Month: February 2021

Who needs hamantaschen when you can eat ‘dabla’?

The triangular Hamantaschen, or Haman’s ears, have become the universal cookie for Purim. But they were unknown in Tunisia, where the tradition Purim food was dabla (debla), a thin dough dipped in oil and honey. Peggy Cidor recalls how the festival was cellebrated in her childhood in The Jerusalem Post:

Tunisian dabla (debla), prepared specially to give away to the needy at the festival of Purim.Recipe here.

Each day, upon returning from the French school where I studied and where no one ever mentioned any of the Jewish festivals, I found a new pile of cookies on the buffet table wrapped in cellophane, each more tempting than the next. 

 Sensing our enthusiasm to taste them, my brother and I were warned not to even touch them. “It’s all for the mimanot,” my mother would say, using an abbreviated term for mishloach manot.
Sometimes, my mother would simply call the mimanot “the plates,” but they always meant the same thing – a large dish always taken from our finest china, loaded with samples of the cookies she prepared, wrapped in delicate and colorful paper or one of Mom’s embroidered napkins.

 Sometimes, I arrived back from school while my mother was still busy in her kitchen preparing these cookies.

I particularly remember the mekrud, made of semolina, dates, tangerines and nuts, baked in the oven and then dipped in homemade honey sugar, tangerine syrup and water. 

The dabla were the Oriental counterparts of the Eastern European hamentashen made of a very thin dough cut into long strips and rolled around a special fork, dipped into boiling oil and then honey. And there were more, including almonds mashed and fried in the shape of cigars, and so on.

When the day itself arrived, my brother and I changed into our Shabbat outfits, put all the mimanot in large baskets and began our tour to all the aunts and other family in the area. 

Needless to say, we returned from our route having received the same amount of mimanot from all of them. Around the table that evening, my parents would dare, here and there, to compare the traditional homemade cookies they had received – always stating their preference for my mother’s.

Read article in full

Gulf states Jews celebrate Purim publicly for first time

The Association of Gulf Communities got off to a flying start with a Zoom event for Purim on the evening of 25 February. The association is under the spiritual leadership of Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadie, based in Dubai, and president Ebrahim Dawood Nonoo, based in Bahrain, Arutz Sheva carried this piece:



 For the first time, the Jewish communities of the six Gulf countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – celebrate Purim together. 

 The event will include a keynote speech by Dr. Sh. Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Co-existance in Bahrain. 

 Thoufeek Zakriya, the Arabic-Hebrew calligrapher living in Dubai, will take part in the event, creating a piece of Purim artwork live.

Purim Megillah (Scroll of Esther) will be read by the Rabbi of AGJC, Rabbi Elie Abadie. 

Read article in full

Jews in six Gulf states for ‘Beth Din of Arabia’

Meanwhile Azeri Jews have cancelled their Purim Celebrations (Jerusalem Post)

One man’s mission to preserve Iranian-Jewish heritage

Tonight begins the festival of Purim. Youssef Setareh-Shenas hopes that, by tomorrow night, he will have a virtual tour of the tomb of Esther and Mordechai at Hamadan on hiswebsite,which aims to preserve the memory of Iranian-Jewish heritage. Karmel Melamed interviewed him for The Forward:

The tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Hamadan

 Celebrating Purim is bittersweet for Fariborz Moradzadeh, an Iranian Jewish businessman in Los Angeles. 

 In the 43 years since arriving in L.A., he has been unable to return to his birth city of Hamedan in Iran and visit the burial site of Purim’s heroine Esther and hero Mordechai located nearby. 

The Iranian regime’s random arrests of Iranian Americans and Jews makes such visits all but impossible.

 But this Purim Moradzadeh hopes to be able to visit Esther’s tomb virtually through, a website that is trying to provide a virtual 3-D tour of the Esther and Mordechai mausoleum. 

The 3-D tour is still glitchy and the site, in Farsi with some English, difficult to navigate. But those drawbacks don’t dissuade Moradzadeh and others who are proud there’s an online home for Iranian Jewish heritage even if, as they claim, wealthy Iranian Jews aren’t interested in funding it. 

 The site is the brainchild of Los Angeles Iranian Jewish small businessman Yousef Setareh-Shenas, who nearly 15 years ago created the Persian-language online forum to preserve Iranian Jewish history, culture and information — and which he runs on a shoestring without help from far wealthier members of the community. 

 “I realized that we as Iran’s Jews are gradually losing our history and heritage because the majority of the community live here in America are unconcerned with the past,” said Setareh-Shenas, who is in his late 60’s.

Read article in full

Hag Purim Sameah!

A video tour of the tombs of Esther and Mordechaiin Hamadan, Persia (W/ t Imre)

The lost Jewish history of a Baghdad holy shrine

The New York Times has published an article,Tomb of Joshua, Revered Prophet, Beckons Believers in Baghdad,” on the purported Iraqi holy site that is also known as the Shrine of Jeshua the High Priest. It begins by misleading readers into thinking that this is the tomb of the Prophet Joshua, who never set foot in Iraq. The American Sephardi Federation (ASF) criticises the piece for not noting the history of the tomb:

The article mentions in passing the “Jewish neighbors that some in the neighborhood still remembered” 20 years ago and how these Jews were “descendants of Jews in exile in Babylon, and an important part of Iraqi society until most were forced to leave in the 1950s.”

