With a mixture of gifts, bribery and personal charm, Clement Behar managed to get a number of Egyptian Jews released from jail, and Egypt's chief rabbi from giving a speech denouncing the Jewish state. Fiona Hastings interviewed the 92-year old for Haaretz:
Clement Behar with his self-published memoir At the time, Egypt was home to 80,000 Jews who resided there for three millennia, with some immigrating from Europe since the late 19th century. Despite their stature, the country’s Jews were put in a precarious position over their alleged loyalty to Israel. Many of them perceived themselves as more Egyptian than Jewish, and rejected calls by Egypt’s growing ethnonationalist circle to leave. The calls quickly escalated into violence. One infamous incident is the Balfour Day riots, which took place in November 1945. They began as anti-Jewish demonstrations on the 28th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, but quickly turned into altercations in which five Egyptian Jews were killed and hundreds were injured. In 1948, the riots worsened. Hundreds were murdered, Jewish synagogues were burned down and Jewish areas in the country were bombed. Many Jews were jailed, often on suspicion that they had spied for Israel.
This is when Behar’s operation was set in motion. “Every day, officers arrested young Jewish people, and their families came to see me and enlist my help,” he wrote in his memoir. In 1953 the Egpytian Republic was born, and gave rise to a national socialist president – Gamal Abdel Nasser. Egypt was finally freed from the British occupation, but the Jewish community only suffered from these developments. The Pan-Arabist movement continued to grow under Nasser, and Jews were seen as an obstacle to its goal: Uniting all Arab nations into a single state. By 1950, 40 percent of Egyptian Jews fled. “I felt morally obliged to help the Jews,” Behar told Haaretz.
He began to do so, using his close friendship with a high-ranking police officer named El Hamichari. Behar negotiated the release of imprisoned Jews through “gifts and bribes.” Dressed neatly and wearing a traditional fez, the young Behar easily entered and left Cairo’s police stations, where he was often mistaken for an officer thanks to his command of Egyptian Arabic.
The Jewish community continued to shrink. 14,000 Jews had escaped to Israel, while others sought refuge in different countries. Egypt’s chief rabbi also became a target. In his memoir, Behar wrote that in 1954 President Nasser sent Rabbi Chaim Nahoum Effendi a “poisoned invitation.” To mobilize anti-Israel sentiment, Nahoum was called on to give a speech publicly denouncing the Jewish state. The rabbi “prayed that he would be spared the ordeal,” Behar wrote, but was powerless to decline the invitation.
The Israel Connexion is a weekly radio podcast by David Schulberg of Melbourne. Recently David recorded two interviews to illustrate the issue of Jews from Arab lands. Researching documents in the Arabic original, Dr Edy Cohen found evidence of a secret Arab Nazi party founded in Iraq by the Palestinian wartime Mufti. Lyn Julius is the author of the book Uprooted: how 3,000 years of Jewish civilisation in the Arb world vanished overnight'.
Dr Edy Cohen is chairman of the Kedem Forum for Middle East Studies and author of ‘The Mufti and the Jews’. He works for Bar-Ilan University as a Research Fellow in international politics, and he writes and speaks at various media outlets in Israel (such as Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom) and the Arab world. He is also involved in various projects, such as the Shoah Memorial in Paris.
Edy Cohen was not born in Israel. He is a refugee from Lebanon, and his story belies the claim often made by anti-Zionists that Jewish Arabs left for Israel willingly. Unlike many other refugees, he is not waiting for handouts or international sympathy. He has made a life for himself in Israel while he continues to advocate for Jewish refugees from Arab lands. (0:41-19:52)
Lyn Julius, the daughter of Iraqi refugees, is the author of ‘Uprooted’, which tells the story of how 3000 years of Jewish civilization culminating in the Arab World vanished overnight. Her book poses a number of important questions: Who are the Jews from Arab countries? What were relations with Muslims like? What made Jews leave countries where they had been settled for thousands of years? What lessons can we learn from the mass exodus of minorities from the Middle East? (24:30-49:36)
He's the son of an Iraqi-Jewish mother, a fluent Hebrew speaker and now in charge of combating antisemitism, a growing problem in the US since the synagogue shootings in Pittsburg and Poway, but also on campus and in academia.
