Month: March 2022

Putting desert hospitality on the menu

An initiative called ‘Culinary Queens’ aims to introduce tourists to Israel to the cooking of residents of Negev desert towns like Yeruham. The visitors also get to listen to stories of cooks like Casablanca-born Shula Knafo. Article in Israel21c:(with thanks: Michelle)

Knafo tells us how she immigrated with her parents and grandmother from Casablanca as a six-year-old girl. The family had 10 children and she married young to escape the male-dominated restraints her father imposed.

She talks frankly about her difficult marriage and proudly about her children: about one son who is a commander of an elite IDF unit, about another son who is a diplomat, about her victory in getting proper treatment for her child with special needs who today has a full-time job at a supermarket.

And, of course, about her grandchildren.

Shula Knafo cooking Moroccan delights (Photo Or Alexenburg)

When her husband died, she was left without any savings or pension, having worked for most of her life as a housecleaner. It was then that she was recruited for the Culinary Queens, and slowly she began reestablishing herself, she said.

She got her driver’s license, enlarged her patio and took a course in entrepreneurship.

But she didn’t stop there. When she could stand on her own two feet she established an organization which every year organizes a culinary charity event and with the proceeds takes children and families in the welfare system to an attraction or site they otherwise would never get to visit.

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Farewell to US philanthropist who helped rescue 400 Syrian Jewish brides

Stephen Shalom, a leading Sephardi philanthropist, has died aged 93, JTA reports. His greatest achievement was to rescue 400 unmarried Jewish girls from Syria in 1977. Born in Brooklyn of parents from Aleppo, he fought to dispel the myth that Mizrahi Jews were intolerant of Arabs. (With thanks: Nancy)

(JTA) — Stephen Shalom, a leader of the U.S. Sephardic Jewish community who promoted Middle East peace and religious tolerance, died at 93.

Stephen Shalom z”l (Photo: Sephardic Heritage Foundation)

Shalom died Sunday, his family said in a statement.

The heir to a handkerchief manufacture fortune, I. Shalom, now known as New York Accessory Group, Shalom was at different times in his life a leader of major Jewish and pro-Israel philanthropies. They included the United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York (now the UJA Federation of New York), the World Sephardi Federation and Israel Bonds. He was also involved with the American Jewish Committee; HIAS, the Jewish immigration advocacy group; the Jewish Agency, and the Joint Distribution Committee.

Shalom said the accomplishment of which he was most proud was working with Rep. Stephen Solarz, D-N.Y., with the blessing of President Jimmy Carter, to bring 400 Jewish women who wanted to marry within their faith to the United States from Syria in 1977.

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Cairo Jews protest at Egypt’s seizure of second Geniza

The Egyptian Antiquities Authority has carried off a trove of historic Jewish texts from the Bassatine Jewish cemetery in Cairo, raising uproar in the Israeli press. The move is in line with Egypt’s policy of treating Jewish heritage as ‘national’ heritage. During preservation and renovation work at the Cairo Jewish cemetery at Bassatine, a second geniza* (repository of  documents bearing God’s name) was discovered in a burial plot belonging to the Mosseri family. What is interesting is that the current tiny local Jewish community, perhaps led by the Drop of Milk Association, has protested at the seizure of the geniza. This marks a change from the past: Magda Haroun, the community head, has acted as a stooge for the authorities, presiding over the shipping of Jewish libraries to the National Archives and refusing to back calls for Jewish access to community archives and records. She has even demanded that four Jewish-owned paintings in France be ‘returned’ to Egypt. (They have since been restituted to the owner’s descendants.) Report (Hebrew)  in JDN News (via Elder of Ziyon):
It is thought  that the Egyptian government was worried that the documents would be smuggled to Israel so they decided to grab them all now, against the wishes of the remaining Jews in Cairo, whose relatives might be mentioned in the collection.
It is not how old the Genizah is. No one has had the chance to study it yet. The Bassatine cemetery is the second oldest Jewish cemetery in the world, built in the ninth century. The burial plot for the Genizah belonged to the Mosseri family, who immigrated to Egypt from Italy in the 18th century.
Ahmed Gendy, an Egyptian professor of Jewish and Zionist Studies who has studied the famous medieval Cairo Genizah,  confirms that the Egyptian Antiquities Authority has been negligent in how they handled this priceless collection. When he would request an item from the Genizah to study, he said that they would bring them to him in cloth bags, where insects and humidity could damage them.
Nevertheless, he supports the antisemitic actions of the authority by invoking his own antisemitism:
What the members of the Egyptian Antiquities Authority did by transferring the contents of the discovered Genizah is right, from the reality of the first experience that witnessed the theft or sale of the contents of the ancient Genizah.
What the Jewish community did most likely was done in coordination with the Israeli authorities, in order to internationalize the issue, so that the international community and its institutions would pressure Egypt to implement what the members of the community want in Egypt, on the basis that what was discovered may be linked to Jewish families, and that they do not belong to the Egyptian government. But the fact that members of this sect live in Egypt, and hold Egyptian citizenship, makes the issue of their resorting to the American embassy in order to pressure Egypt on this issue reprehensible, and confirms what we mentioned earlier in another place about the Jews of their constant feeling of isolation and lack of belonging to the countries in which they live.
The community saw that the Egyptian authorities were stealing their property from their own cemetery and ignoring their protests, so they appealed to the Americans who were also working on fixing up the cemetery. This “expert” who understands how little the Egyptian Antiquities Authority cares about the preservation of priceless Jewish items says that this is proof of how Jews in Egypt aren’t really patriotic Egyptians.
As far as whether Israel has the right to these documents: the Egyptian Jewish community in Egypt is reportedly down to only three members, while there are over 50,000 Egyptian Jews in Israel. Tens of thousands of Egyptian Jews in Israel should have a large say on their own relatives’ possessions, especially when the Egyptian authorities’ interest in those items is more to keep them away from Jews than to benefit from them. As with priceless Jewish objects from Iraq and Yemen, it is disingenuous to say that the antisemites who drove out the ancient Jewish communities out of their countries should have the right to the possessions of those very people they expelled.
*The first  and most famous Geniza, now dispersed to Oxford, Cambridge and North America,  was discovered in the 19th century in the attic of the Ben Ezra synagogue and contains valuable texts dating back to medieval times.


