Total Pageviews

Sunday, July 29, 2012

What Had Happened to Jewish Syrians?

Nadene Goldfoot
Aleppo, Syria has been taking a pounding from Syria's own army because they are in a Civil War, having started with the Arab Spring  in March 2011.  So far, 19,000 people have been killed in this uprising.  Russia is backing the regime who controls the country's army, but the USA is backing the rebel fighters.  The war is now centered in Salaheddiin, a neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria's largest city and its commercial center.  Syria has about 22,505,000 minus the deaths of which 90% are Sunni/Shi'a Muslims.  Jews have lived there, as they have lived in all the states in the Middle East.  In 1948 there were 30,000 living in Syria.

Then Israel was created on May 14, 1948.  Syria was one of the Arab states that had attacked the new state.  Syrian Jews were not expelled but weren't allowed to leave, either.  They had severe restrictions placed on them which lasted for over 20 years.

In the 1967 Six-Day War where Israel won against all odds having been attacked by all the Arab nations, restrictions on Jews in Syria were even tougher. and 57 Jews in Qamishli may have been killed in a pogrom. The communities of Damascus, Aleppo and Qamishli were under house arrest for 8 months.  Jews lost their freedom of movement.  They weren't allowed to work for the government or banks, couldn't get telephone or drivers' licenses and were banned from buying property.  Many Jewish workers were laid off following the Six-Day War.  Generally, they all were banned from leaving, but were sometimes allowed aboard for commercial or medical reasons, but if they did leave they had to put up a bond of $300-$1,000 and members of their family were used as hostages.  Bank accounts were frozen.  An airport road was paved over the Jewish cemetery in Damascus.  Jewish schools were closed and handed over to Muslims.  The Jewish Quarter of Damascus was watched by the secret police who were into their synagogue services, weddings, bar mitzvahs and other Jewish gatherings.  They monitored contacts between Jewish and foreigners and kept files on all Jews.  Jews had their phones tapped and mail read.

When I lived in Israel from 1980 to the end of 1985, I remember watching our TV which received programs from Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, and most likely Syria.  I believe it was from Syria that I remember seeing rows of soldiers standing at attention outside showing how brave they were by doing the most ghastly act I've ever seen:  They were biting snakes and puppies in unison on command.  I know this sounds unbelievable, but it was so shocking to me that I've never forgotten it.  At the time my thoughts were that I hated to see anyone who had to tangle with them!

It wasn't until November 1989 that Syria started letting out Jews through pressure from the USA, but it was done on condition that they didn't emigrate to Israel!  In 1992, 4,000 remaining Jews were granted exit permits and left for the USA, France or Turkey.  About 300 mostly elderly Jews stayed.  By 2001 there were still about 200 Jews living in Syria of which 30 lived in Aleppo.  In 2003 there were fewer than 100 Jews living, and in 2005 the USA estimated that there were about 80.

The ban remains on Jews keeping them from politics and government employment.  They are the one minority that has their religion marked on their passports and ID cards.  Occasionally they have been attacked by Palestinian protesters, but the Syrian government supposedly took measure to protect them.  Two synagogues remain open in Damascus, and every 2 or 3 months a rabbi from Istanbul, Turkey visits to take care of koshering meat, which they freeze and use until his next visit.  Somehow, 41 Syrian Jews moved to Israel between 2000 and 2010.  That was quite an achievement from this country.

This is also a war of Sunni Muslims that are against Shi'a Muslims. " This clash pits the "Sunni front," led by Arab states and Turkey, which support the Sunni rebels, against the “Shiite front,” led by Iran and Hezbollah, which support Syria’s Alawite regime"  .Civilians are not being used as human shields, something we see in Gaza, but as cannon fodder.  This is even a higher level of brutality and cruelty that they are capable of.  

After reading about what has really been going on in Syria for Jews, I believe that Jack Avital's comments that he believe in the future of Bashar Assad are the bunk.  He told the Algemeiner that "everything is good, you can bet on it-Assad will be there another 20 years...he is an honest guy and 95% of the population supports him and will protect him."  If he said anything different, he most likely would have been killed.

Jews had lived in Syria since the beginning of times of their history with Abraham.  Another wave of Jews entered the country in 1492 when they were kicked out of Spain and had to go someplace.  Today, the largest Jewish Syrian community is right in Brooklyn, New York with a population of 75,000.

Reference: Oregonian newspaper, Sunday, July 29, 2012 page A9, Syrian tanks, artillery intensity attack on Aleppo
http:/  (problems with viewing)

1 comment:

Nadene Goldfoot said..., lots of good information here.