Jonny Gould with Elan Carr
In this podcast interview with Jonny Gould at the US embassy in London, Elan Carr tells how his grandfather was arrested and dragged off to prison in leg-irons in Baghdad in 1950. Carr's mother remembers visiting him in prison. This was also a time when Iraq's Jews had a window of opportunity to leave the country. Carr's grandfather urged his family not to wait for him but to leave. They duly went to Israel via Iran. From Israel Elan's mother moved to California.
Elan Carr tells Jonny Gould how as a major in the US armed forces he was posted to Iraq during the American invasion in 2003. It was a great thrill, he recounts, to have celebrated Hanucah in the former presidential palace. Carr lit a menorah designed and donated by Oded Halahmi, himself an Iraqi Jewish refugee. Carr led Shabbat services for the US troops, and affirms that they were never short of a minyan.
Listen to Jonny Gould's podcast interview with 'Antisemitism Tsar' Elan Carr here
A piece by Luke Moon in Providence magazine blasts a New York Times article by David Halbfinger for automatically assuming that every part of 'East Jerusalem' is 'Palestinian'. Silwan was home to Yemenite Jews until the 1930s. Do they have a right to return to their homes?
One would think a story about the US ambassador to Israel celebrating the opening of a new archeology exhibit might include a bit of history. Perhaps it would mention that Silwan’s first inhabitants were Yemeni Jews who in 1881 spent six months traveling to Jerusalem. These Jews were inspired to travel the long, arduous journey on the promise that the Messiah would come to Jerusalem the following year. They arrived broke and were greeted with suspicion by the local Jewish community living in Jerusalem. Settling on the eastern slopes of the Kidron Valley, this group of Yemeni Jews built a thriving community and established a synagogue, the same synagogue that the “right-wing Jewish settler group” is rebuilding and living in.
Perhaps an article that mentions the five thousand Palestinian inhabitants might mention how Silwan became a Palestinian village when it started as a Yemeni Jewish village. As the inhabitants in Jerusalem felt more confident to move out of the walled city, the original village expanded to include not just Jews but also Muslim and Christian Arabs, too.
An early British Mandate period census shows Silwan to be a mixed village of almost two thousand people, of which the Jews made up about ten percent. But during the 1936–39 Arab Revolt, the village of Silwan was ethnically cleansed of all Jews, and Arab families moved into the homes of Yemeni Jews. One might wonder if the descendants of those Yemeni Jews still have the key to their homes.
Perhaps an article that praises former ambassadors for avoiding East Jerusalem—since “Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967 and then annexed it” and “most of the world considers it illegally occupied, and the Palestinians want it as the capital of a future state”—would inform readers that the British started the process of annexing Silwan into the Jerusalem municipality, and the Jordanians completed the process in 1952. It seems the problem is not with the annexation but with who is annexing. Read article in full
The case of Sarah Halimi, tortured and thrown to her death by a violent antisemite, has taken a worrying turn: her killer, who had been smoking marijuana, may not be held criminally responsible for his actions. Ben Cohen reports in the Algemeiner:
Lawyers acting for the family of a French Jewish widow murdered in her own home during a frenzied antisemitic assault have vowed to appeal the ruling of a Paris court that will potentially allow her accused killer to be released without trial.
Last Friday, the judges in charge of the preliminary investigation into the murder of Sarah Halimi — a 65-year-old former teacher who was severely beaten and then tossed from a third-floor window on April 4, 2017, by 27-year-old Kobili Traore, her neighbor in a Paris public housing project — ruled that Traore could not be held criminally responsible for his actions because he had been smoking marijuana heavily in the hours before the killing.
In addition, according to a source close to the case who was quoted by the leading news outlet Le Figaro, the preliminary judges also dismissed the contention that Traore’s crime was aggravated by his violent antisemitism.
