Dedication is an integral aspect of religious life for both Jews and Christians:
In this programme we will consider what Dedication means. Moses dedicated the Tabernacle in the Wilderness; Solomon dedicated the Davidic Temple; Zerubbabel re-dedicated the Temple; the Maccabees’ cleansing and re-dedication of the Zerubbabel Temple – Chanukkah celebrates this triumphant Dedication; Yeshua’s dedication as a infant child and the Chanukkah of the Future is considered…
How do we dedicate our lives to serve the LORD? Listen to how we may make our personal response:
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The Unsettling of Europe: The Great Migration, 1945 to the Present by Peter Gatrell
Migrants have stood at the heart of modern Europe’s experience, whether trying to escape danger, to find a better life or as a result of deliberate policy, whether moving from the countryside to the city, or between countries, or from outside the continent altogether.
I have recently aquired a very significant book called the Unsettling of Europe by Peter Gatrell in which the author discusses the Great Migration from 1945 to the Present. While Gatrell’s interest does not specifically concern the post-WWII Jewish mirgration and displacement following the Holocaust, the Jews of Europe that survived the Holocaust are mentioned.
Peter Gatrell’s powerful new book is the first to bring these stories together into one place. He creates a compelling narrative bracketed by two nightmarish periods: the great convulsions following the fall of the Third Reich and the mass attempts in the 2010s by migrants to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.
The Unsettling of Europe is a new history of the continent, charting the ever-changing arguments about the desirability or otherwise of migrants and their central role in Europe’s post-1945 prosperity. Gatrell is as fascinating on the giant movements of millions (such as the epic waves of German migration) to that of much smaller groups, such as the Karelians, Armenians, Moluccans or Ugandan Asians. Above all he has written a book that makes the reader deeply aware of the many extraordinary journeys taken by countless individuals in pursuit of work, safety and dignity, all the time.
Gatrell says, “132,000 Jewish DPs (Displaced Persons) went to Israel with the assistance of the Jewish Agency of Palestine and the American Distribution Committee. Britain accepted around 87,000 Jewish DPs, France and Belgium agreed to take 38,000 and 23,000 respectively” (p 47).
This is a landmark book on a subject that, decade by decade, will always haunt Europe. His focus was a general one and not particularly one that focused upon the post WWII plight. Other sources give specific attention to the question of Jewish DPs.
Equally, haunting is the Lost Jews of North Africa, the Middle-East and Muslim Lands
“There was a Jewish Nakba, and it was even bigger than the Palesinian one.”
Nakba Day (Arabic : يوم النكبة Yawm an-Nakba, meaning “Day of the Catastrophe”
My particular focus and interest are the Jewish survivors and what happended to them and where they went followng WWII. This concern that I have focuses not only on the Jews of Europe, but particularly upon those who were displaced in North Africa, the Middle-East, and Muslim lands leading up to and following the establisment of the State of Israel, with the dispalcement of over 800,000 Jews from Arab and Muslim lands.
There is so much talk about the displaced Arab Palestinians and I do not want to minimise the impact that had upon them, but so little is said about an equal number of displaced Jews that took place.
The first large-scale exoduses took place in the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily from Iraq, Yemen and Libya. In these cases over 90% of the Jewish population left, despite the necessity of leaving their property behind. Two hundred and sixty thousand Jews from Arab countries immigrated to Israel between 1948 and 1951, accounting for 56% of the total immigration to the newly founded state; this was the product of a policy change in favour of mass immigration focused on Jews from Arab and Muslim countries. The Israeli government’s policy to accommodate 600,000 immigrants over four years, doubling the existing Jewish population, encountered mixed reactions in the Knesset; there were those within the Jewish Agency and government who opposed promoting a large-scale emigration movement among Jews whose lives were not in danger.
Later waves peaked at different times in different regions over the subsequent decades. The peak of the exodus from Egypt occurred in 1956 following the Suez Crisis. The exodus from the other North African Arab countries peaked in the 1960s. Lebanon was the only Arab country to see a temporary increase in its Jewish population during this period, due to an influx of Jews from other Arab countries, although by the mid-1970s the Jewish community of Lebanon had also dwindled. Six hundred thousand Jews from Arab and Muslim countries had reached Israel by 1972. In total, of the 900,000 Jews who left Arab and other Muslim countries, 600,000 settled in the new state of Israel, and 300,000 migrated to France and the United States. The descendants of the Jewish immigrants from the region, known as Mizrahi Jews (“Eastern Jews”) and Sephardic Jews (“Spanish Jews”), currently constitute more than half of the total population of Israel, partially as a result of their higher fertility rate. In 2009, only 26,000 Jews remained in Arab countries and Iran. and 26,000 in Turkey.
The reasons for the exodus included push factors, such as persecution, antisemitism, political instability, poverty and expulsion, together with pull factors, such as the desire to fulfill Zionist yearnings or find a better economic status and a secure home in Europe or the Americas. The history of the exodus has been politicized, given its proposed relevance to the historical narrative of the Arab–Israeli conflict. When presenting the history, those who view the Jewish exodus as analogous to the 1948 Palestinian exodus generally emphasize the push factors and consider those who left as refugees, while those who do not, emphasize the pull factors and consider them willing immigrants.
At the time of the Muslim conquests of the 7th century, ancient Jewish communities had existed in many parts of the Middle East and North Africa since Antiquity. Jews under Islamic rule were given the status of dhimmi, along with certain other pre-Islamic religious groups. As such, these groups were accorded certain rights as “People of the Book“.
The French began the conquest of Algeria in 1830. The following century had a profound influence on the status of the Algerian Jews; following the 1870 “Décret Crémieux”, they were elevated from the protected minority dhimmi status to French citizens of the colonial power. The decree began a wave of Pied-Noir-led anti-Jewish protests (such as the 1897 anti-Jewish riots in Oran), which the Muslim community did not participate in, to the disappointment of the European agitators.  Though there were also cases of Muslim-led anti-Jewish riots, such as in Constantine in 1934 when 34 Jews were killed.
Neighbouring Husainid Tunisia began to come under European influence in the late 1860s and became a French protectorate in 1881. Since the 1837 accession of Ahmed Bey, and continued by his successor Muhammed Bey, Tunisia’s Jews were elevated within Tunisia society with improved freedom and security, which was confirmed and safeguarded during the French protectorate. Around a third of Tunisian Jews took French citizenship during the protectorate.
Morocco, which had remained independent during the 19th century, became a French protectorate in 1912. However, during less than half a century of colonization, the equilibrium between Jews and Muslims in Morocco was upset, and the Jewish community was again positioned between the colonisers and the Muslim majority. French penetration into Morocco between 1906 and 1912 created significant Morocco Muslim resentment, resulting in nationwide protests and military unrest. During the period a number of anti-European or anti-French protests extended to include anti-Jewish manifestations, such as in Casablanca, Oujda and Fes in 1907-08 and later in the 1912 Fes riots.
The situation in colonial Libya was similar; as for the French in the other North African countries, the Italian influence in Libya was welcomed by the Jewish community, increasing their separation from the non-Jewish Libyans.
The Alliance Israelite Universelle, founded in France in 1860, set up schools in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia as early as 1863.
World War II
During World War II, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya came under Nazi or Vichy French occupation and their Jews were subject to various persecution. In Libya, the Axis powers established labor camps to which many Jews were forcibly deported. In other areas Nazi propaganda targeted Arab populations to incite them against British or French rule. National Socialist propaganda contributed to the transfer of racial antisemitism to the Arab world and is likely to have unsettled Jewish communities. An anti-Jewish riot took place in Casablanca in 1942 in the wake of Operation Torch, where a local mob attacked the Jewish mellah. (Mellah is the Moroccan name for a Jewish ghetto.) However, according to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem‘s Dr. Haim Saadon, “Relatively good ties between Jews and Muslims in North Africa during World War II stand in stark contrast to the treatment of their co-religionists by gentiles in Europe.”
From 1943 until the mid 1960s, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee was an important foreign organization driving change and modernization in the North African Jewish community. It had initially become involved in the region whilst carrying out relief work during World War II.
As in Tunisia and Algeria, Moroccan Jews did not face large scale expulsion or outright asset confiscation or any similar government persecution during the period of exile, and Zionist agents were relatively allowed freedom of action to encourage emigration.
In Morocco the Vichy regime during World War II passed discriminatory laws against Jews; for example, Jews were no longer able to get any form of credit, Jews who had homes or businesses in European neighborhoods were expelled, and quotas were imposed limiting the percentage of Jews allowed to practice professions such as law and medicine to no more than two percent.King Mohammed V expressed his personal distaste for these laws, assuring Moroccan Jewish leaders that he would never lay a hand “upon either their persons or property”. While there is no concrete evidence of him actually taking any actions to defend Morocco’s Jews, it has been argued that he may have worked on their behalf behind the scenes.
In June 1948, soon after Israel was established and in the midst of the first Arab–Israeli war, violent anti-Jewish riots broke out in Oujda and Djerada, leading to deaths of 44 Jews. In 1948–49, after the massacres, 18,000 Moroccan Jews left the country for Israel. Later, however, the Jewish exodus from Morocco slowed to a few thousand a year. Through the early 1950s, Zionist organizations encouraged emigration, particularly in the poorer south of the country, seeing Moroccan Jews as valuable contributors to the Jewish State:
The more I visited in these (Berber) villages and became acquainted with their Jewish inhabitants, the more I was convinced that these Jews constitute the best and most suitable human element for settlement in Israel’s absorption centers. There were many positive aspects which I found among them: first and foremost, they all know (their agricultural) tasks, and their transfer to agricultural work in Israel will not involve physical and mental difficulties. They are satisfied with few (material needs), which will enable them to confront their early economic problems.
— Yehuda Grinker, The Emigration of Atlas Jews to Israel
Incidents of anti-Jewish violence continued through the 1950s, although French officials later stated that Moroccan Jews “had suffered comparatively fewer troubles than the wider European population” during the struggle for independence. In August 1953, riots broke out in the city of Oujda and resulted in the death of 4 Jews including an 11-year-old girl. In the same month French security forces prevented a mob from breaking into the Jewish Mellah of Rabat. In 1954, a nationalist event in the town of Petitjean (known today as Sidi Kacem) turned into an anti-Jewish riot and resulted in the death of 6 Jewish merchants from Marrakesh. However, according to Francis Lacoste, French Resident-General in Morocco, “the ethnicity of the Petitjean victims was coincidental, terrorism rarely targeted Jews, and fears about their future were unwarranted.” In 1955, a mob broke into the Jewish Mellah in Mazagan (known today as El Jadida) and caused its 1700 Jewish residents to flee to the European quarters of the city. The houses of some 200 Jews were too badly damaged during the riots for them to return. In 1954, Mossad had established an undercover base in Morocco, sending agents and emissaries within a year to appraise the situation and organize continuous emigration. The operations were composed of five branches: self-defence, information and intelligence, illegal immigration, establishing contact, and public relations. Mossad chief Isser Harel visited the country in 1959 and 1960, reorganized the operations, and created a clandestine militia named the “Misgeret” (“framework”).
Emigration to Israel jumped from 8,171 persons in 1954 to 24,994 in 1955, increasing further in 1956. Between 1955 and independence in 1956, 60,000 Jews emigrated. On 7 April 1956, Morocco attained independence. Jews occupied several political positions, including three parliamentary seats and the cabinet position of Minister of Posts and Telegraphs. However, that minister, Leon Benzaquen, did not survive the first cabinet reshuffling, and no Jew was appointed again to a cabinet position. Although the relations with the Jewish community at the highest levels of government were cordial, these attitudes were not shared by the lower ranks of officialdom, which exhibited attitudes that ranged from traditional contempt to outright hostility. Morocco’s increasing identification with the Arab world, and pressure on Jewish educational institutions to arabize and conform culturally added to the fears of Moroccan Jews. Between 1956 and 1961, emigration to Israel was prohibited by law; clandestine emigration continued, and a further 18,000 Jews left Morocco.
On 10 January 1961 the Egoz, a Mossad-leased ship carrying Jews attempting to emigrate undercover, sank off the northern coast of Morocco. According to Tad Szulc, the Misgeret commander in Morocco, Alex Gattmon, decided to precipitate a crisis on the back of the tragedy, consistent with Mossad Director Isser Harel‘s scenario that “a wedge had to be forced between the royal government and the Moroccan Jewish community and that anti-Hassan nationalists had to be used as leverage as well if a compromise over emigration was ever to be attained”. A pamphlet agitating for illegal emigration, supposedly by an underground Zionist organization, was printed by Mossad and distributed throughout Morocco, causing the government to “hit the roof”. These events prompted King Mohammed V to allow Jewish emigration, and over the three following years, more than 70,000 Moroccan Jews left the country, primarily as a result of Operation Yachin.
Operation Yachin was fronted by the New York-based Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), who financed approximately $50 million of costs. HIAS provided an American cover for underground Israeli agents in Morocco, whose functions included organizing emigration, arming of Jewish Moroccan communities for self-defense and negotiations with the Moroccan government. By 1963, the Moroccan Interior Minister Colonel Oufkir and Mossad chief Meir Amit agreed to swap Israeli training of Moroccan security services and some covert military assistance for intelligence on Arab affairs and continued Jewish emigration.
The 1967 Six-Day War led to increased Arab–Jewish tensions worldwide, including in Morocco, and significant Jewish emigration out of the country continued. By the early 1970s, the Jewish population of Morocco fell to 25,000; however, most of the emigrants went to France, Belgium, Spain, and Canada, rather than Israel.
Despite their dwindling numbers, Jews continue to play a notable role in Morocco; the King retains a Jewish senior adviser, André Azoulay, and Jewish schools and synagogues receive government subsidies. Despite this, Jewish targets have sometimes been attacked (notably the 2003 bombing attacks on a Jewish community center in Casablanca), and there is sporadic anti-Semitic rhetoric from radical Islamist groups. Invitations from the late King Hassan II for Jews to return to Morocco have not been taken up by the people who had emigrated.
According to Esther Benbassa, the migration of Jews from the North African countries was prompted by uncertainty about the future. In 1948, over 250,000–265,000 Jews lived in Morocco. By 2001 an estimated 5,230 remained.
As in Tunisia and Morocco, Algerian Jews did not face large scale expulsion or outright asset confiscation or any similar government persecution during the period of exile, and Zionist agents were relatively allowed freedom of action to encourage emigration.
Jewish emigration from Algeria was part of a wider ending of French colonial control and the related social, economic and cultural changes.
The Israeli government had been successful in encouraging Morocco and Tunisian Jews to emigrate to Israel, but were less so in Algeria. Despite offers of visa and economic subsidies, only 580 Jews moved from Algeria to Israel in 1954-55.
Emigration peaked during the Algerian War of 1954–1962, during which thousands of Muslims, Christians and Jews left the country, particularly the Pied-Noir community. In 1956, Mossad agents worked underground to organize and arm the Jews of Constantine, who comprised approximately half the Jewish population of the country. In Oran, a Jewish counter-insurgency movement was thought to have been trained by former members of Irgun.
As of the last census in Algeria, taken on 1 June 1960, there were 1,050,000 non-Muslim civilians in Algeria (10 percent of the total population including 130,000.” Algerian Jews). After Algeria became independent in 1962, about 800,000 Pieds-Noirs (including Jews) were evacuated to mainland France while about 200,000 chose to remain in Algeria. Of the latter, there were still about 100,000 in 1965 and about 50,000 by the end of the 1960s.
As the Algerian Revolution began to intensify in the late 1950s and early 1960s, most of Algeria’s 140,000 Jews began to leave. The community had lived mainly in Algiers and Blida, Constantine, and Oran.
Almost all Jews of Algeria left upon independence in 1962, particularly as “the Algerian Nationality Code of 1963 excluded non-Muslims from acquiring citizenship”, allowing citizenship only to those Algerians who had Muslim fathers and paternal grandfathers. Algeria’s 140,000 Jews, who had French citizenship since 1870 (briefly revoked by Vichy France in 1940) left mostly for France, although some went to Israel.
