When I was in elementary school one of the dates we all memorized was 1492. The year Columbus sailed west from Spain and discovered America.
It was many years later I learned about another significant event in 1492: the expulsion from Spain of the Jews.
As recently reported in the Jerusalem Post:
In 1492, the Jews of the Iberian peninsula were presented with a choice – convert or accept exile. Those who left migrated to North Africa and the Middle East, while many of those who stayed became underground Jews, hiding their religion under the guise of devout Catholicism.
In recent years Spain has tried to make some amends for the expulsion.
In the latest step, Spain has passed a law allowing the descendants of those who were exiled to apply for Spanish citizenship.
Prospective citizens would have to prove their ancestry and prove they have a basic knowledge of Spain and its culture.
They will also be required to visit the country at least once and, according to reports, will be required to pay an application fee of 100 euros.
This new law raises many questions:
- Are such symbolic gestures worthwhile?
- Are there any real benefits to Spanish citizenship?
- How does a person prove their ancestry?
Some observers think the law will be helpful to Sephardi Jews in countries such as Turkey and Venezuela where anti-Semitism is on the rise.
Will holding Spanish citizenship make it easier for some Jews to escape from oppression in their current countries? If so, then it’s a good thing.
I’ve been reading the spy novel The Fallen Angel by Daniel Silva. He includes this dialog on page 225:
“It would remind the world why we live in Israel instead of Germany and Poland.”
“The world doesn’t care,” Shamron responded with a dismissive wave of his hand. “And the Holocaust isn’t the only reason we have a home in the Land of Israel. We’re there because it was ours in the beginning. We belong there.”
“Even some of our friends aren’t so sure of that anymore.”
If the Spanish citizenship law helps some Jews connect more strongly with Judaism and Israel, then I applaud it.
However, if the law only helps Spain feel good, then there is no point in it.