Monday, January 26, 2015

The Aden pogrom that the world forgot

 With thanks: Tom

The December 1947 pogrom in Aden, in which 82 Jews were murdered, marked the beginning of the end of the community in this British colony neighbouring Yemen. But  the small museum of the history of Aden's Jews in Tel Aviv reveals an earlier pogrom in 1932, which  the British authorities were keen to blame on the victim. Lyn Julius blogs in the Jerusalem Post:

The Aden Jewish Heritage Museum  at 5 Lilienblum St in Tel Aviv is  of the city's best kept secrets. The spacious room beneath the Adeni synagogue is a window on a vanished world: a vibrant community with its synagogues, shops, boats and schools. The beginning of the end came after 82 Jews were murdered in the December 1947 riots. The community limped along for another two decades until the British granted the territory independence, and then became extinct.

Photos of buildings completely gutted by fire, like the King George V Jewish Boys' school (pictured below), attest to the savagery of the 1947 riots in the Crater district, where Jews lived and worked.

But these were not the only riots to shake the few thousand Jews of this British colony and trading post neighbouring Yemen at the tip of Arabia.

Between 23 - 25 th May 1932, Jews were attacked and Jewish shops looted after Muslims had claimed that a mosque had been defiled by Jews throwing 'human filth' and beer bottles. It was a familiar pretext in the Muslim world. The British colluded in blaming the victim: five Jews were deported to the interior and the British authorities refused to pay a penny of compensation to those Jews whose property was damaged.

The High Commissioner for Palestine wrote to an anxious Chaim Arlosoroff, then head of the Jewish Agency, informing him that seven Jews had been wounded, four so seriously that they needed hospital treatment.

Another account, from the India Office (which was in charge of administering Aden) to the Board of Deputies in London, puts the number of injured at 60, including 25 Jews. Seven were hospitalised.

One particularly scathing letter (above) was sent to the Jewish Chronicle in London by the Aden Jewish community president, Bentob Messa. He criticised the newspaper for its 'untrue and misleading' report. An unbroken bottle of beer was planted in the mosque, maintained Mr Messa. The Jewish synagogue was desecrated, nine Jewish homes broken into and 22 Jewish shops looted.

Another letter received by Chaim Arlosoroff from the High Commission in Palestine gave the distinct impression that  the British authorities were suppressing information pertaining to the riots by censoring telegrams or refusing to deliver them.

After the May riots it seems that disturbances continued almost daily. Six months later on 9 October, the community leadership wrote to the Chief Commissioner of Aden, complaining that worshippers in the Crater synagogue  had been pelted on Yom Kippur with stones by Muslims, "alarmingly defying and unmindful of public peace".
Model of the Crater synagogue

The leadership called on the authorities to  adopt draconian measures against the rioters: "The troublemongers seek to vindicate their outbursts on the most clumsy of causes."

By 1933, so 'oppressive and intolerable' had the situation become for Jews that the Zionist movement in Aden pleaded for a bigger share of the meagre 130 immigration certificates into Palestine that the Yishuv was prepared to give Yemen.

Read article in full 

The Aden Jewish Heritage Museum is open every day from 10 - 2 pm (hours are flexible on Fridays) from Sun to Thurs.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Jewish crafts sought after in Yemen

 Jewellery made by Jewish craftsmen from Yemen

This article admits that the departure of skilled Jewish craftsmen and silversmiths from Yemen was a grievous loss to the economy. Ironically enough, objects bearing the Star of David, a badge of quality, are highly sought after today, according to National Yemen:

For thousands of years, Jews in Yemen excelled in the manufacture of silver, old wooden windows, doors and boxes, as well as in carving the walls of houses, mosques, and schools, which are considered today relics and historical places.
Jews were keen to sculpt the Star of David, a Jewish symbol, in all their works. At the same time, people were also keen to buy things that had the Star of David because it indicated quality Jewish work.

However, because of spreading sectarianism, racism, and hatred between peoples, non-Jews in general avoid things with the Star of David because of its association with Israel.

Whether people today love the Star of David or not, it is sculpted in many old doors, walls, and jewelry in old Sana’a. Tourists and businessmen pay thousands of riyals to buy jewelry and other works by the Jews.

Ahmed, 47 and a craftsman in old Sana’a, said that anything in a Jewish craftsperson’s hand was transformed into a masterpiece, especially silver and gold pieces, textiles, and architecture.

“In addition, Jews were responsible and accurate in their time with customers. Despite people at time considering craftsmen from the lower class, many preferred Jewish works and praised their performances. They were called Industry Men in Yemen,” he added.

According to Ahmed, until recently when most Jews left Yemen, craftsmen were sculpting the Star of David or any symbols in order to convince people their work was Jewish.

He explained that the traditional industries of Yemen’s Jews developed with time and place where they inherited their jobs for each other and watched modern industries that were brought from abroad through Aden and the Turks.

“All this creativity and magnificent sense came from the Jews under difficult circumstances faced by Yemen economically, politically, and socially before the revolution,” said Ahmed.

According to old families in Sana’a, any village or neighborhood inhabited by Jews was turned into workshops for industries and crafts of all kinds.

The emigration of Jews from Yemen led to the deterioration of the Yemeni economy and the extinction of many crafts.

Read article in full

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Don't excuse Muslim antisemitism

 The Left avoids talking about Muslim antisemitism, preferring to focus on the antisemitism of the Right. If it did talk about Muslim antisemitism, it would also have to talk about Muslim colonialism, argues Daniel Greenfield in Rightside News.

 Benjamin Hattab at the funeral of his son Yoav: forced to praise how well Tunisia treats Jews

Muslim anti-Semitism predates the difficulties of integrating Algerians and Pakistanis into Europe by over a thousand years. In Islam, Jews represent both a subject race and a primal enemy. Israel infuriates Muslims so much not because they care a great deal about the Palestinian Arabs who have been expelled in huge numbers from Muslim countries within the last generation, but because Jews no longer know their place. Islam is supremacist. Allahu Akbar asserts Islamic supremacy over all other religions. As an historical subject race, Jews are a natural target for violence by Muslim immigrants with strong supremacist leanings. The disenfranchised Muslim isn’t looking for equality. He’s seeking supremacy. That is what the Islamic State and the Koran give him. He picks the same Jewish targets as Mohammed did because the Jews are a vulnerable minority. That is as true in Europe today as it was in Arabia then.

Unlike the Christian world, which was never fully subjugated by Islam, both the Jewish homeland and much of the Jewish diaspora population existed under Muslim rule long enough that non-submissive Jews became a particularly galling reminder of the fall of the Caliphate.

Muslims had taken Jewish submission for granted making the existence of non-submissive Jews, whether in Jerusalem or in Paris, that much more outrageous. The Algerian Muslim can more readily accept taking a back seat to a French Christian than to an Algerian Jew, whom he knows would have been considered inferior to him if they were both back in Algeria.

The left has become so mired in a post-colonial worldview that it refuses to understand that the struggle is not between Western European colonialism and a post-colonial Third World, but between different eras of colonialism. Arab Islamic domination is not post-colonial; it’s a colonialism that predates it.
When Western leftists make common cause with Arab and Islamic nationalists, they aren’t being post-colonial, they’re advocating an earlier form of colonialism that led and is once again leading to ethnic cleansing, genocide, mass slavery and the destruction of indigenous cultures; including that of the Jews.

