It’s Time to Show Compassion for Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands
While the gnashing of teeth over claimed loss of Muslim Arab (“Palestinian”) land is relentless, one is hard pressed to find anything close to compassion for Jewish refugees from Arab lands.
Many don’t realize that Jews lived in Iran and Arab lands such as Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen for centuries. They had homes, livelihoods, and community, but now only a handful remain. Why? What happened?
For historical perspective, here are some examples of Jewish life in what later became Islamic lands. Jews lived in Libya since the Hellenistic period 300 BCE. In 1948 there were 38,000 Jews still living there, now there are none. Jews lived in Algeria since the first centuries CE. In 1948 there were 140,000 Algerian Jews, now there are less than 200. Egypt had 75,000 Jews in 1948, now there are less than ten. Yemeni Jews trace their history back to the 3rd century CE. In 1948 there were 63,000 Jews in Yemen, today there are less than 50. You get the idea.
What Happened to Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands?
What happened to these Jews? When Israel was established, they became targets of anti-Zionism. The Islamic world was enraged that there should exist a Jewish state. They responded by attacking Jews living in their midst. Long time Jewish residents were persecuted, and their property was confiscated.
There were anti-Jewish riots and pogroms (organized massacre of Jewish people). Jews were forced to leave their homes and livelihoods with only the clothing on their backs due to persecution in these Arab lands they called home. Of note, there were more Jewish refugees from Arab lands than there were Muslim refugees, and they lost considerably more.
November is Mizrahi Heritage Month and November 30th is Jewish Refugee Day
Yet, these Jewish refugees have been all but forgotten. While Israel took them in, they have fought for recognition. In response, Israel established November 30th as a national day to commemorate the one million Jews displaced from Arab lands and Iran in the 20th century. They also established November as Mizrahi Heritage Month. In America, JIMENA, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, was formed. We welcome readers to visit their website for more information. We also encourage Jews and Jewish institutions to observe this important part of Jewish history.