Ana içeriğe atla

Spain's historic invitation to Sephardic Jews - Daily Sabah

The Spanish government, belatedly coming to grips with the historic mistake of forcing the Jews out of the country, is now trying to apologize through granting them citizenship

Spains historic invitation to Sephardic Jews
The Spanish government adopted a long-anticipated bill to grant citizenship to Sephardic Jews, but applicants face serious challenges

For quite some time, people had been talking about the Spanish government's plans to grant citizenship to Sephardic Jews, a religious minority forced out of the Iberian Peninsula several centuries ago. Considering that the Jewish community faced persecution for refusing to become Christians, it would be more accurate to use the term "readmission."

While some Jews converted to Christianity in the late 15th century, others sought refuge in Portugal, to no avail. Within the next couple of years, the Portuguese asked the newly resettled Jewish community to convert or leave. Things did not work out great for the converts either, as various groups regularly accused them of secretly practicing Judaism to deny them the opportunity to properly integrate into Spanish society. Facing immense pressure at home, many Jews opted to live elsewhere. Thus, Spain's Jewish community spread across the world.

According to legend, Sultan Bayezid II was shocked to find out what the Spaniards were doing. "How could anyone suggest that King Ferdinand is a wise ruler? He has impoverished his own country while enriching mine," the Ottoman emperor allegedly remarked.

Thus, approximately half of the 300,000 Jewish exiles relocated to the Ottoman Empire. Although they were stripped of their property and wealth, the newcomers brought knowledge, culture and experience to the country. Armed weapons, the printing press and modern medicine were among the things that Jewish immigrants offered to the Ottomans. It was around the same time that the community came to be known as Sephardic Jews, after the Hebrew word for Spain, "Sepharad."

On Nov. 22, 2012, Spanish authorities announced that they would "pass legislation to make approximately three million descendants of Spain's exiled Jews eligible for Spanish citizenship." The news was met with great enthusiasm and excitement, as it represented an apology by the Spanish government and an effort to right a historic mistake. The Portuguese government reached a similar decision around the same time.

Before long, the bureaucracy got involved in the affair, and the process gradually slowed down. The world had started to sing the praises of Spain, yet the lives of Sephardic Jews remained unchanged. For months, they followed news of the government drafting a proposal and the cabinet debating the issue. Finally, the Spanish parliament passed the bill in June. Starting in October, the Spanish authorities will process applications of Sephardic Jews. Applications will close in three years.

It is important to note that Sephardic Jews have been eligible for Spanish citizenship all along. What the most recent bill accomplished, however, has been to allow applicants to have dual citizenship and continue residing outside the country, which is great.

There are, however, certain problems with the eligibility criteria set forth by the Spanish authorities. Although Justice Minister Rafael Catala and Minister of Foreign Affairs Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo y Marfil proudly announced that the country was "opening its doors to the descendants of unjustly exiled Jews," Spain expects quite a lot from the Sephardim. To be fair, it seems reasonable for the government to ask applicants to trace their lineage back to Spain. Expecting applicants to be proficient in Spanish and demonstrate cultural competence, however, is clearly problematic.

When the Sephardim left Spain back in 1492, they spoke Spanish. Although less popular than before, the language remained intact for more than five centuries. Understandably enough, the language constantly changed with new additions from Italian, French and Turkish among other languages. Meanwhile, the Spanish language itself underwent a process of change. Thus, we ended up with the two similar yet distinct languages: modern Spanish and Judeo-Spanish, which is also called Ladino.

If one were to communicate with Spaniards in Ladino today, they would probably ask how the stranger could be proficient in an ancient form of their language reminiscent of the works of Miguel de Cervantes. To put things in perspective, imagine randomly meeting someone who acts like it's the16th century! In this sense, there is no point in asking the descendants of Sephardic Jews to take a proficiency test, which effectively requires them to learn a new language.

The Spanish government, furthermore, demands that applicants demonstrate their familiarity with the country's culture. In previous years, people were asked a number of questions, including when Madrid had become the capital of Spain and how to make Paella Valenciana. I do not know how many Spaniards could answer such questions correctly, but individuals residing outside the country clearly cannot know the answers. The question is whether the authorities may reasonably expect descendants of Jewish exiles to know every little thing about contemporary Spanish culture and history. If the legislation aims to right a historic wrong, there should be no examination whatsoever.

Here is a quick note about recent stories about Turkey's Jewish community: It is true that many Sephardic Jews will apply for Spanish citizenship in order to enjoy the benefits of EU citizenship including visa-free travel, but the Jewish community is not leaving Turkey. Likewise, anti-Semitism and financial difficulties may have caused some members of the community to relocate, but they did not move to Spain or Portugal, where people are grappling with economic challenges themselves.