Middle Eastern Jews, like other non-Muslim and non-Arab minorities, welcomed European colonialism as relief from Islamic and Arab colonialism. France is filled with Jews from North Africa because they received their rights for the first time under French rule. As French citizens, they could shed their mandatory black clothes and no longer fear being killed because of Islamic law, like Batto Sfez, a Tunisian Jew who was executed for blasphemy in an atrocity that triggered French intervention.

Yoav Hattab, one of the Jews murdered in the Kosher supermarket attack in Paris, was the son of the Chief Rabbi of Tunisia. While the Chief Rabbi was, in the unfortunate Dhimmi fashion of those who live under Islamic rule, forced to praise how well Tunisia treats Jews, his son was buried in Israel. Israel was also the place where most Tunisian Jews moved to escape Arab Muslim persecution.

The Western left can’t talk about Muslim anti-Semitism because it would also have to talk about Muslim colonialism. And then the entire basis of its approach to the Arab and Muslim world would collapse. If post-colonialism in the Middle East is just the replacement of one colonialism with another, then the left would have to admit that it has once again disgraced itself by supporting a totalitarian system.

Just as it replaced the czar with the commissar, it is replacing the protectorate with the caliphate.

Modern histories of the Middle East excuse the historical Muslim persecution of Jews for the same reason the media excuses modern Muslim attacks on Jews. This historical revisionism justifies Islamic colonialism in the service of post-colonialism with the myth of a golden age of benevolent tyranny.

The post-colonial narrative obligates academics and journalists to favorably contrast the Muslim treatment of Jews, then or now, with the European treatment of Jews. This obstructionism has endangered European Jews even more than Jihadist videos advocating violence because it makes it impossible to discuss an urgent violent threat for fear of violating the left’s post-colonial narrative.
Muslim anti-Semitism must be discussed. And it must be contextualized within the history of Muslim-Jewish relations, not European ones like the National Front or Jobbik. It must not be dismissed as some transient phenomenon caused by poverty or the latest Hamas clashes, but viewed within the context of Islamic colonialism and the treatment of non-Muslims in the Muslim world. The treatment of Yazidis in Iraq and Christians in Syria must also be placed within that same context.

Historical revisionism for Muslim anti-Semitism is as unacceptable as Holocaust denial or any other attempt to stick a smiley face on the oppression of Jews. And what is at stake here is not merely history, but the root cause that drives Muslim men and women born in Europe to attack and kill Jews.

Read article in full

Friday, January 23, 2015

Sephardim on the cusp of coexistence

Following the murder of four Tunisian Jews in a Paris supermarket, Arthur Asseraf and Elizabeth Marcus are at pains to paint a world 'beyond black and white' - a complex picture of Arab-Jewish relations - for Reuters. They give useful context to the origins of French Jews. But they confuse cultural connections with the unequal political relationship between Jews and Arabs: Jews in Arab countries have always been a vulnerable minority. See my comment below.   

A Jewish pilgrim at the Al-Ghriba synagogue on the Tunisian  island of Djerba

“Jews have no problems with Arabs.”

Those were the words of Benjamin Hattab, the father of Yoav Hattab, one of the four killed last week in an attack on a Paris kosher grocery store, which followed the Charlie Hebdo shootings. Hattab is Tunisian and serves as the chief rabbi of the Muslim-majority North African nation — his comments, made in an interview after the attack, referred to his experience in Tunisia, not in France.

Sephardic Jews like Hattab — who originate from Spain, North Africa and the Middle East — have once again become a living barometer of Muslim-Jewish relations. To some, they represent the possibilities of co-existence. To others, they represent the sheer impossibility of that vision.

It is easy to see why that might be the case. Sephardic life has always been complex and hybrid. A friend of Yoav Hattab, Yohann Taieb, paid tribute to him by writing “In another world, he could have become a star of Arab Idol, who loved Arabic music.” His Jewish religious practice, too, was steeped in Arab culture. “When leading a prayer, it was not uncommon for him to borrow tunes from secular Arab Tunisian songs by slowing the tempo, recalling the inseparability of the Tunisian Jewish ethos and its surrounding culture.”

Of course, many question how inseparable the two are. But, Sephardim have also been remarkably resilient in maintaining their mixed cultural traditions through exile. As conflict blows up once more, the community faces many challenges, but their continued existence points to a world beyond black and white.

The Hattabs are part of roughly 2,000 Jews left in Tunisia, after many thousands migrated en masse in the 1960s and 1970s. The once one-million strong Jews living in Arab countries shrank to nearly nothing in the 20th century as a result of a messy process involving de-colonization, the rise of Arab nationalism, Zionism and the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, and economic migration that cut across all communities, as well as discrimination and forced exile. Those who chose to remain have been under increasing pressure. The Hattab’s recent loss follows the death of Yoav’s aunt, who was killed in an attack on a synagogue in Tunisia in 1985.

France’s Jewish community — depleted after the Second World War — was revived by the arrival of Sephardic Jewry in the mid-20th century. Now, Sephardim are the majority among the French Jewish community. France contains Europe’s largest population of Jews and Muslims, both hailing mainly from North Africa.

Two starkly different accounts exist of Jewish life before they left Arab countries. Some portray it as having been a perfect coexistence, with older women remembering bringing pastries to their neighbors for religious holidays. Others speak in terms of conflict, referencing only anti-Semitism, discrimination, violence and forced exile.

Neither of these opposing versions does justice to the long, complicated history of Muslim-Jewish relations, both in the Arab world, and now, in Europe.

That is why, in moments like these, the Sephardim have faced huge pressure to declare which side they are on — to choose which of these narratives defines them as a community. Living on the frontlines, their decisions — like whether they stay in France, or emigrate to Israel — will be watched intently. Their individual actions are weighted with huge significance for broader Muslim-Jewish relations, and for the future of Jews in Europe.

Read article in full

 My comment: this article is a curate's egg, good in parts. Benjamin Hattab, the father of Yoav,  gunned down in the kosher supermarket in Paris, is bound to say that Jews have no problems with Arabs: he lives among them. But the Tunisian government did not condemn his son's murder: it was left to a small group of minority rights activists to demonstrate their sympathy, amid ugly rumours that Yoav's burial in Israel was a betrayal. Yes, there is an overlap of culture between Jews and Arabs, but this did not save Yoav, nor Yoav Hattab's aunt, herself the victim of a terror attack.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Yemen's Jews are 'in big danger'

Rabbi Yahya Youssef, the leader of the remaining 70-odd Jews in Sa'ana, poses with a photo of the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh

The news that Houthi rebels have seized the Presidential palace in the capital Sana'a puts Yemen's remaining Jews, who live under government protection, at unprecedented risk. The Jerusalem Post reports:

A takeover of the Yemenite capital of Sanaa by Houthi rebels may put the country’s Jewish community at risk given the Shi’ite group’s track record.

“It is clear they are in danger” due to “religious hate” and “extreme Islam,” University of Haifa professor emeritus Yosef Tobi said, although he was hesitant to make specific predictions.

Sanaa’s Jewish community lives in a guarded district under the protection of the central government, after fleeing to the capital from the town of Saada following Houthis threats in 2007.

“We warn you to leave the area immediately... Ignore this message, and we give you a period of 10 days, and you will regret it,” a Houthi representative warned the Jewish community of Saada at the time.

“Rising societal tensions, and the government’s lack of resources and capacity to protect [the Jews] adequately from increased threats in late 2008 and early 2009, led to increased emigration of the community,” according to a report on the US State Department website.

After the Houthi rebels entered the capital last year, supporters gathered in the streets, some chanting “Death to America! Death to the Jews! Victory to Islam.” The Houthi logo features the phrases “Death to Israel” and “Damn the Jews.”

