The Great Synagogue, one of four serving Gibraltar's 600 Jews
Two percent of Gibraltarians are Jewish. How come so many Jews live in Gibraltar? Answer: Morocco wanted them there. Derek Taylor explains why in the Jewish Chronicle: (with thanks: Michelle)
Gibraltar was captured by the British in 1704 during the War of the
Spanish Succession. By the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 it was ceded to
Britain. One of the conditions was that no Jews should be allowed to
live in Gibraltar. The Spanish, having thrown them out in 1492, didn’t
want a colony of them on their border.
The Jews came anyway, and the Spanish complained. By the terms of the
treaty, the British had no excuse and agreed to deport them. At which
point, the Muslim Sultan of Morocco said that, if that happened, he
would withdraw all co-operation with the Rock — no water, no building
materials, nothing. The infrastructure of Gibraltar would have been
unsustainable under those conditions.
Why the support? All Morocco’s foreign trade was handled by Jewish
merchants, as the Moroccans didn’t have the international connections or
the know-how to do it themselves.
The sultan needed his Jews onside. If they left because of the
treatment of their co-religionists, the country’s economy would be
The British solved the problem very neatly. By the Treaty of Fez in
1721 they made all the Gibraltarians British. Now they couldn’t be
expelled. The Spanish were furious and in 1725 closed the border for 40
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