Exodus TO Egypt: the forgotten refugees of 1917

The family of Suzy Ambache (who later married Abba Eban) was among 10,000 Palestinian Jews transplanted to Egypt after they were driven out by the Ottoman authorities during World War 1.

It is a little known fact that a segment of the Jewish community of Egypt were refugees forced out of Palestine by the Turkish authorities during the Great War. Most settled in Alexandria, continuing to speak Hebrew. Some 6,000 returned to Palestine when the war was over but 4,000 remained.Arutz sheva* reports:

The Jews were refugees in their own land when on March, 28, 1917, the Ottoman Governor, Jamal Pasha ordered the forced evacuation of the total populations of Tel Aviv and Jaffa. The results were catastrophic.

The outbreak of World War I, on August 1, 1914, had dire consequences for the over 90,000 Jews of Eretz Yisrael.During the traumatic days of the First World War, the Jews of Eretz Yisrael faced a brutal wave of persecution. This wave intensified over Passover, 1917, when Jewish communities were forced from their homes to wander as refugees within their own land who would return to their homes a year and a half later.

On October 28, 1914, the Ottoman Turks made a monumental decision and joined the War on the side of the Central Powers with the Germans, and Austrio-Hungarian Empire. Jews in Eretz Yisrael with Russian citizenship, now being deemed within the enemy camp, faced the brunt of Ottoman Turkish oppression. By the end of the year almost 12,000 Jews had fled, or had been expelled, mostly to Alexandria Egypt. Some Jews faced conscription into the Turkish army.

Over the next few years Jewish suffering would increase in the Land due to the shortages of supplies, the hoarding of supplies by the Turks, and the stoppage of a large percentage of relief funds from Russian Jewry, resulting in starvation and disease. By the end of the war, the numbers of Jews of Eretz Yisrael were reduced to less than half of what they were in 1914. A large segment of the population was lost to starvation and disease.

Read article in full

*See Eliyahu’s comment below


  • I have a dream…to see antisemitism disappear from the face of the earth!!!
    But why this antisemitism? My explanation for this? Because we are more intelligent and more beautiful than most.
    And yes i am proud of belonging to Judasim. But believing that one day there will no longer be antisemitism is an illusion; Therefore: we must be strong!
    I told my granddaughter: to be Jewish here in Europe , you must be strong!!!
    Sultana Latifa a former refugee from Egypt.
    The lord took me out of Egypt twice, may his name be blessed.

  • Thank you for the link and thank you, Eliyahu m'Tsiyon.

    My grandmother was one of the many that were forced to leave Tel Aviv in 1914. The entire family lived in Alexandria until the end of WWI.

  • The article is somewhat confusing. There were two groups of Jewish refugees in and from Israel. First, near the start of Ottoman entry into WW I, was the expulsion of Jews who were subjects [not citizens!] of enemy states such as Russia, France, UK. Then there were the Jews of Tel Aviv & Yafo [Jaffa] forced out of their homes as described in March 1917. That was about 2 1/2 years into the war.

    Besides the fact that the Ottoman Empire had begun with this expulsion to apply to the Jews in Israel the preliminary stages of the mass murder of the Armenians –an important fact in its own right– is the fact that about 1/3 [or 1/2 according to this article] of the Jews in the country left for one reason or other during the war. So the Jewish population after the war in 1918 was much smaller than before the war. Arab partisans prefer to use the 1918 number of Jews in the country rather than the 1914 number which was much larger.

    Jamal Pasha was a very central figure in the Armenian genocide. His HQ was in Damascus where he met with Aaron Aaronsohn whom he appointed to head a kind of public commission. Because of the travel passes/permits that Jamal gave him, Aaronsohn and his associates in the NILI group were able to travel about and gather information –on the Armenian genocide among other things– which was passed on to the British in Cairo.

    First link is on Jews caught up in the Armenian genocide:

    Aaron Aaronsohn's concern over the German role and over the expulsion of Jews from Yafo and Tel Aviv:



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