It has only taken a half a millenium, but on Thursday Spain passed a law granting citizenship to any descendant of Jews expelled from the country in 1492.
The law – which took three years to create – was hailed as a “historic rehabilitation” by Justice Minister Rafael Catala and Foreign Minister Manuel Garcia Margallo.
It was in 1492, as Colombus was preparing to set sail to explore the New World that Jews were given an ultimatum: convert to Christianity, or leave.
Those who stayed and pretended to convert became known over the centuries as “Marranos” – the “hidden” ones – or “Anusim” – the “forced” ones. Their descendants are scattered throughout the world, including many who later ended up intermarrying with Muslims, some who live in Judea and Samaria. Their families still keep fragments of Jewish traditions in their homes, although most no longer remember why.
The Jews who chose to preserve their identity and left, fled to North Africa and the Middle East, many of whom arrived in what is now known as Turkey.
The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain said in an official statement on Thursday that passage of the law in Madrid had launched a “new stage in the history of the relationship between Spain and the Jewish world; a new period of encounter, dialogue and harmony.
Contrary to what one might think, the descendants of those expelled not harbored feelings of hatred or resentment but rather the contrary, they cultivated a deep love for the land they were from and intense loyalty to tradition and language received of their elders,” the statement continued.
The law goes into effect in October, when the Jewish community can begin the process of checking the lineage of anyone who wishes to activate their once-proud centuries-old Spanish citizenship.
That process involves proving one’s ancestry, showing a basic knowledge of Spain and its culture, and embarking upon a minimum of one pilot trip to the country. In addition, one must pay an application fee of 100 Euros for the privilege. So much for “restoration.”
Under Israel’s Law of Return, any person is entitled to citizenship in the Jewish State if he or she can prove that one grandparent — either maternal or paternal — is Jewish. The pace of the “ingathering of the (Jewish) exiles” described in the Torah has been growing over the past decade. Jews who were driven from the Land of Israel by the Romans and the Babylonians have begun to return through the efforts of groups such as Michael Freund’s Shavei Israel, Nefesh B’Nefesh and others.