The Algiers synagogue was consequently abandoned after 1994.
Jewish migration from North Africa to France led to the rejuvenation of the French Jewish community, which is now the third largest in the world.
As in Morocco and Algeria, Tunisian Jews did not face large scale expulsion or outright asset confiscation or any similar government persecution during the period of exile, and Zionist agents were relatively allowed freedom of action to encourage emigration.
In 1948, approximately 105,000 Jews lived in Tunisia. About 1,500 remain today, mostly in Djerba, Tunis, and Zarzis. Following Tunisia’s independence from France in 1956, a number of anti-Jewish policies led to emigration, of which half went to Israel and the other half to France. After attacks in 1967, Jewish emigration both to Israel and France accelerated. There were also attacks in 1982, 1985, and most recently in 2002 when a bombing in Djerba took 21 lives (most of them German tourists) near the local synagogue, a terrorist attack claimed by Al-Qaeda.
According to Maurice Roumani, a Libyan emigrant who was previously the Executive Director of WOJAC, the most important factors that influenced the Libyan Jewish community to emigrate were “the scars left from the last years of the Italian occupation and the entry of the British Military in 1943 accompanied by the Jewish Palestinian soldiers”.
Zionist emissaries, “shlichim”, has begun arriving in the early 1940s, with the intention to “transform the community and transfer it to Palestine”. In 1943, Mossad LeAliyah Bet began to send emissaries to prepare the infrastructure for the emigration of the Libyan Jewish community.
In 1942, German troops fighting the Allies in North Africa occupied the Jewish quarter of Benghazi, plundering shops and deporting more than 2,000 Jews across the desert. Sent to work in labor camps, more than one-fifth of that group of Jews perished. At the time, most of the Jews were living in cities of Tripoli and Benghazi and there were smaller numbers in Bayda and Misrata. Following the allied victory at the Battle of El Agheila in December 1942, German and Italian troops were driven out of Libya. The British installed the Palestine Regiment in Cyrenaica, which later became the core of the Jewish Brigade, which was later also stationed in Tripolitania. The pro-Zionist soldiers encouraged the spread of Zionism throughout the local Jewish population
Following the liberation of North Africa by allied forces, antisemitic incitements were still widespread. The most severe racial violence between the start of World War II and the establishment of Israel erupted in Tripoli in November 1945. Over a period of several days more than 130 Jews (including 36 children) were killed, hundreds were injured, 4,000 were displaced and 2,400 were reduced to poverty. Five synagogues in Tripoli and four in provincial towns were destroyed, and over 1,000 Jewish residences and commercial buildings were plundered in Tripoli alone.Gil Shefler writes that “As awful as the pogrom in Libya was, it was still a relatively isolated occurrence compared to the mass murders of Jews by locals in Eastern Europe.” The same year, violent anti-Jewish violence also occurred in Cairo, which resulted in 10 Jewish victims.
In 1948, about 38,000 Jews lived in Libya. The pogroms continued in June 1948, when 15 Jews were killed and 280 Jewish homes destroyed. In November 1948, a few months after the events in Tripoli, the American consul in Tripoli, Orray Taft Jr., reported that: “There is reason to believe that the Jewish Community has become more aggressive as the result of the Jewish victories in Palestine. There is also reason to believe that the community here is receiving instructions and guidance from the State of Israel. Whether or not the change in attitude is the result of instructions or a progressive aggressiveness is hard to determine. Even with the aggressiveness or perhaps because of it, both Jewish and Arab leaders inform me that the inter-racial relations are better now than they have been for several years and that understanding, tolerance and cooperation are present at any top level meeting between the leaders of the two communities.”
Immigration to Israel began in 1949, following the establishment of a Jewish Agency for Israel office in Tripoli. According to Harvey E. Goldberg, “a number of Libyan Jews” believe that the Jewish Agency was behind the riots, given that the riots helped them achieve their goal. Between the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and Libyan independence in December 1951 over 30,000 Libyan Jews emigrated to Israel.
On 31 December 1958 a decree was issued by the President of the Executive Council of Tripolitania, which ordered the dissolution of the Jewish Community Council and the appointment of a Muslim commissioner nominated by the Government. A law issued in 1961 required Libyan citizenship for the possession and transfer of property in Libya, a requirement that was rejected to all but 6 Libyan Jewish individuals. Jews were banned from voting, attaining public offices and from serving in the army or in police.
In 1967, during the Six-Day War, the Jewish population of 4,000 was again subjected to riots in which 18 were killed, and many more injured. According to David Harris, the Executive Director of the Jewish advocacy organization AJC, the pro-Western Libyan government of King Idris I “faced with a complete breakdown of law and order … urged the Jews to leave the country temporarily”, permitting them each to take one suitcase and the equivalent of $50. In June and July over 4,000 traveled to Italy, where they were assisted by the Jewish Agency for Israel. 1,300 went on to Israel, 2,200 remained in Italy, and most of the rest went to the United States. A few scores remained in Libya and others managed to return between 1967 and 1969.
In 1970 the Libyan government issued new laws that confiscated all the assets of Libya’s Jews, issuing in their stead 15-year bonds. However, when the bonds matured no compensation was paid. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi justified this on the grounds that “the alignment of the Jews with Israel, the Arab nations’ enemy, has forfeited their right to compensation.”
Although the main synagogue in Tripoli was renovated in 1999, it has not reopened for services. The last Jew in Libya, Esmeralda Meghnagi, died in February 2002. Israel is home to about 40,000 Jews of Libyan descent, who maintain unique traditions.
Refugees’ stories illuminate universal pain of leaving home
In “Refugees in America,” Rabbi Lee T. Bycel introduces his book with lines from a poem by British-based writer and activist Warsan Shire, born in Kenya to Somali parents: “No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”
No doubt Jewish journalist and political philosopher Hannah Arendt, who fled Nazi Germany for the United States in the early 1940s — and whom Bycel quotes a bit later — would concur.
“We lost our home, which means the familiarity of daily life,” Arendt wrote of her fellow refugees. “We lost our occupation, which means the confidence that we are of some use in the world. We lost our language, which means the naturalness of reactions, the simplicity of gestures, the unaffected expressions of feelings.”
Those who decide to leave everyone and everything they know to escape “horrific situations,” such as civil wars, gang retaliation and totalitarian regimes, do not do so lightly, Bycel said in a recent phone interview with J. The 70-year-old rabbi is the Sinton Visiting Professor of Holocaust, Ethics and Refugees Studies at the University of San Francisco and a longtime humanitarian and social justice activist.
“Refugees in America: Stories of Courage, Resilience, and Hope in Their Own Words,” Bycel’s first book, contains 11 profiles of individuals who fled their homelands, such as Vanny Loun of Cambodia, who escaped the Khmer Rouge, and Jawad Khawari of Afghanistan, who ran from the Taliban. Their travails in their home countries and their arduous treks — Meron Semedar covertly walked over the border into Sudan to break free of Eritrea’s dictatorship, for example — are recounted mostly in the subjects’ own words. Bycel interjects only to fill in historic background or move the narrative forward.
“Every morning, and it was December and there was a lot of ice, we had to line up and stand still for hours, like in the army, straight on our feet on the ice,” relates Polish-born Holocaust survivor Sidonia Lax about her early days at Auschwitz. “If anybody hadn’t relieved themselves in the bathroom early in the morning, they were killed right in front of us.”
Bycel’s advocacy for the importance of documenting genocide has a long provenance. In 1988 he was a guest of the German government to observe how the Holocaust was being taught. A former Western region executive director for American Jewish World Service, he focused on refugee issues, traveling frequently to Africa. He was in Rwanda for the 12th commemoration of their genocide in 2006. He was appointed to the council of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2014, and serves on the board of 3DG, a nonprofit dedicated to helping survivors tell their stories using film.
Having visited refugee camps in Darfur, Chad, South Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Haiti over the years with nongovernmental organizations as part of humanitarian efforts, he said he felt it was imperative to humanize the stories of people who often become casualties of the political tensions between pro- and anti-immigrant forces. He said he was particularly frustrated in 2014 when the House of Representatives “did not take up the comprehensive immigration bill” crafted by the Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” which included the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
But his concern for refugees, along with every individual and group marginalized in this country, hearkens back to his faith tradition, he said, calling it a “caring for the most vulnerable [that] comes out of our deepest Jewish roots.”
Bycel said his personal empathy for the dispossessed also comes from his upbringing in a blue collar, working-class suburb of Los Angeles, where his household was reminiscent of the Loman family in the classic Arthur Miller play “Death of a Salesman.” Bycel’s father was a salesman and a compulsive gambler who lost huge amounts of money, along with businesses, on card games and at the races. His mother was ahead of her times, one of two women in her law school class in the 1930s, who held the family together by becoming a kindergarten teacher.
It was a “complex, problematic” household, Bycel recalls. “I was the peacemaker.”
All of the individuals profiled in in “Refugees,” some of whom Bycel met through connections to immigrant and relief organizations, are presented in a rich narrative portrait. Bycel partnered with professional photographer Dona Kopol Bonick of Napa, who took nine of the 11 color images of the refugees appearing at each chapter’s start.
Kopol Bonick, a member of Congregation Beth Shalom in Napa Valley, which Bycel led from 2012 to 2017, said the rabbi told her that she need not stay for the entire interview sessions with the refugees, each of which could last up to three hours. “You can come in while I am speaking to the interviewee, take the picture and leave,’” she recalled him saying.
But “I quickly realized it was important to stay” for the whole interview, Kopol Bonick said. “It’s a very personal, intimate situation … You see people change physically as they share their stories, which were heartbreaking and fascinating. It was an honor to be there.”
Rabbi Lee Bycel will appear at book events throughout the fall, including at 5 p.m. Sept. 22 at Congregation Beth Shalom Napa Valley; 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at Book Passage Corte Madera, 1:30 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Jewish Community Library in San Francisco and Nov. 22 at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael. Proceeds from book sales will be divided between the refugee resettlement nonprofits HIAS and IRC. refugeesinamerica.com
Under Iraqi nationalists, Nazi propaganda began to infiltrate the country, as Nazi Germany was anxious to expand its influence in the Arab world. Dr. Fritz Grobba, who resided in Iraq since 1932, began to vigorously and systematically disseminate hateful propaganda against Jews. Among other things, Arabic translation of Mein Kampf was published and Radio Berlin had begun broadcasting in Arabic language. Anti-Jewish policies had been implemented since 1934, and the confidence of Jews was further shaken by the growing crisis in Palestine in 1936. Between 1936 and 1939 ten Jews were murdered and on eight occasions bombs were thrown on Jewish locations.
In 1941, immediately following the British victory in the Anglo-Iraqi War, riots known as the Farhud broke out in Baghdad in the power vacuum following the collapse of the pro-Axis government of Rashid Ali al-Gaylani while the city was in a state of instability. 180 Jews were killed and another 240 wounded; 586 Jewish-owned businesses were looted and 99 Jewish houses were destroyed.
In some accounts the Farhud marked the turning point for Iraq’s Jews. Other historians, however, see the pivotal moment for the Iraqi Jewish community much later, between 1948–51, since Jewish communities prospered along with the rest of the country throughout most of the 1940s, and many Jews who left Iraq following the Farhud returned to the country shortly thereafter and permanent emigration did not accelerate significantly until 1950–51.
Either way, the Farhud is broadly understood to mark the start of a process of politicization of the Iraqi Jews in the 1940s, primarily among the younger population, especially as a result of the impact it had on hopes of long term integration into Iraqi society. In the direct aftermath of the Farhud, many joined the Iraqi Communist Party in order to protect the Jews of Baghdad, yet they did not want to leave the country and rather sought to fight for better conditions in Iraq itself. At the same time the Iraqi government that had taken over after the Farhud reassured the Iraqi Jewish community, and normal life soon returned to Baghdad, which saw a marked betterment of its economic situation during World War II.
Shortly after the Farhud in 1941, Mossad LeAliyah Bet sent emissaries to Iraq to begin to organize emigration to Israel, initially by recruiting people to teach Hebrew and hold lectures on Zionism. In 1942, Shaul Avigur, head of Mossad LeAliyah Bet, entered Iraq undercover in order to survey the situation of the Iraqi Jews with respect to immigration to Israel. During the 1942–43, Avigur made four further trips to Baghdad to arrange the required Mossad machinery, including a radio transmitter for sending information to Tel Aviv, which remained in use for 8 years. In late 1942, one of the emissaries explained the size of their task of converting the Iraqi community to Zionism, writing that “we have to admit that there is not much point in [organizing and encouraging emigration]. … We are today eating the fruit of many years of neglect, and what we didn’t do can’t be corrected now through propaganda and creating one-day-old enthusiasm.” It was not until 1947 that legal and illegal departures from Iraq to Israel began. Around 8,000 Jews left Iraq between 1919–48, with another 2,000 leaving between mid-1948 to mid-1950.
1948 Arab–Israeli War
In 1948, there were approximately 150,000 Jews in Iraq. The community was concentrated in Baghdad and Basra.
Before United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine vote, the Iraq’s prime minister Nuri al-Said told British diplomats that if the United Nations solution was not “satisfactory”, “severe measures should [would?] be taken against all Jews in Arab countries”. In a speech at the General Assembly Hall at Flushing Meadow, New York, on Friday, 28 November 1947, Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Fadel Jamall, included the following statement: “Partition imposed against the will of the majority of the people will jeopardize peace and harmony in the Middle East. Not only the uprising of the Arabs of Palestine is to be expected, but the masses in the Arab world cannot be restrained. The Arab–Jewish relationship in the Arab world will greatly deteriorate. There are more Jews in the Arab world outside of Palestine than there are in Palestine. In Iraq alone, we have about one hundred and fifty thousand Jews who share with Moslems and Christians all the advantages of political and economic rights. Harmony prevails among Moslems, Christians and Jews. But any injustice imposed upon the Arabs of Palestine will disturb the harmony among Jews and non-Jews in Iraq; it will breed inter-religious prejudice and hatred.” On 19 February 1949, al-Said acknowledged the bad treatment that the Jews had been victims of in Iraq during the recent months. He warned that unless Israel would behave itself, events might take place concerning the Iraqi Jews. Al-Said’s threats had no impact at the political level on the fate of the Jews but were widely published in the media.
In 1948, the country was placed under martial law, and the penalties for Zionism were increased. Courts martial were used to intimidate wealthy Jews, Jews were again dismissed from civil service, quotas were placed on university positions, Jewish businesses were boycotted (E. Black, p. 347) and Shafiq Ades (one of the most important anti-Zionist Jewish businessmen in the country) was arrested and publicly hanged for allegedly selling goods to Israel, shocking the community (Tripp, 123). The Jewish community general sentiment was that if a man as well connected and powerful as Shafiq Ades could he eliminated by the state, other Jews would not be protected any longer.
Additionally, like most Arab League states, Iraq forbade any legal emigration of its Jews on the grounds that they might go to Israel and could strengthen that state. At the same time, increasing government oppression of the Jews fueled by anti-Israeli sentiment together with public expressions of antisemitism created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty.
Like most Arab League states, Iraq initially forbade the emigration of its Jews after the 1948 war on the grounds that allowing them to go to Israel would strengthen that state. However, by 1949 Jews were escaping Iraq at about a rate of 1,000 a month. At the time, the British believed that the Zionist underground was agitating in Iraq in order to assist US fund-raising and to “offset the bad impression caused by the Jewish attitudes to Arab refugees”.