 Unfortunately, the Tomb’s Jewish history goes unnoted. That history includes the major 19th century fight over the burial of Baghdad’s Chief Rabbi Hakham Abdallah Somekh (an ancestor of former US Department of State Special Envoy to Monitor & Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr) in the courtyard and how the Farhud’s first victims may have been pilgrims en route to or from the Shrine for the annual Sukkot pilgrimage.

Top: the tomb of Joshua the High Priest with Haham Ezra Dangoor. Bottom: the Hebrew inscriptions and distinctive decoration have been painted over in recent times.

Diarna,  an independent digital reconstruction project in partnership with the ASF, has this history of the site:

The burial of Chief Rabbi, Hakham Abdalla Somekh, in the shrine’s courtyard in 1889 led to the persecution of Baghdadi Jews by the city’s governor, who even imprisoned the new Chief Rabbi. The governor was removed after a “memorial on the subject was addressed to the marquis of Salisbury (Oct. 25, 1889, on behalf of the Jewish Board of Deputies and the Anglo-Jewish Association).”

 Decades later the shrine featured in the Nazi-inspired pogrom in Baghdad known as the Farhud. According to the Government Committee for Investigating the Events of 1-2 June 1941 (as summarized by Dr. Zvi Yahuda in Nahardea: Journal of the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center, No. 15, Winter 2005/2006):

“The riots broke out on the morning of Sunday, 1 June 1941 (the first day of the Pentecost [Sukkot] festival), next to the al-Khirr bridge situated in al-Karkh, the western part of Baghdad, on the main road to the tomb of Joshua the High Priest. Soldiers of the Iraqi army together with civilians fell on Jews making their way to visit the tomb, as was their custom in celebrating the Pentecost holy day. The writers of the report believed that this onslaught, which was not put down right at the start by the army and police authorities, was the direct cause of the riots at al-Rusafa, the district in Baghdad where concentrations of Jews were located. However, local Jewish sources, who agree with what the report contains as to details of the incident, in which soldiers and Muslim civilians injured the Jews, diverge from its contents regarding the background to its onset. These sources maintain that this was not the Jews’ setting off to celebrate the Pentecost festival by visiting the tomb of Joshua the High Priest but their participation at a reception held for the Regent and his entourage on their return to Baghdad.

Questions linger about the Jews who were first attacked, whether a delegation of Jewish notables who had been attending a reception with the Regent at the Palace of Flowers (Qasr al-Zuhur), or “a different group of Jews, defined as young people, who were on their way to the festivities at the tomb of Joshua the High Priest and crossed the bridge after the deputation of Jewish notables had returned.” If, as the report maintains,the attack on the Jews [took] place close to the palace where the Regent and his retinue resided and operated, and on the main road connecting the Palace of Flowers to the Baghdad international airport and the British Embassy… How did it happen that at a place so sensitive to the security of the British and the rulers who supported them, riots could erupt, and a bloody incident could occur in which Jews were injured and killed? Had the British neglected the security of the road connecting their Embassy with the residence of the Regent and allowed the assembly of armed soldiers and civilians who opposed them and their supporters among the domestic rulers?

Unfortunately, “the report of the Committee and the British sources did not trouble to address these questions.”

Government to compensate for disappeared Yemenite children

In an effort to gain closure for the Yemenite Children Affair,  the Israeli government has approved a plan to compensate some 1,000 families whose children had disappeared following their arrival in Israel some 70 years ago.  The government has expressed regret for the families’ suffering, but has stopped short of an apology. The Times of Israel reports (with thanks: Sarah, Stan):

Jews from Aden and Yemen awaiting their airlift to Israel in 1949

Under the terms of the plan, families will receive NIS 150,000 ($46,000) for each child whose death was made known to them at the time. A sum of NIS 200,000 ($61,000) will be paid for each child whose fate is unknown.
In total, the government will allocate NIS 162 million ($46,600,000) for the compensation plan.

 Only families whose cases were already reviewed by one of the three state committees set up over the years to investigate the issue will be eligible to apply for compensation. Requests must be filed between June 1, 2021, and November 30, 2021. 

A committee will be established to oversee distribution of the compensation money.

There are 1,050 families that qualify for compensation, according to the Ynet website. Receiving compensation will be dependent on a written commitment to not file any further lawsuits on the matter as well as to close and waive any existing legal action. 

 The proposal included a declaration that “the government of Israel regrets the events that happened in the early days of the state and recognizes the suffering of families whose children were part of this painful issue.”

 “It is not in the power of a financial plan to provide a remedy to the suffering caused to families,” the declaration noted. 

“However, the State of Israel hopes that it will be able to assist in the process of rehabilitation and healing of the social wound that this affair has created in Israeli society.”

The compensation plan came against the background of several lawsuits by families regarding the matter. 

 Read article in full

More about the Yemenite Children Affair


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