Month: April 2019

Moroccan-Jewish family injured in US shooting

Members of the Dahan and Peretz families, originally from Morocco, were injured in the synagogue shooting on 27 April 2019 at Poway in California. Ironically, the family had moved to California to escape rocket attacks in Sderot, the Israeli town a kilometre away from the Gaza strip.  The Times of Israel reports: 

Eight-year-old Noya Dahan in hospital: her family had moved from Sderot

“We came from fire to fire,” said Israel Dahan, Noya’s father,
referring to the family’s move from the rocket-battered Gaza-border town
of Sderot to California.

Dahan told Israel Radio that the family’s home in Sderot had been hit
by rockets several times over the years, and that he was injured on one
of those occasions.

moving to the US several years ago, he said, the family’s new home was
targeted — this time by anti-Semites, who spray-painted swastikas on the

“It can happen anywhere. We are strong,” he said.

Peretz said he was able to quickly protect children from harm during
the attack due to instincts he honed over years rushing to shelters to
hide from thousands of rockets fired by terror groups in the Gaza Strip
over the last 15 years.

Read article in full 

CNN Interview with Noya

What happened to Jews in Egyptian prisons after 1967?

This Times of Israel blog by Hussein Aboubakr makes for painful reading: it tells the tragic story of the 400 Jews arrested as ‘Israeli PoWs’ in 1967, after Egypt’s defeat in the Six Day War . Some were tortured and sodomised.

Following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, and the subsequent Arab-Israeli wars, the Egyptian government, along with the rest of the Arab world, decided to strip, banish, and imprison the Jews in their lands.

Hussein Aboubakr

Some 100,000 Egyptian Jews fled to Israel, North America, and Europe. A sizable minority of Egyptian Jews remained to face the horrors of Arab rule.

Following the Six Days War, the Egyptian government arrested every Jewish male in the country and detained them in Abu Zabaal, a major detention facility in Cairo still operative till this very day.

Jews were arrested wherever they were, bedrooms, schools, buses, and workplaces.

 Upon arrival to Abu Zabaal, Jews were greeted by the chief Rabbi crucified above the gates (he was strung up but not killed -ed). They had to pass under the Rabbi into the nightmares the Egyptian officers had prepared for them. Upon arrival, they were met with a barrage of insults, kicks, and punches. Then they to choose a female name each, because that’s how it works in my part of the world, being a woman is the ultimate degradation.

 Read article in full

List of detainees at Abu Zaabal prison (HSJE)

US donates more towards restoration of Nahum’s tomb

The United States announced Friday that it would contribute an additional $500,000 to help restore the tomb believed to be the resting place of the biblical prophet Nahum in the town of Alqosh in northern Iraq, the Times of Israel reports. While the Kurdish authorities (and private donors) have also contributed, it is interesting that Kurdistan has not claimed the site as its ‘national heritage’, in contrast to Egypt, for instance.

Joey Hood pledged the money on a visit to the tomb last week

“Chargé d’affaires Joey Hood and Consul General Steve Fagin visited the Tomb of Nahum, a site rich in cultural importance to the region’s Jews, Christians and Muslims,” the US Consulate General in Erbil announced. (..)

In November 2018, the US also gave $500,000 to assist in restoring the tomb, according to Adam Tiffen, the deputy director of the Alliance for the Restoration of Cultural Heritage (ARCH), a US-based non-governmental organization overseeing efforts to repair the site.

Both private donors and the Prime Minister’s Office of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have also made donations to help ensure the conservation of the tomb, Tiffen told The Times of Israel in a phone call.

The 1,500-year-old building was for centuries the site of a major Jewish pilgrimage each year on the holiday of Shavuot.

Read article in full

How Mimouna became an Israeli celebration

A plate of Mimouna goodies graces the front cover of the Jewish Journal of LA. Shmuel Rosner tells how a Moroccan-Jewish tradition – a party to mark the end of Passover – is now celebrated by 38 percent of all Israelis. 