The Iraqi government took in only 5,000 of the c.700,000 Palestinians who became refugees in 1948–49 and refused to submit to American and British pressure to admit more. In January 1949, the pro-British Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Said discussed the idea of deporting Iraqi Jews to Israel with British officials, who explained that such a proposal would benefit Israel and adversely affect Arab countries. According to Meir-Glitzenstein, such suggestions were “not intended to solve either the problem of the Palestinian Arab refugees or the problem of the Jewish minority in Iraq, but to torpedo plans to resettle Palestinian Arab refugees in Iraq”. In July 1949 the British government proposed to Nuri al-Said a population exchange in which Iraq would agree to settle 100,000 Palestinian refugees in Iraq; Nuri stated that if a fair arrangement could be agreed, “the Iraqi government would permit a voluntary move by Iraqi Jews to Palestine.” The Iraqi-British proposal was reported in the press in October 1949. On 14 October 1949 Nuri Al Said raised the exchange of population concept with the economic mission survey. At the Jewish Studies Conference in Melbourne in 2002, Philip Mendes summarised the effect of al-Saids vacillations on Jewish expulsion as: “In addition, the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri as-Said tentatively canvassed and then shelved the possibility of expelling the Iraqi Jews, and exchanging them for an equal number of Palestinian Arabs. ”
A reversal: Allowing a Jewish immigration to Israel
In March 1950 Iraq reversed their earlier ban on Jewish emigration to Israel and passed a law of one-year duration allowing Jews to emigrate on the condition of relinquishing their Iraqi citizenship. According to Abbas Shiblak, many scholars state that this was a result of British, American and Israeli political pressure on Tawfiq al-Suwaidi‘s government, with some studies suggesting there were secret negotiations. According to Ian Black, the Iraqi government was motivated by “economic considerations, chief of which was that almost all the property of departing Jews reverted to the state treasury” and also that “Jews were seen as a restive and potentially troublesome minority that the country was best rid of.” Israel mounted an operation called “Operation Ezra and Nehemiah” to bring as many of the Iraqi Jews as possible to Israel.
The Zionist movement at first tried to regulate the amount of registrants until issues relating to their legal status were clarified. Later, it allowed everyone to register. Two weeks after the law went into force, the Iraqi interior minister demanded a CID investigation over why Jews were not registering. A few hours after the movement allowed registration, four Jews were injured in a bomb attack at a café in Baghdad.
Immediately following the March 1950 Denaturalisation Act, the emigration movement faced significant challenges. Initially, local Zionist activists forbade the Iraqi Jews from registering for emigration with the Iraqi authorities, because the Israeli government was still discussing absorption planning. However, on 8 April, a bomb exploded in a Jewish cafe in Baghdad, and a meeting of the Zionist leadership later that day agreed to allow registration without waiting for the Israeli government; a proclamation encouraging registration was made throughout Iraq in the name of the State of Israel. However, at the same time immigrants were also entering Israel from Poland and Romania, countries in which Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion assessed there was a risk that the communist authorities would soon “close their gates”, and Israel therefore delayed the transportation of Iraqi Jews. As a result, by September 1950, while 70,000 Jews had registered to leave, many selling their property and losing their jobs, only 10,000 had left the country. According to Esther Meir-Glitzenstein, “The thousands of poor Jews who had left or been expelled from the peripheral cities, and who had gone to Baghdad to wait for their opportunity to emigrate, were in an especially bad state. They were housed in public buildings and were being supported by the Jewish community. The situation was intolerable.” The delay became a significant problem for the Iraqi government of Nuri al-Said (who replaced Tawfiq al-Suwaidi in mid-September 1950), as the large number of Jews “in limbo” created problems politically, economically and for domestic security. “Particularly infuriating” to the Iraqi government was the fact that the source of the problem was the Israeli government.
As a result of these developments, al-Said was determined to drive the Jews out of his country as quickly as possible. On 21 August 1950 al-Said threatened to revoke the license of the company transporting the Jewish exodus if it did not fulfill its daily quota of 500 Jews,[failed verification] and in September 1950, he summoned a representative of the Jewish community and warned the Jewish community of Baghdad to make haste; otherwise, he would take the Jews to the borders himself. On 12 October 1950, Nuri al-Said summoned a senior official of the transport company and made similar threats, justifying the expulsion of Jews by the number of Palestinian Arabs fleeing from Israel.
Two months before the law expired, after about 85,000 Jews had registered, a bombing campaign began against the Jewish community of Baghdad. The Iraqi government convicted and hanged a number of suspected Zionist agents for perpetrating the bombings, but the issue of who was responsible remains a subject of scholarly dispute. All but a few thousand of the remaining Jews then registered for emigration. In all, about 120,000 Jews left Iraq.
According to Gat, it is highly likely that one of Nuri as-Said’s motives in trying to expel large numbers of Jews was the desire to aggravate Israel’s economic problems (he had declared as such to the Arab world), although Nuri was well aware that the absorption of these immigrants was the policy on which Israel based its future. The Iraqi Minister of Defence told the U.S ambassador that he had reliable evidence that the emigrating Jews were involved in activities injurious to the state and were in contact with communist agents.
Between April 1950 and June 1951, Jewish targets in Baghdad were struck five times. Iraqi authorities then arrested 3 Jews, claiming they were Zionist activists, and sentenced two — Shalom Salah Shalom and Yosef Ibrahim Basri—to death. The third man, Yehuda Tajar, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In May and June 1951, arms caches were discovered that allegedly belonged to the Zionist underground, allegedly supplied by the Yishuv after the Farhud of 1941. There has been much debate as to whether the bombs were planted by the Mossad to encourage Iraqi Jews to emigrate to Israel or if they were planted by Muslim extremists to help drive out the Jews. This has been the subject of lawsuits and inquiries in Israel.
The emigration law was to expire in March 1951, one year after the law was enacted. On 10 March 1951, 64,000 Iraqi Jews were still waiting to emigrate, the government enacted a new law blocking the assets of Jews who had given up their citizenship, and extending the emigration period.
Although there was a small indigenous community, most Jews in Egypt in the early twentieth century were recent immigrants to the country,[failed verification] who did not share the Arabic language and culture. Many were members of the highly diverse Mutamassirun community, which included other groups such as Greeks, Armenians, Syrian Christians and Italians, in addition to the British and French colonial powers. Until the late 1930s, the Jews, both indigenous and new immigrants, like other minorities tended to apply for foreign citizenship in order to benefit from a foreign protection. The Egyptian government made it very difficult for non-Muslim foreigners to become naturalized. The poorer Jews, most of them indigenous and Oriental Jews, were left stateless, although they were legally eligible for Egyptian nationality. The drive to Egyptianize public life and the economy harmed the minorities, but the Jews had more strikes against them than the others. In the agitation against the Jews of the late thirties and the forties, the Jew has been seen as an enemy The Jews were attacked because of their real or alleged links to Zionism. Jews were not discriminated because of their religion or race, like in Europe, but for political reasons.
The Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmoud an-Nukrashi Pasha told the British ambassador: “All Jews were potential Zionists [and] … anyhow all Zionists were Communists.” On 24 November 1947, the head of the Egyptian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, Muhammad Hussein Heykal Pasha, said, “the lives of 1,000,000 Jews in Moslem countries would be jeopardized by the establishment of a Jewish state.” On 24 November 1947, Dr Heykal Pasha said: “if the U.N decide to amputate a part of Palestine in order to establish a Jewish state, … Jewish blood will necessarily be shed elsewhere in the Arab world … to place in certain and serious danger a million Jews. Mahmud Bey Fawzi (Egypt) said: “Imposed partition was sure to result in bloodshed in Palestine and in the rest of the Arab world.”
The exodus of the foreign mutamassirun (“Egyptianized”) community, which included a significant number of Jews, began following the First World War, and by the end of the 1960s the entire mutamassirun was effectively eliminated. According to Andrew Gorman, this was primarily a result of the “decolonization process and the rise of Egyptian nationalism“.
The exodus of Egyptian Jews was impacted by the 1945 Anti-Jewish Riots in Egypt, though such emigration was not significant as the government stamped the violence out and the Egyptian Jewish community leaders were supportive of King Farouk. In 1948, approximately 75,000 Jews lived in Egypt. Around 20,000 Jews left Egypt during 1948–49 following the events of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War (including the 1948 Cairo bombings). A further 5,000 left between 1952–56, in the wake of the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 and later the false flagLavon Affair. The Israeli invasion as part of the Suez Crisis caused a significant upsurge in emigration, with 14,000 Jews leaving in less than six months between November 1956 and March 1957, and 19,000 further emigrating over the next decade.
In October 1956, when the Suez Crisis erupted, the position of the mutamassirun, including the Jewish community, was significantly impacted.
1,000 Jews were arrested and 500 Jewish businesses were seized by the government. A statement branding the Jews as “Zionists and enemies of the state” was read out in the mosques of Cairo and Alexandria. Jewish bank accounts were confiscated and many Jews lost their jobs. Lawyers, engineers, doctors and teachers were not allowed to work in their professions. Thousands of Jews were ordered to leave the country. They were allowed to take only one suitcase and a small sum of cash, and forced to sign declarations “donating” their property to the Egyptian government. Foreign observers reported that members of Jewish families were taken hostage, apparently to insure that those forced to leave did not speak out against the Egyptian government. Jews were expelled or left, forced out by the anti-Jewish feeling in Egypt. Some 25,000 Jews, almost half of the Jewish community left, mainly for Europe, the United States, South America and Israel, after being forced to sign declarations that they were leaving voluntarily, and agreed with the confiscation of their assets. Similar measures were enacted against British and French nationals in retaliation for the invasion. By 1957 the Jewish population of Egypt had fallen to 15,000.
In 1960, the American embassy in Cairo wrote of Egyptian Jews that: “There is definitely a strong desire among most Jews to emigrate, but this is prompted by the feeling that they have limited opportunity, or from fear for the future, rather than by any direct or present tangible mistreatment at the hands of the government.”
In 1967, Jews were detained and tortured, and Jewish homes were confiscated.[failed verification] Following the Six Day War, the community practically ceased to exist, with the exception of several dozens of elderly Jews.
The Yemeni exodus began in 1881, seven months prior to the more well-known First Aliyah from Eastern Europe. The exodus came about as a result of European Jewish investment in the Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem, which created jobs for labouring Jews alongside local Muslim labour thereby providing an economic incentive for emigration. This was aided by the reestablishment of Ottoman control over the Yemen Vilayet allowing freedom of movement within the empire, and the opening of the Suez canal, which reduced the cost of travelling considerably. Between 1881 and 1948, 15,430 Jews had immigrated to Palestine legally.
In 1942, prior to the formulation of the One Million Plan, David Ben-Gurion described his intentions with respect to such potential policy to a meeting of experts and Jewish leaders, stating that “It is a mark of great failure by Zionism that we have not yet eliminated the Yemen exile [diaspora].”
If one includes Aden, there were about 63,000 Jews in Yemen in 1948. Today, there are about 200 left. In 1947, rioters killed at least 80 Jews in Aden, a British colony in southern Yemen. In 1948 the new Zaydi Imam Ahmad bin Yahya unexpectedly allowed his Jewish subjects to leave Yemen, and tens of thousands poured into Aden. The Israeli government’s Operation Magic Carpet evacuated around 44,000 Jews from Yemen to Israel in 1949 and 1950. Emigration continued until 1962, when the civil war in Yemen broke out. A small community remained until 1976, though it has mostly immigrated from Yemen since. In March 2016, the Jewish population in Yemen was estimated to be about 50.
In November 1945, fourteen Jews were killed in anti-Jewish riots in Tripoli. Unlike in other Arab countries, the Lebanese Jewish community did not face grave peril during the 1948 Arab–Israel War and was reasonably protected by governmental authorities. Lebanon was also the only Arab country that saw a post-1948 increase in its Jewish population, principally due to the influx of Jews coming from Syria and Iraq.
However, negative attitudes toward Jews increased after 1948, and, by 1967, most Lebanese Jews had emigrated—to Israel, the United States, Canada, and France. In 1971, Albert Elia, the 69-year-old Secretary-General of the Lebanese Jewish community, was kidnapped in Beirut by Syrian agents and imprisoned under torture in Damascus, along with Syrian Jews who had attempted to flee the country. A personal appeal by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, to the late President Hafez al-Assad failed to secure Elia’s release.
The remaining Jewish community was particularly hard hit by the civil war in Lebanon, and by the mid-1970s, the community collapsed. In the 1980s, Hezbollah kidnapped several Lebanese Jewish businessmen, and in the 2004 elections, only one Jew voted in the municipal elections. There are now only between 20 and 40 Jews living in Lebanon.
In 1948, there were approximately 30,000 Jews in Syria. In 1949, following defeat in the Arab–Israeli War, the CIA-backed March 1949 Syrian coup d’état installed Husni al-Za’im as the President of Syria. Za’im permitted the emigration of large numbers of Syrian Jews, and 5,000 left to Israel.
The subsequent Syrian governments placed severe restrictions on the Jewish community, including barring emigration. Over the next few years, many Jews managed to escape, and the work of supporters, particularly Judy Feld Carr, in smuggling Jews out of Syria, and bringing their plight to the attention of the world, raised awareness of their situation. Although the Syrian government attempted to stop Syrian Jews from exporting their assets, the American consulate in Damascus noted in 1950 that “the majority of Syrian Jews have managed to dispose of their property and to emigrate to Lebanon, Italy, and Israel”. In November 1954, the Syrian government lifted its ban on Jewish emigration.
In March 1964, the Syrian government issued a decree prohibiting Jews from traveling more than three miles from the limits of their hometowns. During 1967, riots broke out in Damascus and Aleppo. Jews were allowed to leave their homes only for few hours daily. Many Jews found impossible to pursue their business venture because the larger community was boycotting their products. In 1972 demonstrations were held by 1000 Syrian Jews in Damascus, after four woman were killed as they attempted to flee Syria. The protest surprised Syrian authorities, who closely monitored Jewish community, eavesdropped on their telephone conversations, and tampered with their mail.
Following the Madrid Conference of 1991, the United States put pressure on the Syrian government to ease its restrictions on Jews, and during Passover in 1992, the government of Syria began granting exit visas to Jews on condition that they did not emigrate to Israel. At that time, the country had several thousand Jews. The majority left for the United States—most to join the large Syrian Jewish community in South Brooklyn, New York—although some went to France and Turkey, and those who wanted to go to Israel were brought there in a two-year covert operation.
In 2004, the Syrian government attempted to establish better relations with its emigrants, and a delegation of a dozen Jews of Syrian origin visited Syria in the spring of that year. As of December 2014, only 17 Jews remain in Syria, according to Rabbi Avraham Hamra; nine men and eight women, all over 60 years of age.
The Tel Or village was established in 1930 (or 1932) in Transjordan in the vicinity of Naharayim hydroelectric power plant. The village of Tel Or was the only Jewish village in Transjordan at the time. The village was built as housing compound for operation crews of the power plant and their families, being predominantly Jewish. Tel Or had existed until its depopulation in 1948 during the Arab–Israeli War, when it was overran by the Transjordanian forces. The families of the employees were evacuated in April 1948, leaving behind only workers with Jordanian ID cards. Following a prolonged battle between Yishuv forces and the Transjordanian Arab Legion in the area, the residents of Tel Or were given an ultimatum to surrender or leave the village. The village of Tel Or was shortly abandoned by the residents, who fled to Yishuv-controlled areas to the West of Jordan.
In 1948 during the Arab–Israeli War, Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter population of about 2,000 Jews was besieged, and forced to leave en masse. The defenders surrendered on 28 May 1948.
Weingarten negotiating the surrender with Arab Legion soldiers
The Jordanian commander is reported to have told his superiors: “For the first time in 1,000 years not a single Jew remains in the Jewish Quarter. Not a single building remains intact. This makes the Jews’ return here impossible.” The Hurva Synagogue, originally built in 1701, was blown up by the Jordanian Arab Legion. During the nineteen years of Jordanian rule, a third of the Jewish Quarter’s buildings were demolished. According to a complaint Israel made to the United Nations, all but one of the thirty-five Jewish houses of worship in the Old City were destroyed. The synagogues were razed or pillaged and stripped and their interiors used as hen-houses or stables.
