Spain offers citizenship to Sephardic Jews after 500 years

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Typical Jewish courtyard in Spain

Spain will grant citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492.

The initiative, which has been announced by the Government of Mariano Rajoy and must yet be voted in Parliament, has increased consultations in Spanish consulates in Israel.

According to El Pais, the Spanish embassies in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have been “saturated” by inquiries from possible applicants. It is estimated that about 3.5 million Sephardic Jews could benefit from this measure.

The Spanish Ministry has set out a number of criteria to prove the Sephardic background of the applicants, such as “the names of the person concerned” and “family language” in reference to medieval Castilian known as Ladino, plus “other evidence proving their membership to the Sephardic Jewish community”.

The move, which seeks to “correct a historical error”, is still a draft bill to be considered in Congress.

The initiative has had a great impact in Israel, with Israeli newspapers bringing the news to their pages: ‘The Spanish dream’ and ‘Suddenly , we are all Spaniards’ are two of the headlines.

The term ‘Sephardic Jews’ refers to the descendants of Jewish settlers whose origins go back to the Israelite tribes of the Middle East who settled in the Iberian Peninsula until 1492. The expulsion of the Jews was ordered by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492 during their campaign of ‘religious homogenization’ in Spain.

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