The Jews of Morocco have always looked to the King to protect them. However, this story reminds us just how precarious his position was in the 1970s when there were repeated attempts on the King's life. Presciently cancelling a planned trip out of the country, the Casablanca Chabad branch led by Reb Leibel, was able to shelter local frightened Jews during one such assassination attempt in 1971. (With thanks: Michelle-Malca)
Reb Leibel of the Casablanca Chabad speaking at his son's Barmitzvah
Minutes before Shabbos ended, a Jew ran into the room in panic. “Did you hear what happened? The king was assassinated by revolutionaries; the streets are empty and all the Jews are barricaded in their homes!” The death of the king, the personal protector of the Jewish community, could spell disaster for the Yidden of Morocco.
The farbrengen ended immediately; the gates of the yeshiva were locked, and Maariv and havdalah were quickly recited. Reb Leibel rushed home, and found his house packed with Jews who lived in the surrounding area. Apparently, they felt the safest place in times of danger was the home of the Rebbe’s shliach.
As the night progressed, the news began to trickle out. The king had actually survived the assassination attempt by a hairbreadth, and he quickly regained control over the country. During the investigations that followed, the police found stashes of guns and knives prepared for the murder of the local Jewish community...
Although calm was restored, an intense investigation was held, and the airports were shut down for several days. If anyone insisted on flying, he would be immediately arrested and interrogated to see if he was somehow connected to the attempted assassination.
For two years, Hasan Sarbakhian was forbidden by the Iranian authorities from having his photos documenting the lives of Jews in Iran being seen or published. This Jerusalem Post by Zvi Joffre give background information to Sarbakhian's project, quoting from an article by Larry Cohler Esses, the first reporter from a Jewish medium (The Forward) to be granted a visa to visit Iran. However, Iran-born journalist Karmel Melamed warns that the regime controls tightly what foreign journalists see and hear (see his comment below). (With thanks: Lily)
"During my interrogation sessions, I was asked why I have decided to concentrate on the lives of Jewish citizens and why not Shiite Muslims," said Sarbakhshian. "My answer was that all the Iranian media are at the disposal of Shiite Muslim. These are the minorities who have no platforms.
Sarbakhshian tried again ten years later when he was living in exile, and decided to focus on Iranian Jews who had fled to Israel. "In Israel, my concentration was on the concept of Motherland. To understand where these Israelis of Iranian descent perceived as their motherland. The photojournalist asked the same question of Jews in Iran. He showed a picture of an Iranian Jewish doctor with a baby he had just helped deliver. "It really doesn't matter if the baby is born Muslim or Jewish or whatever, he only has done his job."
Iranian Jews running a restaurant in Jerusalem: still in love with Iran (Photo: H Sarbakhshian) Another example he presented was an Iranian Jew accused of spying for Israel who was jailed for several years. The first thing he did when he was released was to visit the grave of an Iranian Jewish soldier who was killed in the Iran-Iraq War defending Iran.
Sarbakhshian stressed that in Iran, the Jews constantly struggle to prove that they are patriots.
There are an estimated 15,000 Jews still in the Islamic Republic, according to a 2018 report by JTA reporter Larry Cohler-Esses in the same year said that the Iranian census counted 9,000 Jews in the country.
A 2015 report in the Forward by Cohler-Esses described Iranian Jews as "well-protected second-class citizens." Cohler-Esses was the first reporter from a Jewish, pro-Israel publication to be granted a journalist's visa to Iran since the revolution in 1979.
Iranian Jews won't hesitate to walk the streets of Tehran with yarmulkes on, but under Iran's sharia law code, Jews and other non-Muslims are penalized differently than Muslims with some violations, usually in a way that is not favorable to the non-Muslims. Tehran's five Jewish schools are also run by a Muslim principal, which the head of the Jewish community condemned as "insulting," according to the JTA report by Cohler-Esses.
After years of lobbying by the Jewish community, President Hassan Rouhani's government recognized Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, as a Jewish holiday in 2018, allowing them to not go to school and work without being penalized, according to Cohler-Esses.
Until a few years ago, Muslims and non-Muslims were treated differently in civil suits involving the death of an individual due to negligence. The Jewish community consulted ayatollahs and took testimony from high-ranking clerics in order to convince the government that under sharia law, Muslims and non-Muslims must be treated equally in this regard. Eventually, they succeeded.
Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians in Iran are the only recognized religious minorities in the Islamic Republic's constitution and "are free to exercise matters of personal status and religious education and they follow their own rituals," according to the constitution."The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Muslims are required to treat the non-Muslim individuals with good conduct, in fairness and Islamic justice, and must respect their human rights," according to the constitution. Each religious minority has one representative in the Iranian Parliament.
Jewish Journal of LA reporter Karmel Melamed, who left Iran in 1979, comments on his Facebook page that he would never be granted a visa to report on the Jews of Iran:
1) The Iranian constitution DOES NOT offer Jews and other religious minorities equal rights or equal justice under the law. The regime's constitution and laws are based on radical Islamic Sharia law which gives non-Muslims inferior rights.
2) The article makes it appear as if Jews in Iran are safe there, which is 100% WRONG! It fails to mention the 3 torahs stolen from a synagogue in Tehran in Feb. 2019, the brutal murder of a Jewish woman in Isfahan in 2012, the 2017 attacks on synagogues in Shiraz, the 1999 random arrests and imprisonment of 13 Jews in Shiraz and other calamities the Iranian regime has brought upon the Jews of Iran since 1979. 3)
The article cites a 2015 report by the Jewish reporter Larry Cohler-Esses as a source for its information on Iran's Jews today, but fails to mention Esses was given a special visa by the regime go to Iran prior to the Iran Deal in order to write a lovely story about how the regime "treats the Jews well" in Iran. It also fails to mention that Esses was given a regime handler the entire time he was there to monitor his reporting and translate for him.
HOW ON EARTH WAS his report accurate, objective and not unfiltered when he had a regime thug following him around, translating Farsi for him, introducing him to Jewish stooges for the regime to parrot nice things about the regime to him and feeding him false info during his stay in Iran?
What do the University of Kansas and a French chateau have in common? The first possesses part of a torn Algerian scroll. The second, residence of the French Duc d'Orleans, was for a long time home to the other half of the same scroll. Here is the amazing Mosaic saga of how the two halves were re-united by a University of Kansas professor of religious studies, Paul Mirecki (with thanks: Lily, Noga):
Fragment of the Kansas scroll
But who did the ripping and why they did it developed into the most interesting aspect of the saga.
In 1840, the scroll was intact and residing at a synagogue in the Algerian city of Medea. The Ottoman Empire controlled Algeria at the time. Then France invaded. Meanwhile, a local populace of Muslim extremists launched a pogrom against the Jewish community. Arab religious and military leader Abd-el-Kader intervened in hopes of preventing bloodshed, evacuating members of the Jewish community. But he couldn't protect their property. As synagogues were looted, the item was taken. (This was likely done by people who didn't even speak Hebrew and merely hoped to sell it. By ripping it, they had "two scrolls" and could double their profits.)
Enter Henri d"Orléans, the Duke of Aumale. The son of the last king of France and governor-general during the French invasion of Algeria, the duke lived in Chateau Chantilly.
"I found a quotation from him in his diary," Mirecki said of the young military commander. "He says in reference to the scroll, "I took it with my own hands from Medea's synagogue in May 1840 when the town had been left to Muslims, and the Jews taken by Abd-el-Kader.""
The Emir Abdel Kader
The duke brought it back home, where it remains in the vast collection of antiquities he eventually donated to the Institut de France. KU acquired its half of the scroll thanks to Alpha Owens. A KU student in the early 1900s, she went on to earn her doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. A woman of wealth, Owens traveled throughout Europe and Latin America "collecting valuable realia material for use in modern language teaching," according to a 1952 interview. Mirecki thinks she evidently came across the document for sale at a market (or possibly a bookstore) when visiting France, as she had been a student at Sorbonne University. Owens bequeathed it to KU when she died in 1965.
How did the Jews fare in Algeria during this period? This Cairn.info article gives the background to the scroll story: the 19th century war in Algeria between the French and the rebellious western tribes led by the Emir Abdel Kader. Before Abdel Kader surrendered in 1847, several towns in Algeria changed hands: one in particular, Mascara, was the scene of a bloody massacre of those Jews who had not fled. As the Arabs had taken their revenge on the Jews, the French were welcomed as liberators.