In the wake of the 1948 war, the Red Cross accommodated Palestinian refugees in the depopulated and partly destroyed Jewish Quarter. This grew into the Muaska refugee camp managed by UNRWA, which housed refugees from 48 locations now in Israel. Over time many poor non-refugees also settled in the camp. Conditions became unsafe for habitation due to lack of maintenance and sanitation. Jordan had planned transforming the quarter into a park, but neither UNRWA nor the Jordanian government wanted the negative international response that would result if they demolished the old Jewish houses. In 1964 a decision was made to move the refugees to a new camp constructed near Shuafat. Most of the refugees refused to move, since it would mean losing their livelihood, the market and the tourists, as well as reducing their access to the holy sites. In the end, many of the refugees were moved to Shuafat by force during 1965 and 1966.
Bahrain‘s tiny Jewish community, mostly the Jewish descendants of immigrants who entered the country in the early 20th century from Iraq, numbered 600 in 1948. In the wake of 29 November 1947 U.N. Partition vote, demonstrations against the vote in the Arab world were called for 2–5 December. The first two days of demonstrations in Bahrain saw rock throwing against Jews, but on 5 December, mobs in the capital of Manama looted Jewish homes and shops, destroyed the synagogue, beat any Jews they could find, and murdered one elderly woman.
Over the next few decades, most left for other countries, especially Britain; as of 2006 only 36 remained.
While Iranian constitution generally respects minority rights of non-Muslims (though there are some forms of discrimination), the strong anti-Zionist policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran created a tense and uncomfortable situation for Iranian Jews, who became vulnerable for accusation on alleged collaboration with Israel.
Most of the 80,000-strong Iranian Jewish community exited Iran between 1978 and the early 1980s. In total, more than 80% of Iranian Jews fled or migrated from the country between 1979 and 2006. A small Jewish community of 7–10 thousand still resides in Iran as a protected minority.
When the Republic of Turkey was established in 1923, Aliyah was not particularly popular among Turkish Jewry; migration from Turkey to Palestine was minimal in the 1920s.
During 1923-1948, approximately 7,300 Jews emigrated from Turkey to Palestine. After the 1934 Thrace pogroms following the 1934 Turkish Resettlement Law, immigration to Palestine increased; it is estimated that 521 Jews left for Palestine from Turkey in 1934 and 1,445 left in 1935. Immigration to Palestine was organized by the Jewish Agency and the Palestine Aliya Anoar Organization. The Varlık Vergisi, a capital tax established in 1942, was also significant in encouraging emigration from Turkey to Palestine; between 1943 and 1944, 4,000 Jews emigrated.”
The Jews of Turkey reacted very favorably to the creation of the State of Israel. Between 1948 and 1951, 34,547 Jews immigrated to Israel, nearly 40% of the Jewish population at the time. Immigration was stunted for several months in November 1948, when Turkey suspended migration permits as a result of pressure from Arab countries.
In March 1949, the suspension was removed when Turkey officially recognized Israel, and emigration continued, with 26,000 emigrating within the same year. The migration was entirely voluntary, and was primary driven by economic factors given the majority of emigrants were from the lower classes. In fact, the migration of Jews to Israel is the second largest mass emigration wave out of Turkey, the first being the population exchange between Greece and Turkey.
After 1951, emigration of Jews from Turkey to Israel slowed materially.
In the mid 1950s, 10% of those who had moved to Israel returned to Turkey. A new synagogue, the Neve Şalom, was constructed in Istanbul in 1951. Generally, Turkish Jews in Israel have integrated well into society and are not distinguishable from other Israelis. However, they maintain their Turkish culture and connection to Turkey, and are strong supporters of close relations between Israel and Turkey.
Even though historically speaking populist antisemitism was rarer in the Ottoman Empire and Anatolia than in Europe, since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, there has been a rise in antisemitism. On the night of 6–7 September 1955, the Istanbul pogrom was unleashed. Although primarily aimed at the city’s Greek population, the Jewish and Armenian communities of Istanbul were also targeted to a degree. The caused damage was mainly material – more than 4,000 shops and 1,000 houses belonging to Greeks, Armenians and Jews were destroyed – but it deeply shocked minorities throughout the country
Since 1986, increased attacks on Jewish targets throughout Turkey impacted the security of the community, and urged many to emigrate. The Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul has been attacked by Islamic militants three times. On 6 September 1986, Arab terrorists gunned down 22 Jewish worshippers and wounded 6 during Shabbat services at Neve Shalom. This attack was blamed on the Palestinian militant Abu Nidal. In 1992, the Lebanon-based Shi’ite Muslim group of Hezbollah carried out a bombing against the Synagogue, but nobody was injured. The Synagogue was hit again during the 2003 Istanbul bombings alongside the Bet Israel Synagogue, killing 20 and injuring over 300 people, both Jews and Muslims alike.
With the increasing anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish attitudes in modern Turkey, the country’s Jewish community while still believed to be the largest among Muslim countries, declined from about 26,000 in 2010 to about 17,000-18,000 in 2016.
The Afghan Jewish community declined from about 40,000 in the early 20th Century to 5,000 by 1934.
In 1929, the Soviet press reported a pogrom in Afghanistan.
In 1933, following the assassination of Mohammed Nadir Shah, King of Afghanistan, Afghan Jews were declared non-citizens and many Jews in Afghanistan were expelled from their homes and robbed of their property. Jews continued living in major cities such as Kabul and Herat, under restrictions on work and trade. In 1935, the Jewish Telegraph Agency reported that “Ghetto rules” had been imposed on Afghan Jews, requiring them to wear particular clothes, that Jewish women stay out of markets, that no Jews live within certain distances of mosques and that Jews did not ride horses.
From 1935 to 1941, under Prime Minister Mohammad Hashim Khan (uncle of the King) Germany was the most influential country in Afghanistan. The Nazis regarded the Afghans (like the Iranians) as Aryans. In 1938, it was reported that Jews were only allowed to work as shoe-polishers.
Contact with Afghanistan was difficult at this time and with many Jews facing persecution around the world, reports reached the outside world after a delay and were rarely researched thoroughly. Jews were allowed to emigrate in 1951 and most moved to Israel and the United States. By 1969, some 300 remained, and most of these left after the Soviet invasion of 1979, leaving 10 Afghan Jews in 1996, most of them in Kabul. More than 10,000 Jews of Afghan descent presently live in Israel. Over 200 families of Afghan Jews live in New York City.
In 2001 it was reported that two Jews were left in Afghanistan and that they did not talk to each other.
Penang was historically home to a Jewish community of Baghdadi origin that dated back to colonial times. Much of this community emigrated overseas in the decades following World War II, and the last Jewish resident of Penang died in 2011, making this community extinct.
At the time of Pakistani independence in 1947, some 1,300 Jews remained in Karachi, many of them Bene Israel Jews, observing Sephardic Jewish rites. A small Ashkenazi population was also present in the city. Some Karachi streets still bear names that hark back to a time when the Jewish community was more prominent; such as Ashkenazi Street, Abraham Reuben Street (named after the former member of the Karachi Municipal Corporation), Ibn Gabirol Street, and Moses Ibn Ezra Street—although some streets have been renamed, they are still locally referred to by their original names. A small Jewish graveyard still exists in the vast Mewa Shah Graveyard near the shrine of a Sufi saint. The neighbourhood of Baghdadi in Lyari Town is named for the Baghdadi Jews who once lived there. A community of Bukharan Jews was also found in the city of Peshawar, where many buildings in the old city feature a Star of David as exterior decor as a sign of the Hebrew origins of its owners. Members of the community settled in the city as merchants as early as the 17th century, although the bulk arrived as refugees fleeing the advance of the Russian Empire into Bukhara, and later the Russian Revolution in 1917. Today, there are virtually no Jewish communities remaining in Karachi or Peshawar.
The exodus of Jews from Pakistan to Bombay and other cities in India came just prior to the creation of Israel in 1948, when anti-Israeli sentiments rose. By 1953, fewer than 500 Jews were reported to reside in all of Pakistan. Anti-Israeli sentiment and violence often flared during ensuing conflicts in the Middle East, resulting in a further movement of Jews out of Pakistan. Presently, a large number of Jews from Karachi live in the city of Ramla in Israel.
The Jewish community in Sudan was concentrated in the capital Khartoum, and had been established in the late 19th century. By the middle of the 20th century the community included some 350 Jews, mainly of Sephardic background, who had constructed a synagogue and a Jewish school. Between 1948 and 1956, some members of the community left the country, and it finally ceased to exist by the early 1960s.
In 1948, there were between 758,000 and 881,000 Jews (see table below) living in communities throughout the Arab world. Today, there are fewer than 8,600. In some Arab states, such as Libya, which was about 3% Jewish, the Jewish community no longer exists; in other Arab countries, only a few hundred Jews remain.
Jewish Population by country: 1948, 1972 and recent times
Of the nearly 900,000 Jewish emigrants, approximately 680,000 emigrated to Israel and 235,000 to France; the remainder went to other countries in Europe as well as to the Americas. About two thirds of the exodus was from the North Africa region, of which Morocco’s Jews went mostly to Israel, Algeria’s Jews went mostly to France, and Tunisia’s Jews departed for both countries.
Jewish children in front of Bet Lid camp. Israel, 1950
The majority of Jews in Arab countries eventually immigrated to the modern State of Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were temporarily settled in the numerous immigrant camps throughout the country. Those were later transformed into ma’abarot (transit camps), where tin dwellings were provided to house up to 220,000 residents. The ma’abarot existed until 1963. The population of transition camps was gradually absorbed and integrated into Israeli society. Many of the North African and Middle-Eastern Jews had a hard time adjusting to the new dominant culture, change of lifestyle and there were claims of discrimination.
France was also a major destination and about 50% (300,000 people) of modern French Jews have roots from North Africa. In total, it is estimated that between 1956 and 1967, about 235,000 North African Jews from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco immigrated to France due to the decline of the French Empire and following the Six-Day War.
The United States was a destination of many Egyptian, Lebanese and Syrian Jews.
Advocacy groups acting on behalf of Jews from Arab countries include:
JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa) publicizes the history and plight of the 850,000 Jews indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa who were forced to leave their homes and abandon their property, who were stripped of their citizenship
HARIF (UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa) promotes the history and heritage of Jews from the Arab and Muslim world
WOJAC, JJAC and JIMENA have been active in recent years in presenting their views to various governmental bodies in the US, Canada and UK, among others, as well as appearing before the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Views on the exodus
United States Congress
In 2003, H.Con.Res. 311 was introduced into the House of Representatives by pro-Israel congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. In 2004 simple resolutionsH.Res. 838 and S.Res. 325 were issued into the House of Representatives and Senate by Jerrold Nadler and Rick Santorum, respectively. In 2007 simple resolutions H.Res. 185 and S.Res. 85 were issued into the House of Representatives and Senate. The resolutions had been written together with lobbyist group JJAC, whose founder Stanley Urman described the resolution in 2009 as “perhaps our most significant accomplishment” The House of Representatives resolution was sponsored by Jerrold Nadler, who followed the resolutions in 2012 with House Bill H.R. 6242. The 2007–08 resolutions proposed that any “comprehensive Middle East peace agreement to be credible and enduring, the agreement must address and resolve all outstanding issues relating to the legitimate rights of all refugees, including Jews, Christians and other populations displaced from countries in the Middle East”, and encourages President Barack Obama and his administration to mention Jewish and other refugees when mentioning Palestinian refugees at international forums. The 2012 bill, which was moved to committee, proposed to recognize the plight of “850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries”, as well as other refugees, such as Christians from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf.
Jerrold Nadler explained his view in 2012 that “the suffering and terrible injustices visited upon Jewish refugees in the Middle East needs to be acknowledged. It is simply wrong to recognize the rights of Palestinian refugees without recognizing the rights of nearly 1 million Jewish refugees who suffered terrible outrages at the hands of their former compatriots.” Critics have suggested the campaign is simply an anti-Palestinian “tactic”, which Michael Fischbach explains as “a tactic to help the Israeli government deflect Palestinian refugee claims in any final Israeli–Palestinian peace deal, claims that include Palestinian refugees’ demand for the ‘right of return’ to their pre-1948 homes in Israel.”
Israeli government position
The issue of comparison of the Jewish exodus with the Palestinian exodus was raised by the Israeli Foreign Ministry as early as 1961.
In 2012, a special campaign on behalf of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries was established and gained momentum. The campaign urges the creation of an international fund that would compensate both Jewish and Palestinian Arab refugees, and would document and research the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. In addition, the campaign plans to create a national day of recognition in Israel to remember the 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries, as well as to build a museum that would document their history, cultural heritage, and collect their testimony.
On 21 September 2012, a special event was held at the United Nations to highlight the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor asked the United Nations to “establish a center of documentation and research” that would document the “850,000 untold stories” and “collect the evidence to preserve their history”, which he said was ignored for too long. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that “We are 64 years late, but we are not too late.” Diplomats from approximately two dozen countries and organizations, including the United States, the European Union, Germany, Canada, Spain, and Hungary attended the event. In addition, Jews from Arab countries attended and spoke at the event.
Jewish “Nakba” narrative
Comparison with Palestinian Naqba
In response to the Palestinian Nakba narrative, the term “Jewish Nakba” is sometimes used to refer to the persecution and expulsion of Jews from Arab countries in the years and decades following the creation of the State of Israel. Israeli columnist Ben Dror Yemini, himself a Mizrahi Jew, wrote:
However, there is another Nakba: the Jewish Nakba. During those same years [the 1940s], there was a long line of slaughters, of pogroms, of property confiscation and of deportations against Jews in Islamic countries. This chapter of history has been left in the shadows. The Jewish Nakba was worse than the Palestinian Nakba. The only difference is that the Jews did not turn that Nakba into their founding ethos. To the contrary.
Professor Ada Aharoni, chairman of The World Congress of the Jews from Egypt, argues in an article entitled “What about the Jewish Nakba?” that exposing the truth about the expulsion of the Jews from Arab states could facilitate a genuine peace process, since it would enable Palestinians to realize they were not the only ones who suffered, and thus their sense of “victimization and rejectionism” will decline.
Additionally, Canadian MP and international human rights lawyer Irwin Cotler has referred to the “double Nakba”. He criticizes the Arab states’ rejectionism of the Jewish state, their subsequent invasion to destroy the newly formed nation, and the punishment meted out against their local Jewish populations:
The result was, therefore, a double Nakba: not only of Palestinian-Arab suffering and the creation of a Palestinian refugee problem, but also, with the assault on Israel and on Jews in Arab countries, the creation of a second, much less known, group of refugees—Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
Criticism of Jewish Naqba narrative in Israel
Iraqi-born Ran Cohen, a former member of the Knesset, said: “I have this to say: I am not a refugee. I came at the behest of Zionism, due to the pull that this land exerts, and due to the idea of redemption. Nobody is going to define me as a refugee.” Yemeni-born Yisrael Yeshayahu, former Knesset speaker, Labor Party, stated: “We are not refugees. [Some of us] came to this country before the state was born. We had messianic aspirations.” And Iraqi-born Shlomo Hillel, also a former speaker of the Knesset, Labor Party, claimed: “I do not regard the departure of Jews from Arab lands as that of refugees. They came here because they wanted to, as Zionists.”
Historian Tom Segev stated: “Deciding to emigrate to Israel was often a very personal decision. It was based on the particular circumstances of the individual’s life. They were not all poor, or ‘dwellers in dark caves and smoking pits’. Nor were they always subject to persecution, repression or discrimination in their native lands. They emigrated for a variety of reasons, depending on the country, the time, the community, and the person.”
Iraqi-born Israeli historian Avi Shlaim, speaking of the wave of Iraqi Jewish migration to Israel, concludes that, even though Iraqi Jews were “victims of the Israeli-Arab conflict”, Iraqi Jews aren’t refugees, saying “nobody expelled us from Iraq, nobody told us that we were unwanted.” He restated that case in a review of Martin Gilbert‘s book, In Ishmael’s House.
