Sunday, September 20, 2020
Friday, September 18, 2020
Thursday, September 17, 2020
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Monday, September 14, 2020
And then there is the patriarch of the Srour family, who died at the same time as his two children during the great famine of 1916. All three were buried in the same place. On some stelae, we find sad poems engraved on marble, calligraphed in Arabic, sometimes with a few simple words, such as “pray for them,” in Arabic and French.
I understood a thousand things about the Jews, the complete opposite of what I was taught as a child. I felt compassion for these people while reading their epitaphs, and told myself that it was possible to live fraternally with them, to negotiate together.
During the renovation and cleaning of the Jewish cemetery in Sidon between 2015 and 2018, I discovered several graves buried in the sand. I was able to read the names of some deceased written in Hebrew, thanks to friends who translated them to me.
This cemetery had been vandalized several times, especially after the Israeli army evacuated the city in February 1985. The majority of the stelae had been ransacked and graves had collapsed when sand was moved from the cemetery. I was in tears.
My team and I had to re-bury the deceased with great respect and dignity. I took pictures and filmed everything to record all that I saw and did. I know this cemetery by heart, I know the smallest details. I have started to archive and save each of the graves that were unearthed.
This cemetery holds a special place in my heart, it is a part of me and the deceased have become like members of my own family."
My responsibility was to make things right and to identify some of the deceased who have been buried for many years. I posted articles on my Facebook page regarding my work at the cemetery and as a result, several Lebanese Jews in the diaspora contacted me to ask if I had found their parents’ graves. Sometimes I was even asked to film and take pictures of the graves of their deceased.
I have become a different man. All my Jewish friends respect me, and I have gained self-respect, too. In a few weeks my book on the history of the Jews of Lebanon will be published in France. It will be the culmination of 25 years of research."
Sunday, September 13, 2020
Two weeks ago, Herzog concluded a similar agreement with the UAE's Jewish community.
The Bahraini Jewish community is small, totaling 50 Jews. Most of its members arrived in Bahrain from Iraq decades ago, and earn their living working in commerce and services industries.
Huda Nonoo, former Bahraini ambassador to the US
Nonoo asked the Jewish Agency for tools to support Jewish education, enhance Jewish identity and cultivate community life.
Following this conversation, a Jewish Agency team will be established in the coming days, headed by the organization's CEO, Amira Ahronoviz, who will be working with the head of the Bahraini Jewish community and members.
Friday, September 11, 2020
Retired judge Yitzhak Banai and his wife, Simcha, their son Eviatar Banai, music historian Yoav Kutner, exhibition curator Tal Kobo, Gavri Banai, and Eilat Lieber, museum director, pose for a photo at the Tower of David Museum. (Photo: Ricky Rachman)
Thursday, September 10, 2020
Wednesday, September 09, 2020
Tuesday, September 08, 2020
Monday, September 07, 2020
Sunday, September 06, 2020
Friday, September 04, 2020
Thursday, September 03, 2020
Seventy years this month, a daring mission to airlift 50,000 Jews from Yemen to Israel, dubbed On Eagles' wings, or Operation Magic Carpet, came to an end. It was made possible with the bravery and heroism of the pilots of Alaska Airlines. They did not lose a single passenger, despite sandstorms and enemy gunfire. The last surviving crew member, Captain Elgen Long, described the mission as the highlight of his flying career. Yanky Fachler takes up the story:
Another Alaska Airlines pilot was Robert F. Maguire Jr., the chief pilot of Operation Magic Carpet, and incidentally the son of an American judge at the Nuremberg war trials.
Maguire had enlisted in the Army Air Corps the day after Pearl Harbour. Before becoming a pilot with Alaska Airlines, he had flown in the Pacific region during the war.
During Operation Magic Carpet, he flew between 270 and 300 hours each month, at a time when the United States limit under its aviation rules was 90 hours. Maguire relied as much on his wits as on his aviation skills.
