Saturday, July 05, 2014

'Smuggled Jews' story does not stack up

 Damascus house on the Barada river

Press reports of the recent arrival of a 'Syrian-Jewish' family in Israel are not as straightforward as they sound, warns Adam Blitz, our resident 'Syria watcher'. Read his  Times of Israel blog:

On Wednesday 3 July 2014 The Israeli YNetnews, part of  Yedioth Media Group  ran a story, “Jewish family secretly smuggled into Israel from Syria”.  This was substantially different from the coverage in The Jerusalem Post or The Algemeiner of the same day, both of which acknowledged that the individuals concerned were part of a “mixed” Jewish-Muslim family.

Were Jewish-Muslim relations in Syria ever that simple. There were isolated cases of conversion to Islam and of marriage beyond the confines of faith. However these individuals, cited in the press, did not constitute the 16 strong (or weak) Jewish community left in Damascus. 

The news could not have come at a more opportune time. With a nation in mourning over the loss of three of its youths, Ynet’s exclusively Jewish coverage generated responses to the effect, “Finally! Some good news! Welcome!”, “Welcome home!” and “Ham Israel Hai” “The nation of Israel lives”). One might well ask whether the same responses would have ensued had it been known that the issue of Jewishness, a routine stumbling block for many, was pertinent.

The “rescue”, as it has been called, occurred more than 6 months ago. The individuals involved travelled cross-border from Syria to Turkey and then to Istanbul. At the time I questioned why 7 Jews, (as was then stated), would elect to journey through rebel-held territory and travel North to Turkey. It would have been substantially easier to exit via the Beirut-Damascus Highway, avoid the worst of the war zone and head to Lebanon: a relatively short distance from Damascus where the last remaining Jews lived. Equally, I questioned whether the former practice of restricted movement was remotely applicable and why those involved needed to be “smuggled”. Other Jews, albeit few, had left Syria once the conflict had erupted.

Somewhere in the mix the Jewish Agency became involved in a story that didn’t quite stack up. From Turkey a “three-generation family” gained access to Israel. Yet, the last three generational Jewish family departed Syria approximately 8 years ago when the remaining two children in the community, together with their parents and grandparents, left for the US.

In addition, Moti Kahana, the American-Israeli who had been instrumental in leaking the tale of the debacle of Jobar synagogue and its much sought-after artefacts, was central to the story. It was he who facilitated the operation, we are told. A rebel-sympathiser cum humanitarian, Moti Kahana forged relations with the rebels and, at some stage, ensured the safe passage of this “mixed” family.

Given Israel’s track record on immigration, asylum and what can best be termed an evolving refugee policy, the new arrivals are extraordinarily lucky.

Read article in full

Nine Syrian 'Jews' smuggled to Israel


Nadene Goldfoot said...

Here's a true story except for the ending. It's the life of a Syrian who finds out his birth mother was Jewish. The Jewish quarter was just around the corner from his family home. "Messages From a Syrian Jew Trapped in Egypt"

Nadene Goldfoot said...

I tried as much as I could from the USA to get my Syrian friend, who was an orphan at best, into Israel and failed and also couldn't get him into the USA, either! He had no papers for proof that his birth mother was Jewish, and was raised by his Muslim stepmother, but because of being taunted all his life about his "Jew" mother, felt very Jewish, and like a fish out of water. I couldn't convince Motti, either of this. My book about him is all true and shows the pressure he was under. Read "LETTERS FROM A SYRIAN JEW TRAPPED IN EGYPT. He felt he had a Jewish mother and knew his deceased father was a Muslim who died when he was 3 years old. By supporting his step-mother and 3 step-sisters by smuggling, he finally became an educated engineer. Then the Civil War broke out. He has so many decisions to make, and he knows he refuses to have refugee status. Read to see what happens.