Wednesday, October 01, 2014

'Bakashot ' are back!

 

Moroccan Jews in Toronto sing Bakashot at the Hilula (commemoration) of Rabbi Yitzhak ben Gualid  

The Sephardi tradition of Bakashot, singing prayers asking for redemption, is being revived by the pious children of Moroccan Jews now living in North America. Fascinating article in the Tampa Jewish Press:

NEW YORK – The group of young Jewish professionals had gathered to participate in the revival of a Sephardic tradition hearkening back to the days of their grandparents and great-grandparents.

Arriving at an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, they greeted each other in French and settled in around a dining table laid out with snacks and bottles of arak.

They had come to listen to the chanting of bakashot, a class of traditional Sephardic liturgical poems praising and petitioning God. The singing of bakashot, which literally means “requests,” was once common practice among Sephardic Jews across the Middle East and North Africa, but it has waned in many communities over the past two generations.

Sung to classical Sephardic musical modes, bakashot were traditionally performed in synagogues during the pre-dawn hours before Sabbath morning services in the months between Sukkot and Passover.

“Ninety percent of the classic tunes sung in the synagogue are based on bakashot,” said Mony Abergel, who grew up in Casablanca, Morocco. “Every Moroccan, even if he does not know the bakashot, knows the tunes.”
Abergel was one of the gathering’s four singers, men in their mid-20s to early 30s from Moroccan Jewish families who meet every week to learn and rehearse bakashot.

The men sang in unison, breaking out occasionally into solos. One of them, the group’s founder Sacha Ouazana, also played a drum called a darbouka. The music was of a piece with classic Sephardic liturgical chanting, but with a supplicatory yet insistent quality.

Most of those at the gathering were members of the West Side Sephardic Synagogue. The synagogue is the spiritual home for a growing community of young Jews of North African heritage, many of whom grew up in France and have immigrated to New York over the past decade. Ouazana, for example, grew up outside Paris and now serves as the synagogue’s cantor.

Ouazana said he began his cantorial training at the age of 5 but discovered bakashot only when he went to study in the Alsatian city of Strasbourg in his late teens. Before starting the bakashot group in 2011, he spent 10 years gathering and studying materials.

“My goal was first to learn the bakashot and then to perpetuate this tradition, especially in the U.S.,” Ouazana said.

Bakashot draw heavily on Hebrew piyutim – or Jewish liturgical poems – from the Spanish Golden Age. Popular wisdom has it that the bakashot tradition originated then, but many scholars disagree.

Ethnomusicologist and musician Samuel Thomas said that the tradition’s real roots lie in the kabbalism of 16th- and 17th-century Safed in Israel. The works of the kabbalistic poet Israel Najara, who figured prominently during that period, are also heavily represented among the bakashot.

“It basically comes from the Lurianic kabbalist tradition that looks to inspire a mystical brotherhood and tries to force the hand of God through mystical practice,” said Thomas, a scholar of Sephardic musical traditions who composes new settings for piyutim for his musical ensemble Asefa. “A major theme of the bakashot is asking for redemption. They are indelibly marked by the tragedy of the Spanish expulsion – and by the urgency that ‘this has got to be the time’ of redemption.”

The tradition spread throughout the Sephardic world with each community developing its own repertoire over the ensuing centuries. Among Syrian Jews, for example, there is a set group of 66 bakashot that are recited completely or in part each week. In the Moroccan tradition, by contrast, the bakashot change from Sabbath to Sabbath based on the weekly Torah portion. The communities with the most codified traditions, said Thomas, were in Morocco, Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Jerusalem.

Both Ouazana and Abergel emphasized the difficulty of learning bakashot.
Bakashot are very complex, and if you don’t have someone to teach you, they are very difficult to transmit,” Abergel said.

The general decline in religious observance during the 20th century and the great disruption to Sephardic communities that was brought about when they left homelands in which they had been rooted for centuries were also contributing factors to the decline in the practice.

Read article in full

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Calling all Maserati Jews!

 With thanks: Hilary, Michelle and Lily

Calling all Maserati Jews.

Tomorrow night the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Committee (SPSC) will be telling the truth about you -  Jewish refugees from Arab countries. 


(Maserati Jews? That's how Annie Robbins, editor-at-large of the anti-Zionist blog Mondoweiss, in her infinite wisdom, calls Mizrahi Jews. Or does she mean  Masorti Jews? Or a combination of the two. Anyway, you know who you are. You' re not the Aston Martin and Ferrari Jews! Despite all your valiant attempts to keep up flashy appearances, you're the 'marginalised and invisible Jews of colour').

The SPSC is visibly rattled by an episode that took place last May and is striving to do something about it. According to (another SPSC activist) Mick Napier:

"Scottish Government Minister Humza Yousaf spoke to a meeting in Glasgow in May of this year. The Jewish Telegraph reported that Zionists 'informed' him that "Israel's War of Independence had created around 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries" and that "Mr Yousaf...admitted that he had been unaware that there were so many Jewish refugees in 1948". 

Napier goes on:

"The Zionist claim conceals what Ben Gurion called "cruel Zionism", the violent effort by the Zionist underground in Iraq and Egypt to force the exodus of Jews who were proving resistant to the lure of Zionism. Thirty five years after Marion Woolfson treated this subject, Zionists still make strenuous efforts to keep the history inaccessible. This will be one of the themes discussed in Glasgow on Wednesday night at the Commemoration of Marion Woolfson's life and work, dedicated to the debunking of perncious (sic) Zionist myths. Come along."


  Marion Woolfson, who died exactly two years ago, wrote a book called Prophets of Babylon: Jews in the Arab World.

Point of No Return sought a copy of Woolfson's magnum opus, but was not willing to shell out over £2,000 for the only new copy still available on this planet at Amazon.

We can guess the gist of it. In her book Woolfson blames Zionism itself for causing the mass exodus of Jews from Arab countries. Until Zionism brutally intervened, Jews were happily and peacefully coexisting with Muslims. 

Marion Woolfson is in good anti-Zionist company. In his book The Gun & the Olive Branch, David Hirst describes in detail covert Israeli operations to scare Iraqi and Egyptian Jews into fleeing their homes for the "sanctuary" of Israel. Wilbur Crane Eveland, a former CIA operative, wrote about the 'Zionist crimes' against Arab Jews in Iraq (Feuerlicht, The Fate of the Jews, 231).

The late Marion Woolfson

The writings of the disaffected Iraqi Jew Naeem Giladi are frequently invoked to support this myth.

The Egyptian bombs of 1954 were indeed the work of a pro-Zionist group, but there is no causal link with the exodus of 25,000 Jews two years later. 


In the Iraqi case no one will ever know for certain who planted bombs in 1950 -51, but three of the five episodes occurred after the vast majority of the Jews had already left or were leaving - and caused no casualties. The Israeli 'new' historian Tom Segev has produced evidence blaming the only fatal bombing on Iraqi nationalists. In his book Une si longue presence, Nathan Weinstock makes the point that only the Iraqi police possessed the no. 36 high potential grenades used in the bombings. Besides, the two Zionist 'culprits' executed in January 1952, whose confessions were extracted under torture, were never accused of the fatal bombing of 14 January 1951.

