Tag: Jews of Sudan

Keeping faith with my grandfather’s Sudan

Daisy Abboudi

It feels as if Daisy Abboudi has known Sudan, her grandfather’s country of birth, all her life, yet she has only visited once when Sudan seemed set on a democratic path. Now the recent military coup has shaken her. Read her piece in the Jewish  Chronicle:

“Sudanese people are the best people in the world. I am telling you. They are the best people in the world”, my grandfather, Eliaho, told me a few months before he passed away. We quickly understood what he meant. One day, we asked a shopkeeper at the market for a lunch recommendation; he took us to his house and fed us himself. On another occasion, no less than five strangers led us around Omdurman, trying to help us locate my grandparents’ old house.

Almost a month ago, on 25th October 2021, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (Commander-In-Chief of the Sudanese Armed Forces) launched a coup. Facilitated by an uneasy alliance between al-Burhan and General Mohamed Hamdan ‘Himedti’ Dagalo (commander of Sudan’s paramilitary militia), Prime Minister Hamdok and other ministers were put under house arrest, where they remain. The country has been subjected to an internet and communications blackout ever since.

While we were in Sudan, our driver and guide was an English Language graduate, a revolutionary whose best friend Ali had been killed whilst protesting in 2019. He talked passionately of a brighter future for his country. At one point, he gestured to the headscarf I had chosen to wear, saying: “You know, you don’t have to wear that here. Not any more.”

I haven’t been able to contact him since 28th October.

The people of Sudan are now protesting once again. Mobilising miraculously in a country without internet or mobile connections, millions march, peacefully and defiantly risking their lives, refusing to accept another military rule.

I am under no illusions. I understand that a democratic civilian government is likely to be slower to pursue normalisation with Israel than a military dictatorship. I know what the general population of Sudan thinks of Israel and, by extension, of Jews. The reason I study Sudan instead of living there is as a direct result of antisemitism; the numerous graffitied swastikas and horned Stars of David decorating the streets of Khartoum reminded me of that.

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Young Canadian cleans up Sudan Jewish cemetery

A young Canadian Jew has embarked on a project to clean up Khartoum’s Jewish cemetery. Chaim Motzen has set up a websitewhere people can share details and photos to help identify graves. Will Brown writes in the Sunday Telegraph (with thanks: Nelly, Lily)

The Jewish cemetery, one of the last remnants of  a Jewish community in Sudan,  was vandalised as used as a dumping ground

Mr Motzen, who now develops renewable energy projects across Africa, decided to
travel back to see the new Sudan after the revolution.

“There was a remarkable difference,” he says. But when he
saw the graveyard, his heart sank. The rubbish piles had
grown four feet high and there was a pungent smell of
urine and rot.

Mr Motzen asked for and immediately got permission from
the Minister of Religious Affairs Nasr Eldeen Mofarih in
the new transitional government to restore the site as a
private individual in January 2020. He paid for a Sudanese
archaeologist and dozens of workers out of his own pocket
and got to work.

Over several weeks they removed some 14 trucks of almost
everything imaginable from the site. “There was about five
metric tonnes of glass, car parts, a crazy amount of dirt,
medical waste, lots of scorpions, and even beehives,” he
says.

Eventually, they uncovered 71 graves, many of their
inscriptions broken beyond recognition. The team carefully
sifted every spade of dirt for thousands of fragments of
the headstones. Then for months, Mr Motzen and the
archaeologist then set about laboriously piecing the
Arabic and Hebrew inscriptions together like giant
puzzles.

Standing in the beating sun with the jangling sounds of
the city all around him, Mr Motzen points to a small stone
slab marked with Star of David. The grave had been broken
apart and scattered across the site. But after hours of
work, he had managed to piece together the fragments and
translate the Arabic words.  

The small grave belonged to Diana Yacoub Ades, a small
girl who had died suddenly in 1959 at just eight months.
With this information, Mr Motzen explains how he tracked
down Diana’s first cousin in London.

The 88-year-old Albert Iskenazi told the Telegraph
he was shocked when he heard the news. Mr Iskenazi grew up
in Khartoum and remembered his baby cousin clearly. “I
remember Diana well. She died suddenly of a fever. It made
me feel very happy that he found the gravestone. Now we
can mourn her properly.”

