Original documents have come to light which cast light on life in Kfar Shiloah (Silwan). The village, outside the Jerusalem city walls, was settled by Yemenite Jews in the 19th century, but the residents were evacuated n 1938 by the British following riots and were prevented from coming back. TheJewish Press reports (with thanks: Michelle):
The newly discovered documents were part of an estate left by Mazal Cohen, a member of the Tabib family, a Palmach fighter who was a candidate to light a beacon in 2017 during Israel’s 69th Independence Day. they were handed over by her son Ronen Cohen to Gadi Bashari, Chairman of the Kfar HaShiloach Public Council and member of the board of directors of the Zionist Archives.
Cohen recalled that while taking care of his late mother in her last months, he came across “a swollen bag of yellowing documents folded together.”
“Slowly, I separated the pile of documents, which included pictures that shed light on the story of the Tabib family in the Jewish village of Shiloach and the community life there. This revelation connected me and my family to my grandparents and the Yemenite community of Olim, who came among the pioneers of the First Aliyah and settled in the Shiloach village,” he explained.
One of the documents is Mazal’s birth certificate, signed by the Yemenite village’s Mukhtar (Head of the village) Aharon Maliach. Another document has details regarding the family’s tax payments to the village committee and to the British Mandate’s government.
Another documents, from 1942, is a confirmation from Maliach, apparently to be presented to the British police who prevented the Yemenite Jews from entering the village after its evacuation in 1938. The confirmation was given to Mazal’s father, Shlomo Tabib, who wanted to enter the village to dismantle iron and wooden planks from his house to use them as construction materials.
Another document from 1951 attests to the existence of an ancient Yemenite Torah scroll that Shlomo Tabib brought with him from Aden, Yemen, and passed it to a member of his family who also came from Yemen in those years, to care for and preserve.
Copies of the documents will be transferred to the Public Council archives and will be displayed in the visitors’ center of the ancient Ohel Shlomo synagogue, in the Shiloach village.
Bashari said excitedly that “for decades, these documents have been kept in the home of the deceased. These many testimonies of the Jewish life in the village are so thrilling, since they renew, in the most tangible way, the connection between the two generations: the original residents of Kfar Hashiloach and us, who follow in their footsteps and continue their way and their heritage.”
The documents “will reveal to the future generations many new aspects of the story of the village that existed at the foot of the City of David and the Old City of Jerusalem,” he said,
Cohen expressed hope that the documents, “which are written in the curly Rashi script, and some of which I have not yet deciphered, can reveal to others another piece of the story of this amazing community, and pay them the respect that they deserve.”
A property dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem has become politicised and was the pretext for a war between Hamas and Israel in May 2021. Now the Israeli High Court has proposed a solution. The Jerusalem Post reports:
The High Court of Justice (HCJ) has presented a compromise to four Palestinian families in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah that would allow them to remain in their homes for 15 years.
During that time the issue of land ownership could be adjudicated, but in the interim, the court would recognize the families as protected tenants and the Jewish-owned Nahalat Shimon company as the owners of the property.
As protected tenants, the families would have the right to make repairs or renovations to the property. They would be required to pay rent biennially in the sum of NIS 2,400.
Had it not been for Life photojournalist John Phillips, the destruction of the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem by the Arab Legion in 1948, now ignored by western pundits and politicians, would not have been documented. Phillips evaded the Arab censor to smuggle out poignant pictures. They were later published as the book, A Will toSurvive. Richard Pollock takes up the story in JNS News:
Phillips faced personal danger to do the shoot. He entered the Middle East undercover and wore the uniform of the Arab Legion, a British-created Arab army led by British officers, many of whom stayed on with their units to fight the Jews. “Mistaking me for a British officer, the Arab populace left me alone,” he wrote.
He was appalled about the Arab censorship. “Aware that the sack of the Jewish Quarter would shock the western world, Arab authorities across the Middle East tried to prevent the news from leaking out. Jerusalem could not be mentioned under any circumstances,” he wrote.
“I knew my pictures of the agony of the Jewish Quarter would end up in a censor’s wastepaper basket. I did not want this to happen and decided to smuggle them out of the Middle East.”
Phillips’ first job was to meet the pro-Nazi Arab fanatic, Fawzi al-Qawuqji, the field commander of the so-called Arab Liberation Army—a separate, brutal volunteer force specifically created to battle the Jews.
During the Second World War, Fawzi lived in Nazi Germany alongside Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and held the official rank of colonel in the Wehrmacht, the German army. The Nazis awarded Fawzi a chauffeured car and an apartment, along with other privileges.
Impulsively, Fawzi invited Phillips to lunch. He wrote that he was offended by what he saw. “There was a brutishness about the way they roared with laughter and slapped their thighs in delight at the prospect of wallowing in Jewish blood,” he wrote.