In any case undue focus on the 'bombs' distracts from the overwhelming evidence of official antisemitism in Arab countries, and does not explain the 'ethnic cleansing' of the Jews from Yemen, Syria, Libya and other countries.  


If any of you Maserati Jews happen to live in Glasgow, please attend the SPSC event tomorrow night. Don't make the history inaccessible. This is your chance to acquaint the audience with the truth. You might mention the Farhud, the 1941 pogrom in which almost 200 Iraqi Jews were murdered. You might utter the word dhimmi. You might refer to the Arab League plan to persecute their Jewish citizens before the establishment of Israel. Or you might direct your listeners to this blog....


Monday, September 29, 2014

Forgotten Jewish writers of Algeria



 From top: Jean Daniel, Albert Bensoussan, Jeanne Benguigui; Helene Cixous


If the Judeo-Algerian music scene is widely knownJudeo-Algerian literature remains totally unknown or taboo, even if the authors supported the Algerian revolution. Amin Zaoui corrects the record on the Algerian-Jewish website Zlabia. Note that some writers, like Helene Cixous
Jacques Derrida and Jean Daniel, are not forgotten at all, but found fame in their adoptive land, France :

"The world of artistic culture knows well the geniuses of music and song : Sheikh Raymond, Reinette L' Oranaise, Lili Labassi, Blond-Blond, Salim Halali, José de Suza, Lili Boniche, Rene Perez, Maurice El-Medioni, and so on. A Jewish-Algerian school has imprinted itself on the history of Algerian music to this day.

On the other hand, the literati and people of Algeria know nothing or little about Jewish-Algerian writers, for example:

Elissa Rhaïs real name Rosine Boumendil,   considered the pioneer of Jewish-Algerian literature. She was born in 1876 in Blida, and died in 1940, the first Algerian writer to be published and recognized in France. Among her works:
Le Café chantant, La Fille des pachas, La Fille du douar, Le Mariage de Hanifa, Enfants de Palestine.

Sadia Levy, born in Oran in 1875. Died in 1951.  One of the poet Guillaume Apollinaire's close friends. Jean Senac testified to and recognized his debt to the scholarship of Sadia Levy.  He wrote songs with Robert Randau, head of the Algerian literary movement, and a collection of short stories. 

Jules Tordjman was born in 1907 and died in Bechar in 1990. His poetic genius was praised by Leopold Sedar Senghor and Emmanuel Robles.

Maximilienne Heller, whose real name was Fenech. She was born in Constantine in 1889 and died in 1960, and was awarded the Algerian Grand Literary Prize in 1922. Her writings are considered anti-colonialist.

Jeanne Benguigui was born in Sidi Bel-Abbes in 1922 and died in 2003. Her book A Tale of Sidi Bel-Abbes shows her commitment to her hometown and its rich folk culture.

Albert Bensoussan was born in 1935 in Algiers, where he spent his youth. He was a high school teacher at the Lycee Bugeaud in Algiers (now the Lycee Emir Abdelkader ) until 1961. Algeria is very present in his work, especially the  Judeo-Arabic world. His story collection L'Echelle Algerienne evokes details the life of this community.

Myriam Ben, nee Marylise Ben Haim born in Algiers in 1928 and died in 2001. Novelist, poet, painter and anti-colonial voice. Among her memorable books:
Le Soleil assassiné (poetry), Au Carrefour des sacrifices (poetry), Quand les cartes sont truquées (memoirs), Sabrina, ils t’ont volé ta vie (novel)

Hélène Cixous was born in 1937 in Oran. She is a great literary figure today, known also for her anti-colonialism and feminism. She wrote about fifty books, all genres, including:
Le Prénom de Dieu, Le Jour où je n’étais pas là, Ève s’évade ; La Ruine et la vie…

Other writers and Jewish-Algerian philosophers have become legends and still have Algeria in their heart : Jacques Derrida, born in Algiers in 1930, died in 2004 Jean Daniel Bensaid, known as Jean Daniel, born in Blida in 1920, writer, journalist and founder of the Nouvel Observateur, an activist and supporter of the Algerian revolution

If the Algerian French-speaking writers of Arab origin (Mohammed Dib, Malek Haddad, Mostefa Lacheraf) or Berber origin (Mouloud Feraoun Mouloud Mammeri Jean Amrouche) have a place in academic thinking, Jewish-Algerian writers , for their part, are totally forgotten.

In this time of hatred and dirty holy wars, and to resurrect the image of a pluralistic Algeria, we must never forget the shaheed Fernand Iveton, this Algerian Jew, who died for the independence of free Algeria. He was sentenced to death by colonial France and guillotined in 1957, and wrote: "In the life of a man, mine has little meaning. What matters is Algeria and its future, and Algeria will be free tomorrow. "


Read original post  (French)


Sunday, September 28, 2014

IS jihadists are a 'Jewish creation'

 Sunni social media are drawing parallels between the Islamic State army leader Khalifa Ibrahim (top right) and the Shi'ites (top left), the Christians (bottom left) and Jews at the western wall. Is their shared black garb coincidence? asks this advertisement.

With thanks: Maurice

 Here we go again. Whenever forces in the Arab and Muslim world want to discredit an individual or movement - they spread a Jewish conspiracy theory. The Islamic State army, now being bombed by western forces, is a 'creation of the Jews'. This belief is being fuelled by the (Sunni) suspicion that the West has only been moved to act when minority interests are at stake. It must be stressed that there are no known Jews living in the zone of northern Iraq now controlled by IS.

The suspicion among Arabs towards the US had increased after it started to bomb IS positions when the latter’s forces were 15-17 km away from Erbil, the Kurdish capital. This caused the Arabs at large (Sunnis and Shiites) to say that the US did not care to act when 250, 000 Arabs were killed in Syria during the last three years, and when IS stormed western Iraq during the last year, but it cared for the Kurds, Yezidis, Christians…. This further fed the “conspiracy” theory in Iraq and raised anti-Semitism in the country.

The leading Sunni scholar Ahmed al-Qubaisi has declared that the different terrorist organisations are "a Jewish Creation”. However,  a prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Sayed Mortada al-Qazwini, has also described IS as “a Jewish-Israeli organization, established to tear apart the land of Muslims.”

 Furthermore, an advertising campaign against IS appearing on the Iraqi satellite television channel Afaq  showed a snake with the mark of IS coming out of the Jewish Star of David. In the image above, Sunni social media equates the IS leader Khalifa Ibrahim to religious Jews, a Christian Bishop, and Shi'ite Muqtada al-Sadr, who have black garb as their common dress.

 A rough translation of the writing at the top of the picture says: "The black wearing (garb) is the one that combines them and is common among them - Is it just a coincidence, or that their Imam is One who is the Accursed Satan"?