Yehuda Shenhav has criticized the analogy between Jewish emigration from Arab countries and the Palestinian exodus. He also says “The unfounded, immoral analogy between Palestinian refugees and Mizrahi immigrants needlessly embroils members of these two groups in a dispute, degrades the dignity of many Mizrahi Jews, and harms prospects for genuine Jewish-Arab reconciliation.” He has stated that “the campaign’s proponents hope their efforts will prevent conferral of what is called a ‘right of return’ on Palestinians, and reduce the size of the compensation Israel is liable to be asked to pay in exchange for Palestinian property appropriated by the state guardian of ‘lost’ assets.”
Israeli historian Yehoshua Porath has rejected the comparison, arguing that while there is a superficial similarity, the ideological and historical significance of the two population movements are entirely different. Porath points out that the immigration of Jews from Arab countries to Israel, expelled or not, was the “fulfilment of a national dream”. He also argues that the achievement of this Zionist goal was only made possible through the endeavors of the Jewish Agency’s agents, teachers, and instructors working in various Arab countries since the 1930s. Porath contrasts this with the Palestinian Arabs’ flight of 1948 as completely different. He describes the outcome of the Palestinian’s flight as an “unwanted national calamity” that was accompanied by “unending personal tragedies”. The result was “the collapse of the Palestinian community, the fragmentation of a people, and the loss of a country that had in the past been mostly Arabic-speaking and Islamic. “
Alon Liel, a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry says that many Jews escaped from Arab countries, but he does not call them “Refugees” since his definition for the term “Refugee” is different from UNWRA‘s definition.
Criticism of Jewish Naqba narrative by Palestinians
On 21 September 2012, at a United Nations conference, the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries was criticized by Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, who stated that the Jewish refugees from Arab countries were in fact responsible for the Palestinian displacement and that “those Jews are criminals rather than refugees.” In regard to the same conference, Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi has argued that Jews from Arab lands are not refugees at all and that Israel is using their claims in order to counterbalance to those of Palestinian refugees against it. Ashrawi said that “If Israel is their homeland, then they are not ‘refugees’; they are emigrants who returned either voluntarily or due to a political decision.”
Property losses and compensation
In Libya, Iraq and Egypt many Jews lost vast portions of their wealth and property as part of the exodus because of severe restrictions on moving their wealth out of the country.
In other countries in North Africa, the situation was more complex. For example, in Morocco emigrants were not allowed to take more than $60 worth of Moroccan currency with them, although generally they were able to sell their property prior to leaving, and some were able to work around the currency restrictions by exchanging cash into jewelry or other portable valuables. This led some scholars to speculate the North African Jewish population, comprising two thirds of the exodus, on the whole did not suffer large property losses. However, opinions on this differ.
Yemeni Jews were usually able to sell what property they possessed prior to departure, although not always at market rates.
Various estimates of the value of property abandoned by the Jewish exodus have been published, with wide variety in the quoted figures from a few billion dollars to hundreds of billions.
The World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC) estimated in 2006, that Jewish property abandoned in Arab countries would be valued at more than $100 billion, later revising their estimate in 2007 to $300 billion. They also estimated Jewish-owned real-estate left behind in Arab lands at 100,000 square kilometers (four times the size of the state of Israel).
The type and extent of linkage between the Jewish exodus from Arab countries and the 1948 Palestinian exodus has also been the source of controversy. Advocacy groups have suggested that there are strong ties between the two processes and some of them even claim that decoupling the two issues is unjust.
Holocaust restitution expert Sidney Zabludoff, writing for the Israeli-advocacy group Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, suggests that the losses sustained by the Jews who fled Arab countries since 1947 amounts to $700m at period prices based on an estimated per capita wealth of $700 multiplied by one million refugees, equating to $6 billion today, assuming that the entire exodus left all of their wealth behind.
The official position of the Israeli government is that Jews from Arab countries are considered refugees, and it considers their rights to property left in countries of origin as valid and existent.
In 2008, the Orthodox Sephardi party, Shas, announced its intention to seek compensation for Jewish refugees from Arab states.
In 2009, Israeli lawmakers introduced a bill into the Knesset to make compensation for Jews from Arab and Muslim countries an integral part of any future peace negotiations by requiring compensation on behalf of current Jewish Israeli citizens, who were expelled from Arab countries after Israel was established in 1948 and leaving behind a significant amount of valuable property. In February 2010, the bill passed its first reading. The bill was sponsored by MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) and follows a resolution passed in the United States House of Representatives in 2008, calling for refugee recognition to be extended to Jews and Christians similar to that extended to Palestinians in the course of Middle East peace talks.
So, whose narrative is to believed?
What is clear is that both Arabs and Jews have both been displaced and while many Jews came to Israel to fulfil their Zionist dream and they have successfully settled and integrated into their new home land. There is a very robust absorption programme that continues to fuction up to this present day helping Jewish immigrants to find their place in Israel.
The displacement of the Jews of Arab lands is a complex issue that is multifaceted – The Axis powers during the rise of facism and Nazism fermented considerable and often intense hostility towards the Jewish people who had lived in these counties for centuries. This is particularly evident to those countries in North Africa that were ruled by European colonial powers, as has been discussed. However, this is not the full picture as Arab hostility towards Jewish people living among them was sporadic and at times of social upheaval anti-Semitic hostility and attacks against Jewish people did occur before the rise of Nazism. Jews and Christians were accorded second class status and had to pay a dhimmi tax due to a second-class status that initially applied to Jews, Christians, and Sabians. This status later also came to be applied to Zoroastrians, Hindus, Jains and Buddhists.and had various other restrictions placed upon them.
So who is responsible for the Arab Naqba?
Jewish displacement during WWII, while not directly initiated by the Arab populations of North Africa, many Arabs willingly participated in the Nazi programme of Jew-hatred. With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, multitudes of Jewish inhabitants of the these Arab lands willingly immigrated to the newly established homeland in Eretz Israel.
Many Arabists say that the question of Jewish unsettling and migration is a Europes problem casued by the Axis powers and those who so willingly participated in Hitler’s final solution and Europe should be the one to solve the problem of Jewish displacement that caused the Arab displacement for Palestine. Equally, Europe should provide a sovereign Jewish homeland and state somewhere else. Historically Madagascar and Uganda had been suggested (Hitler and Herzel respectively). While this point of view may have had some credence, the clock cannot be turned back. Also where else can a Jewish state be located? One British Labour law Naz Shah maker recently said that the USA should be where Israel should be moved. Needless to say this politician got censured and expelled from Labour Party for making a number of other offensive and anti-Semitic remark and tweets on the web.
Tuesday 26 April, 7:53am: Naz Shah’s Israel ‘transportation’ post emerges
Labour MP Naz Shah admits to the Guido Fawkes blog she wrote a Facebook post arguing for Israel’s population to be “transported” out of the Middle East to America. Shah until recently was a member of the House of Commons home affairs select committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the rise of antisemitism.
The post, shared nine months before she beat George Galloway to win the seat in Bradford West, showed a picture of Israel superimposed over the United States, with the approving comment: “Problem solved and save you bank charges for the £3bn you transfer yearly.”
In comments below, Shah said she would tweet Barack Obama and David Cameron with the suggestion and said it would “save them some pocket money”.
Shah, parliamentary private secretary to the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, tells the blog that she is sorry and will be making a fuller statement later.
1.00pm: a second post, comparing Israel to Nazis, is revealed
I deeply regret the hurt I have caused by comments made on social media before I was elected as an MP.
I made these posts at the height of the Gaza conflict in 2014, when emotions were running high around the Middle East conflict. But that is no excuse for the offence I have given, for which I unreservedly apologise.
In recognition of that offence I have stepped down from my role as PPS to the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell.
I will be seeking to expand my existing engagement and dialogue with Jewish community organisations, and will be stepping up my efforts to combat all forms of racism, including antisemitism.
3.30pm: new post emerges, claiming: ‘The Jews are rallying’
More Facebook posts by Shah emerge. She wrote the caption #ApartheidIsrael on a picture that appeared to compare the state to the Nazis. It was above a picture of Dr Martin Luther King holding the quote: “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’.”
Arab nations and Musilm countrie’s collaberation
The Arab nations and Musilm countries in their collaberation and participation in the Nazi programme of Jewish persecution and extermination are not guiltless by standers. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammed Amin al-Husseini was an allie of Hitler and his is some ways the one who planted the seeds of the final solution in asking Hitler to help him extrminate the Jews of Palestine. His attitude was not an isolated one as we have considered from the survey of the Arab treatment of the Jews in their countries.
What is apparent is that many of their Jewish populations in Arab and Muslim lands suffered severely during WWII through the active pursuit of the Nazi occupied European nations and its collaborators. The Vichi French government willingly participated in the Nazi anti-Semitic policy and this extended to French North African colonies. This became equally true in Italian North African territories after Italy’s collapse: The Italian campaign of World War II consisted of Allied operations in and around Italy, from … Over 150,000 Italian civilians died, as did 35,828 anti-Fascist partisans and some 35,000 troops of the Italian Social Republic. … The Allied invasion of Sicily, started in July 1943, led to the collapse of the Fascist Italian regime and this opened the way for the Nazis to actively persecute the Jews of North African Italian colonies and they faced a similar fate to the rest of the Jews of Nazi occupied Europe.
From the Arab perspective the Jewish migration to Palestine, it was viewed as a disaster Naqba – even after all these years it continues to be like a running sore or may even be equated to a gaping wound that refuses to be healed. Today most of the Arab lands where the Palestinains live do not accord them with full citizenship and they continue to have refugee status after 71 years. Many still live in refugee camps sponsored by the United Nations – UNRWA.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is an UN agency created in December 1949 to support the relief and human development of Palestinian refugees. The UNRWA definition of “refugee” covers Palestinian who fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1948 Palestine War as well as those who fled or were expelled during and following the 1967 Six Day War and their patrilineal descendants. Originally intended to provide jobs on public works projects and direct relief, today UNRWA provides education, health care, and social services to the population it supports. Currently, more than 5 million Palestinians are registered with UNRWA as refugees. Aid is provided in five areas of operation: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; aid for Palestinian refugees outside these five areas is provided by UNHCR.
It also provided relief to Jewish and Arab Palestine refugees inside the State of Israel following the 1948 conflict until the Israeli government took over responsibility for Jewish refugees in 1952. In the absence of a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, the UN General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA’s mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June 2020.
UNRWA is the only UN agency dedicated to helping refugees from a specific region or conflict and is separate from UNHCR. Formed in 1950, UNHCR is the main UN refugee agency, which is responsible for aiding other refugees all over the world. Unlike UNRWA, UNHCR has a specific mandate to aid its refugees to eliminate their refugee status by local integration in current country, resettlement in a third country or repatriation when possible. UNRWA allows refugee status to be inherited by descendants of male refugee, including legally adopted children.
Alas this refugee status of the Palestinians is used as a political tool that to beat Israel with, and these Palestinian ‘refugee’ people wear the badge of victimhood as some kind of martyrs ensign. They are neither able to fully actualise nor are they able to reconcile themselves with the political realty that Israel can not allow the descendants of the original refugees to return to their homes within the boarders of Israel – ‘their right of return’ that they demand, for if they did, Israel would defacto cease to be the Jewish homeland with a hostile Arab majority.
The way forward
Is there is a way forward? Those who desire to live in peace and harmony need to strive to find a soloution to what appears to be an intractable problem. The ‘two-state solution,’ according to the Oslo accords, is all but dead, so another way needs to be found. This will take courage and commitment on both sides to find a way forward.
An illusive peace
Some years ago while on holiday in Sardinia we stayed at an Argi-B&B in a village called Tatabella and one evening during our evening meal I got into conversation with a Sardinia political science PHD student – When speaking about the Middle-East conflict and particularly the Israeli-Palestinain intractable situation, he made an interesting comment that is worthy of considering:
He said in this age we all want instant answers, but he said that from his study of the history of European conflicts, some take a long time to solve. Think of he 100 years war, the 50 years war, the 30 years war? Think of the Irish conflict? Think of the Srebian, Croation, Muslim conflict in former Yugoslavia? Think of the Crimean conflict between Russia and the Ukraine? How long did these conflicts take to be resolved? Is it not possible that the Israelis and Palestinians are not ready for peace and it will take a future generation of new leaders to solve the present strife?
This possibility should not lead to despair, but rather it should renew our hope and prayers that those future leaders will aries who desire a lasting peace in the Middle-East. It took Europe two great wars to achieve their present peace, so why should we expect this conflict to be solved so quickly?
Does the Scriptures not exhort and encourage us to pray for peace and that the Prince of Peace shall aries, when humankind will beat their swards in ploughshares and folk will not make war anymore?
Films about the exodus
I Miss the Sun (1984), USA, produced and directed by Mary Hilawani. Profile of Halawani’s grandmother, Rosette Hakim. A prominent Egyptian-Jewish family, the Halawanis left Egypt in 1959. Rosette, the family matriarch, chose to remain in Egypt until every member of the large family was free to leave.
The Dhimmis: To Be a Jew in Arab Lands (1987), director Baruch Gitlis and David Goldstein a producer. Presents a history of Jews in the Middle East.
The Silent Exodus (2004) by Pierre Rehov. Selected at the International Human Rights Film Festival of Paris (2004) and presented at the UN Geneva Human Rights Annual Convention (2004).
The Last Jews of Libya (2007) by Vivienne Roumani-Denn. Describes how European colonialism, Italian fascism and the rise of Arab nationalism contributed to the disappearance of Libya’s Sephardic Jewish community.
“From Babylonia To Beverly Hills: The Exodus of Iran’s Jews” Documentary.
For I am not ashamed of the Good News, since it is God’s powerful means of bringing salvation to everyone who keeps on trusting, to the Jew especially, but equally to the Gentile
(CJB Romans 1.16).
It is my sincere appeal to my fellow Jews that we need to not be ashamed of claiming Jesus/ Yeshua not only as part of Jewish cultural heritage, but equally as Messiah and Lord. It is very important that at the outset that we acknowledge that there are numerous barriers that have to be crossed in this endeavour to discover the Jewish Jesus.
How utterly amazing and courageous of Amitai Mendelsohn to have produce this amazing exhibition about Jewish and Israeli artists who have dared to portray Jesus in their artistic creations and face the potential criticism and rejection for doing so.
The Attempted Suppression of the Visual Portrayal of Jesus in Israeli Art
During our visit to Israel in April-May 2019 in my pursuit of to discover paintings and sculptures of Jesus I encountered what I perceive as a deliberate attempt to suppress and hide any portrayal. This is despite the most amazing show of Jesus in Jesus in Israeli Art.
Israel Museum, Jerusalem
While visiting the gallery that had this painting by Reuven Rubin in which one of the central figures is the woman beside a man holding fruit and a vegetable resembles a fertility goddess.
Museum:The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Artist / Creator:
Rubin, Reuven, Israeli, born Romania, 1893-1974
“. . . sunshine, the sea, the halutzim (pioneers) with their bronzed faces and open shirts, the Yemenite girls, and children with enormous eyes. A new country, a new life was springing up around me” (Reuven Rubin, My Life, My Art) First Fruits was painted by Reuven Rubin, one of the country’s best known artists, during his first year in Palestine. For Rubin the Land of Israel was an Oriental paradise, a place of harmony and fertility – the perfect setting for the birth of a new kind of Jew and the shaping of a native Israeli identity. The triptych format, often used for church altarpieces, endows the work with a certain sanctity and solemnity. The central panel contains an updated, allegorical depiction of the ritual offering of the first fruits. The figures symbolize different local types. The brawny Atlas-like farmer with a watermelon on his back is the pioneer, emblem of the New Hebrew who is in touch with nature. The woman beside him resembles a fertility goddess. The Yemenite couple represents Jews of the Orient who carry on the age-old, devout way of life. Modest and traditional, they lack the confident physicality of the other couple; the offering they bear is their child, the fruit of their loins. The Arabs in the two side panels are essentially part of the landscape: secondary characters in this drama, they do not participate in the productive work that drives the world.
The woman beside him resembles a fertility goddess and is not to be confused with a number of other paintings by Reuven Rubin of the Modonna and Child. In these other paintings the Virgin Mary and images of the infant Jesus are clearly depicted. Ruben is unequivocal in both his portrayal and intension in these explicit painting of Jesus and his mother. Themes of rebirth of hope and also the rebirth of the Jewish people to the land of Israel are the intended message.