“The Jews of Yemen are in big danger now,” said Michael Jankelowitz, a former spokesman to the international media at the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization.

“This should trouble the leaders of the Jewish Agency who have been trickle by trickle bringing them out.”

Read article in full

No news on Sana'a Jews after Houthis invade

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

London, watch out for Les Feujs!

Loud, brash and a little too Jewish for some tastes, France's Sephardi community has been moving to London over the past decade. With antisemitism on the rise, the UK can expect more Feujs, as they call themselves. Michelle Huberman reports in Jewish News: 
Michelle Huberman: I felt I was living in 'North Africa'

Many years ago I was part of their parents’ community in Paris. I lived there through the 1980′s. It was a total culture change from my Hampstead Garden Suburb upbringing and I often felt that I was living in North Africa rather than France.

I worked in the bustle of the Sentier (the fashion district) where entrepreneurial Jewish immigrants from Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria mixed happily with Muslims from the same countries.

These were the good times – when the Jews had expressed support for the Arab immigrants  and  the campaign “Touche Pas A Mon Pote – Do Not Touch My Buddy”.

I look back affectionately at how I was adopted by the matriarchs of both the Jewish and Muslim communities and found myself loving their culture and picking up Arab slang as well as French.

That Sephardi community had an amazing energy and worked hard to re-establish themselves in their new country – having left North Africa in the  50′s and early 60′s when France granted those countries independence.
My generation who had left as kids had good memories of their childhoods, but the older generation remembered the times before the French arrived when there was persecution of the Jews.

The communities from those three countries all had different experiences of departure, but one thing was clear, even when they were living well in Morocco, Jews felt insecure without French protection. Algerian Jews had French citizenship and most of the 140,000 strong community moved to France.

The Tunisian and Moroccan communities (100, 000 and 250,000 respectively) underwent an utter breakup of families. Those that had the money went to France and Canada whilst the others went to Israel and faced harsh conditions.
Many didn’t stick the tough life in Israel and left later to join family in France and Canada who were faring better.

They were not warmly received by the established French Ashkenazi community – many of them survivors from the Holocaust – who saw them as loud and brash and just a little too Jewish.

The Ashkenazim had learnt to hide their Judaism – no outward signs nor mezuzot on the doors. After all – these had marked them out for deportation. But the Sephardim were the opposite: deeply religious and proud Zionists.

Spurred on by the Lubavitcher movement, they were going to revive and transform the French Jewish community.  With their large families they soon swelled the 180,000 – strong postwar community to 600, 000.

As much as the Jewish establishment didn’t warm to them, the younger generation did. For most Ashkenazi families, either your children married out or into a Sephardi family.

Like so many immigrant communities before them, they were determined to better themselves and make sure their children had a good education. But as they prospered, few purchased property in the city, preferring to rent their homes.
They had experienced losing property in North Africa and still lived with the mentality of the ready-packed suitcase. The exception was a holiday home: families saved for an apartment in Juan-les-Pins where the whole community went en masse for the summer vacation.

But in the mid 90′s something changed. The second generation Maghrebi Muslims who lived in the banlieues started identifying themselves with the Palestinians.

They labelled as Zionists their Jewish neighbours and turned their anger on them. France was no longer a comfortable place for the community. 

Their choice for vacations changed from Juan-les-Pins to Netanya. Most already had family in Israel and realised it was their future.  

Israel was where they would invest their money. Breadwinners sent their wives and children to live in Israel but would still run their businesses in France, choosing to commute for weekends – the Boeing aliya.

In Israel they have made their impact : thousands of French tourists spend the summer months there. I once again hear derogatory adjectives used against them: loud and brash and maybe a little too Jewish. But this entrepreneurial and educated aliyah is actually the biggest gift to Israel.

Read article in full

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

'Cavemen' accuse national poet of racism

 Has Berlin-born poet Natan Zach lost it? Israel's iconic poet has a history of making shocking statements. But Zach’s most controversial moment may have been in July 2010, when, in an interview on Army Radio, he made a comparison between European and Middle Eastern Jews, saying: “The one lot comes from the highest culture there is – Western European culture — and the other lot comes from the caves.” Now the 'cavemen' have responded with a petition calling for Zach's works to be dropped from the schools curriculum. Haaretz reports:

Natan Zach

Poet Natan Zach's comments last week on the Channel 10 television show "Hamakor" ("The Source" ) have resulted in a petition accusing him of racism.
The petition, which has been uploaded to the Web, calls upon Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar to take immediate measures against the 80-year-old Israel Prize laureate.

The petition specifically calls for Sa'ar to remove Zach's works from the educational curriculum, to revoke his appointments at every academic institutions where he is employed and to add content addressing the history and culture of Jews with roots in the Middle East to the curriculum.

In an interview conducted with Zach about a week ago, the poet described his impressions of Israeli television, saying that "the Jews from the Oriental communities will get the blacks and the Ashkenazis [European Jews] will get the bastards."

The poet went on to say "The idea of taking people who have nothing in common arose. The one lot comes from the highest culture there is - Western European culture - and the other lot comes from the caves." 

The petition states: "It is inconceivable that students, certainly the Mizrahim [Jews of Middle Eastern descent], will be asked to memorize poems by the man who scorns their culture and publicly defines it as an inferior culture... It is the obligation of the Ministry of Education to make it clear to him and to the entire public that it will not permit such despicable opinions to be sheltered under its wing."

While those who initiated the petition have remained anonymous, so far over 500 people have signed the petition, among them many prominent cultural figures, including writer Yossi Sukari, artist Shula Keshet, poet Mati Shmuelof, artist Shay Pardo, musician Ravid Kahalani and cultural researcher Sivan Shtang.

Responding to Zach's remarks, Sukari says the poet's view that Western culture is superior to Mizrahi culture is based on the parameters of the sole culture in which he is submerged.

"Even if we allow this relativist outlook and accept that it is possible to create a hierarchy among cultures and find specific differences whereby one culture is superior to another, the preferential treatment of one ethnic group and the diminution of another still amount to racism," argues Sukari.

Furthermore, he says, "With regard to the fact that we came from 'the caves,' I would like to say that to my great regret, the only person actually in a cave is Natan Zach himself - where it's so dark it's impossible to see even the shadows."

Read article in full

Monday, January 19, 2015

Yemenite babies: neglect yes, plot no

 The tragic story of the vanished Yemenite babies of the 1950s  has reared its ugly head once more in  this +972 magazine article reprinted from Haokets. While the authorities can be accused of negligence and callousness, it is harder to find evidence of a conspiracy to 'steal' children from their parents. Pedro X, whose comment I am reproducing below, provides additional truths the article omits. Another commenter asks why more of these 'orphaned' children have not come forward to identify themselves.

"The baby in the photo is younger than my Abigail. His name is Rafael – a tiny baby, seen here in his mother’s arms. She wandered from Damascus to Beirut and onto the shores of the promised land, before being placed in a tent in the Beit Lyd transit camp. Rafael is my mother’s younger brother. She traveled this long route along with him in a sailboat when she was one-and-a-half years old. Grandfather Mordecai wrote in his diary about what had happened to them when they arrived at the immigrant camp:

“One of the nights a horrible wind was blowing, and rain came pouring from the sky. The small children who slept with us in the tents became sick with colds, diarrhea and fever. The smallest one, five-month-old Rafael, got stomach poisoning, and so we went to Tel Aviv and took him to the government hospital in Jaffa, where he returned his pure and innocent spirit to God in the morning light of Tuesday, 13/9/49.”

