Friday, April 30, 2021
Thursday, April 29, 2021
A few masked tourists from France made it to Tunisia this year to mark the Lag Ba'Omer pilgrimage on the island of Djerba, reports the Times of Israel. The pilgrimage took place in the wake of a worrying series of antisemitic attacks on the island.
A pilgrim lights a candle in the Al-Ghriba synagogue, Djerba (photo: AFP) DJERBA, Tunisia — The annual Jewish pilgrimage to the ancient Ghriba synagogue on Tunisia’s Djerba island started Monday without the usual thousands of pilgrims, due to restrictions to stem the coronavirus pandemic.
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
- The King of Morocco visiting a synagogue
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
Eliachar gave his testimony to UNSCOP meeting in the YMCA, Jerusalem, in July 1947
Monday, April 26, 2021
Sunday, April 25, 2021
As many as 600 Jewish women could have married Arab men during the Mandate period in Palestine, according to Rabbi Hanania Dery, the chief rabbi of Jaffa. Dery, who died in 2002, made it his mission to track down these women and reconcile them with their families. Idith Erez, a graduate student at Haifa University, has researched the question. Feature article in Haaretz by Ofer Aderet:
Kamal al-Hussein, seen here with his family. Al-Hussein, the commander of the Arab side against Joseph Trumpeldor at tel Hai in 1920, was said to have had an affiar with Sarah Abadi, a Jewish woman from Tiberias. In one of the interviews Dery gave, he noted that “many of the women who converted to Islam are from the Eastern [Mizrahi] communities. They know Arabic, and the Arabs’ way of life is not something that’s remote for them. Many come from large families that are on welfare. There are also intelligent girls among them who are looking for adventure.” Dery also mentioned other reasons for such relationships, among them “rebellion,” “defiance” and “principles.”
Friday, April 23, 2021
Thursday, April 22, 2021
In the year in which the Iraqi-Jewish archive (IJA) is supposed to go back to Iraq, activists are fighting to keep it in the US. As part of her campaign, lawyer and academic Carole Basri, who descends from a prominent Iraqi-Jewish family, has launched a film called 'Saving the Iraqi-Jewish Archives'.
The film, which Carole directed with Adriana Davis, makes the case that the archive belongs to Iraqi Jews now in exile, and not to the Iraqi state. Some of the 20,000 documents and photos, correspondence and school reports came from the Frank Iny school, the last Jewish school in Baghdad. Frank Iny was Carole Basri's grandfather.
Carole spent several months in Iraq immediately following the US invasion in 2003 and knew all the officials in the Coalition Provisional Authority run by Paul Bremer.
In a Q&A with Professor Henry Green, after a screening of the film at the Miami Jewish Film Festival, Carole Basri described how she and other Jews was not consulted by the Bremer government when it signed a commitment to return the archive to Iraq once restoration by the US National Archives in Texas had been completed.
She had little faith that the IJA might be properly preserved if it returned to Iraq, given that over 300 Torah scrolls were gathering dust in the basement of the Iraqi National Museum. The IJA is the last remaining link between descendants of the community and its 2,700-year history in Iraq.
The IJA was seized by Saddam Hussein's regime from a Baghdad synagogue in the 1970s and stored in the basement of the secret police headquarters. The collection was discovered in 2003 under four feet of water by Dr Harold Rhode after a US bomb damaged the building's water pipes, but failed to explode. It took ten years for the National Archives in Texas to restore and digitise the archive. Highlights were exhibited at various Jewish centres and museums in the US and its stay extended several times after protests by Congressmen.
The US state department has stated that the collection will definitely return in 2021, although only three Jews still remain in Iraq.
You may view the film Saving the Iraqi-Jewish archives until 29 April.
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Monday, April 19, 2021
A young Canadian Jew has embarked on a project to clean up Khartoum's Jewish cemetery. Chaim Motzen has set up a website where people can share details and photos to help identify graves. Will Brown writes in the Sunday Telegraph (with thanks: Nelly, Lily)
The Jewish cemetery, one of the last remnants of a Jewish community in Sudan, was vandalised as used as a dumping ground
Mr Motzen, who now develops renewable energy projects across Africa, decided to travel back to see the new Sudan after the revolution.
“There was a remarkable difference,” he says. But when he saw the graveyard, his heart sank. The rubbish piles had grown four feet high and there was a pungent smell of urine and rot.
Mr Motzen asked for and immediately got permission from the Minister of Religious Affairs Nasr Eldeen Mofarih in the new transitional government to restore the site as a private individual in January 2020. He paid for a Sudanese archaeologist and dozens of workers out of his own pocket and got to work.
Over several weeks they removed some 14 trucks of almost everything imaginable from the site. “There was about five metric tonnes of glass, car parts, a crazy amount of dirt, medical waste, lots of scorpions, and even beehives,” he says.
Standing in the beating sun with the jangling sounds of the city all around him, Mr Motzen points to a small stone slab marked with Star of David. The grave had been broken apart and scattered across the site. But after hours of work, he had managed to piece together the fragments and translate the Arabic words.
The small grave belonged to Diana Yacoub Ades, a small girl who had died suddenly in 1959 at just eight months. With this information, Mr Motzen explains how he tracked down Diana’s first cousin in London.
The 88-year-old Albert Iskenazi told the Telegraph he was shocked when he heard the news. Mr Iskenazi grew up in Khartoum and remembered his baby cousin clearly. “I remember Diana well. She died suddenly of a fever. It made me feel very happy that he found the gravestone. Now we can mourn her properly.”
“Our happiest days were in Sudan. We used to go to visit our Muslim friends during Ramadan and wish them a happy feast,” says Mr Iskenazi.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” says Daisy Abboudi, founder of the research project, Tales of Jewish Sudan. “He found fragments of my great grandmother’s gravestone, as well as other graves of family members. There is something about the physicality of graves which is so important to people.”
“When I visited in January 2020, I assumed that physical link to my history was lost to time. There was nothing people could point to and say my ancestors were here. And then suddenly there is. It's very powerful.”
Sunday, April 18, 2021
Friday, April 16, 2021
Thursday, April 15, 2021
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.