Tag: Testimonies

November riots in Libya: the end of trust between Jews and Muslims

Between 4 – 7 November 1945, the Jews of Libya suffered a murderous pogrom which snuffed out 133 lives.  We are reproducing this article in Focus on Israel by Leone Nauri  which gives the context of this massacre without precedent and lists the names of the dead. Nauri concludes that it is about time that Libyan Jews started a political campaign for their rights. (With thanks: Yoram, Ariel)
The war-damaged Dar al-Bishi synagogue in Tripoli

I read continuously about the good old days in Libya…and I
remain incredulous and amazed.

It would be enough to remember that from that
country we were hunted and expelled after three pogroms and without a penny in
our pockets for not believing these lies but probably it is not enough — so I
would like to remind my fellow villagers how we lived, without Stockholm or
other syndromes.

I would like to remind you that when we left the house the
silent advice of the parents was: head down and brisk walking. That way, the chances
of being insulted, spat upon, beaten, were between 30 and 50 percent. When
we left home there was possibly more than one of us, and we accompanied each other.
Generally every one of us had a “ghibbor and courageous” companion to
return with.

‘Behind me marched the angel of death’, a novel about the 1945 riots by Kalfo Samiya Jerabi z”l

When I came back, my mother always told me that I was a
brawler,  because in the end if I followed safer roads, with my head down, with a
brisk pace, or running, I would probably have reduced the number of fights!

In the narrowest streets with small sidewalks if you were lost in thought and did not
realize that a Muslim came from the opposite side and therefore you did not get
off the sidewalk and caught a slap and a series of insults from the “ia
kelb”
 (you dog), to “iudi kafr” (Jew non–believer). And this was
the rule, it wasn’t a special situation, it was just so. When you came back
from the temple they waited outside and attacked you.

I remember that our
little group coming out of Slat dar el Malte consisted of myself,  Leone Nauri, Victor Meghnagi z””l and Simo Dula. He was the real ghibbor (hero) , he put his tongue between his
teeth and said: ‘don’t answer randomly if they beat you, answer to their leader
and not to others’.

My parents always told me when I told them to leave that I was exaggerating! I would
like to remind you first of all that in 1945 40,000 Jews and 500,000 Arabs
lived in Libya in a territory three times the size of Italy and that our
annihilation led to our progressive expulsion despite the fact that we were
residents for over 2,000 years, much earlier than the Muslims, but this is never
remembered, no one gets up with the house keys to request our homes and our
rights.

We were about eight percent of the population and we should have 8% of
the territory, of the oil, all of the money that has robbed from us, beyond
revaluation and interest. Hundreds of synagogues turned into mosques or  were set on
fire, hundreds of deaths and our cemetery repaved with the asphalt of a
highway. We did not resist with arms, neither did the UN nor the other
international associations listen to us. But I think we should start thinking
about a political movement, even with the use of fashionable flotillas. Damn
them.

First of all I would like to recall the context in which the pogrom took place. Libya
was a Turkish colony, then an Italian colony and after the war it was under the
control of Great Britain. On November 4, 1945, Muslims attacked Jews wherever
they were, burned hundreds of shops, houses, synagogues and murdered 133
people. The British authorities did not lift a finger for four days and four
nights!

The result was the assassination in Tripoli of: Amira Izhak (Huga Giabin), Attia Regina
(Tesciuba), Barabes Huatu Asciusc, Barda David, Bendaud Masauda, Dadusc Lisa,
Fellah Musci-Kisc, Fellah Rubina, Genah Barkhani-Kassis, Genah Yosef Kassis,
Gerbi Hmani Barghut, Guetta Meri, Habib Pinhas, Haiun Mazala, Halfon
Hmani-Aruah, Halfon Masuda-Buda, Hassan Mas’auda, Leghziel Mamus – Ghezal,
Makhluf Nissim, Meghnagi Gebri, Messica Hai Glam, Messiah Raffael Halil, Nahum
Pinhas, Nahum Shlomo-Nawi, Naim Bekhor, Naim Bekhor Baiiba, Naim Raffael, Naim
Nasi, Naim Iosef-Haba, Rav Dadusc Sciaul, Rav Avraham Tesciuba, Serussi
Iakov-Gabbai, Sofer Hanna (Haddad), Sofer Mas’ ud, Zanzuri Rubina.

