1947 Aleppo riots forced out almost all Jews

It is 75 years since the outbreak of vicious riots in Aleppo, Syria,  forced the exodus of almost all its Jewish inhabitants within five years. Joel D Parker met a survivor of the riot. History books claim that 75 Jews were killed, but the witness seems to corroborate a contemporary report that there was extensive property damage, but no Jew died. 
The courtyard of the Aleppo Great Synagogue. The building was burnt in the 1947 riots (photo: Diarma)

Joel D Parker tweeted the following survivor’s account:

I got to speak to an 88-year-old Jewish man from Aleppo yesterday and it was so amazing. He was able to describe details of the November 29, 1947 riots like it was yesterday. He was about 13, and his school was burned down.
In his schoolyard which was adjacent to the main synagogue of the Jewish quarter he witnessed torn and burned Torah scrolls, and claims to have been one of the first people inside the synagogue to look for the Aleppo Codex (Keter Aram Tzova). 
He recalled that during the riots he and his family were hiding in their house, unarmed, and tried to block the front door with their furniture. He said they knew it wouldn’t hold. They could hear the mobs of people outside. 
He estimated that there were 100,000 people [likely an exaggeration] of all political streams, mainly Muslims but not exclusively, running around chanting “Filastine Biladna, wa’al-Yahud Kalabna” (Palestine is our land, and the Jews are our dogs). 
Although virtually every Jewish institution was damaged in the riots, including 13 synagogues, three modern high schools, and other Jewish clubs, etc.,  not one Jew was killed by the rioters [he believes]. Only one old man had a heart attack.
He said that the government at the highest levels [i.e., President Quwatli] personally ordered the protestors to avoid bloodshed. They wanted to send a message, but did not want to squander their newly-found independence. 

Unfortunately, this very clear message was translated by the Jewish community as a warning to leave, as the next time might not be non-violent. About 6,000 out of 10,000 Jews would leave in the coming months, and by 1954 there were virtually no Jews in Aleppo.

Abraham Elmaleh  reports  in Had HaMizrah, 12 November 1948:

 “In the month of Kislev 5578, some time after the beginning of the sad events in Israel, terrible riots broke out among the Jews of Aleppo. And this famous Biblical  Jewish settlement was completely destroyed. More than a hundred Jewish homes, five Jewish warehouses and shops, five Jewish schools, the Jewish youth club, the Jewish orphanage and more than ten synagogues were looted for their furniture and contents.  One hundred and five thousand Torah scrolls together with their crowns and the silver and gold crowns on them, about four thousand prayer books,  Talmud and commentaries, everything was burned and destroyed by Arab rioters.

A page from the ‘Keter’

“The greatest damage was caused to the ancient synagogue that was built about 1, 500 years ago, and it was set on fire. Thousands of researchers and scholars and famous Orientalists would turn to it  to examine its precious collection of books and Torah scrolls. Among the precious old treasures destroyed by the rioters in Aleppo in this synagogue, we should especially mention the ancient Torah book known as “Keter” which is attributed to Ezra the scribe, and which was written in gold  letters,  whose price was estimated at thousands of pounds. (The Keter was actually recovered, although some of its pages were missing, smuggled out to Israel and is now in Jerusalem – ed) . The same Keter that was sent to Professor Kasuto  from the Hebrew University so that he  could copy original verses from it. Hundreds of Jewish students wander the streets without Torah, without education, because the  governments of Syria and Lebanon confiscated the school buildings of the Alliance Israelite Universelle and other  institutions to house hundreds of  Arab refugees from Israel.

“Widows who responded to everything with charity have been turned into desolate poor, rolling on piles of leaves without covering for their skin and without a shred of  shade over their heads. Hundreds of other Jews are now naked, thirsty, and barefoot, waiting for the mercy of heaven. These are the  greatest blows inflicted on the heads of the Syrian Jews.”

The Aleppo riots made our family  want to flee Syria

Chabad’s ‘Thirteen facts about Syrian Jews ‘ (With thanks: Leon, Nigel)

 

 

 

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