A typical work day on Operation Magic Carpet was 16 to 20 hours long. After unloading passengers in Tel Aviv, Maguire and his crew usually flew on to Cyprus to spend the night there because of the danger of being caught up in the fighting between Israel and its Arab neighbours.Each flight was perilous.
Fuel was scarce and sandstorms were frequent. Landing on Arab soil was to be avoided at all costs. The pilots were warned of the dire consequences if that happened. The passengers would likely be killed. On one trip, McGuire ran out of fuel and was forced to land on a runway in Egypt.
When airport officials rushed to the plane, the quick-thinking Maguire asked them to send ambulances immediately to take passengers to the nearest hospital. "Why?" they asked.
"Smallpox," he replied.
He got his fuel in record speed, and flew on to Tel Aviv.
When Alaska Airlines had to withdraw after a few months into the operation, Maguire started his own company, Near East Air Transport, hiring planes and pilots from Alaska Airlines, and continued the job.
David Ben-Gurion was reported to have called Robert Maguire “the Irish Moses.” • Quite why Ben Gurion thought that Maguire was Irish is not known. The writer Leon Uris used Maguire as a model for his fictional character Foster J. MacWilliams, the chief pilot of the fictional Artic Circle Airways, in his 1958 novel, "Exodus."
Another Uris character, “Stretch” Thompson, was based on Alaska Airlines boss James Wooten. • In 2004, Maguire was awarded a medal of valour by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre for his role in rescuing the Jews of Yemen.
Warren Metzger was a DC-4 captain with Alaska Airlines and his wife Marian was a flight attendant, when they embarked on what turned out to be one of the greatest feats in the airline’s history. "One of the things that really got to me was when we were unloading a plane at Tel Aviv," said Marian, who assisted Israeli nurses on a number of flights. "A little old lady came up to me and took the hem of my jacket and kissed it. “She was giving me a blessing for getting them home. We were the wings of eagles."
A child arrives in Tel Aviv with Alaska Airlines (JDC archives)
Before Operation Magic Carpet, the Metzger couple had been involved in the Berlin airlift, and helped repatriate Jews from Shanghai who had fled to China before WW2 to escape persecution in Germany.
Now that the communists had come to power in China, Alaska Airlines flew the German Jews to Israel.
Tragically, while not a single Yemenite refugee died during the rescue mission itself, some 850 Yemenite Jews had died en route to their departure points or while waiting in the transit camp in Aden. Infant mortality rates were high, and Ben-Gurion noted in his diary that Yemenite children in the Israeli ma'abarot – the tent transit camps - were dying like flies.
As the Jerusalem Post reported on 25 September 1950, Operation Magic Carpet came to an end that evening at 10 pm at Lydda Airport.
The two aircraft which wound up the operation landed within ten minutes of each other. Among those gathered at the airfield to meet them were the two Chief Rabbis of Israel, our own Dr Isaac Halevi Herzog and Rabbi Ben Zion Hai Uziel. The planes parked close to each other, and health formalities were completed aboard the planes.
Some of the new arrivals on this final trip had been among the first to arrive at Aden, but had stayed on there until the end, to help with the camp arrangements. They were greeted enthusiastically by the former camp staff with whom they had worked for many months and who had come to see them arrive.
A surprise witness to the emotional scenes at the airport was Mrs. Lorna Wingate, the widow of General Orde Wingate. Lorna had arrived from London earlier that evening, in order to attend the foundation stone ceremony of the Wingate Youth Village. She stayed at the airport so that she could witness the Magic Carpet complete its operations.
Another Alaska Airlines pilot was Stanley “Buddy” Epstein, a Jewish Machal volunteer from the USA who served as a pilot in Air Transport Command. Although not a religious man, Epstein said later that Operation Magic Carpet had to have been blessed by God because the possibility of any of these airplanes being successful was pretty remote. Epstein, a pilot and maintenance specialist, contracted with Alaska Airlines to help with “Operation Magic Carpet” after having airlifted supplies from Czechoslovakia to Israel. “We flew almost continuously from Christmas Eve 1948 to nearly a year later,” said Epstein, “and never lost a life or had an injury from an accident.
