The counties of Belmonte and Sabugal, in the interior centre of the country, are betting on the dynamism of Jewish tourism to attract visitors and see the sector as a new hope for the development of the territory.
In the municipality of Belmonte (Castelo Branco), which has one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world, there is various equipment related to the Jewish side, especially a museum, which was inaugurated in 2005 and renovated in 2017.
The Jewish Museum, dedicated to the local Jewish community, is part of the Network of Municipal Museums which also includes the Museum of the Discoveries, the Ecomuseum of Zêzere, the Olive Oil Museum, the Church of St. James and the Cabrais Pantheon and the castle.
According to Susana Miranda, of the Municipal Company of Belmonte, the Jewish Museum is one of the most visited places of the village, “very close to the Museum of the Discoveries, because of Pedro Álvares Cabral and also the discovery of Brazil.”
The museum “weighs heavily on visitors to Belmonte,” told the official told.
Space shows the public aspects of the Jewish religion in general and “a little bit of history” of the Jewish community of Belmonte.
Since its reopening, on August 2, 2017, the museum’s nucleus has already welcomed about 40,000 visitors, mostly from Brazil and Israel.
Many of the tourists, especially those who profess the Jewish religion, have in Belmonte a specific hotel – the Belmonte Sinai Hotel – which was inaugurated in 2016.
Its director, Ricardo Abreu, explained that it was the first kosher hotel (respecting Jewish practices in relation to food and lodging) of the country, which arose precisely because of the need to respond to the many requests that existed.
“Our main market is the international market. Fifty per cent of our guests is from the international market. Of course the Israeli or Jewish market, which has several origins, from Poland, the United States, Brazil, France, and the country of origin. Israel is the most important, but then we have all these markets that, for other needs, or for other visits, are also housed in our hotel, “he said.
The hotel, with 27 rooms, in addition to being prepared “to receive Jews like no other hotel,” also receives “all other people,” said Ricardo Abreu.
The hotel is benefiting from the Network of Jewish Jewry in Portugal, which attracts many tourists to the region, which is why the owners plan to expand it.
The merchants of the village of Belmonte are also satisfied with the increase in the influx of tourists from various geographies.
“There are a lot of people visiting the [Jewish] community, the Synagogue, the [Jewish] Museum and the museums,” declared Moron.
According to the inhabitant, lately it has been noticed the presence of “many people” in the village and the movement reflects “a little” in the commerce.
For the merchant Alípio Henriques, with the bet in the Jewish tourism, “Belmonte is evolving in all sectors, in the part of the restoration, in the commercial part, in everything a little bit“.
In the neighbouring municipality of Sabugal (Guarda) was created in 2017, within the scope of the Judicial Network, the House of Jewish Memory of Raia Sabugalense, which has also contributed to attracting visitors.
“Because we are close to Belmonte, as we know, it is the most important centre of Judaism on a national level, and people, by proximity and by the Jewish Network, let us say that it is almost obligatory to take a leap to the Sabugal and this new house, “said the Councilor for Culture, Amadeu Neves.
According to Marcos Osório, archaeologist of the Chamber of Sabugal, the council was integrated into the Jewish Network because it is a territory that “especially after the expulsion of the Jews from the Kingdom of Castile,” welcomed many communities that remained there “for a long time“.
“It is an inheritance that is somewhat hidden and it is not easy to preserve this memory, but there are documents and there are some marks that allow us to remember the presence of these people in this region, such as cruciform marks and other objects that are a testimony alive from your presence here, “he said.
In the building stands out the existence of a Jewish cabinet and a metallic object of personal hygiene, coming from the village of Vilar Maior, denominated ‘Dentilcaspium’.
“It’s nothing more, nothing less, something people were carrying around their necks to clean their nails, teeth and ears,” the archaeologist said.
Marcos Osorio supposes that the object “could belong to someone in the Jewish community, especially to a doctor or a rabbi, since the Jews’ concerns about the act of circumcision and other acts of purification with women forced them to have hygienic care which was not common in society around. ”