The People of Gibraltar
1750 - The Jews of Gibraltar - The Establishment

By 1753, the civilian population of the Rock stood at 1 793. The number of Spaniards had been reduced by about 10% but the difference had been more than made up by Jews, who had increased in number to 572 In other words nearly a third of the population was now made up of Jews. So much for the Treaty of Utrecht. ( see LINK )



The east face of the Rock   ( 1750 - Cavallero Renau )

Most of the families that made up the Jewish population had arrived during the decade following the end of the 13th Siege. ( see LINK ) Among the first families to arrive were the following.


From Tetuan:
Almosnino
Azulay
Benady
Benaim 
Benamara
Benaros
Bensadon
Bensur
Benyunes 
Cohen
Gabay 
Halfon 
Hassan
Israel
Taurel 

From Salé:
Abenatar (Benatar)
Azuelos
Benbunan 
Botibol
Lealtad 
Levy
Maimaran 
Megueres
Uziel; 

From elsewhere:
Abecasis from Tangier
Gozal from Alcazar
Cohen from South Barbary, probably Mogador
Anedgiar from Barbary
Bensamero from Barbary
Salama from Barbary 
Serfaty from Barbary
Ferrares from Leghorn 
Leuche from Leghorn
De Matos from Portugal 
Lara from London

The elite of the Jewish community continued to be well-off merchants engaged in the import of provisions for the Garrison. In the 1750s, for example, there were several who specialised in importing cattle, including:

Moses Bensusan 
Abraham Cohen
 Jonas Assiol
Carvalho
Mordecai 
Bellilo
Judah 
Aboab

Others such as Moses Mocatta made their money by exporting British manufactured goods to Morocco. There was also a considerable number of small traders and shopkeepers as well as two Jewish bakers: 

Abraham 
Nahon
Moses 
Belilo aka Berero - who was later killed during the Great Siege.

Other members of the community were employed as labourers, boatmen, cobblers and street peddlers. The number of the latter had been rising steadily since Colonel William Hargraves took over as Commander-in-Chief from 1721 and then later as fully fledged Governor in 1740 . He was never particularly remiss in handing out the necessary licences required by the hawkers and peddlers in order to forestall the main market. It something that was quite understandable. He treated these fees as part of his personal remuneration.


Jewish porters at work in Waterport  ( Unknown )

Among the labourers, however, the porters were not just the most numerous but the most mentioned by contemporary visitors to Gibraltar during the early 18th century and right through to the 19th as well. When George Henrey Borrow ( see LINK ), for example, visited the Rock in 1838 he described them as follows;
On either side outside the door, squatting on the ground, or leaning indolently against the walls, were some half dozen men of very singular appearance. Their principal garment was a kind of blue gown, something resembling the blouse worn by the peasants of the north of France, but not so long; it was compressed around their waists by a leathern girdle and descended about halfway down their thighs. 
Their legs were bare, so that I had an opportunity of observing the calves, which appeared unnaturally large. Upon the head they wore small skull-caps of black wool. I asked the most athletic of these men, a dark-visaged fellow of forty, who they were. He answered "Hamalos". This word I knew to be Arabic, in which tongue it signifies a porter; and indeed the next moment, I saw a similar fellow staggering across the square under an immense burden, almost sufficient to have broken the back of a camel.
On again addressing my swarthy friend, and inquiring whence he came, he replied that he was born at Mogador in Barbary, but had passed the greatest part of his life at Gibraltar. He added that he was the "capitaz" or head man of the "Hamalos" near the door.'

Main Street Gibraltar with porters on the right leaning 'squatting on the ground, or leaning indolently against the walls'  ( Unknown )

