Month: June 2007

New book out on the Jews of Bahrain

The Bahrain Tribune interviews one of the 30 Jews of Bahrain, Nancy Elly Khedouri, about her new book: (with thanks: Lily)

“A book, From Our Beginning to the Present Day, by Nancy Elly Khedouri, is a journey of Bahrain’s Jewish community from the first settlers to the modern Bahraini Jews. How the Jewish families have integrated into society, maintained their identity, the occupations the earlier Jews followed and their contributions to Bahrain are also highlighted in the book.

“The first Jewish family to settle in Bahrain was the Yadgarhs, who came to Bahrain in 1880. The first Jews who settled in Bahrain came from Iraq, Khedouri said.

“They were generally traders and money exchangers and one was a record producer. The settlers brought in their religious and cultural heritage and thus Bahrain got its first synagogue and a cemetery for the Jews.

“The peaceful co-existence we have with the Bahrainis is proof of the religious tolerance advocated by His Majesty the King, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa,” Khedouri said.”

Read article in full

Arutz Sheva article

Now Tigris ‘masgouf’ goes the way of the Jews

Eating fish caught from the Tigris can be so dangerous to your health that some Imams have issued fatwas prohibiting it. The Times reports on the demise of masgouf, barbecued carp, once a firm favourite with Baghdad’s Jews (with thanks: Lily):

“I still like to eat fish once a week, but it is not quite the same as before,” said Ali, a regular customer, who stopped by Abu Ayyad’s stall yesterday to select a fish for cooking and then returned later to pick it up for his family’s lunch. “We have only been eating farmed fish for the past year.”

“The traditional recipe has been prepared in Baghdad for centuries. In happier times the fishermen would bring their boats up along the banks and prepare brushwood fires. The fish would be cleaned, gutted and cut down the back to form a circle and then grilled upright against an open fire.

“Whole families would sit out in the cool of the evening and consume masgouf with bread and salads. To this day masgouf is still prepared by Iraqi exiles, including members of the once-vibrant Jewish community, who were forced out of the country half a century ago.

“But, like in so many parts of modern Iraq, the conflict has destroyed the old traditions. The once-popular stretch of river, known as Abu Nawas, where masgouf restaurants were open late into the night is a no-go area these days for vehicles and most pedestrians.”

Read article in full

Egyptian Jews fight to reclaim seized property

The return of the Cecil Hotelin Alexandria to its Jewish owners could set a precedent. The Jerusalem Post reports on a conference opening in Haifa on Egyptian Jewry:

An organization representing Egyptian Jews is seeking to increase awareness of their culture and history, and to mark Egyptian Jewry’s own nakba, or catastrophe, their exile resulting from the Arab-Israeli wars.

In a conference in Haifa on Wednesday, the World Congress of the Jews from Egypt will also focus on recent initiatives to reclaim property taken from Egyptian Jews since 1948.

An estimated 100,000 Jews lived in Egypt in 1948. Today, estimates of the country’s Jewish population run the short distance from 20 to 100. Hundreds were killed and tens of thousands expelled in the aftermath of the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948-49, 1956 and 1967.

Often the expulsions were performed “politely. They just took your work permit away. [After that] my father, an export-import merchant, just decided we would leave,” said Prof. Ada Aharoni, head of the World Congress of the Jews from Egypt.

The congress lobbies for the restitution of property and recognition of the historic tragedy of Egyptian Jewry, and seeks to add their story to Jewish education curricula around the world.

Earlier this month, the Cecil Hotel, a four-star hotel in Alexandria that belonged to the Metzger family until it was nationalized in 1952, was returned to the family. Nationalized five years before the family was expelled, the 86-room hotel was resold to Egypt after its return, according to Agence-France Presse.

In its heyday the Cecil hosted such figures as Winston Churchill and Al Capone. In 1996, an Egyptian court ruled that the hotel should be returned to its owners, but the ruling wasn’t implemented for fear it would establish a precedent for the restitution of nationalized Jewish property.

The study of the dissolution of Egyptian Jewry – and of a culture and literature that were abruptly ended by the wars – could help heal the troubled relationship between Arabs and Jews, according to members of the World Congress of the Jews from Egypt.

Read article in full

Egypt sues for King David hotel (Ynet News)

Jerusalem Post article

Yemen promises expatriate Jews full rights

According to the article below from The Yemen Times, yet another Arab government is talking of granting nationality rights to their expatriate Jews. The previous Yemen president Al-Hamdi even requested that the Jews return.

What lies behind this recent flurry of conciliatory noises? They delegitimise Israel as the Jewish homeland: the Jews are viewed as ‘our Jews’, compliant dhimmis, whose ancient ties to their Arab homelands trump their loyalty to Israel. In the case of Morocco and Libya, I believe the charm offensive towards Jews is a cynical bid to attract Jewish investment. There is also the matter of abandoned Jewish property that cannot be developed unless it is reclaimed, or until the owner demands compensation. And if Jews do return, it would be a propaganda coup for Arab governments.

Mohammed bin Sallam of The Yemen Times finds a Yemenite Israeli, who still has family in Yemen, prepared to sing the praises of the current Yemen president Ali Abdullah Saleh:

“Former Yemeni President Ibrahim Al-Hamdi assured that all Yemeni immigrants, including those who immigrate to Israel, have the right to dual nationality according to the Yemeni Constitution. Official statistics reveal that there are 54,000 Yemeni Jews in Israel. Al-Hamdi later requested they return to Yemen, promising them full rights and duties, as is the case with Yemeni Muslims.

“Under Al-Hamdi, Jews numbered more than 20,000; however, this number decreased following his tragic assassination, as many Jewish, Israeli and American organizations hastened to deport them (of course Jews never flee discrimination or insecurity – ed) to Israel with the help of Yemeni mediators. Only around 1,000 remained in Yemen, mostly children and elderly people.

“Unofficial sources assert that Jews of Yemeni origin comprise 10 percent of Israel’s population, or approximately 600,000. Further, more than 12,000 Yemeni Jews reside in the United States and approximately 15,000 in Canada and the U.K. (I think these numbers may be exaggerated – ed)

“The question is: Do some or all of them have the right to dual nationality, as is the case with most Yemeni expatriates worldwide?

“Yahya Al-Marhabi immigrated to Israel seven years ago with his wife and children, leaving behind his elderly father and more than 10 brothers and sisters. In his early 30s, Al-Marhabi is married with two sons and three daughters and living in a house in Beir Al-Saba’, where most Yemeni Jews live.

“He explained, “I came to visit my father, mother and brothers who live in Sana’a and Amran. My father came from Sa’ada governorate several months ago to escape the ongoing war there.”

“Both in his name and on behalf of all Yemeni Jews, Al-Marhabi thanked President Ali Abdullah Saleh for his attitude toward his family and all Jews dispelled (sic) from Sa’ada, commenting that such attitude was welcomed warmly by Yemeni Jews both in Israel and across the globe.”

Read article in full

Syrian Mufti calls on Jews to return

Syrian Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun has called on Jews of Syrian origin to return to Syria, where they will enjoy the same rights given to every Syrian citizen, according to the Al-Arabiya website of 21 June 2007. (Via MEMRI)

He said that the property and synagogues of the Jews who left Syria remained as they were, and would be placed at the disposal of their original owners.

‘Return’ is all the rage: Muslims want preferential rights in Spain

About

This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

Point of No Return

Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

One-stop blog on the Middle East's
forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.