"In Donolo Hospital they wouldn’t let my grandfather see his son’s body nor his place of burial. They also refused to provide him a death certificate."

Read article in full 

 Pedro X comments: Haokets and these so called activists are not telling the whole story. Between 1967 and 2001 Israel held three commissions and one public inquiry into the issue. The 1967 commission found two cases of children having been adopted. 316 died for sure and in 24 cases no conclusions could be agreed upon. The public inquiry which reported its findings in 2001 found that out of 800 cases examined it was certain that 733 of these children died. No conclusions could be reached for 56 children.
   Ami Hovav, an investigator who served on two earlier official commissions that examined the fate of the Yemenite babies, said that out of 650 cases of babies reported missing by their parents, 80 had not been solved. Records showed that a few dozen who were put up for adoption when their parents could not be traced. He explained that frequent mix-ups occurred when babies were transferred to and from nurseries and hospitals resulting in medical institutions being unable to trace the parents of the children.
   The New York Times in an 1999 article quoted Dov Levitan of Bar-Ilan University, an expert on the Yemenite immigrants, to state that there was “no evidence of an organized conspiracy to spirit away Yemenite children for adoption."... “there was a condescending attitude toward the new arrivals that led to carelessness in tracking down children and their parents….There was disregard for the parents, an unwillingness to make the effort to investigate, but not a conspiracy.”

Desperately seeking mum and dad

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tunisians stage vigil for Paris victim

 In what might be the first demonstration of solidarity with a murdered Jew in an Arab country, some 150 Tunisians staged a vigil for Yoav Hattab, 21, whose family still lives in Tunis. Several demonstrators criticised the 'disgraceful' silence of the Tunisian authorities. 

Yoav Hattab pictured with an inked finger after casting his vote in the Tunisian elections

 The Jerusalem Post reports:

About 150 people, including a number of Muslims, attended a memorial service Saturday night outside the Tunis Great Synagogue to honor the slain Yoav Hattab, Israel Radio reported. Hattab was the son of the city's chief rabbi ( the rabbi of the Great Synagogue - ed).

Participants lit candles and held up pictures of Hattab alongside Tunisian flags.

Some of those in attendance criticized their government's silence in the face of Hattab's death.

Hattab was killed on January 9 in an attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris. He studied marketing in the city and worked in an office near the supermarket.

Tunisian Sara Horchani deplored the official silence surrounding the murder of Yoav Hattab. Only the Islamist party Ennahda condemned it: 

"This silence was an affront to Tunisian history. It's an affront to democratic principles.This silence affects the Tunisian citizen I am. It hurts me as a Tunisian Republican,  as a fervent advocate of equality. The basis of any democracy is equality between citizens irrespective of their origins.

"Sad to see the (Islamists ) Ennahda, of all parties, steal a march over Democrats and leftist parties.

"It is the duty of Tunisia to honor Yoav Hattab. He is a Tunisian citizen, the victim of a horrible murder. Murdered because he was Jewish. Because he was in a kosher store for shopping before Shabbat.

"It is the duty of Tunisia to respect all its citizens regardless of their confession. Enough of these perpetual suspicions of lack of fidelity and loyalty to our fellow Jews."

Read post in full (French)

Arutz Sheva report 

Terror victim: Tunisian patriot or Zionist?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

How Baghdad got its Jewish cemetery

With thanks: Lisette

 An Ottoman miniature depicting the Sultan Murad 1V

For centuries, until 1639, Baghdad did not have a Jewish cemetery.

This state of affairs dates back to the Mongol conquest of Baghdad. In the 14th century the Mongol leader Hulagu made his Jewish doctor prime minister, conferring on him the title Sa'd el-Dawla. According to amateur historian Sami Hourani, this Jewish prime minister  was given a free hand to impose law and order. He relied on Jews and Christians to administer the country. In Mosul, he appointed only Jews to his staff.

The local Muslims, says Sami, "reacted very badly, because they were superior and should never take orders from a non-Muslim, especially if he is a Jew. "
 The Muslims  established an underground resistance movement called "Al-Hashashin". They recruited young boys, train them to kill and give them drugs, so that when directed to kill they could do it quickly and efficiently. From the word Hashashin came the English word Assassin,  meaning killing for some holy cause. 

An Assassin killed the Jewish prime minister. Hulagu, who had been cured by his doctor-cum- PM,  fell sick again, had a heart attack and died. The whole country descended into chaos.

The Muslims now wanted revenge from the Jews. They looted their homes and killed many, forcing the survivors to live in a ghetto with no right to have a cemetery for the community.

They forced them to bury their dead around their houses and in their basements.

The main Jewish cemetery was designated as a main place of burial for Jews  by the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV around 1639.

In a story befitting a tale from the Arabian nights, it is said that a poor Jewish woman was granted the Jewish cemetery after she had shared her bread with the Sultan, who was planning to conquer Baghdad from the Safavid Persians.

Here is her story.

On the eve of his army's attack, the Sultan entered Baghdad on foot disguised as a poor Dervish.

Through the window of a shack  he saw a woman baking pita bread. He knocked on the door. The woman opened the door and he implored her to share her food with him. She told him that all she had was a small pita for each one of her sons: she was ready to share her own pita with him. She gave him half. He told her God would bless her many times over and that she would be rewarded for her kind heart. 

The Sultan went back to his camp with the half pita in his hand. He  told his soldiers: "  this is a sign that God is with us and we shall attack Baghdad the following morning and capture the city."At dawn, he moved  his army toward Baghdad, attacked the city and by mid -day he had expelled the Persians. He became the ruler of Baghdad. Some historians say that nearly 2,000 Jewish men supported him.

He asked his men to fetch that poor woman who was generous enough to give him half a pita.  When she saw the soldiers she panicked and cried, thinking that she had committed a sin or a crime, for nobody left the governor's office alive. She followed the soldiers to the court of the Sultan. She entered the court and she stood before him. 

The Sultan revealed himself as the Dervish who came begging for food the night before and that she was kind-hearted enough to share with him half of her small Pita. "If you are well off and  help people, society will thank you for your generosity, he told her. "But if you are poor and ready to share the last piece of bread with other needy people, your reward comes from Heaven. "

He then handed her two bags full of gold and silver coins and he said, “This is my gift to you. Now make a wish.”

 She asked him, “What is a wish?” He answered that it is something you want to get for yourself but you cannot afford. The woman answered that she did not want anything for herself but for her community. She said the community did not have a cemetery: poor people did not know where to bury their dead. She requested that he may be kind enough to earmark a piece of land as a cemetery for the Jewish community. 

He agreed and a large piece of land was designated as a Jewish cemetery in a suburb of the city. This cemetery was the main Jewish cemetery from that time until 1959 when the Iraqi Government decided to demolish it after the exodus of the Jews in 1951-52.  It was the main Jewish cemetery from 1642 to 1952, over 300 years. In that cemetery,  great Rabbis were buried. Also located here was the mass grave of the Jewish victims killed in 1941 Farhud. 

This woman  became a celebrity in the Jewish community. Some people said  that she had received a gift from Heaven: in Persian “Para Azada”, twisted  into Parizat.   The alley where she lived became the Alley of “Bet Parizat”. Others saw in her story the Biblical proof that  God's mercy can change things in the blink of an eye;  the stone that all builders hate, turns out to be the corner stone. Others said that the Sultan was, in fact, a personalization of Eliyahu Hanabi who came and blessed her house. To attract Eliyau to their houses, women developed the tradition that when they bake, they leave aside a piece of bread  for Eliyahu; perhaps he might come disguised as a poor person asking for help.

