Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Talkshow host Maher talks of Jewish ethnic cleansing

With thanks: Lily, Michelle

 By now, everyone has heard that  the two Democratic Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar were banned from visiting Israel on account of their support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The debate has been raging in the press and media  - should they have been let in? Should they have not? - and was the subject of a recent discussion on  TV host Bill Maher's popular HBO talkshow.

While the panellists lamented the ahistorical nature of the discussion, Bill Maher wades in at 2:30 minutes in with a point not often heard on mainstream TV: Saudi Arabia won't let Jews in, and the Jewish population of Morocco, Iraq, Tunisia, Egypt and Iran has declined dramatically. Maher cited figures which today are out of date (see table below), but the point was well made. ' It's not a one-way street," he said.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Professor Sasson Somekh passes away

One of the most prominent specialists in contemporary Arabic literature, Professor Sasson Somekh, has died. Born in 1933 in Iraq, Professor Somekh was a prolific writer on contemporary Arabic poets and authors. In the 1990s, he spent two years in Cairo and was a friend of the Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz. He was awarded the Israel Prize in 2005. 

  According to Wikipedia, Somekh did his doctorate at Oxford University in 1966–1968. His subject was the novels of Naguib Mahfouz, concentrating on the Cairo Trilogy. Over the years Mahfouz and Somekh became friends. The thesis supervisor was Egyptian scholar Mustafa Badawi. Upon his return to Israel he became a lecturer in Arabic Literature. He served as chairman of the Arabic Language and Literature department at Tel Aviv University in 1972–1984. In 1980, he became a full professor. Between 1982 and 2003, he held the Helmos Chair for Arabic Literature. In 1996–1998 he was head of the Israel Academic Center in Cairo. He was a visiting professor at Princeton University, St Antony's College, Oxford, Annenberg Research Institute, NYU and Uppsala University. In 2004, he received an honorary doctorate from Ben Gurion University

He is among the founders of the Arabic Language Academy in Israel, established in December 2007 in collaboration with several former students.

He wrote ten books, many translations from Arabic to Hebrew, among which are four anthologies of modern Arabic poetry, and about 90 articles in academic journals. Over the past 50 years Somekh published hundreds of articles in literary magazines and supplements such as Iton 77, Halikon and Moznayim. His articles deal mainly with modern Arabic literature and writers.

At the age of 70, Somekh wrote the first volume of his autobiography, Baghdad, Yesterday: The Making of an Arab Jew. The book was published in Hebrew and has been translated into Arabic, English and Turkish. In the book he describes his life as a Jewish child and teenager in Baghdad during the first 17 years of his life.

The second volume, Yamim Hazuyim ("Call it Dreaming") was published in 2008. It describes his life between Tel Aviv, Oxford, Princeton, and Cairo between 1951 and 2000. The book moves between the four major stations of his life: Tel Aviv - where he lived and worked for 40 years as a professor of Arabic literature; Oxford - where he received his PhD; Princeton - where he was occasionally a visiting professor in the 1970s and '80s; and Cairo - the city in which he did much literary research and where he headed the Israel Academic Center.

More about Sasson Somekh

90th anniversary of Hebron massacre

It is 90 years since 67 Jews were massacred in Hebron in a display of exceptional barbarism. The Hebron massacre was notable for being the first in which members of the traditional Yishuv (and not recent Zionist arrivals), which had been established there for five centuries, were brutally murdered. Some Arabs still feel no remorse (see video clip). The Jewish Press reports (with thanks: Frank) : 

On Friday, August 23, 1929, Arab youths threw rocks at Hebron yeshiva students on the street. A student named Shmuel Rosenholtz was trapped by the rioters who killed him. At 7:00, Shabbat morning, hordes of nearby Arab villagers began to flock to Hebron. Some of the Jews who were hiding in the home of Eliezer Dan Slonim, head of the Jewish community of Hebron, encountered a shower of stones when they ventured into the street.

 Two brothers, Eliyahu Dov and Israel Aryeh Haykal, begged Hebron police chief Raymond Cafferata to keep the rioters away. The rioters murdered both of them at the foot of the policeman’s horse.

 Thousands of Arabs, armed with knives, axes and pitchforks, started crying victoriously: “The government is with us!” It was their cue to start attacking the Jews in earnest. They broke into the home of Eliahu Abushadid and stabbed him and three other men to death, seriously wounding the women and children.

 Next, they broke into the home of the old Chacham Yosef Kastil, murdered him and burned down the house. Rabbi Chanoch Chasson, the rabbi of the Sephardi community, was murdered along with his wife. Ben Zion Gershon, the lame pharmacist in the Beit Hadassah clinic, who had served Jews and Arabs alike for decades, was tortured and murdered, but not before his daughter was raped by dozens of rioters and murdered, and his wife’s hands were cut off and she died in agony.

 When rioters stormed Eliezer Dan Slonim’s home, Slonim, who was armed with a pistol, did not shoot them but shouted at them instead to calm down. A Jewish tourist from Poland named Grodzinski recalled what happened next: “We all rushed to strengthen the front door and walked around the rooms like crazy people …

“The shriek of women and the howling of babies filled the house … “We set up boxes and tables … but when we saw that the assailants had broken the door with axes, we left the door and began to flee from room to room, but in each room we were met with a hail of stones …

 “When I entered one of the rooms I saw my mother standing by the window and shouting ‘Help.’ “I looked out the window and saw a mob of wild Arabs laughing and throwing stones. …

Read article in full

More about the Hebron massacre

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue restoration almost complete

As part of the Egyptian government's policy of taking charge of Jewish heritage, the restoration of the Eliahu Hanavi (Nebi Daniel) synagogue is nearing completion; another Alexandria synagogue, the de Menasce, has been registered as an antiquity. But others still, like the once-grand Hayyim Imshati synagogue, are crumbling to dust:

 CAIRO – 9 August 2019: Egypt will complete the restoration works of Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria within three months, announced the Ministry of Antiquities in a statement this week.

“The restoration works at the synagogue continue regularly, as 75% of the project work has been completed, the statement said, adding that Minister of Antiquities Khaled Anani and other officials from the ministry visited the synagogue on Tuesday.

