this weekend without much knowledge of who I was joining and knowing literally no one who would be there. I was apprehensive based on the very active Whatsapp group, and afraid I really would be more annoyed by people than interested, sorry friends, it's true! I was wrong.
It was a really wonderful experience to be welcomed into a group of about 20 or so peers who are each on their own impressive in their own pursuits, but beyond that welcoming, friendly, and interesting. Spending the time with peers after so much travel on my own, it reminded me how much I miss my friends, how much I miss having the moments to just laugh, and that it often doesn't take long to develop true real connections. Plus I heard of at least 14 new ideas formed throughout our time together.
Before meeting everyone, I took a chance in the name of actually having company as I picked up a guy I had never met, but trusted since he was part of the group, it’d be fine, and ended up discovering winding roads, gorgeous views, some confidence in my driving, in addition to a new friend! Thanks for being a great navigator Ranash!
I spent a Shabbat with a diverse set of Jews who came together from the entire spectrum of Judaism, multiple countries, and various viewpoints, we enjoyed great conversations, a pretty long walk to synagogue, were inspired by each person, and continue to be delighted by new friends. I left full of knowing I have a new found friends, confidantes, inspiration, and idea builders.
So what about the island.
I mean it’s beautiful. If you should go, which you should, I’d recommend getting out of Palma. The coast has it all, finding mountains next to water, is my happy place. The second I turned down a road unsure if I should spend more time with people or get out of town, I had an immediate smile on my face as I saw mountains, and had a perfect view of a sunset.
As much as good people fill me up, good mountain or sea air fill me up too. I sometimes forget how much the mountains calm me, how I enjoy a view and find ways to soak it up. While I didn't have the time to go on hikes, I found private beaches, rocky but perfect for some safe scrambling to find the exact right one to sunbathe in. I put my feet in fresh clear water, playing it safe as I was on my own. I was able to join a yoga class with a friend I met years ago on a yoga retreat in Morocco. If you are a biker, Mallorca is the place, as a driver it’s a bit annoying, but I’m sure lovely for those that ride.
I’d go back to Mallorca, it’s a little place that has a bit of everything, history, sun, markets, water, views, mountains, small town charm, and more.
My brain has been moving a mile a minute, and I have multiple JDC projects, logistics for upcoming travel and more to figure out, I am grateful for opportunities to relax and relish in good views, and deep breaths. On to the next a somewhat less than exciting plane ride to New York!