(Tourists visit Toledo’s XII century synagogue, Santa Maria La Blanca, in central Spain April 13, 2006. REUTERS/Victor Fraile)

The expansion of Spain’s offer of citizenship to descendants of Jews it expelled en masse in 1492 has sparked interest in Israel, where the so-called Sephardim make up around a quarter of the population.

While no one predicts an Israeli exodus to economically bruised Spain, a passport granting access to the wider European Union appeals to many in the war-wary Jewish state – especially its disproportionately large Sephardic underclass.

Amending a decades-old law, Spain on Friday said it would allow foreign Sephardim – old Hebrew for Spaniards – who become nationals to keep their original citizenship.

Though the amendment awaits parliamentary ratification, the Spanish embassy in Israel said on Monday it had received “many” inquiries from potential applicants. Israeli media republished Madrid’s list of typical Sephardic names, meant to help locate eligible kin, and celebrity candidates debated the opportunity.