“One airplane undershot the runway in Asmara, but it didn’t burn, even though it was loaded with gasoline barrels. “We had a few bullet holes.”
Epstein noted that the C-46 aircraft were carrying 76 passengers per trip – nearly 30 more than licensed for, based on the average passenger weight and the number of aircraft exits.
Epstein said at the time: “If there was a single reason felt by all of the English-speaking flight crews and other volunteers, it was a feeling of “never again” after the press and other news media dramatically revealed the stories of the Holocaust.”
Alaska Airlines president James Wooton shares his memories of the first flight in 1949.
More about the Alaska airlines airlift
Wednesday, September 02, 2020
The Palestinians are now saying that have a problem not only with Jews touring the Temple Mount, but with those who wish to pray inside a synagogue in an Arab country, namely the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
A multifaith complex that includes a synagogue is currently being built in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE. “A church, mosque and synagogue will share a collective space for the first time, serving as a community for inter-religious dialogue and exchange, and nurturing the values of peaceful co-existence and acceptance among different beliefs, nationalities and cultures,” the committee overseeing construction of the complex said in a statement.
The prospect of Jews praying inside a synagogue in a faraway Arab country seems to worry Palestinian Muslim figures more than the killing and wounding of thousands of Muslims and Christians in last week’s huge explosion at the port of the Lebanese capital of Beirut.
Iconic photo of UAE residents hailing the first El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi over Saudi Arabian airspace
Read article in full
Tuesday, September 01, 2020
Dr Omar Fora: Mizrahi Jews subjugated, as in Morocco
Dr. Omar Fora: "Our brothers should know that Israel does not endanger the Palestinian people alone. By Allah! Israel refused to open an embassy east of the Nile. It established its embassy west of the Nile, because it considers the land stretching from the eastern bank of the Nile to the Euphrates to be the biblical Land of Israel. Therefore, the embassy was established outside the land that stretches from east of the Nile [to the Euphrates]. It established its embassy west of the Nile, because it considers the land west of the Nile to be outside of its territory. Israel is not about to achieve these Zionist or biblical ambitions now, but Israel wants to establish 'Greater Israel.
' By Allah! The day will come when Israel will demand lands in Medina, the lands of [the Jewish tribes of] Qurayza, Nadhir, and Banu Qaynuqa, as well as the lands of Khaybar. As we study history and understand it, we know the true nature of the Zionist movement. "The only Jews that have a right to live with us in Palestine, under our patronage and our authority, are those who have been living in Palestine. But the Ashkenazi Jews who came from overseas, from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Poland, and settled this land – they should go back to where they came from.
But Mizrahi Jews would have the same rights and obligations that we have, they would live with us, just like they live in Morocco, under the authority of the Kingdom of Morocco, they would live with us in Palestine. We are not against Judaism as a religion. We are against Zionism as a racist, bloody, and occupying movement."
Read transcript in full
Monday, August 31, 2020
In the summer of 2020, the city of Haifa caused a furore when it announced that it would rename a street after the famous Egyptian diva Umm Kalthum.
The journalist Eldad Beck fulminated that the renaming would be to 'commemorate one of the greatest enemies of Israel, who wanted to wipe out the state.'
In 2011, an Umm Kalthum street was named in east Jerusalem; there is also one in Ramla. The Haifa municipality thought that naming a street in the city where Umm Kalthum performed in the 1930s would go down well with the israeli-Arab community, 10 percent of the residents. It would also reflect the city's ethos of Arab-Jewish coexistence.
One wonders if she would she have approved.
Sunday, August 30, 2020
Ethnic studies curriculum in California schools iddentifies Jews as 'white'
A battle has been raging over the hearts and minds of Californian schoolchildren. A draft curriculum introduced in 2019 met with vigorous opposition from Jewish and other minority groups when the section on Middle Eastern peoples only referred to Arab Americans. Yet 60 percent of the state’s schoolchildren with roots in the Middle East hail from non-Arab minorities – Coptic Christians, Assyrians, Armenians, Berbers – and Jews.
