Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How many Jews lived in Egypt?

 With thanks: Levana
 Mark Cohen leaves Egypt

How many Jews lived in Egypt in the 20th century? Conventional estimates put the numbers at 75, 000 - 80, 000, but there there could have been as many as 100, 000. According to a map produced by Sir Martin Gilbert, there were 89, 525 Egyptian Jews.

More than 45, 000 fled to Israel. But some academic estimates put the number even higher - at 50, 000. Yoel Rapel's book (Ben-Zvi institute) "Bamahteret Me-Artzot Ha-Islam" says on page 158: "In 1948-1950,  14, 299 Jews from Egypt immigrated to Israel".

 Eliyahu Brakha's book "Waves of my Life" - Brakha worked in Egypt for the Mossad  in 1951 - features a letter from Shimon Peres, thanking Eliyahu Brakha for his successful mission. Brakha smuggled more than 13, 000  Jews out of Egypt (most with a temporary Spanish visa he managed to obtain), when Jews were forbidden to leave Egypt, unless they were expelled.
Michael Laskier's book "The Jews of Egypt 1920-1970" says on page 267: "From November 1956 to 31 October 1957, Israel admitted nearly 13, 500 Egyptian refugees via European airports." 

All this makes a total of 40,799. There were many other waves of Aliyah (immigration): between 1967-1970  more than 10, 000 came to Israel. That implies that more  than 50, 000 Jews from Egypt made Aliya.
This number is corroborated by other research: France absorbed 10, 000 Egyptian Jews (according to Dr. Racheline Barda's research - Australia), the USA 10, 000 - Brazil 10, 000 - Australia 2,000 - England 5, 000 - other European countries (Italy, Belgium etc): some 8, 000 or more.
All in all,  some 95, 000 Jews were living in Egypt at the time (or perhaps 100, 000 - because Jewish births were not registered with the Ministry of Interior, but with the religious authorities (Rabbanut). These communal registers are today out of reach. 

From the 22,000 claims lodged at the Israeli Ministry of Justice, 7, 000 are from Egyptian Jewish families: this represents at least 35, 000 persons, and we know that fewer than 50% of families presented their claims. 


Anonymous said...

it's difficult to ascertain. I hear A hunfred thousand, but if you eliminate the éthey saa we were ....
80,000 is nearer the truth!

Unknown said...

I have always believed that there were more than 80,000 Jews living in Egypt in the 1940s. The 80,000 figure was assessed from the records of the various rabbinates.
But, foreseeing the future, between the end of the war, in May 1945, and March 1948, several thousand Jews left Egypt. Among them were my uncle Abram Btesh, who founded the school, and his wife. At least a dozen of my school friends also left the country for good, several with their parents and siblings.
In 1949, many of the better off members of the Jewish community, my father among them, were invited to assist poorer members of the community to leave the country for Israel. Among those who appeared were a number of families who had never been registered with any of the various rabbinates and whose very existence had not previously been suspected.
These were peasants who had been living in some of the Delta villages and who, except for their adherence to the Jewish religion, were almost indistinguishable from other fellahin. Like many other fellahin, who did not want their sons to be enlisted into the army, these Jews had never had their births registered. This made it difficult for them to obtain the necessary exit permits but they could not return to their villages.
Because her Yemenite servants had left to make aliya, my aunt employed several of these Jewish peasants, who were still awaiting documents, as live-in servants. They helped to form a minyan for the family synagogue and not only participated in the services but were able to lead them.
Whether these village Jews amounted to several hundred or several thousand I do not know, but my father certainly knew of at least a hundred.

Solomon Green