"In the long and bloody war between this one to France, which was the fate of the Jews of western Algeria? Far from freeing the Jews taxes, chores and vexatious measures that were their lot, the emir did not hesitate to strengthen, especially after the resumption of hostilities in 1835  Claude Martin, Algerian Israelites from 1830 to 1902, Paris, .... Indeed, Abd el-Kader then needs the Jews who play a leading economic and financial role in the region: besides the exceptional contributions he imposes  The tribes refusing to pay the tax, Jews and Beni-M'Zabs in ...He uses Jewish middlemen for trade and supply of arms. Jews still make tents for his troops and, no doubt, are charged with coining money, an activity prohibited to Muslims, in the city of Tagdempt  Marcel Emerit, Algeria to the Time of Abd-el-Kader, op. cit., .... Jews, like other sections of the population, are thus forced to contribute to the war effort in all places controlled by Abd el-Kader. In addition, between 1835 and the final victory of France over the emir in 1847, several medium-sized cities, such as Tlemcen and Mascara, pass into the hands of the French, before being taken over by Abd el-Kader. The situation of Jews, Couloughlis and Arabs rallied to the French becomes critical. The civilian population is caught in the heat of battle and the Jews, suspected of sympathy for France, are massacred by the Arabs. This phenomenon can be measured through the example of the Jewish population of Mascara, which is directly affected by the violence of the war."
Here is the bizarre Esther-like story of the Algerian rabbi who decided to offer his 14 year-old daughter Yudah to Abdel Kader, although the Emir already had four wives. Yudah was sent to Paris where Abdel Kader was held prisoner. It seems she never even got to meet him and died in France in 1848.
An Israeli high school student has persuaded Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial, to extend prayers for the souls of Holocaust victims to those from North Africa. Haaretz reports: (with thanks: Ido, Ruth, Imre, Michelle)
Libyan Jews returning from Bergen-Belsen in 1945
The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center has amended the memorial prayers recited on Holocaust Memorial Day to include Jews who lived in Arab countries and not only refer to Jews of European origin, after the complaint of a high school student whose grandfather was a Libyan Holocaust survivor.
The amendments appear on the center’s website. The Yizkor (“Remember”) prayer recited on Holocaust Memorial Day originally beseeched God to remember “all the souls of all the communities of Beit Israel in the European Diaspora” who died in the Holocaust. Now the word “European” has been removed.
The version of the El Malei Rahamim (“Merciful God”) read on Holocaust Memorial Day also confined itself to European Jewry: “God, full of mercy, Who dwells above, give rest on the wings of the Divine Presence, amongst the holy, pure and glorious who shine like the sky, to the soul of all the souls of the six million Jews, victims of the Holocaust in Europe.”
In the new version, the words “in Europe” are gone. The change was initiated by a Yael Robinson, a 12th grader from Zichron Yaakov, south of Haifa.
In May the town held a public ceremony on the eve of the last Holocaust Memorial Day, like it usually does. Robinson, whose grandfather Kalfo Janah was a Holocaust survivor from Tripoli, Libya, attended. Some years ago Janah even lit the torch at the ceremony and shared his story. This year, Robinson felt hurt because the prayers ignored the suffering of her grandfather (who has since died) during the Holocaust.
Photo taken of Lucette z""l and her husband Douglas Feiden celebrating New Year 2019
The death has been announced of Lucette Lagnado, author and Wall Street Journal reporter, in her 64th year.
Lucette Lagnado probably did more to popularise the story of Jews driven out from Egypt, like her own family in the 1960s, than any other US writer. Her first book The man in the white sharskin suit met with international acclaim. It was followed by The Arrogant Years.
The man in the white sharskin suit centres on her father Leon, with whom she was especially close. The stately Leon, known as the Captain, would stride through the boulevards of Cairo in his white sharksin suit. An observant Jew, he would attend synagogue every morning without fail. Equally unfailingly, he would stay up all hours to play poker and flirt with women - a uniquely Sephardi blend of religious devotion and wordliness.