The Failure of Spain’s Offer of Citizenship to Sephardi Jews

Aug. 21 2019

In 1492, the newly united kingdom of Castile and Aragon gave its Jews a choice between expulsion and conversion to Christianity. Some 175,000 left; others or their descendants would later return to Judaism in Italy, the Netherlands, and elsewhere. In 2015, Spain passed a law, intended “to right a historic wrong,” offering citizenship to Sephardi Jews who could demonstrate Spanish ancestry. Soeren Kern explains how expensive layers of red tape have prevented even those Jews who want to from becoming Spanish citizens:

The legislation’s main barriers to Spanish citizenship have been obligatory exams on Spanish language and sociocultural history, the need to travel to Spain, and exorbitant fees and costs. Although prospective applicants do not need to be practicing Jews, they must prove their Sephardi background through a combination of factors, including ancestry, surnames, and spoken language (either Ladino, a Jewish language that evolved from medieval Spanish, or Haketia, a mixture of Hebrew, Spanish, and Moroccan Judeo-Arabic).

According to the law, even if applicants speak Ladino or Haketia—languages that are spoken mostly by the elderly in some parts of Latin America, Morocco, and Turkey—they are still required to pass a Spanish-language proficiency exam .. . .

In addition to the language exams, the law requires applicants to travel to Spain to have their documentation verified by a government-approved notary public before the completed application is submitted to Spain’s Ministry of Justice. . . . As of the end of 2018, only 3,843 Sephardi Jews had obtained Spanish citizenship under the law. . . . Another 5,682 applications were pending approval—with a success rate [expected] to be around 50 percent. . . . In other words, about 5,000 Sephardi Jews will have received Spanish citizenship under the 2015 law—1 percent of the 500,000 that the Spanish government said would benefit from the law, and 0.15 percent of the estimated 3.5 million Sephardi Jews in the world today.

Spain today has one of the smallest Jewish communities in the European Union. Fewer than 50,000 Jews currently live in Spain.

Read more at Gatestone

More about: Sephardim, Spain, Spanish Expulsion


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount