Yossi Ben Naim is the first Israeli to have completed the process of a Spanish citizenship application, after the Spanish government in 2012 invited anyone who can prove his or her descent from Sephardic Jews and can show a “special link” to Spain to apply for Spanish nationality.
In 1492, just as Columbus was sailing the ocean blue, the Jews of Spain, on the 9th of the Jewish month of Av (which fell in August) were expelled. But a mere 500 years later, give or take a year, the Spaniards have had a change of heart. Better late than never? Time will tell.
Ben Naim, a resident of Haifa, 40, had to prove his blood relation to the expelled Jews of Spain and his personal connection with today’s Spain, and was tested on his knowledge of the Spanish language and general information about his new country. This week, according to Ha’aretz, he left for Spain to complete the final phase in the process, when he handed a Spanish notary public his documents. Now he’ll be sitting and waiting for an invitation from the Spanish embassy in Israel to come pick up his passport.
The Spanish trivia Ben Naim had to know was not easy: who wrote Don Quixote (pronounced Ki-ho-the) — Miguel de Cervantes; which Spanish physician won the Nobel prize — Severo Ochoa, he co-earned it in 1959; and who is Penélope Cruz — Spanish actress and model who was discovered in 2001 in Vanilla Sky and Blow.
Ben Naim told Ha’aretz both his parents were born in northern Morocco, in the city of Tétouan. They met in Israel and at home spoke Spanish, “With me, too,” he said. When he heard of the chance to request a Spanish passport he went for it. He dug through the family documents and came up with Spanish protectorate in Morocco passports and ID cards of his father and grandmother. The Protectorado Español en Marruecos was established by a 1912 treaty between France and Spain, and ended in 1956, when the Spaniards experienced their own expulsion—from Morocco.
Ben Naim said he took the tests very seriously and attended courses to become acquainted with proper Spanish grammar. Besides the trivia questions, he was also asked about the structure of the Spanish government (There are three main institutions: the Congress of Deputies, the assembly of senators, the judicial branch, and the king, currently Felipe VI, who is the constitutional head of state, with no executive powers).
Apparently there are hundreds, possibly as many as a thousand Israelis cramming for their Spanish citizenship tests. Sure, it may not be a vote of confidence in the Jewish State, but who knows, it’s good to have an extra passport.