Monday, April 30, 2012
With thanks: Sylvia (via Martin Kramer)
Despite any efforts to suppress it, the 'narrative' of Jewish refugees from Arab countries seems have generated its own momentum. It is even seeping into the 'conflict resolution' industry in Israel. Says Martin Kramer:" I've known these people for 18 years as friends and colleagues, and until now, I have never heard these stories. Audio, 18 minutes, and very worthwhile."
For the first time, Esther Webman (right) and Ofra Bengio (left), both researchers at the Moshe Dayan Peace Center, tell their personal stories on this Diwaniyya Podcast.
Esther Webman was born in Cairo of first-generation Egyptian Jews originally from Syria and Iraq. The family was stateless (this was the case for 40 per cent of Egyptian Jews). She remembers a Muslim standing by the door to protect the family from the 1948 riots. The trigger for the family's departure was the 1952 Egyptian officers' coup. Esther's father, a Zionist, felt the 'ground was already shaking' under his feet, and decided to leave Egypt in 1954, two years before the peremptory Suez exodus of 25,000 Jews. Esther tells how she was shocked to leave everything behind, to move to a hut in the mud and with no electricity in Israel. Her father exchanged his suit for overalls.
Ofra Bengio's family had been in Aleppo since time immemorial. Jewish women dressed as Arabs so as 'not to be abused'. During the 1947 riots the family was protected by Muslims. She remembers that her school and the beautiful Great Synagogue were burned down, although the Aleppo Codex it housed was saved. The Jews were not allowed to leave and Ofra's father, a schoolteacher, lost his job. The family were among very few Jews who left with a passport. In Israel they stayed in a transit camp (ma'abara) for a year. They had given up everything.
Samir Ben-Layashi, a (Muslim) Moroccan researcher now working at the Moshe Dayan Center, lived in the Jewish quarter of Meknes. His father had purchased a large seven-room house from the Amar family for $5,000 (presumably, a song). The Amars decided it was time to leave in 1968 after the Six-Day War and settled in Nahariya in Israel. Samir and his fellow Moroccans considered the Jews as different from themselves. They dressed like Frenchmen and spoke French rather than Arabic. Jews and Muslims were generally on good terms (although by then, the vast majority of Jews would have left Meknes).
Listen to Podcast