Until 2009, right-wing Portuguese politician Jose Castro didn’t have much interest in the expulsion of his country’s Jewish community in the 16th century. That changed once Castro opened a Facebook account, according to Cnaan Liphshiz, writing for the Times of Israel. The Times of Israel reports that online, the 60-year-old lawmaker and journalist connected to several Sephardic Jews, descendants of a once robust Jewish community numbering in the hundreds of thousands, many of whom were forced into exile in 1536 during the Portuguese Inquisition. Eventually the encounters morphed into a commitment to rectify a historic injustice.

For Castro, correcting the injustice meant spearheading a bill to naturalize the Jewish descendants of expelled Jews, a measure that unanimously passed the Portuguese parliament in April, making Portugal the only country besides Israel with a Jewish law of return.  It has however economic considerations as well, which do not subtract from parliament’s decision. Portugal’s initiative comes as countries across Europe continue to invest millions to develop Jewish heritage sites—an effort rooted in their belated recognition of the continent’s vibrant Jewish history, but often also as an acknowledged attempt to attract tourist dollars at a time of economic stagnation. 

Last year, Spain announced a similar repatriation plan to Portugal’s, though the effort has yet to advance. The country boasts a network of nearly two-dozen cities and towns, known as Red de Juderias, aimed at preserving Spain’s Jewish cultural history in an effort to attract tourists, the newspaper said. According to the Times of Israel report, Castro, a soft-spoken man who tends to gesticulate vibrantly when discussing politics, insists he has no ulterior motives for promoting the legislation. “For me, this is purely a historical and emotional goal,” he said. “These efforts got stuck in Spain had remained stuck also in Portugal for a long time, until we move them along.”  

According to Castro, his involvement in the project began as an experiment. In 2010, he encouraged several of his Jewish Facebook friends to apply for Portuguese citizenship, “just to see what happens.” At first, the newspaper says, Portugal’s powerful Socialist Party was none too thrilled about inviting descendants of Portuguese Jews to return. But the Socialists eventually came around, submitting their own bill to naturalize Sephardic Jews that ultimately was incorporated into Castro’s amendment to the Law on Nationality. The new legislation gives nationality…to Sephardic Jews of Portuguese ancestry who belong to a tradition of a Portuguese-descended Sephardic community.

It is based on objective prerequisites proving a connection to Portugal through names, language and ancestry,” the newspaper explained. The law names Ladino, the Spanish-based Jewish dialect spoken by some 100,000 people worldwide, as a viable “linguistic connection.”  Whatever his motivation, focusing international attention on the Catholic Church’s dark history is a bold choice for Castro, a Catholic himself.  He attributes his decision to an old high school buddy who taught him about Sephardic traditions in Portugal, and to his father, who served as Portugal’s colonial governor in Angola in the 1970s. 

“My father was an admirer of what he called ‘small history,’ minor developments with a huge impact,” Castro said. “Naturalizing the Sephardim could be that.” For the law to have impact, bureaucrats in Lisbon first need to address a host of complications. The Portuguese Bar Association already has warned that the law could compromise the constitutional principle of equality before the law, the newspaper stated. But there are practical issues, the newspaper commented. “Differentiating between Jews whose families were exiled from Spain and those who fled Portugal is very difficult,” said Jose Oulman Carp, president of Lisbon’s Jewish community. 

“Clearly the Jewish communities of Portugal will need to be consulted on the screening process and we can provide some input, but the distinction is nearly impossible in many cases,” he said. The newspaper concludes that whatever the end result, merely the effort to lure back Portuguese Jews constitutes an ironic twist of history. “Five centuries ago, the expulsion happened partly because the Iberian rulers wanted the Jews’ assets. Now we see efforts to welcome back the Jews partly for the same reason.”

Source: Assist News Service



In an incredibly inspiring, and chilling testimony, Umar Mulinde shares with Scott Ross of CBN News about his miraculous conversion from Islam to becoming a Christian with a new love for Israel. Mulinde had been raised as a Muslim and taught to hate Israel, but God got his attention one night in a dream. As he slept, he saw flames all around him and his fellow Muslims. He cried out, and when he did, he noticed a man standing on his right who was “shining.” The man told him that Islam was leading him to that torture, that he should repent and be born again. 

Unconvinced, Mulinde spent the next day praying Muslim prayers against bad dreams, but that didn’t work, as he had the same dream that night. The next day we went to a Christian church and gave his life to Jesus.  The CBN News interview details how Mulinde became a pastor and began a church in Uganda, preaching the Gospel and on loving Israel, and winning other Muslims to the Lord. Then on Christmas Eve, 2011, men approached Mulinde after a service. Although he says the Holy Spirit warned him they were not the Believers they pretended to be, he could not get away in time, and they poured acid over his head while shouting “Allahu Akbar.”

“I realized I have fallen into the ambush of Muslim terrorists,” said Mulinde. After being taken to two other hospitals, he wound up at the Burn Centre at Sheba Medical Centre in Israel, where he has been treated for severe acid burns to his eye, ear and face. Ross asked Mulinde if he harbors any anger against God for what happened to him. “I’m not angry with God,” he answered. “It has encouraged me to serve the Lord more.” Then Mulinde told Ross he also wanted to expose “the lies” that “Islam is a peaceful religion. If you say that Islam is peaceful, look at me,” said Mulinde who wears a pressure mask to aid in his healing. 

Ross countered that it’s been said there are the radical Islamists but also peaceful elements to the religion. “But that’s not practical,” Mulinde stated emphatically. “Because these radical people, they read what they read from the Koran.” Mulinde then demonstrated with a verse from the Koran that, translated, says, “Kill. Fight, and kill those non-Muslims.” Ross asked Mulinde how Christians should then “love their enemy?” Mulinde answered, “The best way to love your enemy in this case, to love the Muslims is to preach the Gospel of Christ to them. If we take the Gospel of Christ to them—at whatever cost—we are loving them.”

Source: CBN News



People with the true gift of hospitality are a breed apart—even in Christian communities. Enter Phil and Catherine Lewis and their five children. For the past five years, by word-of-mouth, they have been hosting Israeli travellers in their home and asking nothing in return.  The astonishing love demonstrated by the family toward their visitors is based on their Christian faith which promotes a unique relationship with the Jewish people. Countless hikers have passed through the Lewis home in the past five years, young and old, individuals and entire families—and they all experienced that same immediate connection and many emotions evoked by the family members.  

Every Friday evening, the family hosts hikers from the area for a meal accompanied by the Kiddush prayer and the lighting of Shabbat candles. They cook together and bring a lot of excitement and joy to the Lewis family.”  Their generosity is not without its reward. The family, who lives modestly on middle-class wages, has always dreamed of going to Israel. Now, recipients of the Lewis’ hospitality have decided to band together to make that dream come true. Three hundred former guests have joined together “to fulfil the dream of good, modest and simple people who are promoting Israel’s image in a wonderful manner and giving their hearts to us—just because we’re Israelis.”

Source: Y Net News