The remains of an ancient synagogue were found beneath the 19th century Italianate building

Read article in full (Egypt Today - with thanks: Boruch))

The de Menasce synagogue in Alexandria is now a listed building - the government will undertake to preserve and restore it (with thanks: Boruch):

Egypt’s Official Gazette published on Thursday Minister of Antiquities Khaled Anani’s decree to record Jacob Menasce (Menashe) Synagogue in el-Mansheya area of Alexandria in the list of Islamic, Coptic and Jewish antiquities.
Baron Yacoub Levi de Menashe built the synagogue in 1860 in el-Mansheya square.

The de Menasce synagogue in Alexandria

Read article in full (Al Masri al-Youm)

This ancient synagogue will crumble to dust unless it is registed as an antiquity:

Around 150 kilometers away from Cairo, at the Mahala Al Kobra’s Souk al-Labn in the Delta, stands the ruins of Rabbi Hayyim El-Imshati Synagogue.

The synagogue is also known as Synagogue of Khokhet El Yahoud, Ostad Synagogue and Rabbi El-Imshati Synagogue. The history of Khokha makes it a good candidate to be part of the Ministry of Antiquities’ future plan of developing and restoring the Egyptian Jewish heritage. The ministry has started on a big project to restore Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria, and has also registered Alexandria’s Menasce Synagogue as an antiquity, giving it further protection and potential restoration privileges.

Read article in full  (Egypt Today)

Alexandria restoration reveals earlier synagogue

Friday, August 16, 2019

Mizrahi Shoah suffering to be taught in school curriculum

The fate of Jews living in North Africa under Nazi occupation will be a mandatory chapter in the history matriculation exam in Israeli schools starting in the next school year. In addition, the subject of European Jewry during the Holocaust will also be reinstated, reports Ynet News. (The  decision to remove Holocaust studies in the first place is mindboggling.  It was made by the maverick ex-Education Minister Shai Piron  of the Yesh Atid party.)  (With thanks: Imre)

The move comes four years after the subject of the Holocaust has been removed from the school curriculum. The removal was part of a proposal by former Education Minister Shai Piron, which was later rectified by another former Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

Students at Auschwitz (photo: EPA)

Piron’s proposal included teachers being allowed to assign the subject of the Holocaust as a research project but not teaching it as part of a mandatory program. The move drew harsh public criticism from academics and history teachers who have claimed that excluding the Holocaust - perhaps the most important subject in the nation's history - from the curriculum sends a negative message about the genocide.

 After many protests on the issue, Bennett has decided to reintroduce the Holocaust as the mandatory subject shorty before he was fired from his position by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In addition to the reintroduction of the previously studied chapters, the students will now also be able to learn more about the Holocaust of North African Jewry as part of the mandatory program.

 For instance, the circumstances of North African occupation by the Nazis and its purpose as well as the German policy towards Tunisia and Libyan Jews. Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz said the decision to incorporate the study of Mizrahi Jews during the Holocaust into the mandatory curriculum is a moral one, meant to create a common denominator among the students.

 "For years, the story of Jews living in Muslim countries under the Nazi occupation has been absent from our discourse," Peretz said. “The painful stories of thousands of Jews who were sent to concentration camps and forced to participate in the death marches. “It is also our conscientious duty to make every student feel that they are a significant part of the story being taught within the framework of the education system, which reflects all parts of Israeli society."

  Read article in full

Persecution of North African Jews  to be included in 12th grade exams

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Re-orient the Jewish world towards the East

Hen Mazzig has made his reputation as a champion of the rights of Mizrahi Jews. In this JNS News piece, he criticises Jewish academics in the West for ignoring or patronising Mizrahim. In this, he says, evoking Edward Said's Orientalism, they are being 'orientalist'. (However, it must be remembered that Said himself had little to say about Mizrahi Jews, let alone women or slaves. The western orientalists Said attacked often also harboured 'orientalist' antisemitic attitudes towards Jews living in the West. ) (With thanks: Imre, Carol)

Hen Mazzig

 Yet for as much as my family has assimilated, these layers of my identity are triggered as I encounter the ideas held by some in the Western (mostly North American) Jewish communities.

By and large the articles, the Jewish publications, the speakers and the Jewish academics see “World Jewry” as an exclusively Western phenomenon. They gloss over the history of the Jewish people in the Middle East. To them, the Jewish world is centered in North America, with its origins in Europe. While they may see Israel and Jerusalem as their homeland, they present the Jewish community as belonging to the West. It seems they are the only ones who really matter.

 My story—the story of almost a million Jews from the Middle East and Africa—is often ignored, or looked down on in a way that mimics a post-colonial approach.

Although some scholars have begun to realize the diversity of our global Jewish community, the main voices, as well as the majority of ideas espoused by English-speaking Jews, are still centered in the European/North American hegemony. Discourses on the meaning of Judaism, Jewish peoplehood, Israel and the Middle East seem to come from a naturally superior standpoint: that of the Westerner.

 It is as if knowledge about Middle Eastern and African Jewish communities is generated not from facts, but from paternalistic tendencies. Preconceived archetypes envision all the Jews of the East as fundamentally similar to one another and alien to the Western Jewish community.

 While I disagree with much of Edward Said’s writings, his descriptions of “Orientalists” remain accurate.< According to Said, these are people who study the East, but not purely as scholars attempting to understand other cultures. Intermingled with their scholarly pursuits are self-serving political biases that undermine the actual needs of the Middle Eastern communities they study.

 Orientalism converted the “Orient” into a legitimate academic field, about which the West invented facts. According to Said, these thinkers and scholars were politically driven. Through their discussions of the Middle East, they fashioned themselves into the self-appointed representatives of the Orient.

 They actively misrepresented the Middle East and its people, creating stereotypes and perpetuating false characteristics. The global Jewish community is diverse and multicultural. In Israel alone, more than 60 percent of us are descendants of Middle Eastern and African Jews.

 Regardless of our origins, we should be united in the constant struggle for global equality and against anti-Semitism. But we must also remember that the Jewish world is centered in the East.

 It is in the East that the Jewish people began, and where today, in Israel, our peoplehood is maintained and continues to blossom.

 More Jewish writers and thinkers need to understand this key fact, and reorient their scholarship with it in mind. The rich history of Eastern Jews should not be nullified by the superficial biases of Western scholars.