When Iraq was captured by the British in 1917 the welfare of all the Jews of Iraq was entrusted to the Israelite Community of Babylon, with its seat in Baghdad. The Jewish community in Baghdad took responsibility for the Jewish communities in towns and villages throughout the country.
The name  "Israelite Community of Babylon" dated back to 1841 when the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire introduced a bill for freedom of all minorities. The head of the Jewish Community was called Hakham Bashi. The name of the community was changed in 1947 to "the Community of the followers of Moses ( Moussawi) , because the Iraqi Government objected to the name Israelite.

The Jewish cemetery in Sadr City has been in use ever since the main Baghdad cemetery was destroyed by the Iraqi government in 1959

Historian Sami Sourani adds that a large number of Geonim (Biblical scholars) were buried around the Shrine of Joshua the High Priest who was exiled to Babylon together with King Joachim. Joshua was said to descend from the Prophet Samuel. Today his shrine  has been converted to a mosque called," The Mosque of God Prophet Joshua Hacohen".

The Jewish community was in charge of burial and fees were paid according to the financial situation of the family.
Poor Jewish people were exempt from paying burial fees. It was the policy that every Jew deserved to be treated with dignity in his final hour in this world.
  After the Exodus to Babylon in 586 BCE, one of the rabbis (  Geonim) introduced the policy of simple burial. Until the 4th century BCE, Jews who had the means, had expensive burials, probably influenced by their non-Jewish neighbors.

Friday, January 16, 2015

French Jews face hate they fled in N. Africa

 History is repeating itself for Jews in France, most of whom have escaped antisemitism in North Africa. The Wall St Journal reports: (with thanks: Lily)
The four Jews killed at the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris

PARIS—Every Friday, Johanna Bettach, a pregnant mother of two, stocks up on weekend supplies at the Hyper Cacher supermarket. Last week, just before she was getting ready to shop, an Islamist militantgunned down four Jewish customers at the kosher store and took many others hostage.

The Hyper Cacher attack, one of the deadliest against France’s Jewish community since World War II, spurred outrage across the country. It was by no means isolated, coming against a backdrop of acts of violence and intimidation.
Just three months earlier, Ms. Bettach said, she found her mezuzah—a box containing a parchment of Torah verses that religious Jews attach to their doors—torn off and thrown out.

“It is going from bad to worse in France, and we know that it is not going to stop,” said Ms. Bettach, 33 years old. “I can’t sleep at night anymore. All day when my kids are at school, I worry. I just don’t see any future for my children in this country.”

Three-quarters of France’s roughly half-million Jews are, like Ms. Bettach, of North African origin, Jewish community officials estimate. Their families moved to the safety of France mostly in the period between Israel’s creation in 1948 and Algeria’s independence in 1962, as persecution and discrimination emptied out the once-huge Jewish communities of former French possessions across the Mediterranean.

France has the world’s third-largest Jewish population after Israel and the U.S., according to most estimates. “We need to act,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Saturday as he paid homage to the victims of the Hyper Cacher attack. “France without Jews is no longer France.”

In 2013, the last full year for which data have been compiled, there were 423 reported anti-Semitic incidents in France, compared with 82 in 1999, according to the Jewish Community Security Service, a joint body created by France’s main Jewish organizations that compiles data based on police reports.

Much of the recent upsurge of anti-Semitic violence in France has occurred in rundown towns likes Sarcelles, a north Paris suburb where Jews of Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian origin live alongside Muslim immigrants from the same countries.

While feelings of fear and distress through the French Jewish community after the Hyper Cacher attack, they are particularly strong among those of North African origin, with their memories of forced exodus still raw.

“They had come to the French Republic with the conviction that things would not happen that way again,” said Elisabeth Schemla, a prominent French Jewish writer and magazine editor who moved from her native Algeria as a teenager in the 1960s. “Now, they have a feeling that they are reliving what they themselves or their parents had lived through already.”

Ms. Bettach said her sister moved to New York a decade ago and two of her husband’s brothers emigrated to Israel. On Sunday, two days after the Hyper Cacher attack, she began paperwork for moving to Israel.

“In Algeria, my father had to flee from one day to another because if he hadn’t left, he would have been killed,” said Ms. Bettach. “At least we still have time to prepare, to take our possessions with us.”

Some 6,900 French Jews moved to Israel in 2014, up from 3,300 in 2013, according to the Jewish Agency for Israel, an Israeli organization that oversees the process. The number is expected to grow to 10,000 in 2015, the agency said. Many others are moving to Israel informally, or leaving France for the U.S., Britain and even Germany, Jewish community officials said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who met French Jewish community representatives over the weekend, said Israel is preparing for increased immigration of Jews from France and other countries he said have been hit by anti-Semitism. “I wish to tell all French and European Jews: Israel is your home,” he said in Paris.

Anti-Semitic attacks occur elsewhere in Europe. One lethal attack outside France came in May 2014 in the form of a shooting spree that killed four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. It was allegedly perpetrated by a French Islamist, who is currently awaiting trial. He hasn’t entered a plea and according to his lawyer declined to comment.

In France, attacks have been particularly violent. On July 20 in Sarcelles, a pro-Palestinian rally turned into a confrontation that led to the burning of several Jewish-owned businesses. Two years earlier, an Islamist gunman killed three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in the city of Toulouse. In 2006, cellphone salesman Ilan Halimi in the Paris area was kidnapped by a gang who held him for ransom and tortured him to death for three weeks for being Jewish, burning his skin with acid and gasoline, according to police reports. The perpetrators were tried and convicted.

“We are in a situation of war,” said Roger Cukierman, president of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France, or CRIF, an umbrella group representing France’s Jewish organizations.

The French government has said on many occasions that it will do all it can to protect the country’s Jews. Asked if violence against Jews is on the rise in France, a spokeswoman for President François Hollande’s office said that the “fight against anti-Semitism is a permanent engagement.”

As part of its response to the killings at the kosher store, the French government appointed a special official in charge of Jewish security and deployed 4,700 troops to guard 717 Jewish sites across the country. In Sarcelles, mothers now push their prams into the Jewish crèche past three policemen standing ready with rifles.

Ms. Bettach said she appreciates what the government is doing now, with armed troops staying overnight in sleeping bags at the Jewish school attended by her children, aged 7 and 1. “But we know they will not stay there forever,” she added. “And once they go, what will we do then?”

Nearly four million people demonstrated in France against last week’s attacks, in which Amedy Coulibaly, a follower of Islamic State, killed four people at Hyper Cacher and killed a policewoman, and brothers Chérif and Said Kouachi, followers of al Qaeda in Yemen, gunned down 12 people at Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine.

Muslim community leaders in France have condemned the attacks. “The feeling of the French Muslims is shame and fear,” said Slimane Nadour, head of communications at the Grand Mosque of Paris. “Shame because people could commit those crimes in the name of Islam, and fear because we feel that our community is being blamed for the actions of a small minority of extremists commanded from overseas.”

Asked whether the French Jews have a reason to be increasingly afraid, Mr. Nadour said: “Everyone in France, including the Muslims, is afraid of the radicals. Muslims themselves are the biggest target of radical Islamist terrorism.”
Many French Jews say the level of public outrage was relatively muted after the 2012 killings in Toulouse.