 In the picture, the IS leader is called "Khawarij" (i.e. one of those who rejected the leadership of the last Rashidin Khalifa), the Shi'ite Muqtada al-Sadr is called "al-Rafidha" ( the Shi'ites are accused of denying the completeness of the Qur'an),  a picture of Jews at the Western Wall; a bishop represents the Christians.

 Several Arab media outlets have also circulated a story claiming that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a JewishMossad agent by the name of Simon Elliot.

Other Jewish conspiracy theories:

General Al-Sissi the Jew (Haaretz) 

Assad's a Jew (Times of Israel) 

Ahmadinejad's Jewish past (Telegraph)

Is Gaddafi a Jew? 

How Israel helped create Hamas (Washington Post)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Denationalisation of Jews in Egypt

 Jews have had a presence in Egypt since the dawn of civilisation. The modern community was made up of indigenous Jews (Rabbanites and Karaites) and more recent arrivals from elsewhere in the Ottoman empire. Here is a timeline showing how Egypt's Jews were stripped of their rights, beginning with the right to nationality in the 20th century:

The recently restored Maimonides synagogue in Cairo

1880: 'Real Egyptian' cabinet formed. In spite of Tanzimat reforms, Jews still considered dhimmis. The middle and upper classes sought European consular protection and passports under the capitulations regime.

1914: 10, 000 'foreign' Jews expelled  from Palestine arrive in Egypt.

1918: 80 - 100, 000 Jews in Egypt. Ethnicisation of Egyptians into separate 'races.'

1927: First nationality law. Individual citizens required to apply.

End 1920s/30s: Muslim Brotherhood (founded 1928) and nationalists launch sporadic attacks on non-Muslims (Syrians/Armenians/Greeks/ Jews.) After 1933 Nazis finance anti-Jewish campaign.

1929: Nationality law establishes jus sanguinis. Arab/Muslims given preference. Only 5,000 Jews receive Egyptian nationality, 40,000 remain stateless. The poor could not afford £5 for a nationality certificate.

1937: Capitulations abolished. After 1949, Egyptian government responsible for protecting minorities.

1938: 'Young Egypt' pro-Nazi youth movement leader meets Adolph Hitler and calls for expulsion of Jews.

1942: Muslim Brotherhood issues anti-Balfour Declaration

2/3 November 1945: Anti-Jewish and minority riots. Ashkenazi Great synagogue and other Jewish institutions in Cairo burnt down. Jewish shops looted. Six killed.

1946: 200 Alexandrian Jews leave for Israel in semi-legal emigration.

1947: Heykal Pasha, Egyptian delegate to the UN, threatens that a million Jews in Arab countries would be at risk if Palestine Partition goes ahead.

1947: Arabisation Company Law insists that 75% employees must be Arab/Muslim.

1948: police begin anti-Zionist witchhunt. Emigration to Israel goes underground.

May 1948: arrest and internment of 1,300 -1, 000 of them Jews. Sequestration of internees' property. Jewish schools placed under government control and forced to implement Egyptianisation. Some Jews barred from higher education.

June 1948: martial law imposed. Local Jews considered a Fifth Column. Jewish assets, both communal and private seized during first Arab-Israeli war. Some 20, 000 Jews leave for Israel and Europe. Those with Egyptian nationality stripped of it.

20 June 1948: 22 Jews killed in bombings of Karaite quarter of Cairo.

 July 1948: 500 Jewish shops including Cicurel and Oreco department stores bombed. A 'Zionist plane' blamed. Some 200 Jews in all killed during rioting that summer.

September 1948 : 19 Jews killed. Jewish businesses looted.

November 1948. Jewish shops looted in Cairo.

1950 (revised 1951, 53 and 56) nationality law bans Jews from receiving Egyptian nationality and allows all 'Zionists' to be stripped of their nationality.

Black Saturday, 26 January 1952: nationalists and fundamentalists attack Greek, Armenian and Jewish property.

1956 - 57. Following rise to power of Nasser and the Free Officers, expulsion of 25, 000 Jews in wake of Suez crisis. (Greeks and Italians were not expelled).

1961 -62 nationalisation of remaining Jewish property.

1967 All Jewish males interned after Six-Day war. Number of Jews falls to 15, 000.

2014 Twelve Jews remain in Cairo, five in Alexandria.

Roughly based on Ruth Toledano Attias's essay in La fin du Judaisme en terres d'Islam (Ed. S Trigano)

Other timelines: Yemen 
Libya 
Iraq 
Syria/Lebanon



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An old-new sound for the New Year

 
With thanks: Ruth

The traditional prayer Anenu (Answer Us) is a feature of this time of the Jewish year - a time of repentance. After a month of Selichot (asking for forgiveness), every observant Jew is ready to begin the New Year with a 'clean spiritual slate'.

This rendition illustrates how in Israel today ancient prayers from the oriental synagogue have been jazzed up and fused with modern pop to give a unique 'Mizrahi' sound.  

Shana tova, tisku leshanim rabot !

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Sephardi seder for Rosh Hashana

 

The Jewish New Year begins tomorrow evening with blessings for a sweet New Year. Jews of Sephardi and Mizrahi origin will do more than eat apple and honey: they will have a whole range of different foods. 

Courtesy of Chabad, via JIMENA, here is what you need for a typical Sephardi seder, together with the blessings recited for each food. Note that the foods can vary from table to table: for instance, French beans are often eaten instead of white beans. Spinach replaces beetroot (in Hebrew selek) because the Arabic word for it is selk. Etc


WISHING all Blog Readers SHANA TOVA 5775!

