Ceuta y Melilla are two autonomous cities of Spain located in North Africa surrounded by Morocco. Ceuta lies across from the Straits of Gibraltar while Melilla lies across the Mediterranean Sea from Almeria.The population living in Ceuta and Melilla speak both Spanish and Arabic. Spanish is the official language but more and more of the population speak Berber.
Ceuta and Melilla are the only Spanish cities in North Africa.The people of Melilla are a mixture of Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish who coexist peacefully. Ceuta is easily accessible by ferry from Algeciras Cadiz. Ceuta is a free port and a shoppers’ paradise with exquisite jewellery and an El Corte Ingles. Ceuta also has some beautiful beaches and fine restaurants.
After the expulsion from Spain in 1492, a small number of Jews escaped across the Strait of Gibraltar to two fortress cities that Spanish kings were establishing as beachheads in North Africa.
Despite the Inquisition on the Iberian mainland, the Jewish inhabitants of Ceuta and Melilla largely were left alone for the next five centuries but today is whole different story. They were joined by other Sephardic Jews over the centuries.
Their descendants now are leaving the enclaves, which are surrounded by Moroccan territory, and returning to Spain.Growing anti-Semitism and poor economic prospects are threatening to extinguish two Jewish communities on the North African coast.
The Jewish presence in Melilla is said to have started several years after the expulsion with a Spanish aristocrat who had Jewish ancestors.
Ceuta’s total population is around 70,000; Melilla is slightly smaller. Though their Jewish communities today are small — some 300 in Ceuta and around 800 in Melilla — they still have functioning Sephardic synagogues, schools and butcher shops. That’s down from their peak in the late 1960s, when there were about 600 Jews in Ceuta and 1,000 in Melilla.