Tour Guide in Israel – The Donna Gracia House – Tiberius
During the years of the Inquisition in Spain (15-16 century AD), many Jews were forced to convert to Christianity, yet secretly maintained their Jewish faith, hoping to return to it when the situation improved. Most of these Jews (called Marranos or Conversos) became assimilated into the Spanish culture, but some Jews succeeded in escaping Spain and finding new homes where they could return to Judaism and follow their religion.
Dona Gracia (nee Beatrice De Luna, or Hana Nasi in Hebrew) was the daughter of a Jewish family. She fled the inquisition in Portugal, worked in Antwerp and then in Venice and finally settled in Constantinople.
By her thirties she grew to be a significant merchant, in fact, the richest woman in the 16th century world – mainly due to her marriage to Francisco Mendez-Nassi, member of one of the largest international trade and banking firms in the world.
With the blessing of the Turkish Sultan, Dona Gracia promoted and worked for the establishment of a Jewish state in Tiberius and the Sea of Galilee area. She built the walls of Tiberius, but her sudden death at the age of 59 brought an end to her remarkable Zionist initiative.
As wealthy as she was, so were her deeds filled with generosity, as she dedicated herself to saving her expelled and persecuted brethren. Donna Gracia is best remembered for her overwhelming generosity towards her fellow Jews, and her patronage of those who needed her wealth to escape from Spain and start their lives anew.
The Donna Gracia hotel, an old hotel, has been renovated to tell her story, as well as the story of the Jews who fled Spain during that period. The museum and public parts of the hotel are decorated and furnished according to the 16th Century style.
Apart from staying at the hotel it is possible to tour the museum, which is part of the hotel. On Saturdays and Jewish Holidays there are organized tours every 2 hours, in the middle of the week phone to reserve a tour. The tour takes about an hour – partly guided and partly a self-tour of the written and photographic display.
Hotel lobby and museum
The “Venice” room
One of my tourists having fun all dressed up in 16th Century fashion