In the 1750s there were two distinct groups of porters. One lot was made up of Genoese, the other of Jewish men. According to a 1751 list the Chief porter, Masahod Benbunan was responsible for a team of 14 Jewish porters:
Haym Oziel Moluf BenbunanMoses MassiasJoseph Cohen Samuel Nahon Joseph Ben Hezra Joseph Azancot Jacob Cohen Abraham (Ben) Sahdon Mesahod Soto Joshua Seruya Solomon Ben Naym Jacob Bensusan                                                                                                                 Joseph Bensusan
In 1749 Lieutenant-General Humphrey Bland, ( see LINK ) took over from Hargrave with very specific instructions from the Secretary of State, the Duke of Bedford;
 . . . as many disputes have arose in Gibraltar about the property of the houses, and complaints being frequently  made that the Governor by his sole authority has taken them from the proprietors, and let them out to others to his own advantage, it is the King's pleasure that you have full authority to make a strict inquiry into the truth of such complaints and to oblige the complainants to produce the rights they had to the said houses; and when their titles are found just the houses should be restored to them, and a writing, signed and sealed under the Governor's hand, should be given to them to ascertain their property, upon their paying a moderate Ground rate annually to the King as all the ground is His Majesty's;
all the other houses which have no particular proprietor, but are let out to the inhabitants by the Governor, at a monthly or yearly rent, you may let at an easy rent to encourage His Majesty's Protestant subjects to settle there, which will be a strengthening to the place; whereas at present those houses are cheaply inhabited by Jews, Moors and Papists, of different nations, which may prove dangerous to the town. All those Ground Rents, and rents of houses, are to be collected for the King, and not for the Governors as heretofore, and that an exact account of them kept in a book and transmitted yearly to the Treasury for His Majesty's use.
The letter summarises three fundamental issues that had plagued Gibraltar almost since it capitulation: that just about every governors before Bland had been inappropriately pocketing cash that should have gone to the treasury; that Gibraltar seemed incapable of attracting British Protestants residents, and that despite all efforts by the authorities to stop them from doing so, the Jews were not only residents on the Rock but had by now actually managed to become household owners. 


John Russell, The Duke of Bedford, Secretary of State for the Southern Department  (  1750s - Joshus Reynolds )

It was perhaps unfortunate that was the Duke of Bedford was mostly admired by his peers for the inordinate amount of time he spent at his country estate playing cricket and shooting pheasants than for his political acumen. It meant that his instructions often failed to carry much weight. Indeed his instructions to Bland as regards the Jews in Gibraltar met with little support in Parliament. Many people felt that the Jews should actually 
  . . . be encouraged to settle there, (as it was) ‘well known that trade flourishes wherever they resort.
Nor did Bland's opinions of the locals conducive to any sort of compromise with the locals; the population of Gibraltar, he once wrote, was made up of a bunch of ‘
 . . . Jews, Genoese, Spaniards, Portuguese, Irish Papists, Scotch pedlars and English bankrupts, the riff-raff of various nations and religions ready to commit any fraud in their power.
Nevertheless, the new Governor played by the rules. He carefully checked all the existing Deeds and confirmed those he felt were legitimate - regardless of the nationality. But he also arranged that in future, all property;
 . . . must be sold to none but His Majesty's natural born Protestant subjects: The laying of this Restriction is to get by Degrees the Property out of the Hands of Foreigners and Papists, that the money arising from the Rent of these Houses may return to our Mother Country and not to Genoa and other places, as it does now, by the property being in Foreigners' hands, through the inadvertency of former Governors in not encouraging His Majesty's Natural Born Subjects to get the Property of the Houses, by laying proper Restrictions against Papists and Foreigners purchasing them, as I have now done.
The document was confirmed and;
. . . by the Royal Sign Manual dated at St. James the 12th March 1752, strictly (charged) all future Governors ... to follow' what was laid down therein,
He was wasting his time. The Governors that succeeded him ignored the provision restricting the sale of property to Protestants, and property ownership by non- British residents and in particular those who were  Jewish - increased rather than decreased. Isaac Aboab, already the largest property-owner in 1749 Gibraltar, actually increased his holdings over the next decades.

The way round the problem was a simple one: the property was bought by a Protestant. It was then mortgaged to somebody else - a Jew for example - in perpetuity, and the mortgagor then found himself with all the rights of the original owner. In other words it was tantamount to owning the place. 

Nevertheless, the following is the full list of Jews who actually held deeds on property as they appear in Bland's records.