The difficulty that arises is not with the artist and his portrayal, but rather with the Israeli viewer and the struggle that incurs through the rendition of such explicitly Christian/ Messianic imagery.
The Madonna of the Vagabonds, painted in Bucharest the year before Rubin left for Palestine, suggests an analogy between the infant Jesus and the pioneer reborn in the Land of Israel. With its brighter palette, the painting heralds Rubin’s new Land-of-Israel style and reflects the optimism he experienced on the eve of his immigration.
The hopeful light of dawn illuminates the scene. In the background is the Sea of Galilee, upon which Jesus is said to have walked and where he gathered many of his disciples, simple fisherman. Three empty boats float on the water, presumably belonging to the men asleep on the shore and about to awake to a new era of redemption. These are the “vagabonds” who arrived at this shore at the beginning of the 20th century to be pioneers in the old-new land.
The Madonna looks down at the infant, not in the adoring pose of many traditional Christian depictions that show her venerating the baby Jesus, but with her bared breast emphasizing her fecundity and a smile on her lips. The fact that she is seated solidly on the ground conveys simplicity and rootedness. In composition, the painting closely resembles the earlier Temptation in the Desert, but this mother is the antithesis of a femme fatale, and the work’s message is entirely different. Instead of sexual repulsion, asceticism and anguish, the Madonna of the Vagabonds and her baby signal fertility, the renewal of nature, and the advent of redemption.
Reuven Rubin, The Madonna of the Vagabonds, 1922
Oil on canvas
Rubin Museum, Tel Aviv
A response by one the staff on duty at the Rubin Museum in Tel Aviv
When I questioned him about the overtly Christian symbolism depicted in some of Rubin’s paintings, he was rather dismissive and said that one can read into the artist’s work whatever you like. He implied that if you want to see Christian symbolism in these paintings that is one’s own choice, but it is no necessarily what Rubin may have explicitly intended. While his response was not a flat denial, he did not appear to readily embrace a messianic inclination in interpreting Rubin’s work when he dealt with images of Jesus and other New Testament themes.
How Jewish Artists Reclaimed Jesus as Their Own
Though Jesus has traditionally been a taboo subject among observant Jews, he has served as a common theme for modern Jewish painters and writers. Now the Israel Museum is devoting an exhibition to portraying the way local artists have engaged in dialogue with ‘that person’.
Man of Sorrows and Zionist Messiah: Reuven Rubin
“The nails in Jesus’ hands and feet are those that burn me, and no one can comprehend my suffering.” (Reuven Rubin, 1922)
The work of Reuven Rubin became synonymous with what is known as Land-of-Israel Zionist art, but Christian themes played a role in the paintings Reuven Rubin created in Europe and also after his arrival in Palestine in 1923. On a personal level, he identified with Jesus, regarding him as a misunderstood, persecuted spiritual figure. In a national context, he saw Jesus as a symbol of the exile the Jews needed to leave behind in order to achieve self-fulfillment and regeneration – and also, unusually, as an image of Zionist rebirth. Marc Chagall likewise regarded Jesus as an alter ego and as a symbol of Jewish suffering, but Reuven was the first to connect the figure of Jesus to that of the New Jew and the pioneers living in their homeland after two thousand years of exile.
Self-Portrait with Flower
Shortly after arriving in the Land of Israel, Rubin paints himself in the white shirt of a pioneer, seated against a characteristic background: sand dunes, three tents, two houses, and a corner of the sea with a boat. His right hand clutches a fistful of paintbrushes, while his left holds a glass containing a white lily. Also known as a Madonna Lily, this flower is familiar from depictions of the Annunciation: it is the attribute, the distinguishing symbol, of Mary. Just as saints were portrayed in Christian art holding their attributes, Rubin’s paintbrushes identify him as an artist. The lily also suggests that he sees himself as the bearer of glad tidings, perhaps even as a messiah of Zionist painting in the land. His mission: to herald – and to create – a newborn art that will accompany the momentous change occurring in the life of the Jewish people.
Reuven Rubin, Self-Portrait with Flower, 1923
Oil on canvas
Rubin Museum, Tel Aviv
Temptation in the Desert
“That figure in the middle is myself . . . resisting temptation, continuing on my way of suffering in spite of the hands that reach out to grasp me. . . . she [the woman] is trying to hold me back, but I am (going on. I shall go on!)” (Reuven Rubin, 1918)
This key early painting by Rubin (born Romania, 1893–1974) brings to mind two New Testament stories that had become popular subjects in Christian art: Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane immediately before his arrest (the Agony in the Garden) and his encounter with Mary Magdalene after rising from the tomb, when he warns her not to touch him (Noli me tangere). In Rubin’s portrayal of the confrontation with worldly temptation – the title also refers to a third episode in the life of Jesus, the Temptation in the Desert – a poignant image of personal supplication is joined to defiance of a woman who evokes the seductive femme fatale.
Although not an overt self-portrait, Rubin did tell an interviewer that he modeled the face of the central figure after his brother, who died during World War I, but also saw himself in the tortured ascetic. Thus the painting can be considered a rare early example of a Jewish artist daring to identify with Jesus.
Reuven Rubin, Temptation in the Desert, 1921
Oil on canvas
Tel Aviv Museum of Art, gift of Kaye Lee Wrage Gunn, Dallas, to the American Friends of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art
The Encounter is one of the most intriguing and enigmatic of Rubin’s early works. A weary elderly Jew sits, head bowed, at one end of the bench. At the other end sits Jesus with his stigmata; he has been crucified, but now he is resurrected and sits upright. This encounter suggests the legend of the weary Wandering Jew, punished with eternal homelessness for his taunting of Christ.
A tree with drooping branches stands beside the old, bent Jew, while a burgeoning tree grows upward next to Jesus. The visual juxtaposition of defeated Judaism and triumphant Christianity echoes the longstanding motif of Ecclesia (the Church) overcoming Synagoga – but here the meaning is quite different. Early-20th-century Zionist imagery contrasted the withered past with the fertile growth of a new era; in this painting, Rubin may also be suggesting a more daring symbolic analogy between the Zionist movement’s mission to bring the Jewish people back to life and Jesus risen from the dead.
Reuven Rubin, The Encounter (Jesus and the Jew), 1922
Oil on canvas
Collection of the Phoenix Insurance Company Ltd., Tel Aviv
Castel traveled to Paris in 1927, where he attended Académie Julian and Ecole du Louvre. He sat in the Louvre copying the works of Rembrandt, Velasquez, Delacroix and Courbet, intrigued by their paint-layering techniques. It was here that he began to realize that “art is not symbolic, but rather material, the material is the main thing, the way the paint is placed, the way the layers are placed on the picture, this is the most essential thing.” 
In May 1927, the World Union of Hebrew Youth in Paris sponsored his first exhibit. Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who was in Paris at the time, wrote an introduction for the catalogue.
In 1940, Castel returned to Palestine and settled in Safed. In 1949, Castel married Bilhah (née Bauman), an actress.
In the 1930s and 1940s, many of Castel’s paintings depicted the lives of Sephardic Jews in the Holy Land, revealing the influence of Persian miniatures. From the 1950s on, Castel created relief paintings inspired by the “ancient predecessors of Hebrew civilization.” In 1948, he visited the ruins of an ancient synagogue in Korazin, an ancient Jewish town in the Galilee. Inspired by the basalt blocks he saw there, engraved with images and ornaments, he began to use ground basalt, which he molded into shapes, as his basic material. The technique utilized ground basalt rock mixed with sand and glue, infused with the rich colors that became his trademark. The works were embellished with archaic forms derived from ancient script, symbolism and mythological signs from Hebrew and Sumerian culture. As a member of the New Horizons group, he combined elements of abstract European art with Eastern motifs and “Canaanite art.”
Moshe Castel, Untitled (The Crucified)
“. . . Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabakhtani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46)
The story behind this dark crucifixion by Moshe Castel (1909–1991), a painter known for his depictions of Jewish religious and national subjects, must be sought in Castel’s personal history. The work was created when the artist secluded himself in a monastery near the Sea of Galilee in order to recover from the loss of his first wife, who died in childbirth, and the death of their daughter three years later. Discovered in a locked cupboard in Castel’s house in 1992, the painting – which is highly unusual in the context of his work and that of his Israeli contemporaries – is now displayed to the public for the first time.
In an expressive style influenced by Chaim Soutine, and inspired by Marc Chagall’s crucifixions, Castel put himself on the cross. The face is a self-portrait, while above the figure a Hebrew inscription says “Castel the Jew,” so that the artist’s intense outpouring of pain culminates in total identification with the suffering of the crucified Christ.
In two sketches from the same period, the Hebrew inscriptions above the figure read “Jesus” and “Jesus of Nazareth.” They give the full name Yeshu’a rather than the more common Yeshu, which was often read derisively by Jews as an acronym for “may his name be obliterated,” and may indicate the painter’s rejection of this traditional revulsion and his own positive perception of Jesus.
Moshe Castel, Untitled (The Crucified), 1940s
Oil on canvas
Moshe Castel Museum of Art, Ma’ale Adumim
While staying in Ma’ale Adumim I was able to visit the Moshe Castel Museum of Art a number of times. When I enquire as to where Castel’s explicitly Christian paintings once more I met some vague explination that these pieces of his work were not available for viewing at that time.
For just as these crucifixion paintings and drawings by Castel had been locked away in a cupboard until after Moshe Castle’s death, so once more these pieces of work were hidden from view.
The Figure of Jesus in Jewish Art
View of the gallery
Maurycy Gottlieb, Christ Teaching in Capernaum
“How deeply I wish to eradicate all the prejudices against my people . . . and to bring peace between the Poles and the Jews, for the history of both people is a chronicle of grief and anguish!” (Maurycy Gottlieb, 1879)
Maurycy Gottlieb (born Galicia, 1856–1879) may well have been the most important Jewish painter of the nineteenth century. During his short lifetime, he created a body of work that joined Polish Christian culture to his own Jewish identity in a search for reconciliation.
Christ Teaching in Capernaum shows Jesus standing in the pulpit of a synagogue built in Greco-Roman style. His body is wrapped in a prayer shawl, but his head is surrounded by the halo from Christian artistic tradition. Not all of the men and women listening to him appear to be Jewish; a man in light-colored Roman garb is particularly noticeable. The young Jew in the foreground, lost in thought with his hands on his knees, is a self-portrait of the artist.
Gottlieb’s approach clearly derives from the Jewish enlightenment view that Jesus was a great ethical teacher who never intended to abandon his own religion. The message preached by his Jesus seeks to overcome antagonism between Judaism and Christianity and hence between Jews and Poles in the artist’s own society. Gottlieb does not advocate embracing the Christian Savior, but rather returning to the authentic roots of religion, to its universal teaching of truth and love.
Maurycy Gottlieb, Christ before His Judges, 1877–79
Oil on canvas
Samuel Hirszenberg, The Wandering Jew
This monumental painting by Samuel Hirszenberg, (born Poland, 1865–1908) whose artistic career coincided with a period of violent anti-Semitic persecution in Eastern Europe, became a symbol of Jewish suffering in the shadow of the cross. A powerful image for those who believed that Jews’ misery would only come to an end with the creation of a national home in the Land of Israel, it was prominently displayed for many years in Jerusalem’s Bezalel Museum.
The painting’s subject is the Wandering Jew, the figure of Christian legend who taunted Jesus on his way to Calvary and as a result was condemned to wander the earth until the end of time. However, in contrast to the dark robes worn by the Jew in traditional depictions, only a loincloth covers the naked man portrayed by Hirszenberg, recalling Jesus on the cross. The image of the cursed Jew has been joined to that of his arch-enemy in a nightmarish scenario which suggests that the Jews will only find rest after they have escaped the shadow of the cross.
Samuel Hirszenberg, The Wandering Jew (or The Eternal Jew),
Every autumn, Jews all over the world read the Torah portion Lech Lecha, in which God instructs the future patriarch Abraham to abandon his native land for a promised one. In exchange, God vows to make Abraham’s name great and to create a mighty nation out of his descendants. But the 75-year-old isn’t all that pleased when he winds up in Beersheba, a sandy city in the desert prone to famine. Before long, the first Wandering Jew is on the road again, headed to Egypt in search of food.
Be they refugees, merchants or tourists, Jews have been wandering for more than 3,000 years. Yet surprisingly, the origin of the phrase Wandering Jew has little to do with peripatetic Semites. Instead, it harks back to a fictitious—and anti-Semitic—legend that arose in late antiquity.
Sometime between the 3rd and 7th centuries, a story began circulating about a Jew who had refused to allow Jesus to lean against the wall of his house as he carried the cross to the crucifixion, according to Galit Hasan-Rokem, professor of folklore at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In later versions, the Jew is said to verbally assault Jesus or even strike him. Whatever the details, says Hasan-Rokem, in each telling the Jew “was cursed by Jesus to wander until the Second Coming.”
Although it first emerged in written form in 13th-century Italy, the tale didn’t become popular until 1602, when it was recorded in a German book, A Brief Description and Narrative Regarding a Jew Named Ahasuerus. The author asserted that the bishop of a town called Schleswig had encountered a Jew named Ahasuerus in Hamburg in the 1540s; Ahasuerus told the bishop that he had been wandering aimlessly for well over 1,000 years.
The book became a bestseller with more than 80 printings over the next century—“like an Oprah’s pick, back when there wasn’t much to pick from,” says Joanna Brichetto, who wrote her master’s thesis at Vanderbilt University on images of the Wandering Jew. Soon the Wandering Jew was featured prominently in English, French and Finnish ballads and even crept into literature and art.
“And here am I a-walkin’ about like the wanderin’ Jew—a sportin’ character you have perhaps heerd on,” wrote Charles Dickens in his serial 1836-37 novel The Pickwick Papers. Twenty years later, the French artist Gustave Doré illustrated Pierre-Jean de Béranger’s “La Légende du Juif Errant”—images that Brichetto calls the “definitive representation of the anti-Jewish Wandering Jew.” By the end of the 19th century, “all of Europe…was on a first-name basis with Ahasuerus,” she wrote in her thesis. He was generally portrayed as devilish and money-grubbing; he bore a facial blemish and a heavy, tangled beard, and was equipped with a walking stick and purse.
Serving as “a common target for any and all Judenhass [Jew hatred],” Ahasuerus “enjoyed a burst of popularity” between 1890 and 1920 in Germany, says Brichetto. Der Ewige Jude—the Eternal Jew—as the Germans called him, “was as likely to turn up in a third-rate novella as in a satirical cartoon or political diatribe.”
At the same time, Jews—largely in response to the racism—began to claim the Wandering Jew as their own. In certain circles, Hasan-Rokem explains, he had already become “identified with the positive values of individualism, rebellion against religious authorities and authority in general.” Hasan-Rokem offers the example of James Joyce’s Ulysses, which “combines Europe’s two great wanderers: Odysseus and the Wandering Jew.”
Jewish painters such as Marc Chagall and Samuel Hirszenberg, too, were drawn to the character. In 1899, Hirszenberg painted his Wandering Jew, an apocalyptic image in which a Jesus-like figure is represented as “a desperate, old Polish Jew whose suffering saves no one,” says Brichetto. Chagall’s Jews came to represent “the quintessential Wandering Jews of the 20th century, reflecting political and existential exile.”
Not surprisingly, Nazis resurrected the Wandering Jew to portray Jews as cultural parasites whose values and character traits ran counter to the Aryan ideal. But although the figure continues to function as a catalyst of hate, appearing, for example, on neo-Nazi websites, its original meaning has begun to recede into history. A wanderer, after all, is not necessarily a negative thing or even uniquely Jewish. “There is no single archetypal figure,” says Jay Geller, professor of modern Jewish culture at Vanderbilt University, who explains that there are also non-Jewish variants such as the Flying Dutchman and the Ancient Mariner.
