Reporter: And now to the Israeli pursuit of a foreign passport. A few years ago, the Spanish government announced that it would give citizenship to descendants of Jews who had been expelled. Half a million young people who want to study or work in Europe perked up their ears at this. But then, it turned out that it is not really so simple. In contrast, the country who is interested in Jews is Portugal, which offers the same deal to anyone who can prove their family connection to forced converts, who were chased out by the Inquisition. Yinon Miles went on a short heritage quest.
Miles: What luck grandma Fortuna has.
Miles: In the past few weeks, the grandchildren came suddenly to visit.
Grandchild: “Hello Grandma”
Miles: They are interested in the family history.
Zohar: “This is Grandma’s father, and this is his wife.”
Miles: And in a suspicious manner, they concentrate on all of Grandma’s stories.
Fortuna: “My grandfather with his sister were very wealthy.”
Miles: But the truth is that with all respect to roots, 22-year-old granddaughter Zohar is mainly interested in the potential benefit.
“Have you ever been to Portugal?”
Zohar: “No, I never had the chance to go to Portugal. I went to Spain, but not there.”
Miles: “Have you ever had any connection to Portugal?”
Zohar: “No. Only now it came to me. I only heard about this a month ago.”
Miles: “What is the connection between pasta and Portugal?”
Shai Alon: “Actually, there isn’t really any connection.”
Miles: Also Shai Alon, who runs a fresh pasta factory, 38-years-old, perhaps always dreamt of Italy, But he never thought that the door to Europe would be opened specifically through his Moroccan roots.
“When you were a child, did you ever dream that you would one day have a Portuguese passport?”
Shai Alon: “Listen, as a kid I grew up in Arad. There is no…”
Miles: So, who told him that Europe is open to us? At least one country even wants us back again. This is how many Israelis had the chance recently to receive a Portuguese passport.
Shai Alon: “Really there is no connection, but look, it happens.”
Miles: It began with a Spanish dream.
Reporter: Until now, the descendants of those expelled from Spain were proud of their heritage. Soon, for the first time, they will be able to receive Spanish citizenship.
Reporter: The Spanish government passed a law yesterday that gives citizenship to descendants of those expelled from Spain.
Miles: Already by February 2014, dozens of agents opened who promised Israelis of Spanish origin a passport of the monarchy based on the new law.
Yoram Zara: “The Spanish law is a mistake in my opinion.”
Miles: “The Spanish law is as if they don’t really want you.”
Yoram Zara: “Exactly. You can count on one hand the people who received Spanish citizenship based on the law from 2015.”
Miles: But two years later, with requirements including written and oral language exams, a heritage test, a personal interview, and a slew of bureaucratic difficulties, it is clear that Spain is better to remain as a dream.
Yoram Zara: “We could call this Inquisition 2 what the Spanish are doing.”
Miles: “What happened? The Portuguese said ‘we also want and we’ll give it to you easier?'”
Adam Yadid: “They were simply smart.”
Miles: One year after Spain, in February 2015, Portugal announced a similar law.
Maria de Belem Roseira, Socialist Party: “The law that the Socialist Party presented here today is to make it possible to receive Portuguese citizenship through citizenship by descent of Sephardi Jews who came from Portugal.
Miles: The Portuguese made more realistic acceptance conditions but learned a lot from the Spanish Israelis found the same difficulties to attain it. In 2015, only 149 Israelis applied for a Portuguese passport. A year later, the number had risen to 2,021 and by May of this year, about 3,000 Israelis had already applied.
Yoram Zara: “They thought it was some kind of fraud, some kind of pyramid scam. It can’t be. What connection do I have to Portugal? Only when they started to see passports with people of other nationalities, the Israelis realized there is a real opportunity here.
Miles: “If I want, what do I have to do?”
Adam Yadid: “You have to prove that you are a descendant of those expelled,”
Adam Yadid: “You have to prove that you have a clean certificate of honesty. Basically, that’s it.”
Fortuna: “My grandmother is from Izmir. Here is my grandmother, she was a good woman. This is my father, this is my mother.”
Miles: In the Levi family, you don’t really need proof. After 5 minutes with Fortuna, it’s clear that it is a home with a Sephardi air.
Fortuna: “Maybe you want instant coffee?”
Fortuna: “You can’t say no. Instant, yes?”
With Polish tendencies.
Fortuna: “Make instant coffee please.”
Miles: “What do you say about Portugal wanting now to give you citizenship?”
Fortuna: “Very nice. I guess they are sorry. They would burn us, kill us, endangering. We suffered, we suffered. They suffered. They ran away like rabbits.”
Miles: Portugal was basically the first refuge for those expelled from Spain. After March 1492, a power struggle between the Vatican and the Spanish crown caused King Ferdinand II to sign a decree expelling the Jews from his land. Most Jews went to the familiar neighbor but 5 years later, a similar decree was issued against the Jews of Portugal, who were forced to convert against their will. 40 years later and life here was also impossible. In 1536, the Jews of Portugal came under the long arm of the Spanish Inquisition. The flight paths ran far from the Western European Catholic countries to areas of the Ottoman Empire in Eastern Europe or North Africa.
