VIDEO – Ariel and Gila Arditi have been waiting for this moment for a very long time: Years of expectations to receive the special approval that they have completed their conversion process and can get married according to Jewish Law; several years of fighting for Israeli recognition as conversion seekers, while their children already live in Israel as Jews; and decades of leading a double life: Colombian Jews who know they have Jewish roots and observe various customs on different dates.
Video courtesy of Shavei Israel
The Arditi couple knew they were the descendants of the Anousim from Spain, who were forced to convert to Catholicism in the 14th and 15th centuries by the Inquisition. Their ancestors continued to observe mitzvot secretly, despite the persecution and torture.
When they were young, the Arditis held a Jewish wedding ceremony, just to get the feeling of it.
"When Ariel and Gila's daughter came to us, it was thanks to the pro-Jewish education she had received at home," says Renana Birenbaum, director of the Beit Mordechai Ulpan at the Shavei Israel organization, which escorted the couple and their children.
"She knew she wasn’t Jewish according to Jewish Law, but that her roots are Jewish. When her parents retired, they came to Israel immediately – when it was clear to them that they didn't have any other place to live, or any other life, other than living as religious Jews."
According to Birenbaum, the trouble began when they tried to covert. "They didn’t receive a visa, and their request to convert was denied. The State of Israel asked them to leave – and they didn't want to. They were very unlucky with very difficult circumstances throughout the entire process.
"Gila then had a stroke following this difficult experience of coming to the land of her dreams and then this land not wanting them."
Moments after the wedding ceremony, Gila Arditi wept with excitement. "I are so many things I would like to say, but right now silence is more meaningful than words," she said.
"I think we have a moral and historic obligation to embrace and accept them and bring them back to our people," adds Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund.