Where did Jews from the Arab world go?

This survey for Ynet News by Beit Hatefutsot (Israel’s Museum of the Diaspora) does not reach any earth-shattering conclusions, but it does recognise that Jews did leave Arab countries  for destinations other than Israel – and in some cases well before Israel was established. (With thanks: Gina, Imre) 

 Jews began leaving Arab countries even before the
establishment of Israel, and more left as the conflict between the Arab
countries and the nascent Jewish state intensified. 

Yemenite Jews (Photo: Reuters)

Yemenite Jews (Photo: Reuters)

From some countries, the process was quick and most of their Jewish
population left within a few short years. But in others, it was a drawn-out process in which the Jews left in various waves. 

The bottom line is that of the million or so Jews who lived in Arab
countries in 1947, only a few thousand are left today. Hundreds of years
of history disappeared, almost instantaneously. 

As opposed to most Moroccan Jews who left quietly, Jews of other
countries did not have such an option. In Yemen and Iraq, most Jews left
in operations organized by the State of Israel, often with the
assistance of local Zionist movements. Many of those who
did not join the mass exodus were left behind until this very day.

For most Jews, Israel was the natural and preferred destination. The
excitement stemming from the very establishment of an independent Jewish
state in the land of Israel was immense and was articulated the
realization of generations of longing and prayers for
the return to Zion, out of a desire to be part of the Zionist

There were other factors as well, often personal. Those who had family
members who were already settled in other countries and were capable of
financially supporting their relatives, often joined them instead of
immigrating to Israel. 

In addition, wealthy or well-educated families, such as those who
mastered English or French or had professions that would enable them to
easily integrate into western countries, often preferred to immigrate to
countries other than Israel, at least initially. 

The 6,000 or so Jews who lived in Libya in 1967 were transported to
Italy due to the dangers they faced following the 1967 Six-Day War. Most
of them then immigrated to Israel. 

Some Jewish communities from Arab lands left and settled in other
countries long before the State of Israel was established. Jews from
Morocco settled in the Amazon in northern Brazil and Peru during the
19th century rubber boom. 

The Sephardic community in the Canadian province of Quebec numbers some
25,000 today, mostly in Montreal. Many Jews left Morocco in the late
1950s and as French speakers found a home in the French-Canadian

Jews from Syria settled in various communities in Latin America, such as
Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Panama, around the turn of the
20th century. 

Sephardic synagogue                      in Guatemala City (Photo: Beit Hatfutsot)

Sephardic synagogue in Guatemala City (Photo: Beit Hatfutsot)

There were also communities of Jews from Iraq who settled in India and
the Far East, or in England, where Yemenite Jews from Aden settled. 

In most of the places where the Jews settled they established a
traditional synagogue and made an effort to preserve the religious and
cultural customs from their land of origin. Their customs served as an
anchor to preserve their identity among the subsequent

As for language, many Jews spoke a unique Jewish-Arabic dialect which
was different from that of Jews from other locations. The Baghdad
dialect was different from that of the Jews of Tunis or Yemen. 

In countries that were colonized by France, many Jews adopted the French
language. Many of those locations had Jewish schools founded by the
Alliance Israélite Universelle, a Paris-based international Jewish
organization founded the French statesman Adolphe
Crémieux to safeguard the human rights of Jews around the world. 

Most first-generation emigrants continued speaking their native
language, at least at home. In Israel however, there was immense
pressure to learn and adopt Hebrew. Arabic speakers were also viewed
with suspicion, as it was this language of the enemy. Consequently,
most first generation immigrants abandoned their mother tongue, aside
from a few words and expressions, and failed to pass it on to the next

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One Comment

  • Jan. 06 2019

    At this stage of the Global conflict, it doesn't matter any more WHERE the "Yahudi" of the Arab/Islamic world went. What matters is:
    {1} WE were there much more than 1000 years before Islam appeared. The Jews of those lands were more aboriginal than the followers of Muhammed.

    {2}All of the Jews from Mesopotamia in the East to Casablanca on the Atlantic & the North African Mahgreb would have been exterminated. It's not even controversial. It's built right into Muslim behavioral patterns to this day: No matter what THEY look like, no matter what languages they speak.no matter what cultural differences separate them. Islam produces cultures that are basically sado-masochistic and genocidal.

    {3|In any dealings with Muslims, at the individual, mass, or institutional levels, this can never be forgotten: Regardless of location,nation or society. They are incapable of positive change in any realistic time frame. The same considerations apply to those who aid or abet them. Regardless of THEIR claims to virtue, institutional eminence or origins.

    {4 Any thing that weakens or undermines them cannot be taken off the table when opportunities present themselves.

    It is sad and regrettable to have to state such realities. But this is the only basis for self preservation in dealing with them
    Please GOOGLE: Norman L. Roth


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