Read article in full

More from Hen Mazzig 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

California drops biased ethnic studies curriculum

A controversial 'ethnic studies' model curriculum which excludes Jews is being shelved after the California State Education Board received scores of objections, letters and petitions. 

The Californian State Capitol

The  curriculum was widely criticised for not including Jews as well as Armenians, Copts, Indians and others. The curriculum was also branded as 'biased',  'Israel-bashing' and promoting antisemitism.

On 12 August 2019 The California State Board of Education issued a press release stating the following:

“Ethnic studies can be an important tool to improve school climate and increase our understanding of one another.A model curriculum should be accurate, free of bias, appropriate for all learners in our diverse state, and align with Governor Newsom’s vision of a California for all.The current draft model curriculum falls short and needs to be substantially redesigned. Following the Instructional Quality Commission’s review and response to all public comments, a new draft will be developed for State Board of Education review and potential approval. The Board will ultimately adopt an ethnic studies model curriculum that aligns to California’s values.”

The California- based organisation JIMENA, representing Middle Eastern and North African Jews,  led the response of Sephardi communities in California to  the draft curriculum.

New ethnic studies curriculum erases MENA Jews

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

When Arabs fought with Jews against the Nazis

This article by Nadav Shragai in Israel Hayom shows that the picture of Arab collaboration with Nazism was not as black-and-white as is often thought. However, the numbers produced by Israeli-Arab professor Mustafa Abbasi are misleading: according to the historian Georges Bensoussan, the Palestinian Arabs who served with the British during WW2 (up to 12,0000) were outnumbered by a factor of 15 times by the Palestinian Jews, and there were half as many Jews in Palestine as Arabs. According to 'Nazi Palestine' (Mallman/ Cuppers, p 145) 134,000 Jews came forward to enlist in the British army - every second Jewish man - and 20,000 women. (With thanks: Lily)

One of the 200 Palestinian Arab women who served in the Women's Auxiliary Corps and in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, featured in the newspaper Filistin.

One day, completely by chance, Professor Mustafa Abbasi from the village Jish in the upper Galilee, uncovered a family secret. Abbasi had wondered aloud how there could be a five-year difference between his mother's date of birth and that of her younger sister. He then heard for the first time that his grandfather, Said Abbasi, had spent five long years away from home, volunteering with the British Army in World War II, battling the Nazis alongside Jewish volunteers.

 Only later, after he had become a researcher and delved into the subject, did Abbasi learn how widespread a phenomenon that had been: thousands of Arabs and Jews from Mandate Palestine had fought side by side against the Nazi scourge.

 As a historian and as a professor of the history at Tel-Hai Academic College, Abbasi has personally interviewed or secured testimonies from dozens of Palestinians who served in the British army in World War II and fought alongside Jews. Radwan Said of Kafr Kana told Abbasi that he had served as a sniper and killed three Nazi soldiers in battles in Italy. Abbasi spoke to the elders in his home village of Jish. One, Zaki Jubran, fought the Nazis along with his brother. Abbasi would eventually discover lists of more and more Arabs who volunteered for the British army and served alongside Jews – from Jaffa, Jerusalem, Safed, Jenin, and Nablus. Tiberias alone, a city in which Jews and Arabs coexisted peacefully for many years, supplied hundreds of Arab volunteers.

Hundreds of Arab fighters lost their lives. Others were taken prisoner. Yet more are still missing in action, over 70 years later. This is a historical episode that is rarely discussed. It does not align with the various narratives about the history of the Jewish-Arab conflict prior to or after the war years. Abbasi's research reveals that this was certainly no passing "phenomenon."

He writes about the joint Jewish-Arab war service in an in-depth article published in the last issue of Katedra, the oldest academic journal on Land of Israel studies, published by the Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi. He might turn it into a book. All in all, some 12,000 Arabs from Mandate Palestine volunteered for the British army during World War II, approximately half the number of Jewish volunteers who joined up. Hundreds of Palestinian fighters were captured. Approximately 300 died in battle.

Relations between the Jewish and Arab volunteers were mostly good. The leaders of the Jewish Yishuv, Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion, eventually had the Jewish volunteers removed from the mixed unit to establish the famous Jewish Brigade, which would go on to provide a crucial military basis for Israel in the 1948 War of Independence. The leaders had never liked the idea of Jews and Arabs from Mandate Palestine serving together, and there were also plenty on the Arab side who were against it.

Read article in full

Monday, August 12, 2019

Israeli campaign shakes up Arabs with Jewish roots

An outreach campaign aimed at Muslims with Jewish roots has attracted thousands of enquiries across the Arab world. Yad Le'Achim, led by Rabbi Shmuel Lifschitz,  began a social media video campaign fronted by the Arabic liturgical singer Ziv Yeheskel at Shavuot, and has been gobsmacked at the response. What this Al Monitor article (via Israpundit) does not say, however,  is that Arabs with Jewish roots usually have  female Jewish ancestry, where the Jewish woman was seduced or abducted by a Muslim and thereafter made to convert to Islam. (Love matches probably did occur, but would have been rare.) (with thanks: Michelle)

Fluent Arabic speaker and musician Ziv Yeheskel fronted the Yad Ve'Achim video

According to the organization, quite a few people approached them in response to Yehezkel’s video. “To date we have been contacted over one thousand times by people from across the Muslim world, as well as from Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” said (Rabbi Shmuel ) Lifshitz.

“Each message we receive is investigated in depth to confirm that the person really does have Jewish roots. As of now, some 30% of these messages is in an advanced stage of investigation to uncover Jewish roots. We have also been contacted by many people who are unable to prove a connection to Judaism. In those cases we do not continue to investigate.”

 Yad L’Achim never expected to receive so many responses. It will soon be posting another video, in which Yehezkel will talk about the Jewish Sabbath. The decision to use the well-known performer is based on his fluency in Arabic and his familiarity with the Arab world.

 “I have a very supportive audience in quite a few Arab states,” he noted. “These include Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Dubai and Kuwait. I have been invited to perform in all of them. I also receive lots of private messages from wonderful people across the Arab world, including Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Yemen. I have even received messages from the Gaza Strip.