Indeed, the non-profit representing Mizrahi Jews - JIMENA - has been vocal in its criticism, claiming that that the draft not does adequately represent California’s Jewish community, including Middle Eastern Jews. These mostly came to the USA as refugees from Arab and Muslim antisemitism. To draw attention to any form of antisemitism against Mizrahi Jews in the Arab world is branded ‘Mizrahi washing’ – a distraction from Israel’s supposed crimes against the Palestinians.
In this topsy-turvy world, the mere mention of Arab and Muslim antisemitism invites accusations of racialization or ‘Islamophobia.’ The battle over the Californian schools curriculum is a microcosm of the culture wars being waged in the West, where postmodernism now dictates that only ‘people of colour’ can be victims.
But not only are non-Arab and non-Muslim Middle Eastern minorities pointedly not deemed worthy of consideration, but the latest iteration of the curriculum aims to include a module on the history of the assimilation of Jews and Irish people into ‘whiteness’ in the US. Jews are therefore being considered as white Europeans, despite their origins in the Levant and their bitter history of antisemitism in Europe. Clearly, the curriculum drafters have absorbed current absurd categorisations based on purported power structures, race and gender.
Most Jewish immigrants came to the US as huddled masses fleeing European oppression. Past generations fought long and hard for acceptance and opportunity in US society, while relatives who remained in the Old Country were brutally murdered in the Holocaust.
Such is the current vogue for identity politics, however, that Ashkenazi Jews in the US are being gaslighted into identifying as ‘white’ if they personally have not experienced marginalization and discrimination.
The majority Ashkenazim have been made to feel guilty for ‘Ashkenormativity’ and unconscious bias towards ‘black’ Jews and ‘Jews of colour’. But infighting between sections of the Jewish community, real or imagined, pales before the experience of Mizrahi Jews, driven from the Arab and Muslim Middle East. Their oppression is the key to understanding the main drivers of the conflict with Israel – an Arab and Muslim inability to tolerate difference, to co-exist with minorities, and an abhorrence for any exercise of Jewish power. Yet teaching about Arab and Muslim anti-minority bigotry is taboo.
In the Western progressive mind, bound into the postmodern conceptual straitjacket, only Palestinians can be victims. The Mizrahi Jews are airbrushed out of public discourse.The lived experience of Mizrahi Jews has already been erased from universities, unless they can be weaponsied against Zionist Ashkenazim. Now they are in danger of being erased from school curricula.
The war over the Californian curriculum is not over. Let's hope truth and common sense will prevail.
Read article in full
Friday, August 28, 2020
The 20th August 1955 marked two years since the sultan of Morocco, the future Mohamed V, was deposed. The period leading up to Moroccan independence in 1956 was one of great turmoil and hostility to the French, the colonial power. According to the historian Robert Assaraf, the entire French population of 50 in Boujade was massacred; 14 French technicians working at the mines of Aït Ammar were also murdered.
The unrest spilled over against the Jews. At Oued Zem, five Jews died and six were injured, five homes were set on fire and two shops looted. In Ouezzane, demonstrations for the return of the sultan took an anti-Jewish turn and four Jews were injured, and 20 homes and shops burnt and looted. At Kenitra the Alliance school was demolished and at Boujad, an old man was killed in the street. There were even disturbances in Agadir. In Mazagan, a Jewish woman was knifed to death by an Arab rioter, the Alliance school was attacked and 20 houses in the mellah were set on fire and looted. The entire panic-stricken population of 1,500 Jews was evacuated from the mellah the following day, and rehoused in a sports hall.