 
On both nights of Rosh Hashanah, a number of foods are eaten to symbolize our prayers and hopes for a sweet new year. Many of these foods were specifically chosen because their Hebrew names are related to other Hebrew words that convey our wishes for the coming year.1 An accompanying prayer is recited, expressing our wishes inherent in these words and foods.2 Recite each prayer while holding the particular food in the right hand, immediately before it is eaten.
Before Rosh Hashanah, gather the following items:
  • Dates
  • Small light colored beans
  • Leeks
  • Beets
  • Gourd
  • Pomegranate
  • Apple (cooked in sugar) and honey
  • Head of a ram (or a fish)
After chanting kiddush, washing, and breaking bread, the following foods are eaten:
תמרים
Dates. Related to the word תם—to end.
Take a date and recite:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלֹהינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָעֵץ Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.
After eating the date, take another one and say:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּתַּמּוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ וְשׂוֹנְאֵינוּ וְכָל מְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתֵנוּ
May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that there come an end to our enemies, haters and those who wish evil upon us.
רוביא—לוביא
Small beans. Related to the words, רב—many, and לב—heart.
(The following blessing over vegetables is only recited if one has not recited the blessing over bread:3
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלֹהינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה
Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the earth.)
Take some white beans and say:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּרְבּוּ זָכִיּוֹתֵינוּ וּתְלַבְּבֵנוּ
May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that our merits shall increase and that You hearten us.
כרתי
Leek. Related to the word כרת—to cut.
Take a leek and say:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּכָּרְתוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ וְשׂוֹנְאֵינוּ וְכָל מְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתֵנוּ
May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that our enemies, haters, and those who wish evil upon us shall be cut down.
סלקא
Beets. Related to the word סלק—to depart.
Take a beet and say:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּסְתַּלְּקוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ וְשׂוֹנְאֵינוּ וְכָל מְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתֵנוּ
May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that our enemies, haters and those who wish evil upon us shall depart.
קרא
Gourd. Related to the word קרע—to rip apart, and also קרא—to announce.
Take a gourd and say:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁתִּקְרַע רוֹעַ גְּזַר דִּינֵנוּ, וְיִקָּרְאוּ לְפָנֶיךָ זָכִיּוֹתֵינוּ
May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that the evil of our verdicts be ripped, and that our merits be announced before you.
רימון
Pomegranate.
Take the pomegranate and say:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁנִּהְיֶה מְלֵאִים מִצְוֹת כָּרִמּוֹן
May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that we be filled with mitzvot like a pomegranate [is filled with seeds].
תפוח בדבש
Apple and Honey.
Dip an apple in honey – some have the custom of using an apple cooked with sugar – and say:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁתְּחַדֵּשׁ עָלֵינוּ שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּמְתוּקָה כַּדְּבָשׁ
May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that You renew for us a year good and sweet like honey.
ראש כבש
Ram's Head (or the head of another kosher animal or fish4).
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁנִּהְיֶה לְרֹאשׁ וְלֹא לְזָנָב
May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that we be a head and not a tail.
(The following is added only over the head of a ram:
וְתִזְכֹּר לָנוּ עֲקֵדָתוֹ וְאֵילוֹ שֶׁל יִצְחָק אָבִינוּ בֶּן אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ עַלֵיהֶם הַשָּׁלוֹם
…And You shall remember for us the binding and the ram of our forefather Isaac, the son of our forefather Abraham, peace be onto them.)

Monday, September 22, 2014

A British airman welcomed in Aden

The other day I got talking to a Jewish gentleman who spent  WWll in  the British Air Force in Cairo and Aden.

Aden was then an important trading post and British protectorate. Our friend told how in 1945 he was welcomed by Jewish families in Crater - the Jewish quarter of Aden built in the crater of an extinct volcano - and invited  for meals. The local Jews, mostly shopkeepers and traders, would introduce the British-Jewish servicemen to their daughters,  in the hope that they would find them too irresistible to leave behind.

The gentleman told me that the Crater families  hid in their homes refugees fleeing trouble in north Yemen. Norman Stillman in Jews of Arab lands in modern times confirms that there were some 6 - 700 Jewish refugees in private homes. The rest were housed in the Hashed refugee camp outside the town as they waited to go to Israel.

I could not find details of the specific events they were escaping in 1945. According to Tudor Parfitt's The Jews of Redemption, the  Jewish predicament had deteriorated following the 1929 Palestine riots, and many were in poor health, living in dire poverty and under threat of persecution. They were desperate to leave, but the British Mandate in Palestine had a very restrictive immigration policy. Throughout the 1930s and 40s,  a steady stream of Jews fled Yemen for Aden, sleeping on pavements and in shelters, with the hope of eventually reaching Israel.

Our young Jewish airman resisted all temptation to bring home an Adeni bride. Some years later, in London, he ran into a man who remembered him from those days.

He would have been demobbed when the terrible events of December 1947 erupted. A rampaging mob, incensed at the November 29 UN partition plan for Palestine, drove the Jews out of Aden. Some 50, 000 Jews were airlifted to Israel from Yemen.

Eight-two Jews died in the Aden pogrom. Jewish shops were looted. Jewish schools and cars were burnt down. Our airman would not have recognised the place.

Top: the skeleton of the George V Jewish school for boys, with the crater in the background,  after it was burnt down in December 1947. Bottom: looters fight over bolts of cloth seized from a Jewish store in Crater.

1947- 48 Diary of Leon Betensky, sent by the JOINT to Aden



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Islamists pillage ancient sites for profit

 Jewish shrines and synagogues in Iraq and Syria are amongst ancient archeological sites now being pillaged by Islamist terrorists. UNESCO is warning art dealers and museums not to buy valuable antiquities smuggled out of the region, AP reports:
Mural from a 2nd century CE synagogue at Dura Europos, Syria, showing the consecration of the tabernacle

The Islamic State militants seek to purge society of everything that doesn’t conform with their strict, puritanical version of Islam. That means destroying not only relics seen as pagan but even some Islamic sites — Sunni Muslim shrines they see as idolatrous, as well as mosques used by Shiites, a branch of Islam they consider heretical.

In and around Mosul, the militants destroyed at least 30 historic sites, including the Islamic mosque-shrines of the prophets Seth, Jirjis and Jonah. The shrines were centuries old in many cases.

But their extremist ideology doesn’t prevent them from also profiting from the sale of ancient artifacts, either by selling them themselves or taking a cut from thieves who are increasingly active in looting sites.

The shrine of Jonah was built on top of an unexcavated palace in the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh. After blowing up the mosque, thieves burrowed underneath and are believed to have taken artifacts, said Rasheed, citing reports from local antiquities officials who remain in Mosul.

It is unclear how much the militants are earning from antiquities. US intelligence officials said the Islamic State rakes in more than $3 million a day from multiple sources, including smuggling of oil and antiquities, human trafficking, extortion of businessmen, ransoms and outright theft. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified assessments, said the militants sell goods through smuggling networks in the Kurdish region, Turkey and Jordan.
In civil war-torn Syria, looting of archaeological sites is believed to have increased tenfold since early 2013 because of the country’s chaos, said Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria’s director-general of antiquities and museums. The past year, the Islamic State group has overrun most of the east, putting a string of major archaeological sites in their hands.

In one known case, they have demolished relics as part of their purge of paganism, destroying several Assyrian-era statues looted from a site known as Tell Ajaja, Abulkarim said. Photos posted online showed the gunmen using hammers to break apart the statues of bearded figures.

More often, the extremists seem to have latched onto the antiquities trade.
For example, the 2,300-year-old city of Dura Europos is being pillaged. The site is in a cliff overlooking the Euphrates near the Iraq border in an area under the Islamic State group’s control, and satellite imagery taken in April show it pockmarked with holes from illegal digs by antiquity-seekers.

Images showed hundreds of people excavating on some days from dawn to nightfall, with gunmen and gangs involved, said Abdulkarim. Dealers are at the site and “when they discover an artifact, the sale takes place immediately,” he said. “They are destroying entire pages of Syrian history.”

Dura Europos is a remarkably well preserved cultural crossroads, a city first founded by Alexander the Great’s successors and later ruled by Romans and various Persian empires. It boasts pagan temples, churches and one of the earliest known Jewish synagogues. Archaeologists in 2009 found likely evidence of an early use of chemical warfare: During a 2nd century siege, Persian attackers dug tunnels under the city walls and set fires that poured poisonous sulfur-laced fumes on the Roman defenders above.

Alarmed by the militants’ advance, the United Nations’ cultural agency UNESCO adopted an emergency plan to safeguard Iraq’s cultural heritage. It called on art dealers and museums not to deal with Iraqi artifacts and alerted neighboring countries of potential smuggling.

