More than 3.5 million Jews around the world, half a million in Israel, could acquire Spanish nationality thanks to their Sephardic origin and the modification of the Civil Code that the Spanish Government approved on Friday. “It is a great measure and without doubt a recognition of our historical links with Spain 500 years after the Expulsion,” said Asher Moshe, born in Skopje, capital of present-day Macedonia (former Yugoslavia) and emigrated to Israel with eleven years. .
In a ladino parco and eroded by the years, Moshe hesitates to be asked by Efe on whether he will ask for Spanish nationality, because, he says, “he is no longer a mansebo.” “This is not so much for the old people as I, but for the young people,” he stressed about the possibilities that will be opened for thousands of Israelis if Congress endorses the bill.
On Friday, the Council of Ministers of Mariano Rajoy approved an amendment to the Civil Code to grant Spanish citizenship to all Sephardic citizens who request it and accredit such condition, which will also allow them to maintain that of their country of origin.
The Minister of Justice Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón
stressed that in this way the Spanish society culminates the repair “of what had undoubtedly been one of the most important historical errors”, in reference to the Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492 and that today they are scattered all over the world.
A list with hundreds of surnames that certify the Sephardic origin has already put many Israelis on the move in search of documentation to obtain Spanish nationality, and since Friday the main local media inform and give primary legal advice to those interested. And it is enough to open a local telephone directory to discover that the candidates are countless.
Calderón, Zoarez (Suárez), Toledano, Abarbanel, Moreli, Bejarano, Medina, Baruch or Abecasis are just some of the examples of Sephardim who now live in Israel, but there are also those of apparent Ashkenazi origin such as Bloch, Schlessinger or Sneor. In the latter case it is Jews who, expelled by the Catholic Monarchs, set course for the countries of central Europe, where their last names evolved.
Many expelled people also emigrated to the countries of North Africa and today they have surnames such as Buhadana, Abulafia, Amsalem, Esayag, Abutbul. “Only in Israel we are pulling half a million, and around the world could be about 3.5 million,” said lawyer Leon Amirás, whose grandparents emigrated from the Ottoman Empire to Argentina at the beginning of the 20th century.
For a few years now, embarking on the search for his Sephardic roots
Amirás tells how his grandparents sought the protection of the Spanish diplomatic authorities to emigrate, and he proudly exhibits one of the documents in his possession.
For him, the obtaining of the Spanish nationality passes mainly by a “sentimental question” and of “historical justice”, that, it emphasizes, “it arrives late for the sefardíes that the Nazis massacred in Salonica” during the Second World War. “It’s sad to think that this community never returned to Spanish lands (…) there were 48,000 and nobody is left,” he says.
The Sephardic Jews, whom Senator Angel Pulido (1852-1932) called “Spaniards without a fatherland”, are easily recognizable because they speak Ladino, a Castilian similar to Cervantes’ and which hundreds of thousands kept almost intact until well into the 20th century. XX.
Today there are few who know him, but the vast majority continues to respect cultural and religious traditions that were born, some of them, as early as in the Golden Age of Judaism in the Iberian Peninsula (9th to 11th centuries).
In that sense, Gallardón stressed that the Sephardim maintained
not only the language but above all the conviction that they were still part of a Spain that had expelled them and to which not only did they not hold a grudge but they made me accompany them always” .
The granting of nationality to these Spaniards of yesteryear by means of an accelerated route, and not by “Nature Charter” or residence in Spain for two years, is to his understanding a “historical debt”. An argument with which Amirás fully agrees. “Some 700,000 Jews were expelled from Spain when all the remaining Judaism represented a smaller number, and this gesture (that of granting nationality) is as important as an apology, even more so,” he says.
However, Moshe, owner of a butcher shop in the center of Jerusalem, prefers “not to look to the past” because “since then many other tragedies have happened” to the Jewish people. “(The decision) is good for Spain and is good for everyone, and who knows, maybe it can serve both sides now, Spain lost a lot when it expelled the Jews,” he concludes.