The descendants of Sephardic Jews banished from Spain in 1492 will now be able to regain Spanish nationality under a new law approved by Madrid’s Cabinet of Ministers on Friday.
Those who can prove their Spanish origins will be able to apply for dual nationality at the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, El Mundo newspaper reported on Sunday.
According to Israel’s Latin American, Spanish and Portuguese Association (OLEI), the newly-approved legislation has already resulted in a flurry of applications from Sephardic Jews around the world.
“The power awarded to the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain to decide who gets nationality is a complication as they only have a handful of volunteers to process an avalanche of applications all sent at the same time,” OLEI president Leon Amrias told Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonoth.
It is estimated a total of 3.5 million Sephardic Jews will apply for Spanish citizenship, many of whom have already begun translating old documents to prove their roots and heritage.
“People want to work there (Spain) and there are also feelings involved,” Maya Weiss-Tamir, a lawyer dealing with Spanish nationality applications, told El Mundo.
Spanish Jews once made up one of the largest and wealthiest Jewish communities in Western Europe.
Jewish contact with the land once known as Iberia could date back to the time of King Solomon, around 950 BC.
Sephardic Jews in Spain were able to prosper and live in relative peace under both Muslim and Christian rule until Catholics Kings Ferdinand and Isabel issued the Alhambra Decree in 1492.
This resulted in forced conversions to Catholicism, killings and expulsion of all Sephardic Jews in Spain.
Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón referred to the new legislation as a reparation of what was “without a doubt one of the most significant mistakes in (Spanish) history”.