Capital of the Spanish island of Majorca. As early as the Moorish period Jews were living in Almudayna, the most populous part of the city, which was surrounded by walls and contained the "Castell dels Jueus," the Jews' castle. About 1290 Alfonso III. or James II. assigned them a special ghetto, surrounded by walls with gates for their own protection. It was situated in the De Calatrava quarter in the parish of Santa Eulalia, and comprised the Calle de Monte Sion and "el Calle," or the Jews' street proper. In 1318 Sancho I. granted the Jews, at their own request, this ghetto as their habitation for all time. With the permission of the king, the Jews had built a fine synagogue, but it was hardly completed, in 1314, when Sancho I. took it from them by way of punishment, and converted it into the Church of Santa Fé. In 1331 James III. permitted them to build a new but plain synagogue ("casa de oracion") or school ("escuela") in the street in which their cemetery was situated, and they gave a mortgage on this building, which had not been entirely paid off in 1380. In addition to this synagogue there were two smaller ones, situated between the churches of Santa Fé, Santa Bartolome; and Santa Misericordia.
The Jews, to whom James I., conqueror of the Balearic Isles, granted privileges which were abrogated and renewed by subsequent rulers, formed in their aljama almost a state within a state. At its head were five representatives, called "secretarii" or "regidores," a treasurer ("tesorero"), and a council consisting of eight, and at times of more, persons, who were elected, according to an old privilege, by the Jews themselves, and were confirmed by the king. Sancho I., after abrogating in 1314 all the privileges granted the Jews, meddled with their internal affairs also, and arbitrarily appointed a certain Astruc b. Nono as secretary or representative. The other representatives protested to Sancho's successor, whereupon the right of free election was restored to the Jews ("Boletin Acad. Hist." xxxvi. 197, No. 45). Only honorable and independent men were eligible as "secretarii"; physicians, brokers, and all persons who sought to gain office by influence or other unfair means being excluded. The number of the members of the council varied. In 1374 the aljama consisted of thirty persons; but, since disputes and divisions often arose among them, a royal decree was issued on Jan. 24 of that year to the effect that the oldest and wealthiest taxpayers should have seats in it (ib. Nos. 71, 91). The representatives of the aljama had the right to make statutes and to issue regulations, which all its members had to obey implicitly. The men and women of the community were forbidden to buy or to wear garments of more expensive material than did the secretaries, and the council prohibited extravagant celebrations of betrothals and weddings. The secretaries and the council constituted a court of morals, and had the right to fine and, if necessary, to excommunicate refractory members (decree of Sept. 17, 1319, ib. No. 30). Any Jew or Jewess who dared to revile the secretaries or the council was to be punished with perpetual banishment from the island, and any one who returned in defiance of such a sentence was to have the right foot cut off (ib. Nos. 27, 61).
One of the most important tasks of the secretaries or representatives of the "Calle Juich," as the aljama of Palma was called, was the regulation of the taxes. They drafted a "Constitution," which was approved and confirmed by the king in 1318. All Jews over fifteen years of age, all Jewesses living independently, all strangers remaining for a month, and all foreign merchants doing business in the city for a year were subject to taxation. Each Jew and Jewess had to pay a certain tax, according to values, on every pound of flour or meat consumed, on every garment, on every purchase or sale, and on every house or lodging leased (ib. pp. 250 et seq.). The method of taxation was as follows: the governor appointed a committee of 51 persons, 17 from each of the three classes, and this body chose from each section one person in whom it had complete confidence. Each of these three commissioners was then obliged to take a solemn pledge before the governor that he would make the appraisements without fear or favor, according to the best of his knowledge and belief. The names of the members of the aljama were then given to each of the commissioners for appraisement, and according to their valuation the taxes were apportioned by the governor and announced to the secretaries (ib. No. 106). The division of the money for the poor was undertaken with the assistance of eight of the wealthiest taxpayers of the community. The following representatives of the aljama are mentioned between 1318 and 1390: Abraham Malaqui, Astruc b. Nono, Isaac b. Aaron, Ḥayyim Cohen, Juce Barqui, Vital Cresques, Moximus Natjar, Solomon Jono, Solomon Susan, Bione del Mestre, Maimon Xullell, Magaluf Natjar, Mahaluf Feraig, Bonsenior Gracia, and others.
The Jews of Palma were undisturbed in their religious observances. They were allowed to slaughter according to their own ritual in the Christian slaughter-house, while, by an agreement made with the representatives of the aljama in 1344, Christian butchers sold kasher meat for one dinar a pound more than other meat (ib. No. 55). The Jews took the oath on the Pentateuch, without the curses inthe formula of Barcelona. At Palma, as elsewhere, they were engaged in agriculture, and especially in commerce, with connections as far as Roussillon, Catalonia, Aragon, Valencia, and various cities in northern Africa. They were allowed to keep Turkish and Tatar slaves, but on the condition that if these slaves should accept Judaism, they should become the property of the king (ib. Nos. 55, 85).
A great catastrophe befell the Jews of Palma on Aug. 2, 1391; 300 were killed, and many who sought safety in flight took ship for the Barbary States, while all who remained accepted baptism. The municipal council of Palma had promised them a large sum of money if they would accept Christianity, and the Jews were credulous enough to accept the terms; but when, after baptism, they demanded the money, the council refused payment on various pretexts, and the neophytes appealed in vain to the governor through their representatives, Miguel Gracia (formerly Bonsenior Gracia), Juan Amat or Mahaluf Faquim, Antonio Abraham Sasportas, Gabriel Fuster (formerly Moximus Natjar), Pedro Fuster (son of Maimon Natjar), and others (Villanueva, "Viaje Literario," xxi. 224; the letter of Ḥasdai Crescas at the end of "Shebeṭ Yehudah," ed. Wiener, p. 129; "Boletin Acad. Hist." xl. 152 et seq.; "R. E. J." xliv. 297 et seq.).
Accusations of ritual murder were brought against the Jews of Palma in 1309 and in 1435. While on the former occasion King James II. instituted severe proceedings against the false accusers, a century later the bishop of the city credited the report. Several hundred Jews were baptized in consequence of the persecution. This put an end to the Jewish community of Palma, and the synagogue was transformed into a church, although the cemetery was still called "El Campo de los Judios" as late as 1521. See Balearic Isles; Chuetas.
- The Chief source for the history of the Jews of Palma, as of those of Majorca generally, is a manuscript written on parchment, and containing 113 documents, which probably once belonged to the aljama of Palma. After 1435 it came into the possession of the Inquisition, and was later acquired by the Marquis of Campo-Franco.
- This codex was used by Villanueva in his Viaje Literario, vols. xxi. and xxii., and by Morel-Fatio in R. E. J. iv. 31-50. The documents were recently published by G. Llabrès and F. Fita in Boletin Acad. Hist. vol. xxxvi.