Yehezkel is excited to make more video clips. “Social networks have sparked a revolution; it is now possible to reach anyone. They are a powerful tool,” he said. “The fact that I sing in Arabic helps to reduce anti-Semitism, because there is nothing like music to reduce the level of hatred. The fact that I am now reaching Jews who live in Arab states is more exciting than anything to me.”

 One of the people who contacted Yad L’Achim is Nabil, 42, from Amman. Nabil, who asked for his last name not to be divulged, told Al-Monitor that he has always known about his Jewish roots. “Yad L’Achim’s page popped up in my Facebook feed, so I looked at it,” he wrote the organization.

“I watched the video and became curious. My mother is Jewish and my grandmother is Jewish too, of Iraqi heritage. I didn’t know that I was Jewish, because in Islam religion is passed on through the father. The moment I found out that according to the Jewish religion I am also Jewish, I wanted to find out more. My only problem is that I am not in touch with my mother. It would be very interesting to speak to her, especially now.”

 “Judaism was the first monotheistic religion in the world,” said Nabil. “As a Muslim I have never been religious, but now I am intrigued by the Jewish religion and I want to proceed. I have watched all sorts of YouTube videos about Judaism and the Bible, and I feel a connection.”

 He also admitted that he hides his Jewish identity from his surroundings, “If they find out that I am Jewish, I would have a big problem. The community I live in here in Jordan is very anti-Semitic, so I hide it.”

 He noted that until he contacted Yad L’Achim he had never spoken to any Jews or Israelis. “I saw a group of Israelis in Amman once, but I never spoke to them. I felt a kind of distance from them. Now I feel very different. This is really shaking up my life. I can’t stop thinking about my complicated identity.”

Read article in full 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Morocco is what every tourist expects

In her two articles about her first visit to Morocco (first one here), Khen Elmaleh goes in search of an authentic identity, as if an Israeli Jew with Moroccan roots can never wholly feel at home in Israel. Haaretz loves articles idealising Morocco, and Khen is not the only Israeli to be seduced by its charms - she meets an Israeli fashion designer, an artist and singers who have made their careers there. But in the second of her articles, discomfort creeps in: Morocco's enchanted image of the Orient is for foreign consumption only, there is no local middle class and a huge gulf separates rich and poor. (With thanks: Michelle) 

Everyone loves Marrakech. Yves St. Laurent loved it. Winston Churchill loved it. Everyone who has ever visited has loved it. I have never heard a bad word about Marrakech. And the truth is that it’s easy to see why. It is an enchanted urban oasis with pink buildings and towering green palm trees. It is a combination of modern and old, of urban tumult and ancient narrow alleyways. It is exactly what every tourist from abroad would expect to see in Morocco, in one place. Maybe because of that, I had a hard time with it.

 In Marrakech you are a tourist, first and foremost a tourist. The whole city is aimed at serving you as a tourist, selling things to you as a tourist, presenting to you what you want to see, massaging your back as a tourist and taking from you what can be taken from a tourist: money. In return the city sells you the perfect Orient, and it's embodied in exclusive nightclubs like Comptoir Darna, designed as a showy colonial salon; in the cobras and monkeys at the big square, Jemaa el-Fnaa; in the huge bazaar where, between a traditional djellaba and pointy babouche slippers, someone will also try to sell you a massage at a questionable establishment nearby. It is waiters in a tarboosh at a highly rated restaurant that locals hardly patronize, it is one thousand and one nights, every night. And when you say “No thanks” in Arabic everyone is surprised – “Aha, she’s one of us!” – but that doesn’t stop them from trying to sell you something.

 Despite all that, I was glad to be in Marrakech now. I could forgive those characteristics of the Marrakechis. First of all, and this something that can be said of all of Morocco – these folks are just plain courteous and friendly even when they are trying to take something from you. And secondly, who can blame them? People are just trying to make a living – and poverty is no stranger to urban Morocco – and if the masses of Frenchmen and Brits swarming in the streets of the Old City want their couscous served with a tarboosh and traditional garb, so be it. I think I was simply angry because they saw me as a tourist. And as a Moroccan I got angry all over again at the Europeans who set standards and have a certain perception of how Morocco ought to look, and everyone simply scampers around them.

Khen Elmaleh

 There’s something in this split experience that manages to trouble me during my entire trip in Morocco. On the one hand, I am a tourist with money that enables her to experience things and sit in places where the locals, if they aren’t wealthy, don’t sit. On the other hand, I am not a wealthy Moroccan nor am I even really Moroccan. But when I arrive along with my whole aura of foreignness at one of the hottest spots in town, the Nomad restaurant in the medina of Marrakech – and I ask the waiter about a French word on the menu that I hadn’t understood, and he tries to explain it to me in English (“It’s something that looks like an onion and has an anise flavor”) and a second later I come back with “Aha! Bish bash!” – he cracks a smile that's even bigger than the one that in any case had been spread across his at-your-service face, and says with a kind of a sigh of relief, like someone who has discovered that the connection between us doesn’t pass only through my foreign currency: “Oh! Bish bash!”

  Read article in full

Friday, August 09, 2019

Ten things you didn't know about Baghdad Jewry

Did you know that the famous Baghdad rabbi Yosef Hayim was rescued from a well aged seven? That a woman, Rachel Hacham,  founded the Baghdad School for the blind? Here are 10 things you may not have known about early-20th-century Baghdad Jewry, according to Bet Hatefutsot (the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora) (With thanks: Ruth):

Renee and Abraham El-Kebir on their wedding day in 1926

There were 35,000 Jews in Baghdad at the beginning of the 20th century, comprising about 35% of the city’s population. There were no less than 30 synagogues and eight Jewish newspapers were published.

A portrait of the Hacham Rabbi Yosef Hayim – known as the Ben Ish Hai - hung in every synagogue. Legend has it that when Yosef Hayim was seven, he fell into a deep well and was miraculously saved. He swore an oath in the well to devote his life to studying Torah if he made it out alive. Yosef Hayim eventually became one of the great sages of his generation in Baghdad and throughout the Jewish world.