Today the term is popular with Jewish travelers and travel writers, which Brichetto applauds. She believes it’s important for Jews to continue to imbue the Wandering Jew with positive meanings in order to counter its ugly past. “We should use it,” says Brichetto, “but we should always question it: Who is using the term and why?”
From Personal Experience to National Identity: 1930’s-1960’s
Leopold Krakauer, Jesus/Tree
The “Jesus/Tree” series by Leopold Krakauer (1890–1954) reveals a complex relationship between this architect-artist from Vienna and the landscape in which the story of Jesus is set. Against dark, turbulent backgrounds, the olive tree, a symbol of the East, is fused with the figure of Jesus – who became a Western symbol, but whose roots likewise lie in the East. The first work in the series dates back to 1927, three years after Krakauer’s arrival, while the final drawings are from 1940–41.
Living in Jerusalem, Krakauer was inspired by its olive trees, including those in the Valley of the Cross, where, according to Christian tradition, the Romans cut down the tree from which they fashioned the cross. But his bleak depictions lack the hope for salvation that Christianity associates with the crucifixion: although an instrument of death, the cross symbolizes life and atonement for the Original Sin of having eaten from the Tree of Knowledge. That comfort is lacking here. Adapting to his new environment and presumably influenced by the troubled events of his time, Krakauer evokes the suffering of Jesus in portrayals of an anguished Jerusalem landscape.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)
Leopold Krakauer, Jesus Tree, 1949
Chalk on paper
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Extended loan from Trude Dothan, Jerusalem
“And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”
– Deuteronomy 21v22-23
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:”
– Galatians 3v13
“If any man has committed a sin worthy of death, let him be hanged on a tree…Christ became a curse for us…cursed is everyone that hangs on a tree.”
What an amazing incident from Scripture. This passage from the law tells that those who have committed a sin worthy of death were to be hanged on a tree. Crucifixion, the Roman method of execution was unknown at the time. Here was prophesied one of the most dramatic aspects of the death of Christ for us.
Those who were to be hung on a tree were accursed, guilty of a sin worthy of death. Jesus was deserving on neither of these. Yet, He was hung on a tree, cursed and seemingly guilty.
It is almost beyond our comprehension what had to happen for Jesus to find Himself on the cross. Jesus had to take all of our guilt on Himself, becoming accursed for us and bearing our curse on the cross. The One who committed no sin worthy of death hung on the cross for all who do commit sin worthy of death. This is the epitome of love!
Praise God that Jesus took my place on the tree. May I live a life of gratitude to me!
One of the ways that the Romans crucified their victims was to strip the branches of an olive tree and impale the body on it by stretching out the arms and attaching them to part of the tree. This concept fits in perfectly with Leopold Krakauer visual interpretation of the crucifixion of Jesus.
The prophet Isaiah say,
Isaiah 53:5New King James Version (NKJV)
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He wasbruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
If Jesus did this for us, then how should we respond?
We should not be ashamed whether we are Jewish or Gentile to bow the knee and embrace him as Lord and Messiah:
What is the sinner’s prayer?
The sinners prayer is a Christian term for a prayer that is said when someone wants to repent of their sin, ask God for forgiveness and state belief in the life, death, and saving resurrection of Jesus Christ. Romans 10:9-10 says that “if you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
Millions of people world-wide have come to a saving relationship with God through Yeshua the Messiah. He is the only true mediator between God and humankind. We are saved not by saying a prayer but rather through repentance and faith that lies behind the prayers that we say.
Here is an example of the sinners prayer that you can address to God in prayer:
A Sinner’s Prayer
Lord Yeshua/ Jesus, I thank you that you are the way, the truth and the life. I invite you to come into my life and save and deliver me from sin and death. I open the door of my heart/ life and by faith I gratefully receive your gift of salvation.I want to trust you as my Lord and Savior. I believe you are the Messiah of Israel and Saviour of the world who died on the cursed tree/ cross and that you cancelled the debt of my sins. Thank you that you are a living Saviour and that you are offering me the gift of eternal life. Come into my heart, Lord Yeshua/ Jesus, and be my Savior. Amen.
Roni interviews Karen Gil about her experience of coming to faith and what it means for a Jewish person to be ‘Born Again.’
While Karen is Jewish the same principles of how to become a believer applies universally to Jews and Gentiles alike – God is the God not only of the Jews but also the Gentiles.
Roni also dispels some popular misconceptions about Zionism and explains that Zionism is a bona fida expression of Jewish Nationalism and that the UN Resolution 3379 passed in November 1974 by the UN General Assembly was a travesty and motivated by those who hate Israel and the Jewish people.
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“Genocide” is a term used to describe violence against members of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group with the intent to destroy the entire group. The word came into general usage only after World War II, when the full extent of the atrocities committed by the Nazi …read more
The Armenian genocide was the ruthless slaughter of millions of Armenians by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire. In 1915, during World War I, leaders of the Turkish government set in motion a plan to expel and massacre Armenians. By the early 1920s, when the massacres and deportations finally ended, between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians were dead, with many more forcibly removed from the country. Today, most historians call this event a genocide: a premeditated and systematic campaign to exterminate an entire people. However, the Turkish government still does not acknowledge the enormity or scope of these events.
The Roots of Genocide: The Ottoman Empire
The Armenian people have made their home in the Caucasus region of Eurasia for some 3,000 years. For some of that time, the kingdom of Armenia was an independent entity: At the beginning of the 4th century A.D., for instance, it became the first nation in the world to make Christianity its official religion.
But for the most part, control of the region shifted from one empire to another. During the 15th century, Armenia was absorbed into the mighty Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman rulers, like most of their subjects, were Muslim. They permitted religious minorities like the Armenians to maintain some autonomy, but they also subjected Armenians, who they viewed as “infidels,” to unequal and unjust treatment.
Christians had to pay higher taxes than Muslims, for example, and they had very few political and legal rights.
In spite of these obstacles, the Armenian community thrived under Ottoman rule. They tended to be better educated and wealthier than their Turkish neighbors, who in turn grew to resent their success.
This resentment was compounded by suspicions that the Christian Armenians would be more loyal to Christian governments (that of the Russians, for example, who shared an unstable border with Turkey) than they were to the Ottoman caliphate.
These suspicions grew more acute as the Ottoman Empire crumbled. At the end of the 19th century, the despotic Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II – obsessed with loyalty above all, and infuriated by the nascent Armenian campaign to win basic civil rights – declared that he would solve the “Armenian question” once and for all.
“I will soon settle those Armenians,” he told a reporter in 1890. “I will give them a box on the ear which will make them…relinquish their revolutionary ambitions.”
The First Armenian Massacre
Between 1894 and 1896, this “box on the ear” took the form of a state-sanctioned pogrom.
In response to large scale protests by Armenians, Turkish military officials, soldiers and ordinary men sacked Armenian villages and cities and massacred their citizens. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were murdered.
In 1908, a new government came to power in Turkey. A group of reformers who called themselves the “Young Turks” overthrew Sultan Abdul Hamid and established a more modern constitutional government.
At first, the Armenians were hopeful that they would have an equal place in this new state, but they soon learned that what the nationalistic Young Turks wanted most of all was to “Turkify” the empire. According to this way of thinking, non-Turks – and especially Christian non-Turks – were a grave threat to the new state.
World War I Begins
In 1914, the Turks entered World War I on the side of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. (At the same time, Ottoman religious authorities declared a holy war against all Christians except their allies.)
Military leaders began to argue that the Armenians were traitors: If they thought they could win independence if the Allies were victorious, this argument went, the Armenians would be eager to fight for the enemy.
As the war intensified, Armenians organized volunteer battalions to help the Russian army fight against the Turks in the Caucasus region. These events, and general Turkish suspicion of the Armenian people, led the Turkish government to push for the “removal” of the Armenians from the war zones along the Eastern Front.
Armenian Genocide Begins
On April 24, 1915, the Armenian genocide began. That day, the Turkish government arrested and executed several hundred Armenian intellectuals.
After that, ordinary Armenians were turned out of their homes and sent on death marches through the Mesopotamian desert without food or water.
Frequently, the marchers were stripped naked and forced to walk under the scorching sun until they dropped dead. People who stopped to rest were shot.
At the same time, the Young Turks created a “Special Organization,” which in turn organized “killing squads” or “butcher battalions” to carry out, as one officer put it, “the liquidation of the Christian elements.”
These killing squads were often made up of murderers and other ex-convicts. They drowned people in rivers, threw them off cliffs, crucified them and burned them alive. In short order, the Turkish countryside was littered with Armenian corpses.
Records show that during this “Turkification” campaign, government squads also kidnapped children, converted them to Islam and gave them to Turkish families. In some places, they raped women and forced them to join Turkish “harems” or serve as slaves. Muslim families moved into the homes of deported Armenians and seized their property.
Though reports vary, most sources agree that there were about 2 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire at the time of the massacre. In 1922, when the genocide was over, there were just 388,000 Armenians remaining in the Ottoman Empire.
Armenian Genocide Today
After the Ottomans surrendered in 1918, the leaders of the Young Turks fled to Germany, which promised not to prosecute them for the genocide. (However, a group of Armenian nationalists devised a plan, known as Operation Nemesis, to track down and assassinate the leaders of the genocide.)
Ever since then, the Turkish government has denied that a genocide took place. The Armenians were an enemy force, they argue, and their slaughter was a necessary war measure.
Today, Turkey is an important ally of the United States and other Western nations, and so their governments have likewise been reluctant to condemn the long-ago killings. In March 2010, a U.S. Congressional panel at last voted to recognize the genocide.
However, little has changed in Turkey: Despite pressure from Armenians and social justice advocates throughout the world, it’s still illegal in Turkey to talk about what happened to Armenians during that era.
From December, 2016 at the Israel Museum an exhibit, Jesus comes back to the Jews, was boldly featured by the museum’s art curator, Amatai Mendelsohn. The exhibit featured 150 works by 40 mainly Jewish artists exploring the complex, evolving attitudes of Jewish, Zionist and Israeli artists toward the Christian Saviour. The exhibition concluded on the 22nd April, 2017. A companion book called: Behold the Man: Jesus in Israeli Art, was written by Amatai Mendelsohn.
Adi Nes’s ‘Untitled (Last Supper), planned down to the last plate (Courtesy Israel Museum)
Ms Jessica Steinberg said,
“Jesus and the Jews have had something of a complicated relationship.”
In “Behold The Man: Jesus in Israeli Art,” a new exhibit at the Israel Museum, curator Amatai Mendelsohn examines that complex iconography up close, through the prism of Jewish and Israeli art.
It’s a process Mr Mendelsohn began 10 years ago, when he first laid eyes on an unusual painting by Reuven Rubin, the famed Israeli artist and pioneer. (You may view my programme in Behold the Man series in which I feature Rubin’s work0.
At the time, Mendelsohn was working on an exhibit about Rubin, “Prophets and Visionaries: Reuven Rubin’s Early Years: 1914-23,” and stumbled upon one of Rubin’s earliest self-portraits, in which he mimics aspects of a Jesus figure, as he, the subject, stares down at his bloodied hands.
“Rubin was attracted to Jesus, and that intrigued me,” he said. “Now I know how many Jewish artists dealt with the figure of Jesus.”
In one of the main gallery halls, the exhibit features the 150 works by some 40 artists, in which the evolving attitudes of Jewish, Zionist and Israeli artists toward Jesus is on display..
There are the classic works that place Christian-inspired images in classically Zionist settings, in which Jesus becomes a metaphor for the rebirth of the Jewish people in the Promised Land, and more contemporary, 20th- and 21st-century Israeli artists, who saw Jesus as a more familiar symbol of personal and universal suffering.
The show, which opened in December, brings together works from the museum’s collections and from private and public collections in Israel, as well as several pieces borrowed from the National Museum in Warsaw and Centre Pompidou in Paris. The exhibit is open until April 22, 2017.
It’s a collection of works that Mendelsohn, who has been a curator at the Israel Museum for 20 years, has thought about for much of that time.
“For me, the art history process starts when I see something as part of my daily museum activity,” he said. “It’s a question of how religion and art connect.”
In order to tackle the many works dealing with Jesus, Mendelsohn divided the exhibit into sections, looking at Jesus deployed as a problematic figure in Jewish history, Jesus as the enemy, as a symbol of anti-Semitism, and as someone who had a “huge effect on Jewish existence,” he said.
Christ before his Judges
Maurycy Gottlieb – Christ preaching at Capernaum
The exhibit begins with “Jesus Preaching in Capernaum,” the last, unfinished piece from 1879 by Maurycy Gottlieb, the Polish artist who died at just 23, and is perhaps best known for his famed Yom Kippur painting. This work resembles that peace, with a similar composition, as it is set in a synagogue, albeit in Kfar Nahum or Capernaum, the northern Galilean town where Jesus famously preached.
Featuring Jesus in the centre with a mix of congregants listening to him, Gottlieb looked at Jesus as a Jew, and as a possible bridge between Christians and Jews, perhaps harkening to what could happen in his native Poland.
“It sets a tone for the show,” said Mendelsohn. “Here was Jesus, and he had a moral, universal, humanistic message.”
It’s a message that echoes the thoughts of German-Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelsohn — whom the curator is not related to — who saw Jesus as a moral Jew, as a prophet, perhaps one of the greatest Jews, but not as God.
“It takes Jesus back to the Jews,” said Mendelsohn.
To the right of Gottlieb’s work is “In the Shadow of the Cross,” a massive piece by Polish painter Samuel Hirszenberg, who worked a generation later. Taking a far darker, more sinister look, the Zionist painter created a difficult image of a wandering Jew, barely dressed, wandering among corpses in a cemetery.
It hung in the original Bezalel art school building in Jerusalem for many years, portraying the emergence of the Zionist movement, said Mendelsohn, and the early pioneers’ escape from Europe and anti-Semitism.
The third wall of the first section is completed with Chagall’s “Yellow Crucifixion” from 1942, depicting a Jew with the halo of a Christian saint, wearing phylacteries.
“Many don’t know that Chagall was attracted to and obsessed by Jesus as a figure of Jewish pain and suffering,” said Mendelsohn.
So was Rubin, apparently. One section of the exhibit is devoted to several of his paintings, beginning with that early self-portrait that looks quite different from his other works, noted Mendelsohn.
“When I looked at this, I thought it was a strange Rubin,” he said. “It was all about his agony. Rubin was very interested in the story of Jesus.”
It was painted during Rubin’s early period when he spent some time in New York after 10 years in Romania and a year before that in pre-state Palestine.
That piece is followed by others from Rubin, including one of an old, religious Jew sitting on a bench with a resurrected Jesus, and others featuring a Madonna, lolling on what looks like the shore of the Galilee, with a baby that could be the baby Jesus reborn in the land of the Jews.
“It’s resurrection of the birth of the baby, all about new beginnings,” said Mendelsohn.
A painting by Moshe Castel, who was born in Ottoman-era Palestine to a religious family, was discovered recently in a locked cupboard of the Moshe Castel Museum of Art in Ma’ale Adumim. It was painted after the artist’s newborn baby and wife died following childbirth.
The painter, who lived in Safed, secluded himself in a monastery and painted the dark, sad self-portrait that mimics other art of Jesus as the long-suffering, misunderstood prophet.
As the exhibit moves into more modern times, there are different sides of Jesus portrayed as well. Yigal Tumarkin, an immigrant from Germany whose father wasn’t Jewish, looks at the crucifixion in his rough, sharp-edged sculpture made from salvaged goods found in Bedouin camps, as he interpreted the tensions in Israeli society and prototypes of Christian art.
Moshe Gershuni’s exhibited works focus primarily on the blood of the crucifixion, perhaps creating a new testament between him and the Israeli public after he came out of the closet as gay, conjectured Mendelsohn.
There are photographs of performance art by multimedia artist Motti Mizrachi, who is disabled, and walked down the Via Dolorosa in 1973 with a cross on his back. Another set of photographs juxtapose a newspaper photograph of a dead Palestinian man being carried during the First Intifada, with the famed paintings of the disciples carrying the crucified Jesus.