“Even if the French are against anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic attacks don’t provoke the same display of emotion due to their repetition, it gets trivialized,” said Maurice Lévy, chief executive of French advertising company Publicis Groupe SA . “We have to fight against this trivialization.”

At the end of the 18th century, revolutionary France removed Medieval restrictions against its Jews and led the push to give equal rights to long-oppressed Jewish communities across the continent. Many of its Jews prided themselves on assimilating into the mainstream. A Jewish prime minister governed France in the years before the outbreak of World War II.

About a quarter of France’s prewar Jewish population of around 300,000 perished in the Holocaust, killed by the Nazis and their French collaborators, according to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial and research center in Jerusalem.

Then, the numbers started growing again, thanks to the postwar influx from North Africa. These newcomers from North Africa were often more religious than France’s established Jewish communities, sparking a boom in the creation of Jewish schools, kosher restaurants and places of worship—turning France into the center of Jewish life in Europe.

When you reach that high, you cannot envisage for yourself or your children the future of Jews who have to live in hiding,” said Michel Gurfinkiel, head of the Jean Jacques Rousseau Institute, a Paris think tank, and a member of the board of governors of the union of French synagogues.

Over the past decade, however, the country’s Jews increasingly began feeling threats from a new direction—targeted by Muslim militants angered by Israel’s actions in the Middle East.

There were similar attacks in the past, such as a 1982 bombing that killed six people in a Jewish restaurant in the Marais district of Paris. Those, however, were mostly perpetrated by Palestinian terrorist groups.

By contrast, the second Palestinian intifada in 2000 spurred a wave of anti-Semitic violence by France’s Muslim youths. That wave has yet to abate, with spikes closely tied to events in the Middle East, according to the Jewish Community Security Service.

The 423 reported anti-Semitic incidents in France in 2013 included 49 acts of “physical violence” and 152 incidents of insults or verbal threats and gestures, according to the service’s report. This means that in 2013, 40% of racist violence in France targeted Jews, who represent less than 1% of the French population, the report said. Many more incidents just don't get reported, Jewish organizations said.

Delphine Sultan said her daughter decided to leave for Israel when some fellow students at her university south of Paris refused to observe a minute of silence for the Toulouse victims. “She came home in shock and said: ‘I don’t have a future here,’ ” said Ms. Sultan, a 48-year-old Parisian of Algerian-Tunisian origin.

 Read article in full (subscription required)

For Jews in France, plus ca change

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Plane which rescued 100 Iraqi Jews salvaged

The C-46 airplane used in a clandestine 1947 rescue operation of 100 Iraqi Jews is salvaged from a scrap yard in Argentina and will soon arrive in Israel, where it will be showcased at the Atlit Detention Camp Museum.
Daniel Siryoti reports for Israel Hayom (with thanks: Michelle):

Iraqi Jews rescued as part of Operation Michaelberg disembark from the C-46 transport aircraft [Archive]

A Curtiss C-46 Commando transport aircraft used in 1947's clandestine Operation Michaelberg, during which 100 Iraqi Jews were rescued and brought to then-British Mandate Palestine, will soon return to Israel after being saved from a metal scrap yard in Argentina. 

During the mid-1940s, concerns grew for the fate of the Jews of Iraq, with reports of increasing persecution by their Arab neighbors. The British denied the Jewish community's petition to allow Iraqi Jews to enter Israel legally, and it was decided to mount a clandestine rescue operation and smuggle them into the country. The rescue operation was designed by the Aliyah Bet group, which operated as part of the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary organization that operated in Israel in defiance of the British Mandate. 

Aliyah Bet members, some of whom would later form the Mossad, were able to purchase the aircraft and contract pilot Leo Sanberg and his co-pilot Michael, both American World War II veterans, to make two flights to Iraq. The secret operation, named for the pilots, was carried out in August and September 1947. However, later, as the majority of Jews seeking to enter Israel legally or illegally did so by sea, the plane was sold and all but forgotten.

Former Knesset speaker Shlomo Hillel, who was one of the individuals involved in Operation Michaelberg and later became, alongside Israeli businessman Meshulam Riklis, the driving force behind the preservation efforts of the Ayalon Institute -- a secret, underground Haganah bullet factory, now a museum -- recently learned of the whereabouts of the historic plane, and that its current owner had scheduled it to be scrapped.

Hillel and Riklis immediately began negotiating with the C-46's owner, with Riklis offering to finance its delivery to Israel. The negotiations were successful, and the plane is scheduled to arrive at its new home, at the Atlit Detention Camp Museum dedicated to the history of pre-1948 immigration efforts, in several weeks.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Terror victim: Tunisian patriot or Zionist?

With thanks Ahuva; Maier

A controversy has erupted over one of the Paris attack victims buried yesterday in Israel: Yoav Hattab, whose family lives in Tunis. Was he a Tunisian patriot, or a Zionist? Of course one could be both, if Tunisians did not consider Zionism as an expression of disloyalty.

Lisa Goldman in the+ 972 Magazine writes:

“Tunisia is bereaved!” read the main headline on the front page of Sunday’s Le Temps, a French-language newspaper based in Tunis. Three of the people shot to death in Friday’s hostage-taking at a Parisian branch of the French kosher supermarket chain Hyper Cacher, were Tunisian citizens. One of them was Yoav Hattab, the 21 year-old son of the main rabbi of Tunis. Hattab, who was in Paris to complete his graduate studies, was a patriot: in a photo on the front page of Le Temps, he grins proudly while holding up a blue-inked index finger, proof that he had voted in his country’s first democratic election following the 2011 revolution.

Tunisian newspaper_resized

"For young Tunisians on social media, Hattab has come to represent their hopes for their country. They are sharing and quoting a France 2 television interview with Rabbi Benjamin Hattab, the dead man’s father, in which he speaks passionately of the easy, mutually respectful relationship between Jews and Muslims in Tunisia."

Political analyst Jonathan Spyer takes a different position on his Facebook page: 

" An article recently published at the anti-Israel '972' site is a misrepresentation of Yoav Hattab, one of the Jews murdered last week at the Hyper Cacher. The article falsely misrepresents Yoav Hatab as primarily a 'Tunisian patriot'. So, to clarify:

Yoav Hattab was a Hebrew speaking Zionist Jew who was planning his aliyah at the time of his murder. I was at his funeral today, where I spoke with people who knew him. The funeral was in Jerusalem, surrounded by Israeli flags and concluded with Hatikvah, as his family wished. In addition, contrary to their claims in an article in Ynet today, nothing was stopping Yoav's Muslim Tunisian friends from coming to his funeral today in Jerusalem, had they wished to. They would have been welcome guests. They chose not to come. This decision in itself, along with the many instances of desecration of Jewish graves in Tunisia, point to the wisdom of his family's decision to bury their murdered son in Israel, where his grave will be kept safe."

Spyer's account of the funerals (Weekly Standard)

Haaretz (behind a paywall ) corroborates Spyer's view:

"Most friends who meet on Birthright Israel trips get to look forward to lifelong connections with their fellow participants.

Yoav Hattab never got that chance. The son of the Chief Rabbi of Tunis, who traveled to Israel on Birthright last month, had only been back in Paris for a few weeks when he was gunned down by the terrorist who laid siege to the Hyper Cacher supermarket on Friday.

"The 21-year-old, Hattab was a student when he signed up for one of the free Birthright tours to Israel offered to young Diaspora Jews around the world. Hattab grew up in La Goulette, a coastal town in the suburbs of Tunis, the Daily Mail reported, but had moved to Paris to study marketing and international trade.
But one of his Birthright companions said his ultimate aim was to move to Israel, even though the Birthright trip was his first time in the country.

