Jews from four European countries whose ancestors were forced to convert are visiting Israel.
The 16 Bnai Anousim, historically called Marranos, are in the Jewish state under the auspices of the Shavei Israel organization to renew their ties to the Jewish people and to Israel. They come from Spain, Portugal, Italy and France.
In addition to visiting religious and historical sites, they will take part in special classes on Jewish history, culture and religion being held for them in Spanish and Portuguese. The Marranos also will learn some Hebrew.
Large numbers of Bnai Anousim around the world have started to openly embrace their Jewish heritage in recent years, according to Michael Freund, the chairman of Shavei Israel. Many are seeking to renew their connection with Israel and the Jewish people after centuries of preserving their identity in secret, he said.
“I believe that we have a historic and moral obligation to reach out to the Bnai Anousim and to assist them as much as we can,” Freund said.