Turkey, World, Culture

Ottoman Empire welcomed Jews exiled from Spain

Jews practised their faith freely, held public office in Ottoman Empire

Faruk Zorlu   | 01.08.2018
Ottoman Empire welcomed Jews exiled from Spain


By Mucahit Turetken


The Jews living in the Ottoman territory were able to practise their beliefs and occupy public office, a renowned historian said on Wednesday.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on the anniversary of the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, Lutfi Seyban said: "There is no exact figure on the number of Jews who were exiled. They usually migrated to the Ottoman territory."

The expulsion of the Jews from Spain was ordered in 1492 by Catholic monarchs ruling Castile and Aragon (powerful kingdoms on the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages) through the Edict of Granada (the Alhambra Decree) to drive Jews out of their territories.

Seyban, a lecturer at Sakarya University, highlighted that Jews were most often placed in Greece’s main northern city of Thessaloniki, which was an Ottoman territory.

Many Jews were also settled in Istanbul's Galata neighborhood, Turkey's Aegean city of Izmir and present-day northern Israeli city of Safed, he said.

Sultan Bayezid II is the most notable Ottoman emperor who continued the Islamic and Turkish tradition of accepting Jews in difficult circumstances, he added.  

Expulsion of the Jews 

Seyban said: "The reason for the expulsion of Jews was the religious enmity between Christians and Jews."  

"Catholic Christians hated Jews more than Muslims. At that time Jews were seen as a source of all evils," he added.

"Catholics are intolerant of others who belong to a different religion. They are not only against Jews but also Andalusian Muslim Mujedar who remained in Iberian Peninsula after the Reconquista," he noted.

The Reconquista were a series of campaigns by Christian states to recapture territory from the Muslims in medieval Spain and Portugal.

The inquisition in Spain lasted for 300 years. Although the next periods were not as intense as the 1492 expulsion, the flow of migration took place in the same regions, he said.

*Faruk Zorlu contributed to this report from Ankara

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