Spanish town that changed anti-Semitic name hit by plague of vandalism

An ancient Spanish town that voted to change its name because it was deemed anti-Semitic has come under attack from extremist groups who have daubed the town's signposts and buildings with offensive right-wing symbols and messages protesting the change.

Castrillo Mota de Judios ("Jews' Hill Camp") town mayor Lorenzo Rodríguez Pérez said Thursday that after the latest weekend attack the town had decided to file a complaint with police.

The north-central village of some 50 inhabitants voted in 2014 to change its name from Castrillo Matajudios ("Camp Kill Jews") to its current form. Rodríguez said that since then there have been six vandalism incidents as well as protests whenever Jewish or Israeli representatives visited.

He said the graffiti and vandalism by groups came from outside and would not change the town's push to honor its Jewish origins.

"They do it so that the town won't continue with the process of the name change and recognizing the town's Jewish past," said Rodríguez. "They want to intimidate us but they won't."

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The town hall plans to visit Israel in July for a twinning ceremony with the village of Kfar Vradim.

In the latest attack, the old town name was sprayed onto new road signs and as well as the extremist symbol of a circle with a cross. Rodríguez said that previously the town hall had been pasted with flyers.

Documents show the original name was "Jews' Hill Camp" and that the "Kill Jews" name dates from 1627, after a 1492 Spanish edict ordering Jews to convert to Catholicism or flee the country. Those who remained faced the Spanish Inquisition, with many burned at the stake.

Researchers believe the village got its previous name from Jewish residents who converted to Catholicism and wanted to convince Spanish authorities of their loyalty. Others suspect the change may have come from a slip of the pen.

No Jews live in the village now but many residents have Jewish roots and the town's official shield includes the Star of David.

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