“We are very, very, very concerned that the situation could be aggravated in a way that causes more and more damage,” Nada al-Hassan, of the UNESCO World Heritage Center, told The Associated Press.

Friday, September 19, 2014

BBC reports on a community's death

With thanks: Hadar; Ahuva

Magda Haroun...dying

"We are dying, we are drowning," says Magda Haroun, elected leader of Cairo's Jews. In this melancholy two-minute news clip, she tells the BBC reporter that there is no future for the 12-member Jewish 'community' of Cairo.

Her first priority, she says, is to look after the human beings - the old ladies like Lucy, helpless and without family in an old age home. Then, it is to preserve Egypt's cultural and religious heritage. Magda is filmed opening the Torah scrolls of the Adly synagogue, a place of worship without Jews.

The report is forthright : the Jews, who were accused of being spies, were forced to leave in the 1950s and 1960s. As the camera lingers on Magda kissing the grave of her father at the Bassatine cemetery, it's clear that the community's only future is death.

 BBC whitewashes 20th century emigration of Jews from Egypt (BBC Watch)

Timeline: denationalisation of Jews in Egypt

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Only anti-Zionists need apply

Israelis who support Israel's right to exist are not welcome in some of Britain's leading educational institutions. Post- and anti-Zionist Israelis, on the other hand, are welcomed with open arms, writes Edgar Davidson in his excellent eponymous blog. Watch out for a forthcoming guest at the London School of Economics,  Smadar Lavie: she belongs firmly in the second camp, claiming to speak for 'downtrodden' Mizrahim (oriental Jews), although her own father is actually Ashkenazi  (with thanks: Michelle):

Smadar Lavie: 'oppressed Mizrahim'

"In the next few weeks the Centre is hosting major presentations by two of the worst of such people: Smadar Lavie (on 27 October 2014) and Joel Beinin (on 4 November 2014) who are not just classic "self-hating Jews" but also archetypal examples of the very worst kind of deranged, pompous, self-righteous academics:

Smadar Lavie describes herself as an "Arab Jew residing in Israel" (although she actually works at the University of Berkeley California). You can read about her here (on the well named "Pathetic Assholes Conspiring to Boycott Israel" website). She has managed to create her own special category of extremist ultra-leftist anti-Zionist "Mizrahi" feminism. She is a regular contributor to the anti-Israel blog Electronic Intifada and she uses her Israeli nationality to delegitimize Israel publicly claiming it is an apartheid state. Here is her own report of her presentation last week to the antisemitic Irish-Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The Jewish anti-Israel (and some claim antisemitic) website Mondoweiss  published a favourable review of her latest book which is the subject of her talk entitled: "Mizrahi Mothers, Wrapped in the Flag: Ultra-Nationalism, Apartheid, and the Divinity of Bureaucracy in Israel".

To give you a feel for the academic pomposity, hatred, and downright lies of Lavie here is a letter she had published in the Guardian in 2005 supporting the academic boycott of Israel. It ends with the assertion

"...Israel's academics perpetrate and benefit from the systematic discrimination against Israel's 70% non-European majority (48% Mizrahim and 22% Palestinian). Israel's Ashkenazi "post-Zionist" professors, brandishing their progressive politics as they use Mizrahim and Palestinians for grantsmanship and as career advancement tools, are just the cynical tip of this apartheid iceberg"
Read blogpost in full 

**********
*The 'favourable review' of Smadar Lavie's new book on the Israel-bashing site Mondoweiss, parades a familiar catalogue of lies or half-truths. It amplifies the disparaging comments which Israel's Ashkenazi leaders made about Israel's new immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa in the 1950s; claims that they were forbidden from speaking Arabic or preserving their Arabic culture; were exploited as cheap labour; that families were broken up, many children taken away for adoption, and exposed to deadly doses of radiation in order to eradicate ringworm.

I can think of no better way to rebut these canards than to reproduce this excellent comment  by Mikhael, an Israeli of mixed Mizrahi/Ashkenazi ancestry, who deals, one by one, with the allegations (in italics) made by another commenter, Walid. 



Mikhael
July 8, 2014, 2:34 pm
Walid says:
July 8, 2014 at 1:49 am


....the Israeli authorities so succeeded in their de-Arabising efforts to the point of having people like Mikhael firmly believe it never existed and never will. 
To be “de-Arabized” one must first be “Arabized”. “Arabization” actually is an apt word. Long ago, the Jews of the Levant, Maghreb, Mesopotamia and Yemen/Hadhramaut, actually were Arabized at one point–that is, they either had Arabic language and culture imposed on them or were assimilated into it. But the Arab nation and culture was not their own. That’s why the traditional Jewish term for Arabic-speaking Mizrai Jews, in Eretz Yisrael and elsewhere, was “Mustarabim”–i.e.., Arabized Jews (and not Arab Jews) . 
Mikhael is evidently ashamed of his Mizrahi roots and relieved that he’s the product of a mixed marriage.
Sure, I’m so ashamed of being of partial Mizrahi-Jewish heritage that I mention it all the time. I suppose I am proud of my Mizrahi and Ashkenazi heritage (although one should really only be proud of one’s own accomplishments and not one’s ancestors), especially as I can count some of the Safed Kabbalists and a Rishon Le-Siyyon (Sephardic chief rabbi) among them. I’m equally proud of my Ashkenazi (Hungarian-Jewish) background. Walid, you seem to think that Ashkenazi descent is something to be ashamed of. I don’t agree with you. When my parents married in the mid-1960s, such unions were relatively rare, but they were already increasingly becoming more common. Today, marriages between different Israeli Jews with roots in the different parts of the Diaspora are at around 40%. 
...another into heavy denial is the “I proud of Israel” fluently Arabic-speaking Mahane, of Iraqi Kurdish Mizrahi roots that most probably lived with his parents in tent cities when they arrived in Israel, 
It’s sweet that you mention Mahane so much. I think you have a crush on him. If I was him, I’d be flattered. I don’t know the guy (maybe I’ll look for his stall next time I am in the market), but if he is of Kurdish Jewish background, the language his family spoke immediately prior to their aliya was likely neo-Aramaic (lishna didan), possibly with Arabic as a second language. If he is Israeli-raised, any Arabic he has most likely comes from school or friends or self-study. I know a lot of Ashkenazim who also speak fluent Arabic. Whether an Israeli is of Mizrahi, Sefaradi or Ashkenazi ancestry, it’s great to know Arabic. It’s always good to know any foreign language. 
Iraqi Kurdish Mizrahi roots that most probably lived with his parents in tent cities when they arrived in Israel,
Yup. Jewish refugees from Arab countries were housed in maabarot, tent cities, alongside Jewish refugees from Europe, in the impoverished Israel of the 1950s.
…the Yemeni Jewish baby kidnappings to provide children to childless Ashkenazim couples
Something that was investigated by no fewer than four government committees with no evidence of any conspiracy to kidnap Yemenite-Jewish children uncovered. Exactly two cases of Teimoni children adopted by Ashkenazi couples were discovered, and it seems this was arranged by a corrupt social worker. Post-WW2, some 2,000 Irish babies were taken from their unwed mothers by the Church in collusion with the government and sent away for adoption against their mothers’ consent, in Australia, the same thing happened with Aboriginal children. In Israel, there’s evidence of exactly two instances of such abuses.
the infamous irradiation experiments conducted on Mizrahi children by Israel for money in the early 50s
Israel was guilty, in the early 1950s, of being stuck in the scientific mindset of the early 1950s, when X-Rays were considered to a safe and effective treatment for ringworm infection. Israel treated immigrant children suspected of having ringworm with this procedure, as this was considered advanced and harmless procedure and was being used in the Americas and Europe for decades. Ashkenazi immigrant kids ( from Romania, Poland and elsewhere) who were suspected of having ringworm infections in their scalp were also subjected to this alleged “irradiation experiment”. With 21st century hindsight, modern medicine now knows that X-raying the soft tissue around a kid’s skull without lead protection is not a good idea, they were less sophisticated in the ’50s. 
It’s a fact that Mizrahim had to live their Arabic culture in secret for years to avoid being penalized in Israel. I’m guessing Mikhael parents or grandparents are of this background.
Like many old Jerusalemite families, Arabic was but one of many linguistic strands in our Mizrahi family–in my paternal grandmother’s Jerusalem home (her family had lived there for about a century, prior to Jerusalem, they lived in Galilee)–Ladino, Arabic, French and later modern Hebrew were all used interchangeably, sometimes in the same sentence. My grandfather was initially raised in more of a “pure” Arabic-speaking environment, at least in early childhood–his parents came to Jerusalem from Aram Soba (Alleppo) and Damascus in the late 19th century. Far from being ashamed and hiding his Arabic fluency, and worrying about being penalized for it, his native knowledge of the lingo was put to good use monitoring Arabic radio communications for the Etzel underground and later, the IDF. My father’s uncle taught Arabic language and literature in Israeli schools. My father understood it perfectly, but never spoke it well. Nobody kept anything a secret.