At Safi, which did not have a mellah, 12 homes were attacked and looted. Soly Azran remembers those fateful days well. His father Raphael had already gathered planks of wood and steel bars, and other material for self-defence. He and his two eldest sons had begun fortifying the house, fearing a massacre. They hammered in nails and steel joists into the front door and pushed up heavy furniture to block the entrance to the inner patio.
View of Safi
They also barricaded the windows. "My father explained to Jacky, my 11-year-old brother and myself, all of nine years old, how we should protect the girls and the baby in the house. He armed us with an iron rod and a leather belt to use on its reverse side.
As shabbat fell, our defences had been completed and we felt quite secure. Raphael was very calm but the situation was tense, precarious, and we really feared for our lives. But my father, with his Israeli past, knew how to fight back and not necessarily panic. Child that I was, I understood he meant business against anyone who dared approach our house."
The family observed the Sabbath at home, as it was too risky to go out to the synagogue. Outside there were screams and curses against the French protectorate. More noise on Saturday morning as people ran this way and that. Stones were hurled at the house.Two neighbours decided to stand guard outside, until the trouble was over.
Raphael refused to open the door to the French police, who came to inform him that his shops and workshop had been burnt down. He would not go down with them to salvage what was left - it was Shabbat.
When Shabbat was out, Jacky and Soly were left proudly in charge at home while Raphael went to investigate the damage. Soly soaked his shirt with tears of relief when he heard his father returning home.
Out of the wreckage of his businesses Raphael produced from his pocket his war booty, a pair of tailor's scissors."I found my scissors," he announced." I have my hands, I'm alive, my family is with me -and I didn't break Shabbat! We will rebuild it all!"
Soly still has the scissors.
From the 'Généalogie des juifs marocains' Facebook page.
More about Safi
Thursday, August 27, 2020
I owe my freedom to the family of Haim and Amal Rejwan who accepted to take me with them as they fled. I owe even more to my dear Aunty Marcelle Shamash ( Bekhor) who persuaded my Dad that she would protect and take me under her wing. That helped appease my Father who saw how more desperate I was becoming everyday by lingering on.
Aunty Marcelle and I went to al Naher Street to buy ourselves the black abbaya to blend with the locals ...I had to shorten mine. Our escape luckily was an easy one with a little snag. Haim Rejwan left on the 5th of November 1970, the reason being, if he got caught; We the women and the kids would not be hurt.
That day, Aunty Marcelle and I went with my father to the Khalastchi house (Amal ‘s parents) where Amal, Salman, Yasmeen and baby Frank were waiting for us to leave together. At the Khalastchis, someone mentioned that there was an abortive coup d’état in the north of Iraq (whether that was true or not). It was enough for my dad to halt the whole operation and we all went back to our homes.
Upon my return home that day, a letter had arrived from Canada informing us about the birth of baby Tamara to my sister Hilda and her husband Freddy Rejwan; a new niece to both myself and to Haim Rejwan, since Freddy was Haim’s brother. Tamara was born on 23 October but since we had stopped using telegrams to avoid any misinterpretation by the censors, we only got the news two weeks later by mail.
I did not expect my dad to allow me to leave the following day. I still see it asyet another miracle that he did. It must be because he saw Amal and Aunty Marcelle’s determination.
The following day was a different setup. I again said goodbye to my parents and grandmother, really not knowing when and if I would ever see them again. My mum's last words of advice which she stoically gave me with a brave smile, was: “Always wear Lipstick” “and “Always stand straight”. I managed to follow her first recommendation, but I must admit that I am still trying to master the second !
I left with my driver s license, my University ID, a small suitcase and my abbaya. I only had 60 dinars with me because my dad was afraid that if we got caught and they found too much money on us they would know that we were escaping.
Our wonderful, albeit temperamental, driver Samuel took me to a Nafarat taxi station. We had to arrive at the exact time that a particular taxi driver was scheduled to leave the station to drive to Erbil because he was one of the people helping us escape.
When I got out of our car I must have been wearing Aunty Marcelle’ s abbaya since it was too long and I was tripping all over it. I could barely see what was around me - then someone from behind touched my shoulder and told me, “go to the right, the black car”.
