During the 7th and 8th centuries Iberia (Spain and Portugal), was a divided kingdom ruled by the Catholic Visigoths, the region was home to a Jewish minority who suffered intolerable persecution under these Christian rulers.
- In 558 Ferreol, Bishop of Uzes ordered the Jews of his diocese to convert to Catholicism, those that didn’t abandon their faith were expelled from the region
- In 694 Catholic bishops issued a decree that the Jews were traitors and should have their wealth confiscated and face perpetual slavery.
- In 654 King Recceswinth of Toledo forbade Jews from keeping the Sabbath, dietary laws, marriage laws and circumcising their young
- In 633 the Fourth Council of Toledo even describes the Jews, who were allegedly proselytizing their beliefs, as “the Antichrist‟s ministers.”
- In 633 the Fourth Council of Toledo declared that all Jews must be baptized.
In the spring of 711, a Muslim army invaded Iberia led by Tariq ibn Ziyad, serving the Arab governor Musa ibn Nusayr, at Guadalete they swiftly defeated Roderick (Luthariq) the Visigoth King and then marched northward to the Visigoth capital of Toledo. Both Latin and Arabic chroniclers record that the Jews of the city “opened the gates of Toledo” to Tariq, who conquered the city. With more cities to take Tariq left Toledo and entrusted its protection to a garrison of Jewish soldiers, whom had rose up against the Catholic Visigoths and opened the gates.
When Tariq’s master, Musa ibn Nusayr, arrived in Iberia with a large Arab force he seized Seville and like Tariq before him, he entrusted the city to its Jewish inhabitants until his return.
Had the Jews of Iberia not been the victims of such continuous barbarity from their Christian neighbours it is unlikely they’d have turned on them, but with the Muslim invasion this oppressed people tasted a freedom they hadn’t for centuries. There is no greater example of Jewish and Muslim coexistence than al-Andalus, the Jews not only fought side by side with their Muslim cousins, but under the caliphates born out of the conquests the Jews lived as a free and protected people who were able reach the highest of positions in this new society.