I was raised both in the States and Israel, I’ve studied it formally and informally at various stages of my life in both countries. I can read it with difficulty and have always wanted to perfect my very imperfect Arabic, as it is a useful language to know. But it certainly doesn’t “belong” to me, even if some of my ancestors once spoke it well, any more than Hungarian belongs to me, just because my mother grew up in a Hungarian-speaking home. Hebrew-speaking Israeli Jews, have no national connection to the Arab people nor the Magyar people.

Mikhael
July 8, 2014, 2:34 pm
Walid says:
July 8, 2014 at 1:49 am
the Israeli authorities so succeeded in their de-Arabising efforts to the point of having people like Mikhael firmly believe it never existed and never will.
To be “de-Arabized” one must first be “Arabized”. “Arabization” actually is an apt word. Long ago, the Jews of the Levant, Maghreb, Mesopotamia and Yemen/Hadhramaut, actually were Arabized at one point–that is, they either had Arabic language and culture imposed on them or were assimilated into it. But the Arab nation and culture was not their own. That’s why the traditional Jewish term for Arabic-speaking Mizrai Jews, in Eretz Yisrael and elsewhere, was “Mustarabim”–i.e.., Arabized Jews (and not Arab Jews) .
Mikhael is evidently ashamed of his Mizrahi roots and relieved that he’s the product of a mixed marriage.
Sure, I’m so ashamed of being of partial Mizrahi-Jewish heritage that I mention it all the time. I suppose I am proud of my Mizrahi and Ashkenazi heritage (although one should really only be proud of one’s own accomplishments and not one’s ancestors), especially as I can count some of the Safed Kabbalists and a Rishon Le-Siyyon (Sephardic chief rabbi) among them. I’m equally proud of my Ashkenazi (Hungarian-Jewish) background. Walid, you seem to think that Ashkenazi descent is something to be ashamed of. I don’t agree with you. When my parents married in the mid-1960s, such unions were relatively rare, but they were already increasingly becoming more common. Today, marriages between different Israeli Jews with roots in the different parts of the Diaspora are at around 40%.
other into heavy denial is the “I proud of Israel” fluently Arabic-speaking Mahane, of Iraqi Kurdish Mizrahi roots that most probably lived with his parents in tent cities when they arrived in Israel,
It’s sweet that you mention Mahane so much. I think you have a crush on him. If I was him, I’d be flattered. I don’t know the guy (maybe I’ll look for his stall next time I am in the market), but if he is of Kurdish Jewish background, the language his family spoke immediately prior to their aliya was likely neo-Aramaic (lishna didan), possibly with Arabic as a second language. If he is Israeli-raised, any Arabic he has most likely comes from school or friends or self-study. I know a lot of Ashkenazim who also speak fluent Arabic. Whether an Israeli is of Mizrahi, Sefaradi or Ashkenazi ancestry, it’s great to know Arabic. It’s always good to know any foreign language.
Iraqi Kurdish Mizrahi roots that most probably lived with his parents in tent cities when they arrived in Israel,
Yup. Jewish refugees from Arab countries were housed in maabarot, tent cities, alongside Jewish refugees from Europe, in the impoverished Israel of the 1950s.
…the Yemeni Jewish baby kidnappings to provide children to childless Ashkenazim couples
Something that was investigated by no fewer than four government committees with no evidence of any conspiracy to kidnap Yemenite-Jewish children uncovered. Exactly two cases of Teimoni children adopted by Ashkenazi couples were discovered, and it seems this was arranged by a corrupt social worker. Post-WW2, some 2,000 Irish babies were taken from their unwed mothers by the Church in collusion with the government and sent away for adoption against their mothers’ consent, in Australia, the same thing happened with Aboriginal children. In Israel, there’s evidence of exactly two instances of such abuses.
the infamous irradiation experiments conducted on Mizrahi children by Israel for money in the early 50s
Israel was guilty, in the early 1950s, of being stuck in the scientific mindset of the early 1950s, when X-Rays were considered to a safe and effective treatment for ringworm infection. Israel treated immigrant children suspected of having ringworm with this procedure, as this was considered advanced and harmless procedure and was being used in the Americas and Europe for decades. Ashkenazi immigrant kids ( from Romania, Poland and elsewhere) who were suspected of having ringworm infections in their scalp were also subjected to this alleged “irradiation experiment”. With 21st century hindsight, modern medicine now knows that X-raying the soft tissue around a kid’s skull without lead protection is not a good idea, they were less sophisticated in the ’50s.
It’s a fact that Mizrahim had to live their Arabic culture in secret for years to avoid being penalized in Israel. I’m guessing Mikhael parents or grandparents are of this background.
Like many old Jerusalemite families, Arabic was but one of many linguistic strands in our Mizrahi family–in my paternal grandmother’s Jerusalem home (her family had lived there for about a century, prior to Jerusalem, they lived in Galilee)–Ladino, Arabic, French and later modern Hebrew were all used interchangeably, sometimes in the same sentence. My grandfather was initially raised in more of a “pure” Arabic-speaking environment, at least in early childhood–his parents came to Jerusalem from Aram Soba (Alleppo) and Damascus in the late 19th century. Far from being ashamed and hiding his Arabic fluency, and worrying about being penalized for it, his native knowledge of the lingo was put to good use monitoring Arabic radio communications for the Etzel underground and later, the IDF. My father’s uncle taught Arabic language and literature in Israeli schools. My father understood it perfectly, but never spoke it well. Nobody kept anything a secret.
I was raised both in the States and Israel, I’ve studied it formally and informally at various stages of my life in both countries. I can read it with difficulty and have always wanted to perfect my very imperfect Arabic, as it is a useful language to know. But it certainly doesn’t “belong” to me, even if some of my ancestors once spoke it well, any more than Hungarian belongs to me, just because my mother grew up in a Hungarian-speaking home. Hebrew-speaking Israeli Jews, have no national connection to the Arab people nor the Magyar people.
- See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/mizrahi-loyalty-smadar#sthash.44WXpkCt.dpuf
Mikhael
July 8, 2014, 2:34 pm
Walid says:
July 8, 2014 at 1:49 am
