Libyan Jews (photo: JIMENA)
Israel on Sunday marked the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab countries after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
a bid to draw attention to their plight, Israel formally marked the
event with a state ceremony under a new law naming November 30 as the
came here and the rest (around 256,000) went to the United States,
France, Italy and elsewhere,” said Meir Kahlon, chairman of the Central
Organisation for Jews from Arab Countries and Iran.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin speaks during
the first ceremony to mark the ‘Day of Commemoration for Jewish Refugees
from Arab countries and Iran’ at the presidential compound in
Jerusalem, on November 30, 2014 ©Gali Tibbon (AFP)
Kahlon himself came to Israel as
a child from Libya and spent his first years in the Jewish state in one
of the tent camps set up to shelter the flood of newcomers.
the state ceremony, President Reuven Rivlin acknowledged that for Jews
from the Middle East, their troubles were not over when they reached
Israel, where European Jews had a chokehold on power.
“Huberman? That doesn’t sound very
Sephardi. Do you have a Sephardi parent or did you marry a Sephardi
man?” asked Vivian Wineman, the president of the Board of Deputies, at
our joint event last Sunday, to mark the first annual memorial day to
remember the mass exodus of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa.
“No,” I replied. “I’m Ashkenazi, and I believe this is as much our story
in the same way that the Ashkenazim do not have exclusivity on the
Holocaust. We all have the same biblical roots and our stories should be
shared by all the Jewish communities.”
The organisation I am involved with is
Harif. A UK organisation set up in 2005 to promote the history, culture
and heritage of Jews from North Africa and the Middle East and change
the false perception that Israel is a nation of white European Jews.
We had a major breakthrough in our
grassroots efforts when the Israeli government supported our campaign to
have an official day in the Jewish calendar. Until very recently,
successive Israeli governments have been criticised by the Sephardim and
their descendants for their near silence on the issue.
Last Sunday in London we joined with
the Board of Deputies to mark the first event, as did other communities
across the globe and in Israel.
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel for the first time marked a national day of
remembrance for the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were displaced
from Arab countries.
In June, the Knesset adopted a law designating Nov. 30 as the annual
national day of commemoration for the 850, 000 Jewish refugees who were
displaced from Arab countries and Iran in the 20th century. The official
commemoration falls a day after the anniversary of the United Nations
General Assembly’s approval of the partition plan for the Palestine
Mandate creating a Jewish state.
“Today, for the first time, we are marking the exit and deportation
of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab countries and from Iran in
the years following the establishment of the State of Israel,” Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement released Sunday.
A band of young, Jewish musicians filled the halls of Hillel at UCLA
with traditional Sephardic music as more than 120 local Sephardic Jews
gathered at the center on Nov. 24 to commemorate Jewish refugees from
Arab lands and Iran. Sponsored by the nonprofit Jews Indigenous to the
Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA) and the Consulate General of
Israel in Los Angeles, the event was designed to raise greater community
awareness about the expulsion and flight of hundreds of thousands of
Jews from various Middle Eastern and North African countries since the
creation of Israel in 1948.
“We have a responsibility to tell the world about the stories of our
Jews that had been living for many centuries throughout countries in the
Middle East and overnight became refugees by the Arab and Islamic
regimes in those countries,” Israel’s Consul General in L.A. David
Siegel said, calling upon those gathered “to teach your children about
the near 1 million Jews who were left homeless and had everything taken
away from them.”
The national day of commemoration for Jewish refugees from Arab lands
and Iran was officially marked in Israel for the first time this year
on Sunday, November 30. 850,000 Jews left, were expelled or fled homes
in Syria, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and other Arab and Muslim
countries around the time that the State of Israel was established.
Meir Kahlon, chairman of the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries described to Israeli daily Haaretz the
day as “commemorating the expulsion of the Jews from Arab lands… we
want to remember this day as the Nakba Day of the Jews of Arab Lands,”
Kahlon said, using the term commonly used by Palestinians to refer to
Israel’s Independence Day (Nakba means catastrophe in Arabic).