The same week that Columbus sailed west in 1492, the last Jews of Spain were being expelled. Even though they had lived there for a thousand years, religious intolerance threw them out. Where did they go? Who took them in? The answer will surprise you: while most found refuge in Portugal (briefly), Antwerp and in Amsterdam, and then in the western hemisphere, most of these Spanish Jews, or the Sephardim, settled in lands ruled by the Ottoman sultans. Around 180,000 lived in the Balkans, and they lived alongside their Christian and Muslim neighbors. Until 1941 and 1942, when the Germans invaded the region and--with some local collaborators--murdered most of them. But then came the 500th anniversary of the expulsion in 1992, and the very last of the Sephardic Jews in the embattled, war torn city of Sarajevo said: We remember what intolerance did to us. We know what hate does. It is not our way. We travel another path.
Jewish Life in Spain/Expulsion
The precise origins of the Jewish communities of the Iberian peninsula are unclear. There is inconclusive evidence of a Jewish presence dating from pre-Roman times. More substantial references date from the Roman period, when substantial Jewish immigration probably first occurred.
Many of the expelled Jews re-settled in the Ottoman Empire, to which the area of Bosnia and Herzegovina belonged, and where they were welcomed by Sultan Bajazet II. The descendants of Jews from Spain (and Portugal) are referred as Sephardim, as “Sepharad” means Spain in Hebrew.
After the First World War, Bosnia and Herzegovina became part of the newly founded "Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes", which stretched from the Western Balkans to Central Europe. This territory was ethnically very diverse.
Today, Sarajevo is the capital and largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina and has about 300,000 inhabitants.