The exhibit ends with the now-famous photo by Nes Adi, “Untitled (Last Supper),” a staged photo of Israeli soldiers eating a mess-hall dinner that echoes the “Last Supper” painting by Leonardo da Vinci.
Then there is the video installation by sculptor and installation artist Sigalit Landau, who filmed a series at the Dead Sea, including a piece depicting her floating on a whole watermelon. It conjures images of Mary with Jesus, as Landau’s hands are stretched to the sides, evoking the cross.
“Israelis are funny about Jesus,” said Mendelsohn. “But when we scrape the surface, we realise that there is a lot of Christian imagery all around us, even if we’re unaware of it.”
“Behold The Man: Jesus in Israeli Art,” Israel Museum, open until April 22, 2017.
Art and Theatre
With the depiction of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, there is a great danger of causing offence – particularly if this is done in a satirical or a mocking caricature of them. Jews, Christians and Moslems do not take kindly to such renderings. Anger, disgust, protest, rage and violence may result from those who have been offended, expressing outrage towards the artist and media personnel who are involved in publicising the offensive material. This is the recent response to the McJesus sculpture and the Charlie Hebdo cartoon – the Christian reaction was comparatively mild and measured in comparison to the cartoon depiction of the Prophet of Islam:
McJesus’ sculpture sparks outrage among Haifa’s Christians
Arab Christians call for the removal of sculpture that portrays Ronald McDonald as Jesus on the cross; on Friday, protesters hurled a firebomb and stones at the museum, wounding 3 police officers.
[Associated Press |Published: 01.15.19 , 16:23]
An art exhibit featuring a crucified Ronald McDonald has sparked protests by Haifa’s Arab Christian minority.
Hundreds of Christians calling for the removal of the sculpture, entitled “McJesus,” demonstrated at the museum in the northern city on Friday. The police said rioters hurled a firebomb at the museum and threw stones that wounded three police officers. Authorities dispersed the crowds with tear gas and stun grenades.
Church representatives brought their grievances to the district court Monday, demanding it order the removal of the exhibit’s most offensive items, including Barbie doll renditions of a bloodied Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
Charlie Hebdo: from the French ‘Charlie Weekly,’ is a French satirical weekly magazine, featuring cartoons, reports, polemics, and jokes. Irreverent and stridently non-conformist in tone, the publication describes itself as above all secular, skeptic, and atheist, far-left-wing, and anti-racist publishing articles about the extreme right (especially the French nationalist National Front party), religion (Catholicism, Islam, Judaism), politics and culture.
The magazine has been the target of two terrorist attacks, in 2011 and 2015. Both were presumed to be in response to a number of controversial Muhammad cartoons it published. In the second of these attacks, 12 people were killed, including publishing director Charb and several other prominent cartoonists.
Charlie Hebdo first appeared in 1970 as a companion to the monthly Hara-Kiri magazine, after a previous title was banned for mocking the death of former French President Charles de Gaulle. In 1981 publication ceased, but the magazine was resurrected in 1992. Its current editor-in-chief is Gérard Biard. The previous editors were François Cavanna (1970–1981) and Philippe Val (1992–2009). The magazine is published every Wednesday, with special editions issued on an unscheduled basis.
Monopoly Board Game Parody of Jewish Control of World Finances
ZOG – Zionist Occupied Government that controls the world
Equally, to single out Jews for ridicule and to hold to anti-Semitic and conspiracy theories that claim that they control world finances and governments – called ZOG. Alas, even Jeremy Corbyn’s the Labour leader was slow to condemn such ideas:
A Step too far
No serious minded person likes folk to poke fun or ridicule at that which is sacred to them, because of their particular faith – Jews, Christians and Moslems each have their redlines that when folk cross them they voice their opposition as is the case of the two examples given above:
Prophet Muhammad depicted wearing a turban that in the shape of a bomb.
Ant-Semitic Monopoly board game mural
While satire and humour may be part of expression of free-speech, however, for some folk there is definitely a crossover point where those who are ridiculing that which fundamental to their faith go too far and they result in giving offence. This is clearly so in these cases that I have given, as well as to perpetuate anti-Semitic tropes as depicted in the last two image above.
Art as self-expression:
You will recall that I did a series of programmes during 2017 on the image of Jesus in Jewish and Israeli art. These were based upon the book by Amatai Mendelsohn –
Behold the Man: Jesus in Israeli Art
Various aspects of this subject were considered over a number of months on my blog. One example is –
Behold the Man: Between Judaism, Zionism, and Christianity
Art that is true art is not simply a dispassionate and visual depiction of a given subject. For the true artist, for her or his work to have a significant impact, it must generally convey something of the artist who created the piece of work – this is equally true when we think about the amazing world in which we live. There is an intelligence behind it that thinks and feels [mind and heart – will and emotions] and those who believe, call the ONE the Creator G_D. For we do not live in a random universe, but it has a perfect order and design, like the fingerprints of the sculptor or brush strokes of the painter.
I recall the work of the sculptor Babara Hepworth who drew her inspiration from the costal environment in which she lived. The crashing of the sea sculpting the rock formation in the cove near where she lived is reflected the awesome beauty that the motion of the sea carved from the rocks. Her inspired work reflects this starkness of the visual and audio impressions that were imprinted on her mind and reflected in her sculptures.
There is a risky and challenging undertaking that faces the Jewish and Israeli artist who seeks to depict Jesus, with the attendant danger and scope for being misunderstood. Both Marc Chagall and Mark Anatokolsky both faced severe criticism for depicting a Jewish looking Jesus – “Why did you paint/sculpture Christ?” said their fellow Jews and “Why did you paint/sculpture Christ like that?” said gentiles when confronted with a very Jewish looking Jesus. No one said that it would be easy, but then artist are often people who challenge the status quo and press the margins of what folk perceive as being acceptable. May one say that they live dangerously. Like the Chinese Chinese avant garde artist Wi Wi who was driven into exile for his challenging the authoritarian communist rule in his native China.
From Personal Experience to National Identity
Moshe Castel, Crucifixion, ca. 1948. Ink on paper, 30 x 21 cm. The Moshe Castel Museum of Art, Ma’ale Adumim, Israel
Moshe Castel 1900 – 1991, was born in Israel to Jewish parents that had lived in the Jerusalem for many generations. However, he lived in Paris from 1927 – 1940. Although his paintings dealt with general themes, in the European expressionistic style, when he returned to Israel, he did two paintings of deep significance related to our theme of Jesus in Jewish and Israeli art – they we both depicted a crucifixion of Jesus.
Paintings in sequence: Chaim Soutine 1 and 2, 3; Francis Bacon 4, 5, 6, & 7
As I have said above that the personal life of the artist almost always has an impact upon the content that is portrayed, relating to personal events and impressions.
Painting by Roni Mechanic
Take for example this painting done by me – you will notice that there are the image of three fish. On closer examination, there is a large whale above a dolphin and in the bottom left hand corner there is a shark. My wife Elisheva pointed out to me that she thought that the picture expressed a turbulent time that I had been facing and that the whale symbolised G_D’s protection over me, the dolphin, that was being threatened by the shark. I had not consciously painted these three fish with that in mind, but I had to agree with her summation of the imagery in the painting.
Similarly, Moshe Castel’s Crucifixion paintings gave expression to a very painful episode in his personal life. He painted these in 1948, when he withdrew from public life, spending a year in a monastery on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. This retreat took place after the death of his wife who died giving birth, and their child who died some three years later. It is in an expressive style, very similar to the work of Chaim Soutine. We should note that the third painting by Soutine of the human butchered body is echoed in Francis Bacon’s work – [See panel above for examples of their work]Castel depicts himself as the crucified Jesus, against a background of mountains on a stormy night. The depiction is reminiscent of Matthias Groenewolt’s Isenheim crucifixion.
In Castel’s depiction of Jesus, the face is that of the artist himself and the artist himself:
What Moshe Castel has done is not unique, Paul Gauguin did that as well in his Yellow Crucifixion. Vincent van Gogh’s Peita and Marc Chagall spoke of himself in his anguish as an artist as if he were being crucified. This type of portrayal of the artist as if he were Christ is a way of attempting to describe the depth of their personal anguish. It is particularly significant that Jewish and Israeli artist feel at liberty to cross this threshold of depicting Jesus’ crucified as not only an image of their own suffering, but equally as Chagall had done of Jewish suffering in general.
Van Gogh – Peita
Amatai Mendelsohn says, that it is apparent that an enormous emotional investment went into this surprising painting by Castel. One wonders if his time in the Catholic monastery had an influence upon him. This is pure conjecture on my part, but it does not completely surprise me that he should have painted this crucifixion that is at the heart of the Catholic and Christian/Messianic faith. All the more so that these images of the crucified Christ were never seen during the artist life, as the were found locked away in a cupboard in his home after his death.
A great taboo surrounds the question of Jewish and Israeli artist daring to depict the figure and person of Jesus still to this day. Mendelsohn continues in his discussion, that the inscription that went above the painting was planned in two preparatory sketches in which Castle used the proper Hebrew name for Jesus in place of the INRI – he wrote “Yeshua” instead of the “Yeshu,” that is often said and written derisively and is an acronym for “may his name and memory be obliterated.” As I have conjectured, Mendelsohn says, this suggests that the painter’s positive view, rather than the usual Jewish revolution towards Jesus’ name is implied by Castel’s rendering of it.
George Rouault Christ de face [detail]
This second painting by Moshe Castle [see below on blog], also unknown to critics or the public is a depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus, the head surrounded by a halo, and a cloth wrapped around his loins, suggesting a prayer shawl – tallit. Also included is the figure of a Jewish man wearing a skull-cap and a Jewish woman standing beneath the cross on which Jesus hung. There is a third figure with his back to the viewers, also wearing a skull cap. Two angels hover beneath the hands of the crucified figure.
In Paris, Castel had met Chagall and Soutine, and other Jewish artist of the Jewish School of Paris.
André Warnod, Les Berceaux de la jeune peinture (1925). Cover illustration by Amedeo Modigliani
The Paris “Jewish” School
The term “School of Paris” was used in 1925 by André Warnod [fr] to refer to the many foreign-born artists who had migrated to Paris. The term soon gained currency, often as a derogatory label by critics who saw the foreign artists—many of whom were Jewish—as a threat to the purity of French art. Art critic Louis Vauxcelles, noted for coining the terms “Fauvism” and “Cubism”, also meant disparagingly, called immigrant artists unwashed “Slavs disguised as representatives of French art”. Waldemar George, himself a French Jew, in 1931 lamented that the School of Paris name “allows any artist to pretend he is French…it refers to French tradition but instead annihilates it.”
School of Paris artists were progressively marginalised. Beginning in 1935 art publications no longer wrote about Chagall, just magazines for Jewish audiences, and by June 1940 when the Vichy government took power, School of Paris artists could no longer exhibit in Paris at all.
The artists working in Paris between World War I and World War II experimented with various styles including Cubism, Orphism, Surrealism and Dada. Foreign and French artists working in Paris included Jean Arp, Joan Miró, Constantin Brâncuși, Raoul Dufy, Tsuguharu Foujita, artists from Belarus like Michel Kikoine, Pinchus Kremegne, and Jacques Lipchitz, the Polish artist Marek Szwarc and others such as Russian-born prince Alexis Arapoff.
A significant subset, the Jewish artists, came to be known as the Jewish School of Paris or the School of Montparnasse. The “core members were almost all Jews, and the resentment expressed toward them by French critics in the 1930s was unquestionably fuelled by anti-Semitism.” One account points to the 1924 Salon des Indépendants, which decided to separate the works of French-born artists from those by immigrants; in response critic Roger Allard [fr] referred to them as the School of Paris. Jewish members of the group included Emmanuel Mané-Katz, Chaim Soutine, Adolphe Féder, Chagall, Moïse Kisling, Maxa Nordau and Shimshon Holzman.
The artists of the Jewish School of Paris were stylistically diverse. Some, like Louis Marcoussis, worked in a cubist style, but most tended toward expression of mood rather than an emphasis on formal structure. Their paintings often feature thickly brushed or troweled impasto. The Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme has works from School of Paris artists including Pascin, Kikoine, Soutine, Orloff and Lipschitz.
In the aftermath of the war, “nationalistic and anti-Semitic attitudes were discredited, and the term took on a more general use denoting both foreign and French artists in Paris”. But although the “Jewish problem” trope continued to surface in public discourse, art critics ceased making ethnic distinctions in using the term. While in the early 20th century French art critics contrasted The School of Paris and the École de France, after World War II the question was School of Paris vs School of New York.
Post-World War II (Après-guerre), the term “School of Paris” often referred to tachisme, and lyrical abstraction, a European parallel to American Abstract Expressionism. These artists are also related to CoBrA. Important proponents were Jean Dubuffet, Pierre Soulages, Jean-Michel Coulon, Nicolas de Staël, Hans Hartung, Serge Poliakoff, Bram van Velde, Georges Mathieu, Jean Messagier and Zoran Mušič, among others. Many of their exhibitions took place at the Galerie de France in Paris, and then at the Salon de Mai where a group of them exhibited until the 1970s.
Moshe Castel’s second painting of The Crucifixion, 1940 – 1945, is a watercolour on paper, mounted on canvas, 50 x 36 cms, The Moshe Castel Meseum of Art, Ma’ale Adumim.
This painting was influenced by Marc Chagall and by George Henri Rousalt (see detail of the head of Christ, above).
George Henri Rousalt
Chagall’s White Crucifixion is the most important painting of the crucified Jewish Christ of the Paris Jewish School.
The Expressionistic style of Rousalt, was influenced by religious icons and medieval artistic rendering of Biblical New Testament themes. The use of heavy bold colours, shapes and lines giving expression to the emotion and the drama of the death of Jesus.
While the depiction of the image of humans and the divine was forbidden in Judaism, Jewish artist looked elsewhere for references to be able to depict biblical and religious themes. What makes the Paris Jewish School’s work unique is that these Jewish artists were not under the constraint of the Jewish religious establishment who would have disapproved of their rendering of the image if Jesus in particular. One should note that Marc Chagall’s windows at the Jerusalem Hadassah Hospital of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, is largely abstract in its rendering of these biblical themes.
The Measure of the Person
Apart from Moshe Castel’s two Crucifixion paintings and a few sketches, he did not publicly paint any images of Jesus in his work. He was the son of a respected rabbi, and he was intimately familiar with his religious and cultural Jewish heritage. In his art he explored the Jewish Bible, mysticism, and other Jewish themes. The enigma of what inspired him to pain these two Crucifixions after he left Paris and returned to Eretz-Israel, remains unanswered. What I personally find fascinating that in the desire to express his deepest, private pain and loss, he turned to the theme off the crucifixion of Jesus.
Amatai Mendelsohn suggests that a reason for this, may be found in his bitter anger towards the Jewish G_D. How ironic that while he sought to give expression to his anger towards HaShem, who he must have felt had abandoned him, nonetheless, he turns to his Jewish Son, who was despised and rejected by Jew and gentile alike. This private anger towards God and fascination with Jesus, may suggest his ambivalence and fear about identifying himself publicly with an image that traditionally was considered as idolatrous. He did not stand alone for there were other Jewish people like Uri Zvi Greenberg, the poet, who was also drawn to his “brother’ on the cross, and this included Aharon Kabak, whose novel on the life of Jesus, also rose out of tragic personal loss.
Looking UNTO Jesus
Jewish people like so many others in their darkest hour of loss and despair have turned to Jesus – Yeshua and found him as their Messiah and Lord. Was this the case of Moshe Castel’s darkest secret that only emerged after his death? Locked away in a hidden cupboard, but there in the hidden chambers of his heart was the Saviour who was able to give him comfort and hope.
The prophet Zechariah says,
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son: (12:10).
Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12:
Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.
As many were astounded at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:
So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opens not his mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
You too can make the awesome discovery that the Suffering Sevant of G_D is both Lord and Messiah.This is a reality that countless Jews and gentiles testify to.
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