the Israeli authorities so succeeded in their de-Arabising efforts to the point of having people like Mikhael firmly believe it never existed and never will.
To be “de-Arabized” one must first be “Arabized”. “Arabization” actually is an apt word. Long ago, the Jews of the Levant, Maghreb, Mesopotamia and Yemen/Hadhramaut, actually were Arabized at one point–that is, they either had Arabic language and culture imposed on them or were assimilated into it. But the Arab nation and culture was not their own. That’s why the traditional Jewish term for Arabic-speaking Mizrai Jews, in Eretz Yisrael and elsewhere, was “Mustarabim”–i.e.., Arabized Jews (and not Arab Jews) .
Mikhael is evidently ashamed of his Mizrahi roots and relieved that he’s the product of a mixed marriage.
Sure, I’m so ashamed of being of partial Mizrahi-Jewish heritage that I mention it all the time. I suppose I am proud of my Mizrahi and Ashkenazi heritage (although one should really only be proud of one’s own accomplishments and not one’s ancestors), especially as I can count some of the Safed Kabbalists and a Rishon Le-Siyyon (Sephardic chief rabbi) among them. I’m equally proud of my Ashkenazi (Hungarian-Jewish) background. Walid, you seem to think that Ashkenazi descent is something to be ashamed of. I don’t agree with you. When my parents married in the mid-1960s, such unions were relatively rare, but they were already increasingly becoming more common. Today, marriages between different Israeli Jews with roots in the different parts of the Diaspora are at around 40%.
other into heavy denial is the “I proud of Israel” fluently Arabic-speaking Mahane, of Iraqi Kurdish Mizrahi roots that most probably lived with his parents in tent cities when they arrived in Israel,
It’s sweet that you mention Mahane so much. I think you have a crush on him. If I was him, I’d be flattered. I don’t know the guy (maybe I’ll look for his stall next time I am in the market), but if he is of Kurdish Jewish background, the language his family spoke immediately prior to their aliya was likely neo-Aramaic (lishna didan), possibly with Arabic as a second language. If he is Israeli-raised, any Arabic he has most likely comes from school or friends or self-study. I know a lot of Ashkenazim who also speak fluent Arabic. Whether an Israeli is of Mizrahi, Sefaradi or Ashkenazi ancestry, it’s great to know Arabic. It’s always good to know any foreign language.
Iraqi Kurdish Mizrahi roots that most probably lived with his parents in tent cities when they arrived in Israel,
Yup. Jewish refugees from Arab countries were housed in maabarot, tent cities, alongside Jewish refugees from Europe, in the impoverished Israel of the 1950s.
…the Yemeni Jewish baby kidnappings to provide children to childless Ashkenazim couples
Something that was investigated by no fewer than four government committees with no evidence of any conspiracy to kidnap Yemenite-Jewish children uncovered. Exactly two cases of Teimoni children adopted by Ashkenazi couples were discovered, and it seems this was arranged by a corrupt social worker. Post-WW2, some 2,000 Irish babies were taken from their unwed mothers by the Church in collusion with the government and sent away for adoption against their mothers’ consent, in Australia, the same thing happened with Aboriginal children. In Israel, there’s evidence of exactly two instances of such abuses.
the infamous irradiation experiments conducted on Mizrahi children by Israel for money in the early 50s
Israel was guilty, in the early 1950s, of being stuck in the scientific mindset of the early 1950s, when X-Rays were considered to a safe and effective treatment for ringworm infection. Israel treated immigrant children suspected of having ringworm with this procedure, as this was considered advanced and harmless procedure and was being used in the Americas and Europe for decades. Ashkenazi immigrant kids ( from Romania, Poland and elsewhere) who were suspected of having ringworm infections in their scalp were also subjected to this alleged “irradiation experiment”. With 21st century hindsight, modern medicine now knows that X-raying the soft tissue around a kid’s skull without lead protection is not a good idea, they were less sophisticated in the ’50s.
It’s a fact that Mizrahim had to live their Arabic culture in secret for years to avoid being penalized in Israel. I’m guessing Mikhael parents or grandparents are of this background.
Like many old Jerusalemite families, Arabic was but one of many linguistic strands in our Mizrahi family–in my paternal grandmother’s Jerusalem home (her family had lived there for about a century, prior to Jerusalem, they lived in Galilee)–Ladino, Arabic, French and later modern Hebrew were all used interchangeably, sometimes in the same sentence. My grandfather was initially raised in more of a “pure” Arabic-speaking environment, at least in early childhood–his parents came to Jerusalem from Aram Soba (Alleppo) and Damascus in the late 19th century. Far from being ashamed and hiding his Arabic fluency, and worrying about being penalized for it, his native knowledge of the lingo was put to good use monitoring Arabic radio communications for the Etzel underground and later, the IDF. My father’s uncle taught Arabic language and literature in Israeli schools. My father understood it perfectly, but never spoke it well. Nobody kept anything a secret.
I was raised both in the States and Israel, I’ve studied it formally and informally at various stages of my life in both countries. I can read it with difficulty and have always wanted to perfect my very imperfect Arabic, as it is a useful language to know. But it certainly doesn’t “belong” to me, even if some of my ancestors once spoke it well, any more than Hungarian belongs to me, just because my mother grew up in a Hungarian-speaking home. Hebrew-speaking Israeli Jews, have no national connection to the Arab people nor the Magyar people.
- See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/mizrahi-loyalty-smadar#sthash.44WXpkCt.dpuf

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

(Some) Bosnian Muslims saved Jews

 A page from the Sarajevo Haggadah, hidden by Muslims during WW2

An exhibition charting the role Muslims played in saving Jewish lives in the Holocaust went on show at a  Cardiff synagogue last week, the BBC tells us. Bosnian Muslims hid the Sarajevo Haggadah, a 600-year old manuscript, beneath the floor of a mosque - a remarkable story. It is a pity that the BBC does not pay equal attention  to the 20,000 Bosnian Muslims who joined the Handschar SS division and took part in the killing of thousands of Jews, Serbs and Roma. (With thanks: Lily)


Stanley Soffa, chair of Jewish Representative Council for South Wales who has brought it to Wales said it was a "heroic story".

