Tag: Obituaries

Only Jewish officer in Moroccan army dies

Victor Ohayon, a lieutenant colonel in  the Moroccan army and a well-known figure at the Mohammed V military hospital in Rabat, has died. Report in the Times of Israel: 

Ohayon was the only officer of the Moroccan army of Jewish faith, according to the Moroccan daily newspaper l’Opinion. He was 71 years old and died on the night of Yom Kippur. He was buried in Rabat on Sunday.

Although retired, he was a specialist in internal medicine and director of the department within the hospital. He is said to be the only Jewish doctor to have received the highest military rank in the history of the Moroccan army.

Read article in full (French)

Top brass bid farewell to top war commentator

Hundreds attended the funeral of Baghdad-born Roni Daniel, 73, one of Israel’s top military commentators, who died of a cardiac arrest. They included ex-President Reuven Rivlin,  Naftali Bennett, Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz from Israel’s current cabinet, and two  ex-chiefs of staff. ‘Daniel was one of the most Israeli journalists there is,” Gantz said in his eulogy. Bennett had called him ‘the voice of another era.’ YNet News reports:

Roni Daniel was born in Baghdad


Daniel worked for Channel 2’s (today Channel 12) news company as a journalist and military affairs correspondent for 28 years during which he became a household name and one of Israel’s top commentators.
Daniel was born in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad in October 1947 and lost his father two months later. At the age of 3, he immigrated to Israel with his mother and grew up on a kibbutz. He enlisted in the IDF in the mid-60s and served in the Nahal Brigade with which he fought in the 1967 Six-Day War against the Egyptians. He later became a company commander and fought in the War of Attrition.
During his reserve service, he was appointed as commander of the Golani Reserve Battalion and reached the rank of lieutenant colonel.
He began his journalistic career in the late 70s, working for Kol Yisrael radio first as a transportation reporter and later as a military reporter. He was promoted as head of the news division in the 1980s and also worked for Army Radio. In the early 1990s, he was one of the presenters of the “Communications File” program on Israeli Educational Television and became Channel 2 news company’s military affairs correspondent in 1993, a position he filled until his death.

Ruth Rejwan Pearl, mother of Daniel, dies

The death has been announced of Ruth Pearl (nee Rejwan), mother of Daniel Pearl, the Wall St Journal reporter who was murdered for being a Jew by terrorists in Pakistan. Asra Nomani has written this  moving obituary in the Jewish Journal, praising Ruth’s character and grace, and her determination to fight for justice for her son to the last.  Born in Baghdad, Ruth was a survivor of the Farhud massacre of 1941. In 2013 she shared her memories of that time, and  her Baghdad childhood,  with Diarna. 

Ruth Pearl at her childhood home in the upscale neighbourhood of Bataween, Baghdad.

On January 23, 2002, she awakened in her home in California with a startling dream and wrote an email to her son, Danny, warning him to be careful, thousands of miles away in Karachi, Pakistan, where he was staying with his wife, Mariane, at a home I had rented on Zamzama Street. Danny and I were friends from our work together at the Wall Street Journal. Alas, later that evening, Danny slipped into a taxi for an interview from which he never returned.

Five weeks later, the FBI learned militants had slain Danny. It was a mother’s nightmare come true. Ruth would outlive her child. Born Ruth Rejwan in Baghdad, Iraq in 1935, Ruth Pearl died this week, 19 years later.

But what Ruth did over these 19 years is testimony to a mother’s love and her character and grace. “My beautiful, wise, generous, loving mama who overcame the traumas in her life with strength and vitality and dedication to helping others died today,” her eldest daughter, Tamara, wrote to friends.

In June 1941, as a six-year-old girl in Baghdad, born in the capital of Iraq to one of the city’s Jewish families, Ruth witnessed a massacre, the Farhud, when at least 180 Jews were killed by locals, wreaking chaos during a power vacuum. “It was like a movie,” she recalled in an interview, watching looting and violence. As bullets flew, her father led her family to the cellar. “I had nightmares,” she said, for decades.

She met her husband, Judea, at Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology. With her passing, he wrote, “I’ve lost my dear wife this afternoon, my northern-star and my college sweetheart.”

Read article in full

Farewell Naim Kattan, celebrated author from Baghdad

The death in Paris of the celebrated author, literary critic and professor Naim Kattan, was announced by his son Emmanuel on 2 July.

Kattan, aged 92, published 30 books in his second language of French, but is best known for his autobiographical novel, Farewell Babylon.

The book describes Kattan’s childhood as a Baghdad schoolboy at the Alliance Israelite Universelle school, where he excelled in French and Arabic. Reading Law at Baghdad University,  he won a scholarship in 1947 to study at the Sorbonne just before the great exodus of Iraqi Jewry in 1950.  Farewell Babylon captures the foreboding atmosphere of rising nationalism in the 1930s,  relations between the sexes and between Jews and Arabs and  his experience of the Farhud massacre of 1941.

He lived the rest of his life mostly in Quebec and in Ontario, Canada, but spent the last two years in Paris.

See biography here.

Rabbi Hamra, who facilitated Jewish departures from Syria, dies

The worldwide Syrian Jewish community is mourning the passing of Rabbi Avraham Hamra, the last chief rabbi of Damascus, who has died in Israel at the age of 78. Few announcements of his death have mentioned, however,  the seminal role Rabbi Hamra played to coordinate the funding of Jewish departures from Syria during the 1980s and 90s, when the community was held hostage by the Assad regime. He was instrumental in arranging the smuggling out of Syria of the Damascus Keter, a priceless and beautifully preserved medieval manuscript, in a black shopping bag.


Rabbi Abraham Hamra

Rabbi Hamra served as the last chief rabbi of Damascus, from 1976 to 1994, when he immigrated to Israel.

In addition to serving as leader of the Syrian community in Israel, based in Holon, Rav Hamra frequently visited the Syrian community in the New York area.

His daughter Mrs. Aliza Azan, and three of her children, were tragically killed in a fire on Chanukah 2017.

A son of Rabbi Hamra is a prominent hazan in the  Har Halebanon community in Brooklyn.

When he was in Syria in the 1990s, Rabbi Hamra worked quietly with the Canadian fundraiser  Judy Feld Carrfor the release of Syrian Jews in prison and for ill Jews to be allowed to leave. This involved his negotiating  with the secret police the price of Jewish departures.  Keeping meticulous accounts, he oversaw  money sent from the Feld Fund and funnelled grant aid from the American Jewish Committee to Jewish schools, teachers and those in need.

According to the Ransomed of God by Harold Troper, Judy Feld Carr asked Rabbi Hamra to help her get a priceless Jewish manuscript of the Torah, the Damascus Keter, out of the basement of a Syrian synagogue. She arranged for a western visitor to Syria to call on Rabbi Hamra. He handed over a small leather-bound book in a cardboard sleeve to the visitor. The visitor put the package in an innocuous-looking black plastic shopping bag and smuggled it out of the country.

A deal was reached for Syria’s remaining 3,000 Jews to be permitted to leave. By the end of 1993, Rabbi Hamra himself applied for an exit visa, ostensibly to visit family in New York.

Before his departure for Israel, Rabbi Hamra asked Judy’s permission to take the Keter of Damascus to Israel, where it is now in the National Library in Jerusalem.



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