Afterwards, Philips ran into a Yugoslav mercenary who had witnessed their lunch meeting. “What rabble,” Phillips wrote, quoting the mercenary. “They have no idea what a real fighting outfit is like. I do. I was with the Waffen S.S.”
In fact, that soldier was not alone. The ranks of Arab Liberation Army included demobilized Nazi Wehrmacht Army soldiers, including the brutal SS, along with pro-Nazi mercenary forces from across Europe.
Phillips admired the Jewish defiance. “While the Old Quarter might well be indefensible, they would defend it. This was the Jerusalem that Jewish people around the world asked to return to in their prayers.”
The pre-war atmospherics shocked Phillips, a veteran World War II photographer. “Weapons were peddled on Arab street corners as they were Jaffa oranges. British deserters, German S.S., Polish and Yugoslav mercenaries hired by the Arabs performed acts of sabotage.”
Phillips traveled the city with a British deserter. He was astonished by the destruction of its synagogues. “Whenever we paused to catch our breath, all I seemed to see were damaged synagogues,” he wrote.
He also saw the destruction of the famed Pirate Josef Synagogue. “From a spot near the Wailing Wall I could see Porat Josef synagogue rising in the distance across no-man’s-land. The synagogue, with its adjoining Talmudic schools and academy, was disintegrating behind billows of smoke. The massive walls were coming down in a rising torrent of stone debris. Stunned by this spectacle of wanton destruction, I wondered how many tons of TNT the Arab Liberation Army would squander to reduce this seat of learning to dust.”
For 11 days and nights, the battle raged. On May 28, Jerusalem fell to the Arabs. “By day the Arabs blasted their way into the Jewish Quarter with their artillery,” wrote Phillips. “On May 28 the exhausted Israeli fighters surrendered.”
Eventually, Jerusalem Mayor Mordechai Weingarten walked in to sign the surrender documents.
The surrender of the Jewish Quarter now was official. But the city’s tragedy was only beginning. “Had any Jews decided to remain in the Old City he would have been homeless within hours and probably dead by nightfall. Most of the civilians were Orthodox Jews. The men wore beards and side curls, wide-brimmed black felt hats and long black coats. The women wore babushkas. They were descendants of families that had lived in the Jewish Quarter for centuries. Now they were given just one hour to pack and get ready to leave.”
He describes the stunned civilians. “Dazed by the shelling, the civilians gathered up their belongings and trudged off to Ashkenazi Square.”
After the Jews fled, Phillips walked back to witness wild Arab looting and arson. “Arab civilians … had come leaping over the rooftops like a swarm of locusts to loot. In their frenzied path fires sprang up. Black smoke billowed out of windows, while bright yellow flames licked wooden balconies. The entire quarter was now afire. The smell of burning mingled with the stench of death.”
Phillips continued to follow the fires. “Outside the Jewish Quarter burned like a pyre. On May 29 the Jewish Quarter was charred and a burned-out shell. Down Beit El a proud Moslem led the way, followed by his barefoot wife carrying three wooden containers of Sephardic scrolls from a nearby synagogue.”
Thirty years later, in 1976, Phillips published Survive. Many of his photos were unveiled at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum. Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir wrote a short introduction to the book.
With the help of then-Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, he was able to meet with 51 of the survivors he had photographed.
What Phillips said affected him was the Jews’ complete lack of self-pity. “What struck me most while talking to these people, from the Chief Rabbi of Haifa to a Jerusalem housekeeper, was that none indulged in self-pity.”
Today’s Jews still don’t seek pity, but they should demand justice. The sacredness of the Old Jewish Quarter and its brutal destruction by the Arabs need to be widely republicized. There needs to be an international historical reckoning of their 1948 ethnic cleansing. Most importantly, the Jewish community must stand up for historical truths and strongly denounce the Palestinians’ baseless claims for the eastern part of the city.
Israeli television’s latest hit, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, may be accused of cultural appropriation. It is also ‘ahistorical, politically biased’ and fails to challenge common myths about Israel. Michael Oren pens this trenchant critique in The Tablet:
Based on a bestselling novel by Sharit Yishai-Levi, the series follows the vicissitudes of the Ermozas, an upscale Sephardi family in pre-state Jerusalem. Clumsily toggling between the early 1920s and late ’30s, the drama focuses on the materfamilias, Merkada, and her sybaritic son, Gabriel. The owner of a store that appears to sell only halvah, Gabriel falls in love with a working-class Ashkenazi woman but is forced by Merkada to marry an even lower-class Sephardi woman, their illiterate housekeeper, Rosa. Played by the alpaca-eyed Hila Saada, Rosa inundates the show with a stream of tears that stretches across all 16 of its first-season episodes. And there are the Ermoza daughters—Rachelika and Luna, with the latter growing up to become the eponymous beauty queen. Their loves and disasters, longings and disappointments take place against the backdrop of Palestine from the end of the Ottoman Empire and throughout the British Mandate. (…)
Unsurprisingly, the only villains in The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem are Jews. And not just any Jews, but the right-wing Revisionists of the Irgun and the Lehi. A ruthless bunch, including Rosa’s brother, Ephraim, they blow up a British officers club in 1937, killing soldiers and civilians alike, and assassinate innocent Arabs. “First we get rid of the English,” the ringleader declares. “Then we get rid of the Arabs, and then we get rid of the Mapainikim.” That third target—a reference to members of Ben-Gurion’s Mapai (the Land of Israel Workers Party)—is the most abhorred by the terrorists. For that is how they are portrayed, as bloodthirsty and treasonous.
