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Law proposed for Israel to commemorate Jewish victims of Spanish Inquisition

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Those behind the proposed bill decided to choose November 1 as it’s the official date of the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition in 1478

By ILANIT CHERNICK

In what could be a historic move for Israel and its Parliament, a law to commemorate the Jewish victims of the Spanish Inquisition yearly on November 1, has been proposed.

MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh presented the bill to the Knesset last week in hopes of securing an official Day to Commemorate the Victims of the Inquisition. 

Those behind the proposed bill decided to choose November 1 as it’s the official date of the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition in 1478.

The law calls for certain activities on the day of commemoration, including for the Education Minister to arrange for educational activities and resources associated with The Inquisition, the forcibly converted Jews known as the Anousim, and their descendants, and the Expulsion from Spain and Portugal.

As part of the commemoration, the Diaspora Affairs Minister will also organize and lead “an official state ceremony to commemorate the victims of the Inquisition, and the Knesset will hold special discussions on the issue,” a statement said.

“This bill will create a day of memory and reminder in the Knesset for us to recognize this tragic event in our collective history and learn from it, in order to ensure ‘never again’ in a world of ‘again and again,’” explained Cotler-Wunsh, who is also the chair of the Subcommittee on Israel-Diaspora Relations, explained. 

She said that this day of commemoration would “also provide us with an opportunity to connect with the descendants of those affected by the Spanish Inquisition, in Israel and in the diaspora, based on our shared history and values.”

One of the explanatory paragraphs for the proposed law gives important background to the horrors that Jews in that era experienced.

“Beginning in 1381, hundreds of thousands of Jews were forcibly converted to Catholicism and formally disconnected from the Jewish world, especially with the Expulsion from Spain in 1492,” it says. “Many of these Anousim (forcibly converted Jews) were subsequently investigated by The Inquisition, formally created in 1478 in Spain and 1536 in Portugal, for maintaining their Jewish identity, tradition and practices.”

It goes on to emphasize how “thousands of Anousim were burnt at the stake, hundreds of thousands were prosecuted, brutally tortured, imprisoned, humiliated, and had their livelihoods taken away from them.” 

The paragraph concludes by pointing out that “the reign of terror imposed by The Inquisition and its partners had a profound and threatening effect on the Jewish People and those with significant Jewish ancestry up until the modern era.”

Featured Image: The Synagogue del Transito in Toledo, Spain. (Credit: May_Lana/Shutterstock)
Above Image: Inside the Cordoba Synagogue, Spain, which was founded in 1315. (RudiErnst/Shutterstock)

For David Hatchwell, who is the president of the Fundación, a museum in Madrid that showcases thousands of years of Jewish life and the community’s contribution to Spain, instituting such a law would be a timely decision. 

“[There is] increasing interest in the Spanish-speaking world about possible shared roots with the Jewish People,” Hatchwell said. “The Spanish-speaking world, whether in Spain or in Latin America, is gaining a greater understanding of its common roots, culture and traditions with the Jewish People.”

Hatchwell stressed that the Spanish Inquisition “was a dark chapter for Humanity and in both of our peoples’ history.”
“It should be remembered as pure religious fanaticism and intolerance,” he continued. “Nevertheless, we should also use these historic events to chart a more positive future between the Spanish-speaking world and the Jewish people based on respecting diversity emulating the modern State of Israel.”

Commenting on the matter, Ashley Perry (Perez), who is the president of Reconectar and helped write the law described the proposed bill as “historic.” 

“There are tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people around the world who have both Jewish and Hispanic ancestry, and the Inquisition played a major role in the disconnection of our peoples,” he said. 

Perry made it clear that this law “is a vital recognition of a reign of terror which still has such a great effect on so many people even today, many without knowing.”

“This Day of Commemoration will hopefully not just be for Israelis, or even just for Jews, but for all those whose ancestors were hunted, tortured or prosecuted by the Inquisition,” he added.

Numerous members of Israel’s Knesset from across the political sphere have co-signed and shared their support for the bill.

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