Sephardic Community Leader, Spanish King Meet Over Citizenship

March 26, 2014  

Juan Carlos I, King of Spain, welcomed last week to Zarzuela Palace in Madrid Dr. Abraham Haim, the head of the Sephardic Community Committee in Jerusalem.

Dr. Haim briefed the King on the history of the Sephardic Jewish community in Jerusalem, which is one of the longest-standing communities in the Holy City and has been in existence since the days in which Nachmanides – the Ramban, or Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman – came to the Holy Land. 

The Doctor also thanked the King for the bill that passed recently, granting Spanish citizenship to descendants of Jews expelled from Spain during the Alhambra decree, instituted by Isabella I and Ferdinand II in 1492. He stated that Sephardic Jews in Israel and abroad “have been Spain’s best ambassadors in the world for over 500 years.” 

Haim told Arutz Sheva that the Sephardic Community Council will be used effectively as an institution linking the government of Spain, and specifically the Consulate General of Spain in Jerusalem, to Sephardic Jews in Israel looking to attain Spanish citizenship. 

He also said that the Sephardic Community Council has existed since long before the State of Israel was established, and that its activities are well known to the Spanish king.

“I thanked him for the law,” Dr. Haim said, “and we are submitting to the Spanish government recommendations for how to implement the bill to give Jews Spanish citizenship. The law, once it gains final approval, would be valid for two years.” 

Towards the end of the meeting, he gave the King of Spain a commemorative medal bearing the images of the four Sephardic synagogues in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. The medal is produced by the Israel Government Department of Coins and Medals.

Spanish Citizenship Bill controversial

Spain has made some shows of repentance for its atrocious history of anti-Semitism. Last December, the Spanish Duke of Medina Sidonia presented a document of apology to the Jewish community of Gibraltar for the atrocities committed during the 1474-1476 expulsion of the Jewish community.

Despite the signs of rapprochement, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner and other senior rabbis in Israel forbid Jews from taking the Spanish citizenship being offered in the new gesture, saying the move may be a political ruse to “make up for” the Inquisition and expulsion of Jews, which should not be forgiven.

“Spain needs support at the moment – it is in a very difficult financial situation,” Rabbi Aviner stated last month. “Suddenly they are courting us and giving us [dual] citizenship. An Israeli passport is worth more.”

Rabbi Aviner added “I do not see evidence that over the ages they have done anything to really compensate for the expulsion…If they really want to repent, they should at least stand by our side politically when we are attacked.” 

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