Bnai Anousim Visit Israel on Solidarity MissionNearly two dozen Bnai Anousim from Spain, Portugal and Italy arrived in Israel Wednesday for a week-long solidarity visit organized on their behalf by the Shavei Israel organization.
In the picture on the back they are Luciano and Amaral from Oporto community.
Bnai Anousim is the Hebrew term for people whose ancestors were forcibly converted to Catholicism during the time of the Inquisition. Historians have often referred to them as "crypto-Jews" or by the derogatory term "Marranos." Many continued to practice Judaism in secret over the centuries.
The group, which includes a professor, a lawyer, a hotel owner and other professionals, will tour the country and take in the sights in places such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Negev and Gush Etzion.
Their itinerary includes visits to the Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem, King David's Tomb on Mount Zion, an Intel factory up north, Masada, Herodion and, of course, the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
They will also meet with former Israeli President Yitzhak Navon and members of the Knesset, as well as take part in a Spanish and Portuguese-language seminar on Judaism at a Jerusalem yeshiva.The recent fighting in Lebanon did not deter the participants from coming. "When the conflict erupted," said Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund, "we were concerned that people might be afraid to come. But not only did no one cancel as a result of the war, it actually moved more people to join, if only as a way of showing their solidarity during this difficult period."
Freund noted that in recent years, growing numbers of Bnai Anousim have begun looking for ways to reconnect with Israel and the Jewish people. "Hundreds of years ago, their ancestors were torn away from the Jewish people,” he said. “And yet, at great risk, they somehow managed to keep their Jewish identity alive.
It is time for Israel and the Jewish people to reach out to the Bnai Anousim and embrace them, and to welcome them back home.
"Based in Jerusalem, Shavei Israel reaches out and assists “lost Jews” seeking to return to the Jewish people. The group currently has full-time rabbinical emissaries in Spain, Portugal and Brazil, where they are engaged in outreach work among the Bnai Anousim.
It also operates Machon Miriam, a Spanish-language conversion and return institute in Jerusalem under the auspices of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, where many Bnai Anousim complete their formal process of return to Judaism.