Rabbi Yosef Hayim never missed delivering before an audience of thousands a Shabbat sermon that lasted three hours. Rabbi Yosef Hayim’s expounding on the Torah became legendary and was peppered with anecdotes and riddles. Rabbi Yosef Hayim died in 1909 on a pilgrimage to the Prophet Ezekiel’s Tomb in the Iraqi village of Al Kifl.

Britain took control of the Land of the Tigris and Euphrates in 1917 and named King Faisal I it's ruler. His reign was considered the Golden Age of Iraqi Jewry. The Jewish community was represented in Iraq’s parliament and its commercial trade with Britain was heightened. Sir Sassoon Eskell, who was among Baghdad’s greatest Jewish merchants, would become the first Jewish finance minister of Iraq and a leader of the Iraqi nationalist movement.

Known as the “Rothschilds of the East,” the Sassoon family’s tremendous influence in Iraq extended throughout the early decades of the 20th Century to Britain, India, Hong Kong, Singapore and other corners of the Far East. The family’s expansive commercial network included multiple branches of its original business in Baghdad, making Iraq an important player in global commerce. Among the family’s famous offspring are Victor Sassoon, owner of the international Coffee Bean chain and Rachel Sassoon Beer, the former chief editor of the British “The Sunday Times,” who played a central role in the Institute of Journalists’ and Institute of Women Journalists’ campaign to prove Alfred Dreyfus’s innocence.

In 1924, a woman named Rachel Hacham established the first school for the blind in Baghdad, considered the first school of its kind in the Jewish world. The school offered a modern curriculum and its students learned to play a variety of musical instruments. Several of them were later hired to play for Baghdad’s Iraqi radio station orchestra. They were thankful to Rachel Hacham throughout their lives.

In 2003, American soldiers discovered a collection of thousands of books, photographs, and documents pertaining to Iraqi Jewry in the flooded basement of the Mukhabarat Iraqi National Intelligence Service in Baghdad. The precious collection was airlifted to the US to be dried, demolded, restored and preserved. It was named the Iraqi Jewish Archive. Among the artifacts were dozens of copies of a Hebrew language instruction textbook entitled “Alfa Beta.” Pages 73-74 were ripped out of nearly every copy, because they featured a song declaring loyalty to King Faisal I, who was hung by rebel forces in a 1958 military coup.

The “Alliance” school network, combining Hebrew-language instruction with a modern curriculum, operated in Baghdad. The school contributed greatly to bridging the gap between religion and secularism among Iraqi Jewry. This enlightened atmosphere gave rise to what would become a Jewish intellectual elite of Baghdadi descent. Among them were Israeli writers Samir Naqqash and Sami Michael, Professor Sasson Somekh, and others who defined themselves as “Jewish-Arabs” and combined Muslim-Arab culture and Jewish culture in their works.

King Ghazi rose to power in 1933. A new wave of pro-Nazi sentiment in Iraq at that time was heightened by the visit of Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin Al-Husseini – who maintained close ties to the Nazi Party – and by the translation into Arabic of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”

The Farhud pogrom that erupted on the holiday of Shavuot in June 1941 is still considered an open wound among Baghdadi Jewry, who numbered 150,000 at that time. During the riots, rape, chilling murders of infants, women, and the elderly, and looting and burning of stores took place. Children were thrown into the Tigris River in front of their parents. More than 180 Jews were murdered and nearly a 1,000 were wounded. “We saw through the window dozens of people armed with knives, axes, and firearms. A few of them were dragging objects and furniture that they had looted from Jewish homes,” testified Baghdadi Jew Yosef Nimrodi. “I saw a woman carrying a baby’s leg in her hand.” The Jews were buried in a mass grave.

From The Jew in You, Facebook page of the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora

Video for the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center (with thanks: Sami)

Thursday, August 08, 2019

What are the Sephardi customs for Tisha b'Ab?

Religious Jews are currently observing the Three Weeks leading up to Tisha b'Ab (Tisha B'Av), which begins on Saturday night. Tisha b'Av is a day of mourning marking the destruction of the First and Second Jewish temples, but also commemorates other Jewish tragedies. As Askhenazi and Sephardi traditions differ slightly, I am reproducing a blog by Rabbi Hassan to clear up the confusion. It was written in 2016.

Detail from the Arch of Titus in Rome showing the Romans carrying off booty from the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD

There are four stages of mourning. The first stage is the 17th of Tammuz till Rosh Hodesh. In this period Sephardim don't listen to music or wear new clothes or say the blessing of Shehecheyanu on a new fruit except on Shabbat. When it comes to buying new things the general rule is it is forbidden unless the sale is an unusually great sale. Then the purchase can be bought and used after Tisha B'Av. Likewise for major purchases like a car or a house, one should avoid the purchase unless the availability will vanish if delayed. Such purchases should not be used till after Tisha B'Av.

The next period of mourning intensity is from Rosh Hodesh Av till Shabbat. The third period is called Shevua Shechal Bo - the week that Tisha B'Av falls. (E.g. if Tisha B'Av falls on a Monday night/Tuesday then Shevua Shechal Bo is from Saturday night until midday the day after the fast.)

Finally we have the most severe mourning customs on Tisha B'Av itself. Generally speaking the Sephardic customs are more lenient than for Ashkenazim. Starting on Rosh Hodesh and including Rosh Hodesh Jews from Turkey, as well as Ashkenazim have the custom to abstain from meat (including chicken) and wine until the 10th of Av. The exception being on Shabbat when we eat meat to the same level that we would on a regular Shabbat. Other Sephardic communities including many from Rhodes refrain from meat from the 2nd of Av till the 10th. When it comes to drinking the wine/grape juice after havdallah, Ashkenazim give the cup to a child whereas for us we follow Rabbi Yosef Caro and drink it ourselves.

  Shevuah Shechal Bo 

 Starting from Saturday night, Sephardic men refrain from haircuts and shaving. (Some follow the custom of our Ashkenazic brothers and do not have haircuts for the entire three week period from the 17th of Tammuz.) We do not do any laundry, we only take cold showers, we only change our undergarments or any clothes that are soiled. We also aren't allowed to go swimming for pleasure (and most people don't have swimming lessons either since they can be fun too). This year since Tisha B'Av is nidche (pushed off) to Sunday. Many halachic authorities do not consider there a need to have a Shevuah Shechal Bo at all. As such it is permitted to do laundry and shower and even to swim. Most people are strict and avoid having haircuts.

