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In the 15th century the Jews in Spain faced strong pressures to convert to Christianity and many yielded to this pressure and became Christians. In 1492 the king of Spain, Ferdinand, issued an edict to expel from Spain all remaining Jews who did not convert to Christianity.
When the news of expulsion reached the Ottoman Empire, the Sultan (Emperor) Beyazit II issued a decree to welcome the Jews. A significant portion of those expelled thus came to Ottoman Empire and settled mostly in European parts of the Empire. The Turkish Jews are also identified as Sephardic Jews. This derives from the word Sepharad which in Hebrew means Spain.
In 1992, Turkish Jewry will celebrate not only the anniversary of this gracious welcome, but also the remarkable spirit of tolerance and acceptance which has characterized the whole Jewish experience in Turkey. The events being planned, symposiums, conferences, concerts, exhibitions, films and books, restoration of ancient Synagogues etc will commemorate the longevity and prosperity of the Jewish community. As a whole, the celebration aims to demonstrate the richness and security of life Jews have found in the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic over these morethanfive centuries, and show that indeed it is not impossible for people of different creeds to live together peacefully under one flag.