The historical relationship of the Jews with the Iberian Peninsula Countries can hardly be called “good neighborly relations”. One of the blackest pages in the history of the Jewish people is connected with Spain and Portugal – the exile, which brought pain and tears, and destroyed many lives. Let’s remember how it was.
Jews settled in the Iberian Peninsula during the Roman Empire. By the end of the fifteenth century, Spanish and Portuguese Jews (later called “Sephardim” from “Sfarad”, the Hebrew name for Spain) formed numerous and powerful communities in the territories of both countries.
In 1492 the prosperity of the communities came to an end. The Royal couple of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile issued the “Alhambra edict”, ordering the Jews of Spain to convert to Christianity, and if they refused to do so – to leave the country.
In an effort to keep the faith of the elders, many Spanish Sephardim migrated to neighboring Portugal, because the king of this country Manuel I guaranteed them a quiet life and freedom of conscience. But in 1496 the situation changed, and Manuel offered the Jews the same choice – baptism or exile. Some Jews remained in the Pyrenees, adopting Catholicism, but most left their homeland and went on wanderings, abandoning their homes and possessions accumulated by generations. In our time, the descendants of the Sephardim live in different places of the world, including Israel.
Law 30-A, passed in 2015, is an attempt of modern Portugal to “apologize” for the historical injustice. Its principle is the same as that of the Israeli Law of Return. Descendants of Sephardic Jews have the right to return to their historical homeland and become full citizens of the state. A few years earlier, Spain had passed a similar law.
The law applies not only on Israelis. No matter what country the descendants of the Sephardim live in, they have the right to become Portuguese citizens.
Besides the birth certificate, passport, certificate of criminal record (it is issued by the authorities of the Ministry of Internal Affairs at the country of residence), applicants are required to present a document proving the Spanish-Portuguese origin of the family.
All submitted documents need to be translated into Portuguese and certified by an international notary.
The story of the Sephardim is the story of five hundred years of exile from their native land. Despite this, many families have preserved the ancient culture of the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula. These people practice ancient ceremonies, carefully preserve traditions, speak Ladino – the language of the Pyrenean Jews. To obtain citizenship, it is all required to prove.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Portugal considers three types of documents as an adequate proof of Spanish-Portuguese “roots”:
The applicant must submit at least one document from the list. The more of them, the chances of a quick review of the case and the adoption of a positive decision are higher.
Law 30-A/2015 allows Sephardic Jews and their descendants to restore family history, learn more about their roots, return to the land where their ancestors once lived.
In addition, it is a great opportunity to get a passport of a European country and with it all the preferences that the country’s membership in the EU provides. Portuguese passport gives the right to live, work and move freely in countries that have signed the Schengen Treaty.
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