  Erev Tisha B'Av
The day before Tisha B'Av we continue to learn Torah until sunset. (Ashkenazim stop learning regular Torah portions at midday.) After this time we are only allowed to learn Torah that is upsetting such as reading Eicha - The book of Lamentations describing the destruction of the First Temple, Sefe Iyov - The Book of Job, Sections from the prophet Jeremiah, Sections from the Talmud dealing with the destruction of the First and Second Temples and Kinot - poems about Jewish tragedies throughout the ages. On Erev Tisha B'Av we have a Seudah Hamafseket. This is the last meal before the fast. The meal should consist of only one cooked dish. Two foods that are normally cooked together are considered one dish. So for example a dish of egg and lentils would be ok to eat. One can also eat bread with this meal too. My practice, has been to have a normal pre fast meal a few hours before the fast. Then just before the fast I have a piece of toast and I sit on the floor and think of the destruction.

 This year (2016) since erev Tisha B'Av is on Shabbat none of these laws apply and we treat the day like a regular Shabbat just. However, one must be careful to finish Seudah Shelishit before the fast starts. Please note that the fast begins before Shabbat ends. Apart from learning Torah that makes us happy there are five things which are prohibited on Tisha B’av. Eating and drinking, washing, rubbing one’s body with oils or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Although not strictly forbidden, it is strongly recommended to take the day off on Tisha B'Av or at least not to work until halachic midday (1:15pm). Since we are all considered mourners on this day, we do not greet each other.Ladies who have given birth within 30 days are exempt from the fast. Similarly, anyone who has a serious illness or would become ill from fasting is exempt.

 The liturgy on Tisha B'Av is very powerful and the tunes are very moving. Although one isn't supposed to enjoy the tunes on Tisha B'Av, my grandfather of blessed memory would love to hum the melodies of Tisha B'Av throughout the year. One of the powerful kinot contrasts the festival of Pesach with Tisha B'Av using the famous "Ma Nishtana - Why is this night different from all other nights?"

 On Tisha B'Av night the lights are dimmed low, or tea lights are used. We sit on the floor and read Eicha - The book of lamentations. On Tisha B'Av day we don't wear talet and tefillin in the synagogue and we continue to sit on the floor. (Some Sephardim have the custom to wear them privately at home before coming to services but that is not the SBH minhag). We again read Eicha and more sad kinot. After midday we are allowed to sit on regular seats and at minha we wear talet and tefillin. Since we are forbidden to learn Torah on Tisha B'Av, if one learns daily, that learning should be done either the day before or the day after Tisha B'Av. Tehillim may be recited on Tisha B'Av itself but only after halachic midday (1:15pm).

 The mourning practices are in reverse to those of a loved one. Instead of most intense to least intense, we go from least to most. The idea being that we must prepare ourselves for it. If we were to go straight into the strict mourning of Tisha B'Av without the three weeks of preparations we would struggle to find meaning. Instead we build up gradually. As we do that this year let us work on our mitzvah observance and the way we interact with others. May Hashem grant peace in Israel. When the fast finishes, one should still not eat meat or drink wine until Midday the following day. The reason being that when the Second Temple was destroyed it continued burning for much of the 10th of Av. Other restrictions such as showering and shaving etc. are permitted from the end of the fast. (Ashkenazim wait until midday for those too).

  Read post in full

More posts about Tisha B'Ab

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Jordan closes Aaron's tomb to Jewish pilgrims

Not for the first time, Jews were banned from praying at the purported site of Aaron's tomb in Jordan after they were seen performing 'Jewish rituals'. The same no-prayer regimen appears to apply at the Temple Mount, also administered by the Jordanian Wakf. One wonders if the Jordanian authorities were intending to turn a blind eye to busloads of arriving Israeli tourists had the story not been broken by a Turkish news agency. Report in the Jerusalem Post.

Some five hundred Jewish tourists danced with a Torah scroll at Aaron's tomb

Aaron’s Tomb in Jordan was closed by the nation’s Ministry of Awqaf Islamic Affairs and Antiquities on Thursday after the “illegal entry” of Jews to the site without knowledge of the ministry, according to Arab media.

The decision to close the site was made after Israeli tourists were filmed performing “Jewish rituals” at the site, according to the Turkish Anadolu Agency. It was also decided that all visitors would have to obtain approval from the Awqaf in the Ma’an Governorate before entering.

Thursday night began the first day of the Hebrew month of Av, which is also the anniversary of Aaron’s death.

In an interview with Ynet, tour guide Roni Ayalon, who was with the group of tourists, described being subjected to humiliating treatment by Jordanian authorities.

“They just stripped down all of us,” he said. “They took off the women’s head scarves. All the boys’ yarmulkes were taken off. They took off everyone’s shirts to see if they had tzitzit (religious fringes) under their clothes and took [the tzitzit] off them. They confiscated any religious symbols they found on us.”

“If there was this kind of humiliation of an Arab on our side who wanted to enter Jerusalem and they would dare to tell him to take off his shirt or confiscate his Koran, there would be a world war,” Ayalon said. “All the Arabs would jump up. But they can do whatever they want to us."
At the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where the Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are located, visits by religious Jews are monitored by Wakf guards and Israeli police – and all Jewish prayer, including silent prayer, is forbidden, according to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The Wakf, an arm of the Jordanian Ministry of Sacred Properties, administers the site. No sacred Jewish objects, such as prayer books or prayer shawls, may be brought onto the mount, according to tourism website Tourist Israel.

“None of us came to make a mess,” claimed the tour guide. 
“There was one boy who had a bar mitzvah and at Aaron’s Tomb we made a little celebration for him. When the policeman saw that we were singing, he quieted us and said that it’s forbidden for us to sing.”