“Our happiest days were in Sudan. We used to go to visit
our Muslim friends during Ramadan and wish them a happy
feast,” says Mr Iskenazi.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” says Daisy Abboudi, founder of
the research project,
Tales of Jewish Sudan. “He
found fragments of my great grandmother’s gravestone, as
well as other graves of family members. There is something
about the physicality of graves which is so important to
people.”

“When I visited in January 2020, I assumed that physical
link to my history was lost to time. There was nothing
people could point to and say my ancestors were here. And
then suddenly there is. It’s very powerful.”

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Sudan signs Abraham accords with Israel

In another ground-breaking development , Sudan has joined the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco in signing the Abraham Accords with Israel. The US will removed Sudan from the terrorist list, thus opening the way to Sudan receiving loans and access to know-how. The Voice of America reports:


KHARTOUM – Sudan has officially signed the Abraham Accords, agreeing to normalize relations with Israel. 

 The deal paves the way for Sudan to relieve its massive debt to the World Bank.The historic signing took place at the U.S embassy in Khartoum Wednesday. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin signed on behalf of Washington, while Sudanese Minister of Justice Nasereldin Abdelbari signed on behalf of Khartoum. 

 Speaking to reporters after the signing, Abdelbari said Khartoum welcomes the rapprochement and the diplomatic ties between Sudan and Israel that Sudan will boost for its own benefit and for other countries in the region. 

He said Khartoum appreciates Mnuchin’s historical visit and hopes to strengthen ties between Sudan and the U.S.

In his brief statement, Mnuchin said it was “a great honor to be here with you today, and I think this will have a tremendous impact on the people of Israel and the people of Sudan as they continue to work together on cultural and economic opportunities.”  

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Sudanese Jews get nostalgic, but won’t return

Will Sudan’s Jews go back? Not likely, Daisy Abboudi tells Times of Israel, but they would like to visit as tourists – just as Daisy herself did in January 2020: 

Purim party in Khartoum

Shortly after receiving her master’s degree in ancient history from King’s College in London, Daisy Abboudi found herself listening to yet another dinner table conversation about her relatives’ early life in Sudan.

Sudan’s Jewish community, founded at the turn of the 20th century and numbering roughly 250 families at its zenith, was one of the smallest — and shortest-lived — in the Middle East. 

And while its members enjoyed warm relations with their Muslim neighbors for decades, Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948 and the subsequent wars unleashed by its Arab neighbors brought a flood of anti-Semitism that eventually forced the community to flee, most of them arriving in Israel or Switzerland as stateless refugees. 

 Still, many of the people who fled Sudan as second- or third-generation natives often get sentimental about their former home, of which they recall fond childhood memories. It was a feeling of inherited nostalgia that inspired the now-30-year-old Abboudi to begin recording this oral history, which she is currently compiling into a book as well as making available on her website Jewish Sudan. 

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Jews are forgotten factor in Israel-Sudan ‘normalisation’

The media are full of the news, at President Trump’s prompting,  that Israel and the Sudan are to make peace. But it is not yet a done deal and there is still considerable political and popular oppositionto ‘normalisation’ in Sudan itself. 

Jews enjoying the good life before they were forced to leave Sudan

It is unlikely that the former Jews of Sudan were on President Trump’s radar, but this seems a fitting moment to remind readers that Sudan once had a thriving community of almost 1,000 In September 2019, the Sudanese government invited Jews to return, promising them full citizens’ rights. 

Daisy Abboudi, whose grandparents came from the Sudan and who collects information about the Jewish community, says:    I believe the recent moves towards normalisation between Sudan and
Israel are a positive step. I had the opportunity to visit Sudan in
January 2020, and had a wonderful experience. I hope this normalisation
process means that in the future, other members of the former Jewish
community of Sudan, and their descendants, will have the same
opportunity to visit. “

 Unbeknown to many, there was once a community of Jews living in the Sudan. This community, like most living in Arab countries, was dispossessed, driven to extinction in the last 50 years and its descendants dispersed to Israel, France, Switzerland the US. 

Prominent figures like Nessim Gaon, who was president of the World Sephardi Federation and his brother- in-law Leon  Tamman, co-chairman of WOJAC, were active in representing the rights of Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews. 

 But an earlier community, before the arrival of the British, was decimated when Jews were forcibly converted to Islam. The modern community grew and thrived after the British under Lord Kitchener reconquered the Sudan in 1898. The country came under Anglo-Egyptian rule.

More about Jews of Sudan

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