The Spanish government's overdue invitation to the descendants of Sephardic Jews, who have carried a piece of Iberia in their hearts for centuries, would have been a genuine, heartfelt apology had there been no strings attached.

Karel Valansi 20 July 2015 Daily Sabah

Yorumlar

Bu blogdaki popüler yayınlar

Biden'ın Filistin başlığı II

Bir önceki  yazı da ABD'nin yeni Başkanı  Joe Biden 'ın ana önceliğinin Orta Doğu olmadığını, ancak gelişmelerin onu daha önceki başkanlar gibi bölgeye döndürebileceğinden söz etmiş ve İran tehdidinin İsrail ile ilişkilerini belirlemede önemli rol oynayacağından bahsetmiştim. Biden'ın ayrıca,  Donald Trump 'ın tercih ettiği baskı ve cezalandırma politikasından vazgeçip Filistinlilerle yakınlaşacağı ve iki devletli çözüme odaklanacağını belirtmiştim. İki devletli çözüme ulaşmak pek de mümkün olmasa da, bu konuda İsrail ile Filistinliler arasındaki ilişkilerde bir normalleşme, en azından bir diyalogun başlatılmasını isteyeceğini, fakat buna  Obama / Kerry  kadar siyasi sermaye, enerji ve zaman harcamayacağını söylemiştim. İran ve Filistin meselesine farklı yaklaşmak istese de, Biden'ın Trump'ın bölgede kurduğu yeni düzenden, oluşturduğu yeni parametrelerden ilerleyeceğini ABD Dışişleri Bakanı  Antony Blinken 'ın İsrail'in başkenti olarak Kudüs'ü tanıd

Survivor Hayim’in gerçek dünyası - Söyleşi

Hayim, çok sevdiğim bir arkadaşımın kuzeni. Aklı başında, ne istediğini bilen biri. Askerlik dönüşünde ani bir kararla Survivor yarışmasına katıldığını duyduğumda çok şaşırmıştım. Pek spor yapmayan, atletik olmayan biri neden zor koşullarda, dayanıklılık, irade ve güç isteyen bir televizyon programına katılır? Bunları konuşurken, sayesinde takip etmeye başladığım Survivor ile ilgili tüm merak ettiklerimi de sordum; kameralara yansımayan gizli bir tuvalet var mıydı, ya da yayın bitince gidilen lüks bir otel? Begüm’le arasında bir yakınlaşma oldu mu, Merve neden pişman oldu yarışmaya katıldığına? İşte Sabah Gazetesinden Yüksel Aytuğ’un teşekkür ettiği, seyircilerin filozof olarak tanımladığı Hayim ve Survivor yarışmasının bilinmeyenleri… Survivor maceran nasıl başladı? Katılmak nereden aklına geldi? Arkadaşlarımla uzun süredir Survivor’u takip ediyorduk. Hep katılmak istiyordum ama televizyona çıkmak beni korkutuyordu. Geçen sene iki yakın arkadaşım Dominik’e gittiler. Yarışmacıları

Trump'tan sonra, Biden'dan önce

Siyasi bir geçmişi olmayan, bir emlak imparatorluğu kurup batırdıktan sonra yeniden yükselmiş bir iş adamı. Daha çok çapkınlıkları, evlilikleri ve sunuculuğunu üstlendiği yarışma programıyla anılan  Donald Trump 'ın ABD başkanı seçilmesi başlı başına bir sürprizdi. İlk günden bir öngörülememe durumu, bilinmezlik ve oyunu kuralına göre değil kendi bildiği gibi oynama hâli mevcuttu. Kurulu düzene karşı çıkanların öfke oylarıyla seçilen Trump, siyaset dünyasında yeni bir isimdi. Seçim vaatlerinin yanı sıra bir iş adamı gibi davranacağı, elindeki tüm gücü ve cebindeki tüm numaraları kullanarak kârlı anlaşmaların peşinden koşacağı öngörülebilirdi. İsrail Dışişleri Bakanlığının o dönemki raporu Trump'ın Orta Doğu'ya bakışını şöyle özetliyordu; "Trump, Orta Doğu'yu akıllı bir yatırım olarak görmüyor. ABD'nin bölgedeki müdahale hacmini azaltacaktır". Bu durum, ABD'nin bölge politikasında bir yenilik değildi aslında. Selefi  Obama  da her soruna askeri bir çözü