Spanish passport (illustrative)
Spanish passport (illustrative) Thinkstock

Yossi Ben Naim is set to become the first Israeli to receive a Spanish Passport as part of the recent Spanish law that grants the opportunity for descendants of expelled Spanish Jews from the 15th century to become Spanish citizens. The law came into effect at the end of 2015, and requires applicants to pass a Spanish culture test which includes numerous questions about Spain’s heritage, geography, and culture.  

A Jerusalem based NGO, La Unión Sefaradí Mundial, is helping Israeli applicants successfully complete the applications and finish the process to obtain the citizenship. The process requires an applicant to pass the test, trace their lineage to one of the expellees from 1492, and show a personal connection to contemporary Spanish culture. According to a recent report in Haaretz, Ben Naim finished the process last week in Spain when he filed his papers with a Spanish notary. He now awaits receiving his passport from the Spanish embassy in Tel Aviv.  

The head of the La Unión Sefaradí Mundial Yossi Ben Harush, assisted Ben Naim in his application process. Ben Harush said that the organization "has received hundreds of requests.  But this is the first to materialize into a passport. We have a large number of additional applications in the works," he added.

Ben Naim, whose parents were born in Morocco, traced his lineage back to Spain via family documents. The La Unión Sefaradí Mundial helped Ben Naim create a detailed report of his genealogy. The documents that Ben Naim provided from his parents and grandparents helped the organization identify his ancestors from pre existing research into Spanish Jewry.  They discovered that Ben Naim was related to Morocco's chief rabbi from the end of the 19th century.

Ben Naim began the official testing process after he was able to trace his lineage and went to the Instituto Cervantes in Tel Aviv to begin the testing process in October. "It wasn’t simple. I took a few courses there because the test included grammar, writing an essay and a verbal examination," he said.

"The legacy of Spanish Morocco is part of me. I feel very connected to Spain and its culture." Ben Naim also said that his parents were extremely excited when they heard the news that he would be the first Israeli to receive the passport. "They felt very honored. Most of my family never made Aliyah [immigrated] to Israel - most moved back to Spain or to Venezuela."

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