Purported photos of Jewish tourists at the site which circulated through Jordanian media showed them praying with a Torah scroll. Read article in full

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

New 'ethnic studies' curriculum erases MENA Jews

The California-based body representing Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, JIMENA, has added its voice to concerns that a new model ethnic-studies state curriculum omits Jews, and specifically the 236,000 Jews from the Middle East and North Africa resident in California.  The proposed curriculum is the result of a 2016 law.  JNS News reports that the proposed curriculum is currently going through public comment and is expected to be approved, following revisions,  next year by the board. of education. Here is an extract from JIMENA's response:

The Nessah Persian synagogue, Beverly Hills

 "Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews are a racially diverse ethnic sub-group that is both proudly Jewish and proudly Middle Eastern. This intersection provides us with a unique vantage point and we share our concerns about the proposed Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, bringing our full identities and experiences to the conversation. 

We would like to frame our comments by quoting directly from the statutory guidelines in the curriculum. The very first requirement states that, “The model curriculum shall be written as a guide to allow school districts to adapt their courses to reflect the pupil demographics in their communities.”  

We estimate that the state of California is home to some 236,000 Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent. Our families arrived in California as Arabic, Farsi, Judeo-Spanish, Turkish, and Hebrew speaking refugees and immigrants from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Turkey, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq and Iran. Notably, the Iranian Jewish community in Los Angeles comprises an estimated 60,000 individuals, making them one of the largest Middle Eastern diasporic communities in the United States. Despite our community’s numbers, we have been completely erased from the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, most notably from the Arab American Studies Course outline. There is no possible way that the Arab American Studies Course curriculum, as it is currently written, can adequately reflect Mizrahi demographics, needs and interests in the state of California.

The Arab American Studies Course Outline within the curriculum is deeply problematic. It is highly politicized and not built on foundational scholarship necessary for the quality education our students deserve. It lacks cultural competency, nuance and sensitivity to student demographics. While the Middle East and North Africa is one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse regions in the world, within the model curriculum the term “Arab” is never defined leaving educators and readers to easily conflate “Arabs,” “Muslims,” and “Middle Easterners.”  Minority groups and experiences from the Middle East and North Africa are totally erased from the curriculum portraying Arabs as a homogenous, Muslim group. 

The Arab American Studies Course violates a number of the Ethnic Studies Curriculum Guidelines. It is not written in a language that is inclusive and supportive of multiple users as it excludes and erases the experiences, perspectives, and voices of diverse Middle Eastern communities – including Mizrahi Jews indigenous to the region.  If the curriculum is to be consistent with an intersectional frame that is supportive of multiple users, then it must identify the histories, perspectives, voices and oppression of diverse Middle Eastern communities – including those that diverge from dominant Middle Eastern narratives. 

The Arab Studies Course erasure of Jewish and minority Middle Eastern perspectives perpetuates a legacy of oppression and cultural genocide of non-Muslim Middle Eastern groups who fled persecution to find sanctuary in the Unites States. It will fail in promoting self and collective empowerment of Coptic students, Bahai Students, Mizrahi Jewish students, Assyrian students, Iranian students, Kurdish students, Yazidi students and non-Muslim Middle Eastern students who together constitute a sizeable Middle Eastern demographic in California yet are entirely erased in the curriculum."

Read response in full

Challenging the myth of white, European Israel

Monday, August 05, 2019

Morocco puts Jewish heritage on tourism map

Morocco appears to be following Poland in making itself a magnet for Jewish tourism. But its bold efforts to restore and preserve Jewish heritage is creating pride among Moroccans themselves. Jacob Judah reports in Haaretz (with thanks: Imre):

In 2011, Morocco’s new constitution recognized “Hebraic influences” as having enriched and nourished Moroccan identity.

“What the state did is take the conservation of Jewish heritage, and make it more visible,” says anthropologist Boum. In this respect, Morocco is an exception in the Arab world, he notes, calling the decision, “a courageous act.”

 Some suggest that the government’s support of Jewish projects is part of an attempt to project an international image of Morocco and its monarchy as open, tolerant and modern.

The preservation projects figure prominently in documents produced and disseminated by Moroccan lobby groups in the United States.

 In private, some in the tiny Jewish community express concern about these developments. Most of the country’s approximately 2,500 Jews are concentrated in Casablanca. In 2003, terrorists targeted Jewish sites in the city. Some Moroccan Jews worry that the increasingly high profile of the community will attract unwanted attention.

But others see this newfound attention on Jewish heritage as a healthy development. “Morocco has made a colossal effort to preserve its Jewish heritage,” says Zhor Rehihil, director of the Casablanca's Museum of Moroccan Judaism. This is changing the views of ordinary Moroccans, who now recognize that “this is part of Moroccan heritage and it is up to us to preserve it for future generations", says Rehihil.


 The Sefrou Jewish cemetery; in the background, the hills housing the Cave of the Jew.

Read article in full

Sunday, August 04, 2019

BBC echoes Hezbollah in Djerba pilgrims report

When a group of Israeli tourists of Tunisian origin went on pilgrimage to the al-Ghriba synagogue on Djerba, the BBC amplified the claims of a Hezbollah channel that these were enemy aliens. This CAMERA/ BBC Watch report is the first of several posts on the Arabic media's tendency to distinguish between Zionist Jews and those who remain 'loyal' to their countries of birth. 

Pilgrims at the al-Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba

“May God bless the soldiers of Israel […] may he shed his light on us, on Israel and on Tunisia, long live Israel and long live Tunisia!” 

 Those spontaneous words, originally an excited mixture of Hebrew and a colloquial dialect of Arabic, were chanted by a woman on a bus full of fellow tourist-pilgrims, with many others in the group cheering and responding to her wishes with “amen”.

Most if not all of them were Jewish Israelis of Tunisian heritage. Their journey’s destination was the al-Ghriba synagogue, one of the oldest in the world, located on the Tunisian island of Djerba. Jews have been conducting an annual celebration there every Lag b‘Omer (which usually falls in May) for generations, and this year (2019) saw the number of pilgrims and visitors to the site exceeding all previous gatherings since the country underwent the Jasmine Revolution in January of 2011.

 The entire trip was documented by Rina Matsliah, a well-known Israeli journalist who was born in Tunisia herself. It was her that brought a seemingly marginal moment to the public eye: the enthusiastic woman and her group were shown for a few seconds in an evening news program on Israel’s Channel 12.

The report also revealed to the viewers that the group had the opportunity to look from outside at the house near the capital Tunis where, in 1988, Israel had assassinated Yasser Arafat’s deputy, Khalil al-Wazir (a.k.a Abu Jihad) – one of Fatah’s leading terrorists and a man responsible for the murders of dozens of Israeli civilians.

