Learn more about The Witches of Escazú and Other Jewish Fariytales
For many centuries, there was a kingdom where Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike lived in peace and harmony. But when the righteous king passed on to the next world, there rose a king and a queen who had nothing but vicious hatred in their hearts. The king and queen decreed that all who did not practice Christianity must pledge allegiance to the Christian god or be expelled from the kingdom in a fortnight.
Under torture and duress — and with an unbearable pain in their hearts — hundreds of thousands of Jews abandoned the traditions and beliefs of their forefathers. Hundreds of thousands of others escaped hastily during the night, crossing mountains and rivers and even the ocean, with the promise that wherever they should land, they could honor their traditions and their G‑d in peace.
In the kingdom, there lived three widowed Jewish sisters, pious and kind. They could not bear to abandon their G‑d, and so they set sail across the great ocean, braving storms, sea monsters, and pirates. They clung only to their faith and each other, and they swore that no matter what happened, they would continue to honor the traditions of their ancestors.
After many difficult months at sea, the three sisters undocked ashore on a strange land. Where they had once lived among the olive trees, they now encountered palm trees as tall as the sky. They met the most wonderful creatures, mischievous little monkeys, and birds with a beak like the rainbow. Most importantly, the sisters thanked G‑d for the beauty of their new home.
But what the sisters did not yet know was that the wretched kingdom they thought they had left behind stretched across oceans, from the jagged edge of the Mediterranean to the tropical forests of the new continent. And just as Jews had once been burned at the stake in the Old World, so were they persecuted in this strange new land.
Devastated, the sisters understood they were trapped. There was nothing they could do but go into hiding. Nevertheless, they maintained their ancient traditions in secret. Every Sabbath, for instance, they lit the candles, covered their eyes, swayed from one side to another, motioning their hands in circles, and muttered their prayers.
The local villagers knew nothing of the Jewish tradition, so when they spied on the three sisters performing strange rituals and incantations through the window, they thought they were witches. But these so-called witches kept to themselves, and nothing ominous ever happened in the small town of Escazú, so the villagers let them be, and they all lived in peace, side by side, until the witches’ death in old age.
So curious and enthralled had the villagers been about the witches that they passed on their story for generations. Who were these strange sisters, and what did they whisper about? One could only guess.
As for the sisters, well, they continue to watch over Escazú to this very day.
Debbie, known professionally as Roots Metals, is an Israeli-Costa Rican artist, writer, and educator based in Los Angeles. She has an BS in journalism from Syracuse University and an MFA in creative writing from the University of San Francisco. In the past, Debbie has written for various Jewish publications and worked for the Jewish Community Museum in Costa Rica. The Witches of Escazú and Other Jewish Fairytales is her debut book.