I spotted a few of these trilingual signs last week when we were in Palermo. Written in Italian, Hebrew and Arabic you can find them on some of the streets in the old Jewish area of this fascinating city.
In April 2017 the signs were defaced by vandals who blacked out the non-Italian names. It didn’t take long for some civic groups – and the mayor himself – to get involved in cleaning them up and ensure this bit of local heritage was not muddied. Apparently the Hebrew isn’t even really correct, just a quick transliteration of the Italian name. An indication that the signs (and the idea behind them) are a modern, and public, labelling of the area’s heritage.
Palermo is really ancient, founded by Phoenicians – that is, the guys who came before the Greeks. Jews were part of the huge mix of people and they lived just fine under the various rulers of Sicily, like the Normans and the Arabs. At one point Palermo had 300 mosques. But it all changed in 1492 when the Jews of Sicily were forced (by the new Spanish rulers) to go into exile or convert to Catholicism. The population never really recovered.
Here’s a link to an Italian story about the signs if you’re interested.
And a link to an interesting NYTimes story.
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