 That documentation of a group of Israeli tourists proudly praising Israel and its soldiers on Tunisian soil and later looking at a site where a prominent Palestinian leader was assassinated soon sparked a scandal in the North African country.

An Arabic subtitled version of the report was promoted by Hezbollah affiliated ‘al-Mayadeen’ channel, and demonstrations and sit ins were subsequently held in front of government buildings in Tunisia.

Under the accusation of “normalization” with the “Zionist entity”, the protesters specifically demanded the removal from office of René Trabelsi – Tunisia’s minister of tourism and the first Jew ever to be appointed minister in modern Tunisian history. Trabelsi is a member of a tiny Jewish community of no more than 2,500 people.

 The story was reported widely on Arabic-speaking channels, including those belonging to Western media organisations. Some quoted Arab social media without fact-checking the preposterous claims raised there. For example, a television program produced by BBC Arabic uncritically amplified outraged comments which viewed the visit as a military act.

Read article in full

Friday, August 02, 2019

No place for blindspots on Muslim antisemitism

The UK Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn purports to defend the abused and the downtrodden. In fact, by ignoring the existence of Muslim antisemtism, it champions the abusers, argues Lyn Julius in JNS News.

The British Labour party has recognised that it has an antisemitism problem. Recently it came out with a leaflet, No place for Antisemitism, and microsite to tell its membership how to recognise and  deal with antisemitism. However, as Andrew Apostolou pointed out in a scathing piece in the Times of Israel, Labour's campaign is doomed to fail because its assumptions rest on a flawed history.

Labour assumes that antisemitism and Zionism are both 'European guilt trips'. Apostolou rightly points that antisemitism was not just a European problem, citing examples of pogroms in the Ottoman empire, the Middle East and North Africa.

The Holocaust, Apostolou affirms, was not just aimed at European Jewry: it targeted Jews the world over. Let's take this further and say that the Nazis had their Arab collaborators. The wartime Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem was a willing accomplice in the proposed final solution to the Jewish problem. "Kill the Jews wherever you find them!", he exhorted Arab audiences in his radio broadcasts from Berlin, where he spent four years as Hitler's guest with a retinue of 60 other Arabs. The Mufti's antisemitic legacy, and that of the Muslim Brotherhood, are with us still.

The failure to acknowledge Arab and Muslim antisemitism is a peculiarly leftist blindspot. Twentieth century Arab and Muslim antisemitism resulted in the ethnic cleansing of almost a million Jews in a single generation, but its roots lie in an ancient system of exploitation of the wealth and talents of  Jews and Christians known as 'dhimmitude'. This system, punctuated by the odd pogrom or forced conversion, cemented a concept of Muslim supremacy over non-Muslim peoples reminiscent of colonialism.

Underlying the Labour campaign against antisemitism is the assumption that Israel is to blame for ruining the pre-existing state of harmony and peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews. This, of course, is a myth. Jews in the Muslim world were always viewed as inferior and had few rights, their fate utterly dependent on the munificence of the ruler of the day to which they had outsourced their right to self-defence.

This truth is a vindication of Zionism.  Even if oriental Jews were not prominent in the modern Zionist movement, they remain eternally grateful that Israel - where they comprise half the population - has ended their historically weak, inferior and defenceless status. Israel is the envy of other indigenous non-Arab and non-Muslim groups like the Kurds or the Assyrians, who would dearly love to throw off the yoke of Arab supremacy to achieve self-determination in a sovereign state of their own.

This is the contradiction at the heart of Corbyn's Labour. It sees itself as the party of the downtrodden and the abused. In truth,  it champions the abusers. It denies that non-Arabs and non-Muslims in the Middle East were ever victims of oppression. In its (at best) ambivalence to Zionism and (at worst) hostility towards Israel, it is effectively supporting the re-imposition of Arab and Muslim domination over a 'dhimmi' people.

Read article in full

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Photographic memorial to a vanished world

In the 1980s, artist Myriam Tangi teamed up with photographer Frederic Brenner to visit the remnant communities of Djerba and Yemen. Brenner's photographic essay, narrated by Tangi in the Jewish Review of Books, stands as a memorial to a vanished world: the majority of the Jews in Brenner's photos have emigrated since, and there are fewer than 50 Jews still living in Yemen.

In 1982, I organized an evening dedicated to artists at the first Festival of Jewish Culture in France, created by the filmmaker Emil Weiss. The theme of the program was “Tradition and Modernity,” and among the artists I invited was a young photographer named Frédéric Brenner, who had just finished an as-yet unpublished series of images of Meah Shearim. Although I was primarily a painter at the time, I had already begun experimenting with photography, and I could see how extraordinary Brenner’s work was.

 The next year we started traveling and working together on what would become the 20-year “Diaspora” photography project, which Brenner had just begun and which culminated in the Diaspora: Homelands in Exile book and traveling exhibition.

 Our first trip together was to the Jewish community of Djerba, an island off the coast of Tunisia, on Sukkot in 1983. It was there that I realized that I, too, should bring my camera on these trips, first to capture Frédéric from backstage, in the act of taking pictures, but also to take photos myself. In October, when we made our first trip to Yemen, I brought my camera, as well as my paint brushes.


Three young boys studying, Al Ajar, Haïdan, Saada district, 1984. The middle boy, Lewi Faez, arrived in Israel in 1992. (Photo: F.Brenner)

We had learned of the last Jewish communities of Yemen from the architects Pascal and Maria Marechaux, who studied the traditional earth architecture of Yemen, touring the country on a motorcycle to see the gorgeous painted houses and the unique mud-brick buildings, some of them hundreds of years old and 70 feet high. They had come across small Jewish communities here and there in their travels.

These were the remnants of an ancient community that, by legend, goes back to the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon or, perhaps, to the period immediately following the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem.

In 1949 and 1950, the vast majority of Yemenite Jews, almost 50,000 of them, had been spirited to Israel on transport planes flying out of Aden in the famous Operation Kanfei Nesharim (“On Eagle’s Wings,” an allusion to Exodus 19:4). Very little was known of those who remained, and few foreigners traveled to Yemen.

  Read article in full