The “Second Exodus” of the Egyptian JewsPosted: 2014/02/03
Text: Solveig Hansen
Of the approx. 100,000 Jews that were deported from Egypt following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, half found refuge in Israel. 73 of the stories are chronicled in the newly released The Golden Age of the Jews from Egypt – Uprooting and Revival in Israel. On their force emigration, they had to leave all their property behind and were issued exit passes on which was written: “With No Return.”
Most of the accounts are in Hebrew while a few are in French. The Introduction to the book by its Editor, Dr. Ada Aharoni, is published below. Also listen to the Radio IFLAC interview with Dr. Aharoni, Dr. Sara Zamir (lecturer at Ben-Gurion University) and singer and composer Shoshya Beeri-Dotan on the book:
(Beeri-Dotan is the singer of many of Aharoni’s poems put to music and released on the CD “Rare Flower.”)
The Golden Age of the Jews from Egypt
Uprooting and Revival in Israel
Dr. Ada Aharoni
“The Golden Age of the Jews from Egypt – Uprooting and Revival in Israel,” is a unique book in its genre. It chronicles a dramatic period of historical events – mainly the Uprooting of the flourishing Jewish Community in Egypt, in the second half of the 20th century. This major catastrophe that almost disappeared from history, from literature and from the narrative of the Jewish people, is in this present study saved from the danger of vanishing into oblivion.
The destruction of the ancient and prosperous Jewish Community in Egypt, which was more than 2000 years old, is factually delineated in the present book, through seventy three authentic personal narratives of people and families who were themselves painfully uprooted from Egypt, the country in which they were born, during “The Second Exodus.” On the one hand, the book chronicles the “Golden Age” before 1948, of the exemplary Jewish Community in Egypt, and its ensuing destruction, and on the other hand, it describes the hardships of emigration of the Jews from Egypt, followed by their remarkable successful renewal and integration in Israel. It also delineates their impressive contribution to the State of Israel in many fields: agriculture, economy, security, education, academy, medicine, law, culture, literature, music and art.
The rich mosaic of the seventy three moving narratives in which past and present are interwoven, is powerful and fascinating. The stories shed light on the rich cultural life of the Jews in Egypt during the golden years, and their painful and cruel experience of uprooting and displacement starting in 1948. Through the stories of the survivors of the uprooting, we experience the deep pain and humiliation of losing one’s home and world. The remarkable stories are accompanied by pictures from the “Golden Age” in Egypt, as well as documents and certificates pertaining to the shameful uprooting and banishment from the land where they were born. On being forced to leave Egypt, the immigrants had to abandon all their property, and they were issued exit passes on which was written – “With No Return.”
The ability of the Jews from Egypt to face their misery and hardships as immigrants, and on the other hand, their remarkable adjustment and contribution to Israel, is narrated with honesty, truthfulness and authenticity, which allowed us to check our hypothesis.
Our working hypothesis at the beginning of our research was that the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was the major cause for the uprooting of the Jews from Egypt and the destruction of the Jewish Community in Egypt. We checked our hypothesis in narrative after narrative, closely examining data, facts and dates, and we discovered the blatant proof in story after story, that the establishment of the State of Israel was indeed the major cause of the uprooting and the destruction of the Jewish Community in Egypt.
The abolition of the Jewish community in Egypt is an example of what happened in every one of the Jewish communities in Arab countries, such as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, where over – 900,000 brutally persecuted Jews, became destitute refugees. Thus the present book reveals an important, however, much neglected aspect of the Arab – Israeli Conflict, namely, the ethnic cleansing of Jews in the Arab countries – where they had been living for centuries – in the second half of the twentieth century.
After the founding of the State of Israel, a wave of anti-Jewish terror invaded the Jewish Community in Egypt. There were bloody attacks by the crowd, discriminating laws by the authorities, and imprisonment of Jews in concentration camps. By 1949, almost half of the Jews from Egypt realized they did not have a future in Egypt anymore, and they left with only their shirts on their backs.
Every war with Israel created a new wave of discrimination, banishment and forced emigration from Egypt. During the Sinai War of 1956, there was a mass expulsion of Jews, and the deportees were forced to leave with only one suitcase and 20 Egyptian pounds, leaving behind all their possessions, their culture and their way of life. When they exited at the Port of Alexandria, they were subdued to shameful treatment and humiliation by the custom officials and the immigration police. All this is poignantly related in the moving narratives in the current book.
During the 1967 War, all the Jewish men from the age of 15 were imprisoned in infamous prisons, such as: Abu Zaabel and Toura. There they underwent cruel hardships and terrible torture, until they were eventually thrown out of Egypt, with nothing but their deep wounds. Thus the ancient, rich and model community of the Jews from Egypt with its 100,000 Jews that lived there in 1948 was destroyed. In this way, a major chapter in the history of the Jewish people came to its sad end.
The present book is a founding stone for the study of the Jewish Community in Egypt that is no more. It is an important factual document that will help researchers and historians to study in depth this once exemplary community that has disappeared. Sixty nine of the stories in the book are written in Hebrew, and five of them are written in French.
In the appendix, we included important documents, as well as a plea to the Israeli government to establish a National Memorial Day to commemorate the destruction of the community of the Jews from Egypt and from other Arab Countries, in the second half of the 20th century.
Despite the deep pain and unbearable hardships which the Jews of Egypt went through when they were uprooted and had to flee from Egypt, they do not have hatred in their hearts; they are peace loving people who believe in mankind and in the importance of peace. The Palestinians should learn from the experience of the Jews from Egypt, and try to imitate them. Despite the fact that the Jews of Egypt lost everything when they were uprooted and their community was destroyed, they did not wage any war or “Intifada” on anybody; they started all over again and built fruitful and peaceful lives for themselves, their families and their community.
With the help of the present book “The Golden Age of the Jews from Egypt – Uprooting and Revival in Israel,” the history, culture and heritage of the Jews from Egypt, will be included in the Heritage Tree of the People of Israel for our children and for future generations.
Dr. Ada Aharoni
Editor and Director of the Book and Project
“The Golden Age of the Jews from Egypt –
Uprooting and Revival in Israel,”
President of the Second World Congress
of the Jews from Egypt – the WCJE 2006