In the town of Amrus the murdered were: Buaron Misa, Baranes Zina, Baranes Miha, Baranes
Mas’uda, Glam Abraham, Glam Giuara, Iamin Mas’uda, Cahlon Huatu, Cahlon Huatu,
Cahlon Hai, Cahlon Micael, Cahlon Makhluf, Cahlon Mantina, Cahlon Saida, Cahlon
Pinhas, Cahlon Sciuscian, Cahlon Sara, Makhluf Guta, Makhluf Huatu, Makhluf
Khlafu, Makhluf Misa, Makhluf Misa, Makhluf Misa, Makhluf Mantina, Makhluf
Nesria, Makhluf Sultana, Makhluf Scimon, Makhluf Scimon, Mimun Lisa, Mimun
Sfani, Saada Wasi, SaadaMisa, Scmuel Bekhor, Scmuel Iaakov, Scmuel Meir, Scmuel
Mergiana (Makhluf), Sasson Lisa, Scmuel Rahel, Scmuel Scimon.

In the city of Zanzur the murdered were: Cahlon Bachuna, Cahlon Huatu, Cahlon Mamus, Cahlon
Masu, Cahlon Sturi (Debasc), Guetta Aziza, Guetta Aziza, Guetta Eliau, Guetta
Fragi, Guetta Ghezala, Guetta Ghezala (Debasc), Guetta Hluma, Guetta Hmani ,
Gueta Kalifa, Guetta Khamsa, Guetta Khlafu, Guetta Khlafo, Guetta Lidia, Guetta
Mas’uda (Serussi), Guetta Misa, Guetta Mosce, Guetta Nissim, Guetta Saruna,
Guetta Sbai, Guetta Sfani, Guetta Toni, Hayun Dukha, Haiun Hmani , Haiun
Khamus, Haiun Kheria, Hayun Khlafo, Haiun Mergiana (Makhluf), Makhluf Gamira,
Makhluf Sara, Makhluf Scimon, Scmuel Nissim.

In Zawia were murdered: Bukris Esther (Dadusc), Badasc Giuara, Badasc Rahamin, Dadusc
Scialom, Haggiag Nissim, Halal Eliau, Halal Hevron, Halal Khamus, Halal Somani,
Haiun Sclomo, Hayun Ester (Tura), Leghziel Kheria (Dadusc) , Zigdon Nesria.In Tagiura
the murdered were: Arbib Bekhor, Arbib Khalifa, Arbib Scmuel, Attia Eliau,
Buaron Amira, Frig Guta (Dadusc), Skhaib Abraham.
In Msellata the following were assassinated: Attia Rahmin-Agila, Attia Iehuda, Legtivi
S’ayid.

The Jews had always trusted Muslims, and despite some problems they would never have
imagined an assault of those proportions. This caused an unbridgeable gap with
the Muslims and an absolute lack of trust in the British authorities. The
massacres lasted from 4 to 7 November and I am not aware of any commission of
inquiry of the UN or international associations. To be honest, it must be
remembered that even some Muslim dignitaries tried to stop the massacres and
that only after that date did the British intervene and stop them.

Read article in full (Italian)

An eye-witness account of the 1945 pogrom 

70 years since the Tripoli pogrom

Remembering the 1945 riots in Libya

‘We couldn’t stomach the pork sausages’

Finding herself during Lockdown with time on her hands, Viviane Bowell (née Chouchan) decided to write a memoir. To Egypt with love is the result, a nostalgic look at the country of her birth. She left Egypt aged 14, her family a victim of Nasser’s post-Suez expulsion of Jews. Here is an extract from a longer piece on the website of the Historical Society of Jews from Egypt, describing the experience of the family’s uprooting to a hostel in Gloucestershire: 

Viviane Bowell, who left Egypt aged 14

Life as we knew it came to a sudden and abrupt end in November 1956, following the Suez crisis. Nasser had declared all Jews enemies of the State and, as such, they were subject to expulsion from Egypt, along with British and French citizens. Soldiers with rifles knocked on our door one evening and delivered the fateful order. It was very frightening and a shock, even though we had been expecting this. I think my father had always hoped against hope that things would get better. How do you suddenly leave the country you were born in, everything you know and own, wondering if you will ever see your family again?