“Maybe it was worth it to get a Portuguese passport, no?”
Fortuna: “Heavens! May the lid fall on your head!”
Adam Yadid: “Hi, what’s up?” “How are you?”
Yoram Zara: “Hi there, pleased to meet you.” “A pleasure indeed.”
Miles: “So who wants to be Portuguese?”
Levi family: “All of us.”
Miles: So, who can get a passport? Basically, anyone who has a Sephardi background. But, the ease of proving a connection to the expulsion varies from one ethnicity to the next. Initially, one of the two Jewish communities of Porto or Lisbon can approve whether there is such a connection with this approval, along with other paperwork, you can go to the Lisbon Interior Ministry and then to wait. The cost of help with the process in Israel varies between NIS 10,000 to NIS 20,000.
“How much would I pay for a Portuguese passport?”
Fortuna: “Nothing. Not a cent.”
Miles: “Do you know how much she is paying?”
Miles: “Are you happy that she pays NIS 20,000 for a Portuguese passport?”
Fortuna: “No, I wouldn’t pay that. But she wants. What can I do?”
Yoram Zara: “Let me ask you a question, why do you want Portuguese citizenship?”
Grandfather: “Who wants? I don’t want it. Why do you want it?”
Zohar: “Mainly because of the doors it opens.”
Shai Alon: “The goal is to make it easier to set up business in Europe”
Miles: “What do you say? Do you want a Portuguese passport one day?”
Grandchild 1: “Yes”
Grandchild 2: “Yes, but we won’t get it.”
Grandchild 1: “Pussy.”
Grandchild 1: “Pussy.”
Miles: “Pussy? That’s what interests you?”
Grandchild 1: “Yes”
Itamar: “A very fun atmosphere and a feeling of development. The number of tourists is crazy.”
Miles: Itamar and Elad are less interested in the women. An Israeli couple who moved recently to Lisbon and are in the process of receiving Portuguese citizenship.
“How long are you there for already?
Itamar:”We’ve been here half a year, since November. We arrived here and opened a restaurant called ‘Tantura,'”
“Tehina was the hardest thing to find here.”
Miles: The arc of history has reached full circle but the background to the changes in Portugal isn’t just romantic. The country suffered for many years from emigration of young people, high unemployment and low GNP compared to the rest of Europe and the new law is part of a wider attempt to strengthen the economy. For example, with young people like Itamar and Elad. And the Jewish community is also involved in this effort.
Jose Oulman Carp, former president of Lisbon’s Jewish: “The community is working on all that is necessary that it needs in order to keep the rhythm of the certification of not more than one month.”
Miles: “Is there a chance that I… can get a Portuguese passport?”
“When did you come to Israel?”
Miles: With a culinary background of filled rolls, borekas and a hard-boiled egg of memorial prayers, it is now my turn to find out what the Turkish dynasty on my father’s side is worth.
Yoram Zara: Miles, good. Did you say Izmir? Izmir is Smyrna. Here is evidence of the family name there. You are in the archive of the inquisition in Lisbon your family name. More than that…
Miles: “That’s it? Is it worth it for me?
Yoram Zara: “A member of your family suffered because of his Sephardi background, so it is time that you benefit from this.”
Miles: “Yes! So I have? Let’s go. Where? What? What do I do? Where do I sign?”
But what is a club worth if it is not exclusive? As a potential citizen of Portugal, I thought they should make the conditions for joining tougher.
“Will you answer some questions?”
Shai Alon: “Yes”
Miles: “Which country borders Portugal?
Shai Alon: “Wow, you’ve stumped me. What a disaster,”
Itamar: “Spain and only Spain.”
Shai Alon:”Tali – which country borders Portugal?”
Miles: “What are the main two colors of the flag?
Elad: “Wow, green and red.”
Shai Alon: “Yellow and red. Or green. Yellow, red and green?”
Miles: “Who is the president of Portugal?”
Miles: “Who is the president of Portugal? ”
Shai Alon: “I have no idea.”
Elad: “You’ve stumped me and I don’t feel now. Wait, let me check Google.”
Miles: “What is the international dialling code for Portugal?”
Shai Alon: “I have no clue.”
Miles: “Because you got all the answers wrong, I revoke your Portuguese citizenship. Don’t give it to him, he doesn’t deserve it.”
“What food do you prepare for them?”
Fortuna: “We make pashteda (pies). We make prasa meatballs, you understand?”
Miles: “I understand, I’m also Turkish.”
Fortuna: “My goodness!”
Miles: If someone is dubious about the seriousness of the Portuguese, just this month, the law changed again. And now, those who get a passport can also pass the right on relatively easily to their children which will make it easier for Zohar to complete the process. Now, she needs the truly important permission from Savta.
“If she moves to Portugal one day”
Fortuna: If it is good for her, it is good for me. Once upon a time, children would do what we wanted. Not now. Now they tell us what they want! What do you say?”
Miles: “You are right.”
Reporter 1: All the Sephardi grandmothers are similar to Grandma Fortuna.