King Juan Carlos I of Spain meets Jewish lead
King Juan Carlos I of Spain meets Jewish lead Conference of Presidents

Spain's government on Friday approved a draft law easing the path to citizenship for the descendants of Jews expelled in 1492, AFP reported.

Spain already grants citizenship to proven Sephardic Jews, the descendants of the Jewish people who were expelled in 1492 in a period of Roman Catholic zeal under the reign of Isabella and Ferdinand.

The new legislation, yet to be approved by parliament, would allow all proven Sephardic Jews to gain Spanish citizenship without being obliged to give up their original nationality.

Until now, Spain has only allowed dual nationality for Sephardic Jews from a handful of countries, mostly in Latin America.

"The law will allow dual nationality," Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told a news conference after a weekly cabinet meeting.

Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, who presented an earlier draft of the law in February, has said Spain wants to repair a "historical mistake" with the legislation.

Though estimates vary, historians believe at least 200,000 Jews lived in Spain before the expulsion.

Many who refused to convert to Christianity or leave were burned at the stake.

The bill has been “the talk of the country” in Israel since it passed, and almost all news sites have published an allegedly official list of 5,220 surnames that qualify their bearers for Spanish citizenship.

At the same time, 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.

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain said it welcomed the new legislation with "enormous satisfaction."

"With this gesture, Spain is rendering justice and correcting an error that led to the expulsion of the Jews after the signing of the Edict of Expulsion sanctioned by the Catholic Monarchs on March 31, 1492," it said in a statement quoted by AFP.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)