This process is evident in the waning of some “ethnic” traditions, such as the tradition of refraining from eating kitniyot during Passover (see graph, right). It’s also evident in the spread of “ethnic” traditions. While Ashkenazic Jews are losing the ethnic battle over kitniyot (probably for their own good), another group is winning the battle over another ethnic custom: Mimouna. This festival ceased being merely an “ethnic” custom long ago. It is a national holiday. So much so, that in 2016, then-Environment Minister Avi Gabbay decided to exempt Mimouna (like Independence Day) from the general ban on making noise after 11 p.m. Mimouna celebrations, which include late-night ululations, received an official stamp of approval.

Mimouna is an end-of-Passover tradition that was imported to Israel by a minority. A “marginal, sectarian” festival that received the “status of a national holiday, partly religious, partly civil,” as Rachel Shabi wrote in a book on the subject. Moroccan immigrants celebrated it in their homes until someone had the idea to take it public in the mid-1960s. Initially a few hundred came, then thousands, then tens and hundreds of thousands, and with them the politicians, who understood the electoral power represented by the revelers.

“Moroccan immigrants celebrated Mimouna in their homes until someone had the idea to take it public in the mid-1960s.”

At some point, the celebrations turned mainstream in a way that made some keepers of the ethnic traditions uncomfortable. These people — a minority — started complaining of too quick a switch “from the erasure of a culture to its appropriation.” They argued that at first Israel pushed the Moroccan immigrants and their culture to the margins, but then was seduced by the smell of mufletot — the traditional Mimouna pancakes — to appropriate this part of the culture.

Around half a million Moroccan immigrants, whether first- or second-generation, live in Israel today. This corresponds with our finding that one-tenth of Jews in Israel (9%) say they “host Mimouna at home.”

Around half of the hosts also “wear traditional dress” on Mimouna (4%). These are the numbers that represent a traditional “ethnic” holiday. Mimouna, however, requires not only hosts but also guests. In Morocco, Jews used to invite their Muslim neighbors to Mimouna. In modern Israel, they invite their Jewish compatriots from other communities, who are not fortunate enough to have such a beautiful festival of their own.

Therefore, almost 4 in 10 Israelis attend Mimouna (38%). More than one quarter of Ashkenazic Jews report that they attend Mimouna (27%). A similar proportion of Jews from the former Soviet Union report the same (28%). That’s not to mention Mizrahi Jews (48%) and Israelis from mixed families (43%). A simple calculation of hosts and guests reveals that almost half of Israel’s Jewish population celebrates Mimouna.

Read article in full

More about Mimouna

Singing from a multitude of songsheets

If asked how to define her identity, Aline P’nina Tayar would say she was a Jewish Maltese Australian Englishwoman.

Multiple identities are not uncommon among Sephardi Jews, but Maltese? to be a Jew of  Malta is unusual, pace  Christopher Marlowe.    

Aline Tayar was born in Malta in 1948 from a family of Tunisian Jews of Livornese descent on her mother’s side. Her father’s great-grandfather was a rabbi who had settled in Malta. Devoutly catholic and claustrophobic, Malta was not a particularly hospitable place to be a Jew, and the community never had more than 100 members in modern times. Aline’s family remained far-flung, with eccentric,  multilingual relatives living in France, Italy, Tunisia and Egypt.

Aline’s memoirHow shall we sing? is a tale of ‘survival through geographical re-arrangement’ as she quaintly puts it. Aline takes the reader on a journey around the Mediterranean to meet members of her tribe, and explore what it is to be a Jew belonging nowhere and yet at home everywhere. Her own dislocated nuclear family could not resettle successfully on an Israeli kibbutz, so her father moved them to Australia.

Aline admits to being ‘both drawn and repelled’ by the Jewish determination to remain exclusive, yet ‘a world without cultural differences is unattractive’. No matter how hard Aline’s family tries to run away from the past, it catches up with them. The book’s characters are finely observed, the atmosphere evocative, the writing engaging and funny. About Israel, the attitude is  ‘we want the state to exist, on the other hand, we would prefer other people to live in it.’

It is 19 years since How shall we sing? was first published by Pan MacMillan in Australia. A retired conference interpreter, she now teaches conference interpreting in Shanghai. She is seeking financial backers for the film adaptation of her 2011 prize-winning novel ‘ Island of Dreams’.


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