Nathan Levi, 24 is originally from Haifa, but now lives in Be'er Sheva where he studies geography and environmental development at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He was one of four Israelis who joined Hattab’s French 30-member Birthright group which travelled across Israel from December 24 to January 2nd.

"He was so in love in Israel - he spend much of the trip with the Israeli flag draped over his back. His dream was to come to Israel and make aliya together with his whole family from Tunis.”

“He was so upbeat, always motivated, and he really loved Israel with all his heart. I had thought that this was his first trip to Israel, but it turns out that he was here last summer and it was his second time. He said his Birthright experience made him want even more to come here, he really loved the country and he was euphoric when he finished the trip. He said if he had any doubts about making aliya before, this trip put an end to it, it was exactly what he wanted to do.”

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

After Paris: 'Je suis juif tunisien'

 Jews were deliberately targeted in the Paris atrocities: curiously, they were mostly of Tunisian extraction. Yet Tunisia seems safer for Jews than France nowadays*. Lyn Julius blogs in the Times of Israel:
Elsa Cayat, singled out for murder at the Charlie Hebdo offices for being Jewish. It has come to light that she received death threats before the attack

In the aftermath of the Paris atrocities last week, some are complaining that the media have not made enough of the fact that Jews were specifically targeted by the Islamist terrorists. The attack on the Hyper Cacher kosher supermaket was not a fluke, it was deliberate.

Jew-hatred is a central, but underplayed plank of Islamist ideology. If no Jews have died in Syria and Iraq in the region under Islamic State control, it is because there are no Jews left to murder in those areas. They have all already been ethnically cleansed. 

One interesting aspect of last week’s dreadful atrocities in Paris – but again not highlighted by the media – is that Tunisian Jews figure disproportionately among the victims. Disproportionate because the French Jewish community, although composed mostly of Jews from North Africa, also hails from Algeria and Morocco.

Johan Cohen, 22, had a Tunisian mother. His grandmother was the celebrated Tunisian-Jewish singer Doukha, who died in December.

Francois-Michel Saada, 64, was born in Tunis.

So too was Yoav Hattab, 21, whose family still lives in Tunisia, where just over 1,000 Jews remain out of an original community of 100, 000. 

It is not clear which country Philippe Braham’s family was from: but this fourth hostage, in his 40s, was also from North Africa.

At the Charlie Hebdo offices, two Jews died, both of Tunisian extraction: Georges Wolinski, 80, was born in Tunis of a Polish-Jewish father and Sephardi mother. Georges Wolinski’s father sought a haven from Nazi Europe, only to be murdered by one of his employees in a Muslim land. Elsa Cayat’s father was from Sfax in Tunisia.

Elsa Cayat, a psychiatrist who wrote a twice-monthly column for Charlie Hebdo, was almost certainly singled out because she was Jewish. Why? Because another journalist, Sigolene Vinson, was spared ‘because she was a woman’. (...)

But Elsa Cayat was not spared.

All this is heavy with irony. These are Jews whose families left Tunisia largely because Jews were being pushed to the margins of society and because the authorities could not or would not protect them against spasmodic violence.
All these Tunisian Jews had sought refuge in France. Now France cannot ensure a secure future for them or their children. Seventy-five percent of France’s Jews are reportedly seeking to leave.

Yet Yoav Hattab had told his father Benjamin, the rabbi of the great synagogue in Tunis, that merely to walk around wearing a kippa in Paris was dangerous. His father never imagined, he said on French TV, that his son would be less safe in Paris than he was in Tunisia*.

Read article in full

*Update: the Hattab family had already lost one family member to terrorism.
 Y-Net News reports:

 " Hattab's aunt, who he had never met, was killed when she was 14-years-old during an attack on a synagogue on the island of Djerba in Tunisia. On October 8th 1985, a local police officer opened fire during Simchat Torah prayers at the synagogue, killing three people – one of them Yehudit Bucharis. Yehudit's mother, and Yoav's grandmother, now lives in the city of Ofakim in southern Israel.

Hattab was killed while trying to take weapon from terrorist.

Hattab was killed while trying to take weapon from terrorist.

"The synagogue attack in 1985 came about a week after Israel had bombed the PLO headquarters in Tunisia as part of Operation Wooden Leg. The bombing led the Jewish community of Tunisia to fear they would suffer retribution attacks. After a quiet yet tense week – which included insults and isolated incidents of stone throwing at Jewish stores – the shooting attack occurred at the Tunisian synagogue."

Monday, January 12, 2015

Victim's father speaks out in Tunis

 Yoav Hattab z''l

France 2 TV has carried this moving interview (7:25) with the father of Yoav Hattab, 21 one of the four Jewish hostages murdered by an Islamist terrorist in the kosher supermarket at the Porte de Vincennes, Paris, last Friday.

His voice cracking, Benjamin Hattab, the rabbi at the Great synagogue in Tunis and headmaster of a Jewish school, says that he had looked forward to marrying, not burying his son.

He never imagined that his son, who was pursuing his studies in marketing, would be less safe in Paris than in Tunisia.

However, his son had already said that he was afraid of walking around Paris wearing a kippa (skullcap). He concealed his kippa beneath a baseball cap. 

Rabbi Hattab has six other children.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Charlie woman murdered 'for being Jewish'

 With thanks: Ahuva

Segolene Vinson was spared death at the hands of the terrorists of the Charlie Hebdo massacre 'because she was a woman'. But Elsa Cayat was not spared: presumably because she was a Jew. Like Georges Wolinski, Cayat was of Tunisian extraction.

Elsa Cayat, born in 1960, was the daughter of Georges Khayat, a  native of Tunisia ( Sfax), who settled  in France. A psychiatrist and writer, she authored "Jeunesse", the first volume of a trilogy on Jewish life in Tunisia under colonial rule.

The BBC reports that Elsa Cayat,  the only woman among the 12 victims, the 54-year-old wrote the magazine's Charlie Divan (English: Charlie's couch) column.

Her column wandered from subjects such as parental authority to the roots of the Holocaust, Madame Figaro writes (in French).

A trained psychiatrist, she had a vast number of patients, attracting intellectuals with her listening skills and analytical powers, according to her aunt, Jacqueline Raul-Duval.

One of her long-time patients, who gave her name only as Valerie, wrote an affectionate tribute on Facebook in which she says, "I think of her husband, her adolescent daughter, her big padding dog, her patients whom she is leaving without their mirror, her family, her friends."

Her cousin, Sophie Bramly, said she feared she had been killed for being Jewish.

Tunisian Jews have paid a heavy price in the massacres at Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Casher in Paris. As well as Elsa Cayat, Tunis-born Georges Wolinski, a cartoonist for Charlie Hebdo, was murdered. Three of the murdered hostages in the kosher supermarket were from Tunisia: Yoav Hattab, Johan Cohen and Francois-Michel Saada.

For Jews in France, plus ca change

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Tunis chief rabbi's son among dead hostages

 Update: Tunisian TV has broadcast an interview with the father of Yoav Hattab and his cousin.

Yoav Hattab, 21, the son of the Chief Rabbi of Tunis*, is among the four hostages shot dead in the islamist attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket in eastern Paris. It is likely that the other victims were also of North African origin.  Y-Net News reports:

The four victims of the terror attack on a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris on Friday were named Saturday by CRIF, an umbrella group of French Jewish communities.

