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Millions of Jews in the Holy Land Now Have Another Option: Spain

June 11, 2014

MADRID (AP) - Spain’s cabinet on Friday approved a bill allowing descendants of Jews forced into exile centuries ago the right to dual citizenship, but said applicants will have to take a Spanish culture test in addition to having their ancient ties to the nation vetted by experts.

Sephardic Jews who want to apply must have their heritage checked by the Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities or by rabbis where they live, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said. She did not provide details about the culture test but said it will be developed by the Cervantes Institute, which promotes Spanish language and culture abroad.

The plan aims to fix what the government calls the “historic mistake” of sending Jews into exile starting in 1492, forcing them to convert to Catholicism or burning them at the stake during the Inquisition. It is expected to pass easily in Parliament because the ruling Popular Party has an absolute majority.

The reform will allow dual nationality, enabling the newly minted Spaniards to retain their previous citizenship. Spain currently grants that privilege only to Latin Americans.

“With this gesture Spain is doing justice and fixing the mistake that led to the expulsion of the Jews,” the federation said in a statement.

Because of mixing between the groups and other factors, there is no accepted figure for the global Sephardic population. Reasonable estimates would range between a fifth and a third of the world’s roughly 13 million Jews.

Hundreds of thousands live in France and already have EU passports. But the largest community is in the State of Israel, where almost half of the 6 million Jews are considered Sephardic.

Our comment:

This is the answer to those who agree in principle that the Torah (three oaths) forbids a Jewish state, but say that now we must keep the state because giving it up would increase the danger for the Jews living there. There is no permission to violate the Torah to save a life when there exists another option. Now there is an option for half of the population: obtaining a Spanish passport and getting out of there.

The claim by some Orthodox Jews who support the Zionist state that although the state was opposed by the greatest rabbis, today it is necessary to save lives, is simply disingenuous. Many of these people live in the state, or have family that live in the state, but still possess passports from other countries such as America and Britain. They could leave whenever they want, so why do they insist that the state is the only option? Their words contradict their actions.

The correct approach to saving Jewish lives is to follow the model of Jacob when meeting Esau in Parshas Vayishlach. The Ramban writes in his introduction to that parsha that we are supposed to study this parsha and follow it throughout our exile. Jacob sent Esau gifts, prayed, and prepared for some of his people to escape. He called his "my master Esau" and bowed to him seven times. Likewise, we should react to the current dangers of exile with prayer, by speaking kindly and peacefully to all nations, and if necessary escaping from danger.