Iran’s loss of entrepreneurial Jews is America’s gain

The death of Iranian-Jewish entrepreneur Younes Nazarian prompts Karmel Melamed to ponder what Iran would have become had it not suffered a massive post-revolution brain drain. He blogs in the Times of Israel:

Younes Nazarian z’l (Photo: USC)

The U.S. Jewish community and Israel lost a great friend with the death of successful Iranian Jewish businessman and philanthropist Younes Nazarian who passed away on March 18th. Nazarian not only gave millions of dollars to countless Jewish and Israel related causes through his family’s foundation, but many Southern California universities and non-Jewish organizations also received donations from his family foundation. His early investment in what later became the telecommunications giant Qualcomm, not only hired thousands of individuals but the company’s new technology forever improved communications worldwide.

And yet Nazarian was the not the only Iranian Jew to achieve remarkable success in his business and career after fleeing Iran following the country’s 1979 Islamic revolution. There were indeed thousands more Iranian Jews who immigrated to the U.S. and Israel, and eventually making both nations blossom with their contributions.

Today many Iranian American Jews look back on the life of Nazarian and the remaining older Iranian Jews from his generation and often wonder how they or their families could have potentially helped transform Iran and the Middle East for the better had there never been an Islamic revolution and a totalitarian antisemitic Khomeini regime that forced thousands of them to flee Iran?

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New book: Arab opposition to Zionism has always been antisemitic

Arab antisemitism is indistinguishable from anti-Zionism, suggests a new book by Elder of Ziyon, veteran analyst and blogger. Point of No Return reviews The Protocols: Exposing Modern Antisemitism.

For anyone following Middle Eastern news as it relates to Israel, Elder of Ziyon has long been the go-to blog for up-to-the minute news and analysis. No one knows Elder’s true identity, but his avatar is the supposed likeness of the medieval rabbi and thinker Rashi.  Elder uses him to symbolise the cabal purveying one of the most notorious of published conspiracy theories – The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It is a Tsarist forgery hatched in 19th century Russia and still a best-seller in Arab bookshops.

For 14 years now Elder of Ziyon has been stroking his beard and ruminating over modern manifestations of antisemitism,   the overarching topic of his blog.  Now a book in five sections distils the themes he has been exploring in over 30,000 posts. The result is  The Protocols: Exposing Modern Antisemitism.

The book is a  welcome addition to any reader’s bookshelf.

In contrast to the Jerusalem Declaration which provides an impossibly narrow definition, Elder offers an even broader definition of antisemitism than the widely-accepted IHRA.  Any example aimed at Jews as individuals, people, as a religion or an ethnic group can be antisemitic, he suggests.   Elder’s principal preoccupation is with leftwing antisemitism,  a phenomenon routinely ignored by progressives and underrated in the USA. The apathy of the Jewish community to this form of antisemitism, he claims,  is exacerbated by poor  leadership, ignorance, and lack of pride in Judaism and Israel.

In Section One, Elder provides a sweeping history of antisemitism from Greek through Christian, Voltairean, right up to modern-day antisemitism. It is new wine in old bottles.

Many think the BDS movement is recent, but the first boycott of Jews in Palestine goes back to 1909 and boycotts were enthusiastically embraced by the Arab League in 1945. Although the BDS movement has had a negligible impact on Israel economically, Elder warns that it gives a dangerous aura of respectability to antisemitism today.

Arab antisemitism was, and remains, antisemitism. Arab opposition to Zionism and Israel has always been antisemitic. It predates Zionism: the first Arab attack was on Jews in Petah Tikva in 1886 and the first altercation at the Western Wall occurred in 1911. Elder traces all the major influences, from conspiracy theories and blood libels to the role of the wartime Mufti of Jerusalem, author of the  1937 Nazi pamphlet ‘Islam and Judaism’ , through to Holocaust denial/ inversion and  the Hamas charter.

An important factor perpetuating the conflict is the misplaced Arab sense of honour. Arab tenants in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah are encouraged not to pay rent because it is more honourable to be homeless than to admit that Jews own the homes they live in.

But in Elder’s estimation, the greatest challenge to Arab antisemites comes from within their own ranks: those countries who have signed the Abraham Accords with Israel. It is a game-changer.

Section Two focuses on international law and all the familiar accusations routinely levelled  at Israel: proportionality, distinction,  the use or misuse of human shields. What does international law say on settlements and the Right of Return?  Elder has plenty to say.

The remaining sections are  about the demonisers, ‘faux peaceniks’ and the pernicious corruption of academic Middle East Studies by so-called Experts – the likes of Judith Butler, Ilan Pappé , Jasbir Puar and Avi Shlaim. Peter Beinart, the American liberal turned-anti-Zionist, is a clever propagandist setting the framework to win the argument before it even starts.

What to do ?  Elder of Ziyon’s solution is:  “To fight it, expose it’ . When Elder writes his blogposts, he tries to ensure that the reader learns something they didn’t know before.  And there is bound to be much that even a seasoned antisemitism-watcher can learn from this clearly laid- out and comprehensive guide.





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Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

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