The Jewish Chronicle editor has called it 'the most astonishing story' he's ever run - the rescue of a Jewish family from Aleppo by an American business tycoon. But the story, reported by Sandy Rashty, has a bitter twist: one woman, who converted to Islam, is back in Syria with her Muslim husband and children after she was not allowed to make aliya, in accordance with Israeli law. In its defence, the Jewish Agency maintains that the woman should have applied for a tourist visa and remained in Israel to 'sort out' her status.
Moti Kahana, demonstrating his support for Syrian rebels: arranged rescue
They came for the last Jews of Aleppo early in the morning.
The first that the 88-year-old mother knew of them were the powerful
knocks on the front door, a sound that sent her and the rest of the
Halabi family cowering in the darkest corners of their Aleppo home.
She was sure Bashar al Assad had come for them all as the three men
entered the house. The men shouted that they were being taken away.
Petrified, they were told they had seconds to pack one bag each with their most personal possessions.
The women put on their hijabs and the family was bundled into a white minibus waiting outside.
Only then did the truth dawn on them.
The raiders who had burst in with such force had come to save their lives.
The JC can today tell the extraordinary story of how the last Jews of
Aleppo in Syria were smuggled out of their home in a daring rescue
mission earlier this year.
We also reveal how the Jewish Agency — the body charged with bringing
Jews to Israel — refused to allow all members of the Halabi family into
Months before the raid, a relative had told them that a rich man in
America had a plan to help the family escape their home city, where
thousands have been killed in three years of bombing raids, sniper fire
and shelling. But the family had vacillated. They tried to postpone the
rescue, terrified of leaving their house.
The American in question, business tycoon Moti Kahana
— who has extensive links to anti-Assad rebels in the region — had been
told that Daesh was closing in on the Halabis' home. If the Islamist
terrorists found out the women were Jewish, they would be instantly
killed — or worse. He decided to organise their escape.
Speaking from New York, Mr Kahana says: “Of course the family did not
want to leave, because it is so dangerous. So how do you get them out?
You scare the s**t out of them.”
Once they were in the minibus, one of the men produced Syrian
passports for each member of the family: the mother, Mariam; her two
daughters Sara, in her 60s, and Gilda, in her 50s; Gilda’s Muslim
husband, Khaled; and his three children.
To allay their fears, the driver told them they were being taken to New York. But the family did not feel reassured.
Read article in full
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Haaretz article (subscription required)
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Photo: Moti Kahana, who organised the rescue, with one of those saved