Rabbi Shlomo Aviner and other senior rabbis are not pleased with the development Monday that Spain may issue passports to descendants of Jews expelled in 1492.
Walla! reports that Rabbi Aviner - a highly respected Religious Zionist rabbinical authority and head of the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva (Torah study academy) - has forbidden Israelis from obtaining the passports on the grounds that the gesture may be a political ruse to "make up for" the expulsion of Jews. Rabbi Aviner said that the Jewish world cannot and should not forgive Spain for the expulsion and Inquisition.
On March 30, 1492, Spain's King Ferdinand and Queen Isabela decreed that the entire Jewish community of Spain, numbering some 200,000 people, must leave the country in four months' time. The Jews' expulsion had been the pet project of the Spanish Inquisition, headed by Father Tomas de Torquemada, who believed that as long as the Jews remained in Spain, they would influence the tens of thousands of recent Jewish converts to Christianity to continue practicing Judaism.
The short time span forced the Jews to liquidate their homes and businesses at absurdly low prices. By July 30, the Jews were gone from Spain. After the expulsion, many rabbis imposed an informal ban forbidding Jews from ever again living in Spain.
The bill to grant Spanish passports to Israelis as compensation - over 500 years later - has not been made into law yet and is pending a vote by Spain's Congress of Deputies.
However, the wait has not prevented the Israeli news media from eagerly publishing the news - and has so far provoked a number of responses, including from the senior rabbis.
"Spain needs support at the moment - it is in a very difficult financial situation," Rabbi Aviner explained Monday. "Suddenly they are courting us and giving us [dual] citizenship. An Israeli passport is worth more."
He explained further that the decision to grant Spanish passport is strongly reminiscent of the debate Israel underwent whether or not to accept reparations from Germany - which it did. "The Israeli government accepted compensation then, but it was a matter of saving lives," Rabbi Aviner stated. "Israel was a new, poor country and needed to create jobs. But today, do we really need their [Spain's] favors?"
About Spain, the Rabbi urged the Jewish people to reject the offer. "[Israel is] strong and healthy, more than they," he said. "I do not see evidence that over the ages they have done anything to really compensate for the expulsion."
He clarified that true amendments are not made through "gestures we don't need."
"They really haven't done any Teshuva [repentance]," Rabbi Aviner continued. "If they really want to repent, they should at least stand by our side politically when we are attacked."
He also referred to remarks the Spanish Prime Minister made during a visit to Israel, claiming that thanks to the expulsion from Spain, the State of Israel was established. "There is some truth to that," the Rabbi admitted. "but to phrase it like that - 'thanks to the expulsion? Is this how you ask for forgiveness?"
Rabbi Haim Druckman, another leading Religious Zionist figure and the head of Yeshiva Or Ezion, echoed Rabbi Aviner's sentiments Monday. "Why do we need Spanish citizenship?," he stated. "We are privileged to have our own country and we should be proud to be its citizens." Walla! notes that Rabbi Druckman's own wife would be privy to Spanish citizenship if the bill passes.
Sephardic Rabbi Eliyahu Abergil, prominent Dayan (religious judge) and Av Beit Din of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court, issued equally sharp criticism against the gesture. "There is an old Cherem [religious ban] on returning to Spain" after the expulsion, he explained.