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Friday, October 15, 2010

Jews in Arab Lands: Then and Now

Ofrah Hazah, singer from Yemen
At one time there were 100,000 Jews living in Iran. Persia, as it was called, was the home of Queen Esther or Hadassah, who was married to King Ahashuaros. It was she who saved her people by telling her husband of the plot of Haman to kill all the Jews. She had to expose herself to her husband who did not know that she was Jewish in order to do this. The brave woman readied herself on a diet of seeds and nuts for three days in order to approach him on this delicate subject, no doubt to fit into that special dress. Today there are about 11,000 Jews left in Iran. In my own family, a cousin's husband excaped from Iran on a camel in order to leave the country.

Algeria had 140,000 Jews and now less than 100 remain.

Egypt had 75,000. I taught in the same school as an Egyptian Jewish gal in Israel. She was teaching English. Today there are less than 100.

Iraq had 150,000 Jews, much to my surprise, although Ur is in Iraq. This is the ancient city where Abraham was born and had left. By 2009 there were about 35 Jews remaining there.

Lebanon had 20,000 Jews. Now it has less than 100.

Libya had 38,000 but now has none.

Morocco had a whopping 265,000 Jews. The heads of our English Department in Safed were from Morocco. Michelle loved Paris and had clothes from her mother from there. Many Moroccans lived in Safed. Today there are about 5,500 Jews there.

Syria had 30,000 Jews. Today they have less than 100.

Tunisia had 105,000 Jews. Today they have about 1,500.

Yemen was the home of 55,000. Today there are about 200 left. I believe this had been the home of my favorite Israeli female singer, Ofrah Hazah. She became very famous in Israel, and fell upon sad times by dying from drug overdose. I was heartbroken. She was such a wonderful and young singer.

Israel declared itself a state in May 1948 with the blessing of the U.N. Immediately war broke out causing 800,000 Jews to be forced to leave Arab countries where they had been living for two millennia. They moved to their new country of Israel, ready or not, as their native country had turned against them.

Living in Israel was not easy for them. These Jews had to compete with Ashkenazi Jews, many of which were more educated. The army duty was a place where all were treated the same and became a place of integration. Many of the towns these Jews came from were quite primitive, so they had cultural changes. Now we see that this new melting pot is doing quite well.

Resource: Stand With Us's Pocket Facts of Israel








1 comment:

Nadene Goldfoot said...

New article on Jews of Yemen. http://www.yementimes.com/en/1680/report/2385/Politics-of-memory-in-Yemen-%28Part-1%29-Yemen%E2%80%99s-Jews-a-brief-history.htm