It is part of Open Doors 2014, the annual event offering free entry to many attractions throughout September.

The programme is marking 30 years of making heritage more accessible.
The Righteous Muslim Exhibition documents the story of Bosnia Muslims who went to great lengths to preserve Jewish tradition during World War Two by safeguarding the Sarajevo Haggadah, a 600-year-old manuscript which narrates the Exodus from Egypt every Passover.

When a Nazi official came to seize the Haggadah, two men carried it through Nazi checkpoints, to a mountain village above Sarajevo. A Muslim cleric kept it hidden beneath a floor of a mosque until the war was over.

Mr Soffa said: "The exhibition was very well received in London last year, so we are delighted to have the opportunity to share this story with the people of Wales... this weekend.

"For us, it is a heroic story of Muslims saving Jewish lives which provides a unique bond between two communities that we can celebrate together and remember together."

Read article in full

Monday, September 15, 2014

How the Mizrahi story can end the colonial myth

 This summer's Gaza war has highlighted the role of the media and opinion formers in shaping a hostile view of Israel and a favourable understanding of Hamas.  Two journalists, Matti Friedman (right) and Tom Gross (left), have called the biased reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict a 'political weapon -with which they arm one side in the conflict.' Lyn Julius blogs in the Times of Israel:
There are many reasons why journalists have become accessories to Hamas's propaganda war, behaving as activists rather than reporters. They relay a picture  of Palestinian victimhood and Israeli extremism and intransigeance, suppressing any facts that make a  nonsense of this narrative. Tom Gross identifies one reason:

" ...Many have a kind of guilt about being white and Western, and the history of their own colonization. Israel is perceived as a white country and the Palestinians are perceived as non-white, even though in fact many Palestinians have lighter skin than some Israelis. Many Western journalists abroad have barely heard of the fact that there are Sephardi or Mizrahi Jews."

This is a key reason why organisations like mine, Harif, have been trying to raise awareness that Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews constitue over 50 percent of Israel's population.

We want people to ask why these Jews ended up in Israel. They did not move to Israel only out of Zionism, although this was a factor : the majority fled their countries as refugees - out of fear, to escape harassment, violence and death.

They fled the same conditions of intolerance and bigotry that are now forcing the other non-Muslim minorities of the Middle East to choose between extinction or exodus.

We must turn the Israel-as-colonialism narrative on its head. We must re-assert that Jews are the most ancient of indigenous Middle Eastern peoples, with a history of continuous residence in what is now known as the Arab world going back 3,000 years.

Moreover, the colonial relationship between Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews and the Arab Muslim conquerors is the exact opposite of what reporters and western observers believe:  the Jews of the region are the colonised and the Muslims the colonisers. For fourteen centuries,  Jews survived at the beck and sufferance of their Muslim rulers. As the historian Georges Bensoussan has explained, they sought to escape insecurity as a vulnerable minority and their second-rate status by seeking western protection and embracing modernity.

The modern state of Israel, although under attack since the day it was born, has provided Jews with the wherewithal to defend themselves. This is an affront to Muslim pride and supremacy, and a key reason why the Arab/ Islamist struggle to destroy the sovereign Jewish state continues.

The Sephardi/Mizrahi 'narrative' may not be able to reverse the supertanker of current public opinion any time soon, but it can seriously hole it below the waterline.

Read blog in full 

Cross-posted on Harry's Place
and at Jews Down Under

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Turkish pundit : Jews must pay Gaza tax

Faruk Kose (photo: Haber Vaktim)


A Turkish pundit writing for Yeni Akit, a major publication aligned with President Erdoğan, called for the country’s Jews to be taxed to pay for reconstructing buildings damaged in Gaza during Israel’s recent Operation Protective Edge. The idea has precedence:   During World War II, Jews, as well as ethnic Armenians and Greeks, were subject to an arbitrary lump-sum tax. It also has overtones of the 'dhimmi' jizya tax on non-Muslims. The Algemeiner reports (with thanks: Michelle):

Faruk Köse said that the “Gaza Fund Contribution Tax” should apply to Turkish Jews as well as foreign Jews doing business in Turkey and any Turkish nationals with commercial ties to the Jewish state.

The columnist even said the tax should apply to any company or business that maintains a partnership with a Turkish Jew.

“The reconstruction of Gaza will be paid for by Jewish businessmen,” he said.
The penalty for failing to pay the tax should be the revocation of the Jew’s business licence and the seizure of his property, Köse said.

Köse also sparked controversy in July when he penned an open letter to Turkey’s chief rabbi, calling on Erdoğan to demand that the Jewish community apologize for Israel’s actions in Gaza.

“You came here after being banished from Spain. You have lived comfortably among us for 500 years and gotten rich at our expense. Is this your gratitude – killing Muslims? Erdoğan, demand that the community leader apologize!” he wrote at the time.

The article was mentioned in a subsequent open letter to Erdoğan from Jewish human rights group, the Anti-Defamation League, calling on the leader to “publicly reject all expressions of anti-Semitism including the scapegoating of Turkish Jews for the actions of Israel, and assure the Turkish Jewish community that they continue to have the full support and protection of the state and people of Turkey.”

Read article in full

Friday, September 12, 2014

Iraqi-Jewish archive to go on tour

 Summer 2014 has come and gone but the Iraqi-Jewish archive has still not been returned to that war-torn land. According to the US State department, the archive, whose highlights have been exhibited in Washington and New York,  will embark on a tour of more American cities. Report in the Washington Post:


Fragment of Torah scroll (Book of Numbers)

WASHINGTON — After the U.S. Army rescued a trove of Jewish artifacts from the basement of Saddam Hussein’s secret police headquarters, many American descendants of Iraq’s once vibrant Jewish community had an urgent question.
Is the U.S. going to return these artifacts to war-torn Iraq?

The answer was yes. Over the objections of many Jews whose families came from Iraq, the U.S. had agreed that the “Iraqi Jewish Archive,” painstakingly restored in a laboratory outside Washington, would return to Iraq in the summer of 2014.

But the summer of 2014 is nearly over, and the archive is still in the U.S. Now a new plan will delay at least some of the collection’s journey back to Baghdad, where it had been discovered — moldy and disintegrating — in the flooded basement of the former dictator’s intelligence headquarters.

According to the State Department, highlights of the archive — exhibited in Washington and New York this year and last — will soon embark on a tour of several more American cities.

Some see this extension — at a time when much of Iraq is in chaos — as an opportunity to revisit the question of the archive’s destiny. They want its Torah fragments, prayer books, documents and photographs, dating from the mid-16th century to the 1970s, housed permanently among Jewish communities capable of caring for them.

“There is no regard for human life there now, so how can there be regard for our precious legacy?” said Carole Basri, vice president of the American Sephardi Federation, a group of Jews of Spanish, Portuguese, Middle Eastern and North African heritage.

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