The victims, all Jews, were identified as Yoav Hattab, 21, the son of the Chief Rabbi of Tunis, Philippe Braham, in his 40s, Yohan Cohen, 22 and Francois-Michel Saada, in his 60s. One of them - reportedly Yohan Cohen - tried to snatch one of the attackers weapons away and was shot in the head.

Yoav Hattab, 21, and Yohan Cohen, 22.
Yoav Hattab, 21, and Yohan Cohen, 22.

“These French citizens were struck down in a cold-blooded manner and mercilessly because they were Jews,” read the CRIF statement.

The possibility of bringing the four victims to Israel for a state funeral is being examined.

Read article in full

More from Y-Net about the victims

Yoav Hattab's father is Betto Hattab, the rabbi of La Grande Synagogue in Tunis

Friday, January 09, 2015

Joan Peters charted flight of Arab-born Jews

 The journalist  and author of 'From time immemorial' Joan Peters (pictured), who died on 5 January 2015, was not without her critics. In charting population movement to and from Palestine, however, she was one of the few to point out the flight of Jews from Arab countries. Michael Curtis writes this tribute in The Commentator:

Concerning the refugee issue, Peters emphasized the point that the number of Jewish refugees driven from Arab lands in the late 1940s was at least equal to the number of Palestinian Arabs displaced from areas held by Israel after the 1948-49 war, a war initiated by Arab states against the newly created State of Israel.

Peters was surprised that although whole populations of Jews had been forced to flee from Arab countries, there were few documents about this flight, although there were stacks of documents about Arab refugees.

The question that arose was the authenticity of those Arab refugees. Peters’s starting point was the analysis of the pattern of Arab immigration and the population movements of Arabs from 1893 to 1947 in five regions of Palestine.
Demographic experts can legitimately disagree about the figures presented, as some do for tactical, political as well as scholarly reasons, about the population statistics, but the thrust of the presentation is clear.

In their rewriting of history, Palestinian leaders and writers argue that a Palestinian people had been living in the area from the days of the Canaanites, of whom they claim to be the descendants, for seven thousand years.

They compare this proposition to the claim of Jews, who have been in the area for “only” 5,000 years. Mahmoud Abbas, hardly a profound historical scholar, declared that Jews are “incidental in history. We [Palestinians] are the people of history. We are the owners of history.”

This is the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict: the refusal of Palestinians to acknowledge, or at best their attempt to minimize, the historic relationship of Jews with the land of Palestine.

One need not bother with the absurd Palestinian fairy tale about 7,000-year-old ancestors. So much evidence places Jews in Palestine.

Peters reported on the analysis of population movement in the 20th century, an analysis that presents a picture relevant to present discussion of the Middle East.
Peters showed that from 1893 on, there were more Jews in areas of Jewish settlement of Palestine than Arabs. Jewish settlers did not displace native Arabs. On the contrary, they attracted them. Some Arabs came from other parts of the Palestinian area to live in the Jewish areas. But most came from surrounding Arab countries and areas.

Peters’s argument echoes conclusions of official British reports. The Hope Simpson Report of October 1930 comments on “the illicit [Arab] immigration through Syria and across the northern frontier of Palestine.”

At the same time, that report recommended limiting Jewish immigration based on the “economic absorptive capacity” of Palestine. A similar recommendation was made in the British Passfield White Paper, also of October 1930.

A somewhat different emphasis on the issue was made in the Peel Commission Report of July 1937. It stated, “Much of the land [where Jews had settled] now carrying orange groves [was] sand and uncultivated when it was purchased. The shortage of land is due less to the amount of land acquired by Jews than to the increase in the Arab population.”

The data undercuts Arab territorial and national claims. The exodus of Arabs as a result of the 1948-49 war was mostly of relatively recent arrivals. They left to go to areas from where they or their ancestors came: other areas of Palestine, such as the West Bank, or to the country of their ancestors, where they have not, with the exception of Jordan, been integrated.

In this respect, in the light of endemic anti-Semitism in the Middle East, it is also worth pointing out the historical truth about Jewish experience in Arab countries.
The concept of a “golden age” for Jews in those countries during which Jews and Muslims lived happily together, particularly in the Magreb countries, is an imaginary portrait. More accurately, Jews, and Christians, too, were second-class citizens, dhimmis, who lived in a condition of inferiority, or in misery and fear.
Rather than a state of equal coexistence, more usual were persecution, humiliation, and massacres in Casablanca, Fez, and Settat.  Forced conversions and accusations of ritual crimes were not unknown.

It is high time that “the international community” and well-meaning social and religious organizations gave up their adherence to a fallacious narrative to validate their imagined view of Palestinians, and perhaps their anti-Semitism, to consider rationally and honestly the Peters version of the conflicting claims of Jews and Arabs in the Middle East.

Read article in full 

Obituary for Joan Caro (Peters) (Chicago Tribune - with thanks: Pablo)

Iraqi Torah scroll finds new home

A rare 200-year-old Torah scroll handwritten with pomegranate juice concentrate on deerskin, which sat for decades in the Iraqi intelligence's cellars, has made its way to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem after spending a few years in the Israeli Embassy building in Jordan. Y-Net News reports:

Following a complicated restoration process by a Torah scribe in Jerusalem, the scroll is being placed these days in the Foreign Ministry's synagogue.

The Torah scroll was kept for years in a storeroom in the Israeli Embassy in Amman. It was likely smuggled there along with other ancient Torah scrolls found by American soldiers in the Iraqi intelligence's warehouses, which were seized by US forces during the second Gulf war.

From the embassy in Jordan, the holy books were sent to Israel for restoration, apart from one disqualified Torah scroll which remained in the embassy for years.

Amnon Israel with the Torah scroll he insisted on restoring (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)

Amnon Israel with the Torah scroll he insisted on restoring (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)

In September 2011, after the Israeli Embassy in Cairo was evacuated, the Foreign Ministry instructed its representatives in Jordan to remove all items, including the unessential ones, from the embassy in Amman for fear that rioters would attempt to raid the building.

In early 2012, the forgotten Torah scroll was transferred to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, where it was kept in a storeroom until a new caretaker arrived about a year ago.

Torah scroll after restoration process (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)

Torah scroll after restoration process (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)

The new caretaker, Amnon Israel, approached a Torah scribe in Jerusalem and asked if he would be able to restore the ancient scroll. The scribe, Akiva Garber, who specializes in the restoration of holy books, examined the Torah scroll and found and Iraqi intelligence stamp in it.

A microscopic sample of the scroll's ink revealed that it was made out of pomegranate juice concentrate.

The examination also revealed that the scroll was about 150-200 years old and was likely written in the Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

According to estimates, the scroll was confiscated by the Iraqi intelligence service (the Mukhabarat) after the major immigration waves to Israel.

The scroll was disqualified because the writing had cracks in it, the pages were torn and it had old patches and mold, but Garber's recommendation was that it could be restored.

The Foreign Ministry decided to invest in the restoration, and now that the process has been completed, the ancient Torah scroll has been placed in the synagogue. An official induction ceremony is expected to take place at the synagogue soon in the presence of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Photo: Alex Kolomoisky

Photo: Alex Kolomoisky

The Foreign Ministry did not settle for that, and decided that such a Torah scroll deserves a special case as well. With the help of Material Resources Manager Tzvia Shimon, a 100-year-old case of a Torah scroll smuggled to Israel from Aleppo, Syria, was brought in from the Prime Minister's Office. The rare case, which includes a dedication to a deceased person, has also been restored.

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Torah scrolls  sold to highest bidder