Although stateless, my father was allowed to travel with us. My parents were forced to sign a supposedly ‘voluntary’ form renouncing all claims, property and citizenship in Egypt. The declaration stated that they were ‘donating’ all their property to the Egyptian government. Upon leaving, my mother’s passport and my father’s laissez-passer were stamped with the words ‘ONE WAY NO RETURN’. My father’s ‘laissez-passer’ had the words ‘Apatride’ (stateless) stamped in large letters across one of the pages. I came across this document while I was clearing up his things after he had passed away. It was a stark reminder of my father’s status, or lack of it.

We were given two weeks to leave and only allowed to take clothes with us – a suitcase of maximum 20 kilos for each of us and twenty Egyptian pounds in total for the whole family, worth just under twenty British pounds at the time. No other money, jewellery or anything of value. If we were searched at the airport, these would have been confiscated or worse. Thankfully, we left Egypt unharmed. We had eyed the servants nervously, wondering whether they would turn on us. They and all the local people around us remained very courteous and loyal to the end. They seemed sympathetic to our plight and were upset that we were leaving. On the morning of our departure, they all lined up to say goodbye. Everyone was crying and it was very emotional.

 

The ride to the airport was sad and even the children understood the sheer magnitude of the moment. At the airport, we had to open all our suitcases for inspection. We knew there was nothing valuable inside them, but it was still a tense moment. Finally, we boarded and the plane took off. My parents must have felt overwhelmed or perhaps it was difficult to take in what was happening. There must have been so many mixed emotions – relief that we had left unharmed and were safe, anxiety about the future and sadness at being uprooted.

We left on 10 December 1956 on a KLM flight which stopped to refuel in Athens. We then flew to Sofia in Bulgaria and then on to Amsterdam, where we spent the night. The next morning we took a plane bound for England and landed in Heathrow on a cold and grey December morning. We were met by a government official, put on a bus and taken straightaway to what was to be our home for the next three months. We had no idea where we were going, but found out later it was Bridgend hostel in Stonehouse in Gloucestershire. It had been previously used during World War II, but not since then. The hostel consisted of pre-fabricated rows of pavilions and each family had their own accommodation. Our rooms were in blocks of eight with two toilets, a bathroom and a kitchenette where you could make yourself a coffee or tea. We had one room for my parents and one room for us girls, with a wardrobe.

There was a big building at the end of the compound, where the dining room was situated. It was more like a canteen and this is where we had our breakfast, lunch and dinner. The meals were adequate, but we found it difficult, as it was food we did not know and were not used to. There was also a TV room with a television set – something we had never seen before – and a games room with table tennis. We did not mix with the other children in the hostel and rarely went to the main building. I think they mixed more; perhaps they had belonged to the same community in Egypt, but for some reason we stayed apart from all the activities.

Breakfast consisted of cornflakes or a cooked one. We had never had cereal before and it tasted strange, more like cardboard. The thought of having something cooked for breakfast was totally alien to us, so we didn’t eat much. It was the same for lunch and dinner, the food was there but it was nothing like what we were used to. We couldn’t stomach the pork sausages, baked beans or boiled cabbage that were on offer on a daily basis and we were hungry most of the time. Nor were we used to drinking tea or instant coffee – in Egypt, tea would have been for medicinal purposes like chamomile and the coffee had been cafe au lait, with lots of milk. In the end, my mother bought some dried pasta and a tube of tomato purée from a local shop, which she managed to prepare on a tiny cooker we had in the room.

We were sent to school, my younger sisters to the local primary and me to the secondary school. To get there, we had to go through muddy fields in the middle of winter. My younger sisters walked together, always hand in hand and I had to walk on my own, as my school was on a separate site. I hated my school and felt completely lost. Cairo had been familiar and safe, and I had been used to the busy streets, the noise and the traffic. The hostel in Bridgend was not far from the school in nearby Stonehouse but, like my sisters, I had to walk through quiet fields and small lanes to get there. What’s more, it was the middle of winter and I was not used to the freezing cold. Once at school, it was another struggle as I didn’t understand a word of what was being said.

