MADRID, Spain — Half a millennium ago, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand presented Jews living here with a stark choice: leave, convert or face burning at the stake.
Some 50,000 Jews would eventually flee after passage of the Edict of Expulsion in 1492, giving birth to the Sephardic diaspora — “Sepharad” meaning “Spain” in Hebrew.
Today their descendants live mainly in Israel, France, the United States and Turkey.
Among those who remained, some who formally converted secretly maintained their faith under fear of constant persecution by the merciless Spanish Inquisition.
Now the Spanish authorities are finally seeking to redress the injustice. Earlier this month, the government approved a draft bill that would grant dual citizenship to those who can prove themselves to be descendants of expelled Jews — in addition to passing a Spanish culture test. Officials say they expect up to 90,000 applications in the coming years.
The same privilege isn’t being conferred on members of another community that was expelled because of policies aimed at maintaining “clean Christian blood.” More than a century after the Jewish expulsion, the Moriscos — Arabs previously forced to renounce Islam and become baptized — suffered the same fate.
Antonio Pito reports for GlobalPost on the Spanish government’s approval of a draft bill that would grant dual citizenship to the descendants of expelled Jews but does not offer redress to historically persecuted Muslims.