Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Monday, April 12, 2021
Sunday, April 11, 2021
Saturday, April 10, 2021
Friday, April 09, 2021
News has reached Point of No Return of a worrying spate of attacks on Jews on the island of Djerba, Tunisia, one of the last remaining functioning Jewish communities in the Arab world.
The annual pilgrimage to the Al-Ghriba synagogue on Djerba is scheduled at the end of April.
The attacks were publicised on the Facebook page Tunes et les Assimilės Tunes but have not been widely reported in the press and media. Local sources have attempted to suppress or deny the antisemitic character of the attacks.
On 7 April, a Jewish girl aged 16 was attacked by two Muslim youths on the island's Jewish ghetto, Hara Kbira. The youths seized her mobile phone. This was not a simply mugging, however, as the attackers attempted to suffocate and strangle the girl. She fought off her attackers 'like a lioness'. After two passers-by appeared, the youths were arrested.
The antisemitic nature of the incident was clear to Yakoub Peres, who posted a description on Facebook. However, his father-in-law Haim Bittan, chief rabbi of Tunisia, forced Peres to remove the post.
In a previous incident, a boy of ten, wearing a kippa and tsitsit was beaten up.
In an incident reminiscent of the Nazi era, a Jew was made to remove his trousers. He was tormented, spat upon and told 'to go back to his country'. Yet the Djerba Jewish community, which today numbers around 1,000, has existed for 2,000 years and predates the Arab invasion of Tunisia.
There was a fourth incident, but no details are available.
The Tunisian civil rights NGO Attalaki condemned the incidents as antisemitic. They have occurred in the run-up to the annual al-Ghriba pilgrimage at the end of this month.
This event was traditionally the highlight of the Djerba tourism calendar. This year, few visitors will be able to travel to Tunisia because of the pandemic.
The election of Kais Saied as President of Tunisia is thought to have fostered a rising climate of antisemitism. The President himself has been accused of slandering Jews in an attempt to distract from the economic crisis.
Saied was elected two years ago on campaign promises that he would maintain no ties with Israel, that normalization with Israel constitutes treason, and that he would bar Israelis from visiting the country.
Thursday, April 08, 2021
Wednesday, April 07, 2021
Tonight is the start of Yom Hashoah, the Holocaust Memorial Day marked by Israel and Jews around the world on the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. It is a fitting occasion to focus on how fugitives from Nazism found refuge in parts of the Muslim world.
Professor Ada Aharoni in her book The Woman in White: an extraordinary life documents the exploits of Thea Woolf, a German-Jewish nurse who spent working 12 years at the Jewish Hospital in Alexandria, Egypt. Thea lost all family members who stayed behind in Germany.
The Jewish community of Egypt set up a Rescue Committee for Jews from the Holocaust in the 1930s and generously helped refugees with both medical care and money. Until June 1940, a delegation from the Jewish hospital in Alexandria visited ships docking at Port Said. They were carrying Jewish refugees bound for Shanghai, one of the few destinations open to fleeing Jews. The committee obtained from the Egyptian authorities permission to disembark the sick.
Thea Woolf also tells the story of how the hospital took under its wing Karl, a fugitive dancer from eastern Europe whose leg had to be amputated after a serious illness. The hospital set Karl up in an alternative career running a student boarding house.
In 1939, an Egyptian policeman arrived at the Jewish hospital in Alexandria. He had been sent to ask for help by an anxious German sailor on board a ship from Hamburg carrying 13 Jews seeking a haven from persecution in a Mediterranean port. But every time the ship docked, the Nazi captain locked the Jews in their cabins.
The sailor, Thea and the hospital director, Dr Katz, concocted a plan. If an epidemic broke out on a ship, the captain was obliged to tell the health authorities and allow a doctor on board. The doctor distributed sleeping pills to the 13 Jews. All fell into a deep coma and were taken into the Jewish hospital in Alexandria; the Nazi captain had no choice but to continue on his journey without them. The Jews took two months to recover from a coma and lung infections. They asked to go to Palestine and were taken to Port Said prison.
As the British would not allow Jews entry into Palestine, Thea and her colleagues had to think of another plan. A fishing vessel carrying the Jewish refugees was hired to sail outside Egyptian waters, escorted by the hospital team on a police boat. Back in Alexandria, Thea heard nothing for a week, until she received the secret code, 'your aunt has arrived'. But the refugees almost never made it. Off the Jaffa coast, a British coastal patrol had intercepted the fishing vessel. The refugees piled into a cutter, and despite rough seas, managed to row ashore.
It is important to note, Ada Aharoni reminds us, that none of the refugees from Nazism could have been saved without the assistance of the Egyptian authorities and acts of compassion by individual Egyptian Muslims like the kindly policeman.
Tuesday, April 06, 2021
Monday, April 05, 2021
Sunday, April 04, 2021
This year, hard on the heels of the signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel and Morocco, the Mimouna festival, which marks the end of Passover, will be extra-special in its celebration of Jewish-Muslim good neighbourliness. The Israeli and Moroccan embassies in Washington are hosting the first-ever joint Mimouna celebration in partnership with Sephardic Heritage International in Washington (SHIN-DC) and the Smithsonian Institution. The Jerusalem Post reports:
Israel's President Reuven Rivlin at a Mimouna celebration in 2018 (Photo: Jerusalem Post)
Friday, April 02, 2021
Passover is being openly celebrated in Bahrain and in the Gulf countries, where over 100 guests attended a seder in Dubai. Meanwhile, The Jerusalem Post reports, rabbis in the West have been tending to the religious needs of Jews in Muslim countries:Matza production in Tehran