The hostel was full of refugees from Egypt like us. There were many Maltese families and other people we had never come across in Cairo. Under normal circumstances, we would not have had much in common with them, but these were different times. We had all experienced the trauma of having to leave Egypt very suddenly and the future was uncertain. We were also trying to cope with the cold weather and a different culture and language. My parents must have been scared and worried, but they never showed it in front of us.

As my father had worked for a British company in Cairo, he was offered a job in their Head Office in London, albeit a much lower position. We left the hostel in spring 1957 to start our new life in London.

Read article in full

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

The 1947 Aleppo riots made our family want to flee Syria

In 1947 after riots broke out in their city of Aleppo, the parents of Ofra Basul-Bengio, now a professor at Tel Aviv university, contemplated smuggling out their family from Syria to Israel. But they could have been executed if caught. Finally, in 1954, Ofra’s father managed to obtain passports from the governor of Aleppo,  rarely given to Syrian Jews. She tells her story to Haaretz (with thanks: Lily)


Ofra Basul-Bengio’s parents, Latifa-Adina and Kemal-Avraham Basul.(Photo: courtesy)

The first time we attempted to escape Aleppo was shortly after the United Nations vote on the partition of Palestine in November 1947. A powerful fear seized us and all the Jews in the city during the war, when we were compelled to cope with bitter experience of seeing the burning of our businesses, schools and synagogues, including the Central, or Great, Synagogue, which housed the ancient Aleppo Codex (the priceless manuscript of the Hebrew Bible created in Tiberias in the 10th century). 

Our family, who lived in a Muslim neighborhood and saw with our own eyes the torching of the Jewish-owned café opposite our home, and heard the angry crowds chanting that, “Palestine is our land, and the Jews are our dogs,” decided that there was no alternative but to try and flee Syria before it was too late. 

 It was decided that everyone in the family would put on the clothes of Arabs. My mother and we four girls wore veils; my father and the four boys also put on traditional Arab clothing. To further hide our Jewish identity, our parents assigned each of us an Arab name, like Fatma or Mohammed. 

We locked our house with all its contents and set out for the railway station in the hope of boarding the first train that would take us to Lebanon, and from there to the Land of Israel.

But immediately after we got on the train, the conductor announced that if there were Jews among the passengers they had to disembark immediately or face severe punishment. We had no choice and were forced to get off for fear we would be found out. That ended our first escape adventure – but not our ordeals. 

Fearing the pogroms would continue, our family joined other Jews in the home of a Christian family that had undertaken to protect us and others afraid for their lives. The image of the men standing and reciting Psalms for our salvation has never left my memory. 

After a time the situation calmed down somewhat and we were able to return to our home, though the urge to try again to leave Aleppo did not abate.

The desire to flee stemmed not only from existential fears but also from a potent affinity for Zionism that had informed our lives even before the war broke out in Palestine in 1948. My father, Kemal-Avraham Basul, had visited that land in 1934, when the rail line between Damascus and Haifa was still operating. 

The intention was to see whether it would be possible to immigrate with the family, but it didn’t work out at the time. 

Still, the longings for Zion did not diminish – for example, my father used to read us stories in Hebrew, like the one about little Yossi, who wanted to get to the Land of Israel. The tale fired our imaginations and touched us so deeply that our eyes and his welled up with tears each time he read it to us.

Read article in full

BBC airs tale of Jew’s escape from Iraq in 1971

With thanks: Sarah

Edwin as a child with his parents and grandmother

Almost exactly fifty years ago, 2,000 Iraqi Jews made the perilous journey from their homes in Baghdad through the north of Iraq and Kurdistan and over to border to freedom. One of them was Edwin Shuker, then a 16-year-old. 

He tells his story in theBBC series Witness. (9 minutes.) His family had two hours to prepare for their departure. This happened in the dead of night, using a succession of taxis and smugglers. There was always the risk of arrest and imprisonment.

The final leg of Edwin’s journey was in a truck. The driver was a young Kurd. ‘ When you tell the story of your escape,’ said the driver,’ Never forget to say that the Kurds saved your life.’

By chance, Edwin was to meet the young man again thirty years later. His name was Massoud Barazani, and he became president of Kurdistan.

More about Edwin Shuker

Emil Somekh’s escape

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This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

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Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

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forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.