Year: 2014

Who will bury the last dinosaur?

Articles about the fast-shrinking Jewish community of Egypt are popular these days following the screening of Jews of Egypt, Amir Ramses’s nostalgic portrayal of a pluralist past. The last dinosaurs –  the nine Jewish ladies led by Magda Haroun – are keen to show they will remain Egyptian patriots to the grave. Article by Nadera Bouazza in Slate (with thanks: Eliyahu):

The Adly synagogue, Cairo (Photo: Reuters/Asma Waguih)

 Magda Haroun, president of the Jewish community in Egypt, is overseeing the festivities. The synagogue is alive. As a girl in festive dress, she ran down the aisles while the adults were praying. Today she compares herself to the Last Dinosaur:

     It must have felt sad to see everyone around them disappear. Me too, everyone around me is disappearing. I‘m burying them one after the other. I do not know who will bury me? “

The Jewish community, like a family of diplodocus, gradually reduced to a trickle until the Six Day War. Less than a  week of military activity  between an Arab coalition and Israel would seal the fate of the Jews in the region.

     “Until the 1967 war, my friends were leaving, we did not know why. I felt that the family was shrinking day by day. I was little, I did not ask questions. A story without words. I began to realize what was happening when my cousins left. My grandparents were crying then. I did not understand why.

Magda‘s mother decided to stay. Her husband, like all men of the community aged 18 to 60, had been interned during the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. Without him, she refused to leave the country. “My mother had a French identity card in her pocket, she could flee. She did not make that choice.

Read article in full (French)

A song for Hanucah, Iraqi-style

With thanks: Janet


Here is a piyut (religious song) traditionally played at Hanucah by the Jews of Iraq (Babylon). The oudh player explains that the piyut is performed to a particular maqam or scale. Every Shabbat and festival had its own maqam.

As a child he remembers being given a sevivon, or spinning top, to play with. Inside were sweets.

Previous posts about Hanucah

Insecure Turkish Jews are leaving

Many Turkish Jews are leaving the country after
increased threats and attacks, a prominent businessman from the
community has written in the Istanbul-based Jewish
newspaper Şalom. What’s more, Jews do not have confidence in the ability of Turkish law or civil society to protect them :(with thanks: Eliyahu)

An Edirne synagogue, now under restoration, was the centre of a controversy when the province governor said it should only ever become a museum in response to Israel’s actions

“We face threats, attacks and harassment every
day. Hope is fading. Is it necessary for a ‘Hrant among us’ to be shot
in order for the government, the opposition, civil society, our
neighbors and jurists to see this?” Mois Gabay wrote on Dec. 10,
referring to the murder of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink in 2007.

a professional in the tourism industry, added that increasing numbers
of Turkish Jews are making plans to move abroad with their families,
feeling unsafe and under pressure in the country.

“Around 37
percent of high school graduates from the Jewish community in Turkey
prefer to go abroad for higher education … This number doubled this
year compared to the previous years,” he wrote.

It is not only
students, who have begun to think about building a life abroad for their
families and children, but also young businesspeople  according to

“Last week, when I was talking to two of my friends on
separate occasions, the conversation turned to our search for another
country to move to. That is to say, my generation is also thinking more
about leaving this country,” he wrote.

Gabay’s column came a few
days after verbal attacks on the Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul’s
Beyoğlu district, which has been attacked with explosives on three
previous occasions in 1986, 1992 and 2003. A paper reading “to be
demolished” was placed on the entrance of the synagogue by an unknown
group two weeks ago. Later, the Alperen Ocakları, the youth group of the
ultranationalist Great Union Party (BBP), attempted to march to the
synagogue as a part of a protest.

In a recent interview with
Radikal, Gabay also said changes in the law and the recognition of hate
crimes in the Turkish penal code are not sufficient for the protection
of Turkey’s Jewish community.

“The laws have changed. Hate
speech is now a crime, but when is a lawsuit ever opened over hate
speech against our community? I don’t blame the government alone for
this. The opposition, civil society, unions and the democratic public
sphere should be a shield for us. They should monitor these incidents.
Are they waiting for the shooting of a Hrant among us?” he said, adding
that daily threats have increased due to the widespread use of social
media in Turkey.

Read article in full

Erdogan wishes Turkish Jews a happy Hanucah

Jews endorse Tunisian secularist

Beji Caid Essebsi, leader of Tunisia’s secular Nidaa Tounes party (Photo: Al Ahram)

Ahead of the second round of Tunisia’s presidential elections,
the head of the country’s Jewish community endorsed the campaign of
secularist hopeful Beji Caid Essebsi, reports The Forward:

Joseph Roger Bismuth, president of the Jewish
Community of Tunisia, or CJT, gave Essebsi his support in an interview
published Thursday by the news site ahead of the Dec.
21 vote.

He is quoted as saying that Essebssi will win the
election because “he has worked for a long time for Tunisia and he has
many contacts and relations that allow him to work better” than other

In an interview for the news site earlier this week,
René Trabelsi, who heads the Jewish community of Djerba, also endorsed
the campaign of Essebsi, who is the leader of the secularist Nidaa
Tounes. In October’s parliamentary elections, his party emerged as the
country’s largest after it won 86 seats of the Tunisian parliament’s

Bismuth also said that the Islamic Ennahdha party,
which after the elections became the country’s second largest, “will
complement the next government, and this will serve socio-political
stability” in Tunisia.

Read article in full

Jews may be enslaved, not Muslims

 With thanks: Maurice

A manual instructing Islamic State ( IS) fighters on how to buy and sell women as slaves says that all ‘unbelieving’ women, including Jews and Christians, can be captured and sold into slavery, the Daily Mail reports. (A single terrorist, Anas al-Libi, is suspected of recently gunning down 150 Yazidi women, some of whom were pregnant, who refused to enter into sham marriages with fighters and become sex slaves.)

The document
was distributed by masked IS fighters outside a large mosque in Iraq’s
second city Mosul, which is controlled by the group.

The document has been obtained by the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute and translated into English.

British terrorism experts, who have studied the document, have concluded it is genuine.

have condemned the manual – which answers questions dealing with sex
with slave girls, their status as the master’s property, and how to beat
them – as ‘disgusting’, saying it harks ‘back to the Dark Ages’. (..)

The Arabic manual (pictured), entitled Questions And Answers On Taking Captives And Slaves, instructs ISIS fighters on how to buy and sell women and girls who have been captured in war as booty 

(One questioner) asks: ‘Is it permissible to sell a female captive?’ The response is:
‘It is permissible to buy, sell, or give as a gift female captives and
slaves, for they are merely property, which can be disposed of.’

document says that all ‘unbelieving’ women, including Jews and
Christians, can be taken as captives and sold as slaves. 

However, it
prohibits the enslavement of Muslim women, even if they have become

pamphlet allows masters to beat their female slaves, but only as a
disciplinary measure, and not as a source of gratification. The master
is also forbidden from beating his slave-girl on the face.

Read article in full


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Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

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