I still do not know who it was. I felt like I was in a James Bond movie! Luckily, I saw Amal talking to someone by a big black car and proceeded to join her. In the meantime, an army officer was about to join us in that taxi, had it not been for sweet baby Frank crying loudly. The army officer, upon hearing the cries, ran off to take a quieter car, to the relief of all of us, including the taxi driver. This time, our taxi driver took matters into his own hands: he recruited a big Kurdish man to ride along with us. Thus the unsuspecting Kurd appeared to be the head of our family, sitting up front, and we women and kids sat in the back.
We knew we had to cross eight checkpoints before we arrived in the safety of Kurdistan.When we reached the first checkpoint, bristling with army militia, baby Frank was still crying. They had one peek at the car, heard the hollering and let us go. Amal, Aunty Marcelle and I thanked God and prayed. At the second checkpoint, our lucky charm baby Frank was asleep angelically across our laps this time. Again they waved us through. We prayed gratefully again. At the third checkpoint they only asked the men for their ID papers: the taxi driver and the unsuspecting Kurdish papa. Each time we passed a checkpoint, all us ladies in the back would pray in gratitude!
We finally arrived in Erbil four hours later. The nervous taxi driver told us that we were safe now, and that he was taking us to his house until we were picked up. Trembling, he told us how he was wishing he could fly the car during the whole four-hour drive! In his shack, he introduced us to his timid wife and children.
His wife prepared chicken swimming in some greasy oily broth for us. I was always a fussy eater at home, yet this time, I was so grateful for their help that I closed my eyes and nose, and ate to show my gratitude and appreciation. Amal and Aunty Marcelle could not eat!
I later sang a few lullabies to the driver’s children while rocking his son. I finally earned some smiles from his scared wife.
Since no one had 'phones in the north, the driver had no idea if and when Kader was ever coming to pick us up. He told us that it might be a few hours or maybe days. He kept pacing back and forth. I realize now that it must have been this driver 's first time working with Kader, who was a more experienced and confident smuggler. Kader arrived around 9 pm, five long hours after we got to Erbil.
We were relieved to see him. He told us that he was taking us to Haim Rejwan, Amal's husband. Haim had been worried sick because we had not arrived the day before as we were scheduled to, and there was no way to communicate that to him. Once we got in the car, Kader gave us Muslim names in case we were questioned: “you are Fatima”, “you are Khadija “, ” you are Ahmad.“ He gave the kids Muslim names too and kept quizzing all of us with the new names.
We drove a while and arrived in Kurdistan where Haim was. I believe he was staying with Massoud El Barazani Junior (future president of Kurdistan) at the time. Haim was really distraught because of our delay and the Kurds were trying to appease him by saying, “we told you they were coming “we told you not to worry.” “Here they are, see, they are safe and sound! “
Azoury Attar was with Haim waiting for us too. We all got into a jeep along with Kader while a Pesh Merga fighter was driving. There was no road and no lights, it was dark wilderness, and since there was no satellite navigation, at some point Kader and his partner lost the way in the wilderness. Lo and behold an Iraqi army car appeared. They seemed to know Kader. They asked him what he was doing so late at night. He told them that he was taking the family for a spin! Phew - another narrow escape ...prayers again. Eventually they took us to a hotel with no tiles on the floor; they gave us clean blankets.
We all slept fully dressed on cushions on the floor and were woken up around 2 am. We were taken to Darband and to the khashba, a log of wood we had heard about in Baghdad marking the border between Kurdistan and Iran. To us, this log represented our freedom. We got to the border, and the huge log I had imagined was nothing but a thin tree branch that a man pushed over with one hand. Freedom was beckoning just beyond that branch.
But they soon sent us back, telling us hat the proper authorities and the sochnut (Jewish Agency) in Iran should first be informed about our arrival before we could cross. Luckily it only took a few hours and we were back before dawn. This time, the tree branch (khashba) had been moved aside. wow, what a thrill! FREEDOM just a few feet away.
