HAIFA (Nov. 4)
Twelve Maranno families, a total of 71 men, women and children, descendents of the Marannos of Spain whose for bearers had lived for centuries in Italy, arrived her yesterday as immigrants. The centuries of agony and uncertainty, of fearful and secretive observance of Jewish practices, ended for these immigrants as they stepped onto Israeli soil. Contrary to most other Marannos, these families and their forefathers never forgot their Jewishness, kept their homes kosher and always married within their own group. For centuries, Marannos had lived in Central Italy and Sicily ostensibly as gentiles, not practicing Judaism publicly out of fear that acknowledging their faith might make them targets of anti-Semitic attacks by the Catholic population. After the establishment of the State of Israel they contacted the Jewish Agency and, some 15 years ago, moved to the vicinity of Liege in Belgium where they found employment as coal miners while taking instructions in Judaism as preparation for their immigration to Israel. A major obstacle was their refusal to undergo ritual conversion. Claiming they were Jews by right. They were formally readmitted to Judaism without ritual conversion after exhaustive rabbinical inquiries in the local records of Palermo and Pescara confirmed their claims. The 71 Marannos have been given housing in Beersheba and, eventually, most of them intend to take employment at the Timna copper mines near Eilat. The Jewish Agency is in the process of trying to restore other Maranno families in Belgium and Italy to the Jewish people.