Aboab & Azulai 
 David Acris
Benider Abraham ( see above ) 
Judah Benatar 
Joshua Cansino 
Cohen & Taurel 
Jacob Daninos 
Joseph Ferrares 
David Gosal 
Abram Namias
Phineas & Isaac Netto 
David Pacifico
Abraham Vouga 
Ward and Tedesco ( see LINK )
Saml. Bensusan
Judah Bentash
Isaac Espinosa
Solomon Conquy
Isaac Aboab 

Bland also tried to control the rampant drunkenness that was a feature of the garrison in those days. He increased the duty on wines and spirits. For the Jews there was a separate regulation: 
As the African Jews inhabiting Gibraltar do not drink any Wine or Spirits, but what they make themselves from Raisins and Figgs, I gave by a writing under my hand, to three Jews, the sole liberty of making their Wine and Spirits, for the use of the Jews only, they paying a Duty to the King of ten Dollars per Butt for all the Wine so made, and a Quarter Dollar per Gallon for all the Spirits; Which Duty is collected by the Revenue Officers for His Majesty. They are not allowed to sell any of that wine or Spirits to any but Jews; tho' it is such horrid Stuff that I believe none but Jews will drink it.'
He was probably right. The Jews were possibly the only people who could stomach the stuff. The distillery was given to Menaham Boobdy. It then passed to his son-in-law, Jacob Matana, who died at the beginning of the Great Siege.


Gibraltar   ( 1750 Claude Dubosc  )

Another perennial problem that came to Bland's attention was that of the noisy and quarrelsome Jewish Hawkers and labourers who tended to congregate after work in the middle of town. With his usual trade-mark over-the-top thoroughness in 1750 he came up with the following regulations. 

  The Jewish hawkers and labourers tended to congregate in the centre of the town around the Parade (now John Mackintosh Square) when they were not working, and behaved in a noisy, quarrelsome, and aggressive fashion, which was a threat to public order and an embarrassment to the better-off members of the community. Bland tackled this in his usual fashion, establishing regulations in great detail:
Whereas I have been receiving reported Complaints of Quarrels, Disturbances, and Disrderly Behaviour of the Jews inhabiting this Garrison, And the Attending to and examining of such Complaints being very tedious and troublesome, and interfering with my more material concerns, I ordered some of the Principal Jews to consider of some method for preventing such inconvenience for the future, who have reported to me that in their opinion the following rules and regulations will answer the intended purpose Viz:
1. That the Jews do not assemble in the Street in a tumultuous manner or commit any Riot or Disorder, And that on their Sabbath they behave themselves so worthy and conformable to the Rules and Orders of their Religion and Rabbi 
2. That no Jew presume on any account to strike or lift up his hand against any person whatsoever: 
3. That they shall not assemble at their Neighbour's Shop door, so as to incommode him in his Business. 
4. That they shall not buy up Fish to sell again, But each one for the use of himself and family only; Except that they may buy fish to pickle or salt. 
5. That they shall not buy fruit or other provisions to retail within 24 hours after their arrival. 
6. That no Jew profess to receive or entertain any Stranger, till he is certain of such Strangers having the Governor's permission for coming into town.
7. That all Offences against these Regulations be examined and enquired into by those of the Principal Jews, to be chosen and appointed, for that purpose every six months, out of the Body of the Jews; And whosoever shall be by them after an impartial Enquiry, found Guilty of a Breach of any of the foregoing Regulations, shall be banished from the Garrison, and never permitted to return hither again.
and the said Rules and Regulations appearing to me to be just and reasonable, and such as will answer the intended Purpose, I do approve of and confirm the same; And do order all Jews to observe and obey them strictly; But this is not to extend to empower any Jews to determine or judge of any matter of Debt, Account or Contract; Except the contending parties shall voluntarily submit the same to their Arbitration or Award: All such matters and disputes remaining cognizable before the Civil Court only.
Little did the Jewish workers realise that their relatively trivial bad behaviour had led the British authorities to come up with a seemingly innocuous regulation that would have far-reaching consequences. The document gave legal approval to the Jewish community to regulate its own affairs as well as the authority for collecting certain taxes for the government. As an added bonus Bland also granted special policing powers to what became known as a 'Jew's Sergeant' to impose the authority of the Jewish leaders. The 'sergeant 'would become a forerunner  of the Gibraltar Police  Force. 

Other articles on the Jews of Gibraltar.

1704 - The Exodus 
1728 - The Return
1757 - The Calm before the Storm
1779 - The Great Siege