These villains are also decontextualized. Like the Haganah, the Irgun was founded in reaction to the Arab revolts, as a means of protecting Jewish settlements and neighborhoods from terrorism. Attacks on the British began only in 1939, after the issuance of the white paper. But since none of this background is supplied or even alluded to in the show, the Revisionists appear motivated by bloodlust alone. “When did it happen to us?” a despondent Gabriel Ermoza asks. “When did it happen that we kill a man just because he’s an Arab?” Ultimately, in fact, Jews did kill Jews, in June 1948, when Israeli forces led by Ben-Gurion opened fire on the Revisionist arms ship, Altalena.
Ahistoricism and heavy-handed politicization are not, unfortunately, the program’s only flaws. Produced by the makers of Fauda, Shtisel, and Tehran, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem is certainly destined for the American market. And yet by casting Ashkenazi actors—Michael Aloni as Gabriel, and Irit Kaplan as his mother—in its lead Sephardic roles, the series is liable to receive allegations of cultural appropriation. It might lend credence to the widespread American view of Israel as a majority-white country. American viewers are also likely to take umbrage at the series’ depiction of Arabs, all of whom are docile or decadent stereotypes.
But Americans, especially those unfamiliar with the seminal events in Israel’s history, will probably not resent—or even notice—the absence of any mention of the Mufti, the Arab Revolts, or Nazism. This is the series’ tragedy. Rather than reminding American audiences that the conflict did not begin in 1967 or even in 1948, but in the 1920s and ’30s when the Arabs attacked all Jews, Zionist and non-Zionist alike, the series lets the distortion stand. Instead of showing how the Arab resistance movement was riddled with religious fanaticism and hatred, the program ascribes precisely those attributes to Jews. And though Zionists spearheaded one of the earliest and most successful campaigns against colonialism, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, transforms freedom fighters into psychopaths and the imperialists into victims. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees flooded Palestine during this period and showing them, or even alluding to their presence, would have recalled the need for a secure Jewish state, but The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem fails to present the most basic context to the story it purports to tell.
These and other missed opportunities mar the series far more than its soap opera-ish characters and lugubrious pacing. Most distressing, though. is the producers’ assumption that Israelis would watch the show and not find anything amiss. Forgetfulness might be unfortunate for Americans, but for Israelis it is dangerous. After all, why defend a country whose founders fought against a perfectly peaceful mandate and willfully killed Arabs? Why remain in a state whose very foundations are steeped in ethnic and religious strife? And how beautiful can any queen really be if her realm is built on myths?
In the Israeli War of Independence in 1948, Jews were expelled from East Jerusalem and Gush Etzion in the West Bank. Not well known is that a few Jews were also expelled from the east bank of the Jordan. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Tel Or was the only Jewish village, built to house the employees of a power station.
During the Israeli War of Independence in 1948, Tel Or was the only Jewish village in Transjordan at the time. Tel Or was designated for residence of the permanent employees of the power plant and their families, aiming to create an agricultural village at the Eastern border of the Land of Israel. Employees of the power station also farmed thousands of dunams of land and sold some of the produce at a company workers’ supermarket in Haifa. Due to its relative isolation and despite the limited number of resident families, the village included a clinic, a kindergarten and even a school, established by Yosef Hanani for the children of employees.
An Iraqi brigade invaded at Naharayim area on May 15, 1948, in an unsuccessful attempt to take the Gesherkibbutz and fort. The power plant was occupied and looted by the Iraqi forces. After the Tel Or village and the power plant were overran by the Arab forces they were destroyed. To prevent Iraqi tanks from attacking Jewish villages in the Jordan Valley, the sluice gates of the Degania dam were opened. The rush of water, which deepened the river at this spot, was instrumental in blocking the Iraqi-Jordanian incursion.
Today the power plant and the destroyed village of Tel Or are located on the Jordanian side of the Israel-Jordan border. The remains of the power station are part of the Jordan River Peace Park on the Island of Peace on the Israel-Jordan border.
After the expulsion of the residents of Tel Or, combined with the expulsion of the Jewish residents of the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem, an Arab commander remarked,
“For the first time in 1,000 years not a single Jew remains in the Jewish Quarter. Not a single building remains intact. This makes the Jews’ return here impossible.”
The expulsion of Jews from Jordan is part of the overarching occurrences of Jewish expulsion following the establishment of the State of Israel.
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