It was time to send the code back to Baghdad to say we arrived safely. The code was a note worth a quarter of a dinar torn in two halves. My dad kept one half and once we arrived, Amal was supposed to send the other half with Kader to take back to my Dad. But it was dark and windy, so the quarter dinar note flew away. Amal wrote a message saying that the quarter note had flown away and that a baby boy was delivered easily (meaning it was an easy crossing). If she had written” a girl was born”, it would have meant that it had been a difficult crossing!
We finally crossed to Iran and arrived at Khana. At once we saw pictures of the Shah of Iran and the beautiful Farah Diba. In spite of that, Haim needed reassurance that we were actually in Iran He broke down in tears when we were told,” yes, you are now in Iran.”
I left Iran for Israel on 2 January 1971. On the flight to Israel, who do I find myself sitting next to on the 'plane? None other than the founder of our Baghdad school, Mr Frank Iny himself and his lovely wife Mouzly. What a coincidence! We attended Frank Iny school without ever knowing what he looked like (unless you were detained at the Principle’s office and maybe caught a glimpse of what we thought was his picture).
Frank Iny left Iraq soon after he opened the school in 1951. His children and grandchildren grew up in Europe and the United States : they never attended the school their father had built. Ironically, neither Frank Iny’s immediate family, nor the tightly-onded family of at least 1, 000 students and alumni of Frank Iny School got to know each other ! On the short one hour flight, I found Frank Iny to be a giant of a man, yet kind and gentle. Tomy delight, he even knew my parents well! I learned my first Hebrew word from him when we touched down in Israel: bahnou - meaning, we arrived! We had arrived in Israel.
Lisette resettled in Montreal and became a flight attendant with Air Canada.
Epilogue: It was ironic how I could fly anywhere in the world, but I could not go back to Iraq to see my parents since I was now denationalized, like every Iraqi Jew living outside Iraq.
I often had terrifying nightmares of going back to Baghdad just to see my parents on a 24-hour layover and getting stuck trying to find a family to escape with again. Now now there was no one left to flee with anymore, since almost all the Jews had left.
Finally a miracle took place after a ten-year war with Iran ended. Iraq lifted the ban on travel and even granted passports to the seventy remaining Jews. My parents, who resisted escaping in order to remain Iraqi nationals in the futile hope of salvaging even a few of their properties, decided to apply for a passport and come out to visit us.
The first time I heard them on the 'phone, after twenty long years, I could not recognise my own mother or father’s voices! They came to London and were visiting us in Montreal with the intention of going back to Iraq. They truly believed that everything was going to open up, in the same was as the ban on travel from Iraq had been lifted. Saddam, however, had other plans: he invaded Kuwait and the rest is history ...
The war on Iraq, Desert Storm, broke out. This time, w put our collective foot down and insisted that our parents forfeit all they owned and not go back. My dad Menashy was eighty years old when he came to Canada. His entire wealth remained frozen in Iraq! None of the children of my grandfather Shaul Shashoua nor those of my equally wealthy grandfather Eliahou Meir Heskel Haim were able to enjoy their families’ fortunes.
Not only did my parents come out with nothing, they missed out on every happy occasion in our family for more than twenty years. They were not able to attend any of their daughters’ weddings nor enjoy the births of any of their four grandchildren. They were still stuck in Baghdad at all the Bar- and Bat Mitzvahs of my nieces and nephews. They only got to meet their grandchildren, Kevin, Carol, Tamara and Dan, after they became teenagers. The tragedy was that they were strangers to each other:they had to get acquainted.
We survived Iraq and the humiliations and persecutions, but our emotional and financial suffering did take a toll on our family.
Yes, there was one more happy occasion my parents were able to attend. On 3 August 1993, they actually walked me down the aisle when I married Albert Ades, who was accompanied by his parents Suzette and Jacques.
Lisette and Albert Ades on their wedding day