‘My grandfather lost three siblings in Farhud’

 This Facebook post by Binyamin Arazi  is remarkable in its power and pathos. It brings home the suffering of ordinary Jews – somebody’s grandfather, uncle, mother. That’s why Jewish organisations, schools and Israeli embassies worldwide are  commemorating the exodus of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran this month, culminating on 30 November.

Destruction following anti-Jewish riots in Aleppo, 1947

Until the 1950’s, my grandfather’s family lived in the Jewish quarter
of Baghdad, where they had been since the Babylonian exile. As for my
grandmother, her family lived in Aleppo. As Jews, they both suffered
under a system known as ‘dhimmitude’, which had been in place since the
7th century Arab/Islamic conquests. For centuries, we lived as second
class citizens. All of that changed during the second world war, when
Haj Amin al-Husseini (the British-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem and an ally of the Nazis) began broadcasting Nazi propaganda throughout the Arab world.

This culminated in a wave of deadly massacres against Jews all over the
Middle East. The second most notable of these is the Farhud (Arabic for
“Violent Dispossession”), of which my grandfather and his family were
victims. He lost 3 of his siblings that day, and one of them was an
infant. The rioters caught up to his mother, who was carrying his baby
brother. They ripped him straight out of his mother’s arms and cut him
to pieces, right in front of her. His older brothers were eventually
lynched and burned in the town center. There were crowds of people
joyously dancing under their rotting corpses. All of that being said,
the massacre most people remember was the (failed) extermination attempt
carried out in 1948 by six Arab armies. We all know how that one ended.

By 1949, my grandfather’s situation became unbearable. He and his
family were eventually able to leave Iraq, but all of their money and
property was seized by the government. They were officially forbidden
from ever returning. In Syria, my grandmother was effectively trapped,
since the government feared that any Jew who left Syria would wind up in
Israel. Massacres against Jews were increasingly commonplace,
particularly in her hometown of Aleppo. The community there was
completely destroyed, Jewish bank accounts were frozen, and our property
was taken by the government and handed over to Arabs. They were soon
smuggled out of Syria and made their way to Tel Aviv, where my uncle
still resides.

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