Text: Solveig Hansen
“The Golden Age of the Jews from Egypt – Uprooting and Revival in Israel” was launched on September 1 at the Writer’s House in Tel Aviv. Edited by Ada Aharoni, the book tells the stories of some of the families that were forced to leave Egypt after the State of Israel was founded in 1948.
The 2,000 year old Jewish community in Egypt is almost extinct. Out of the 100,000 Jews in 1948, only 12 old ladies are left in the whole country today, as seen in the BBC report Egypt’s Jewish community’s lost future.
The book is mostly written in Hebrew, with an introduction in English. The e-book edition is available for free reading.
At the launch, Zvi Skolnick sang “No Talking,” one of Ada Aharoni’s poems, in Hebrew. She wrote this poem during the 2008-09 Gaza War. It could have been written today. Play it:
By Ada Aharoni
The politicians decided
We do not talk with the enemy
We will beat them because they attack us
We will shed their blood
and that of their leaders
But most of all –
In the meantime, in Sderot in Israel
And in the heart of Gaza
Blood flows and legs are blown away
And little eight-year-old
Twitee from Sderot
And Mohamed from Gaza
Will not play football anymore
How can we convince violent leaders
To talk and not to shoot?
I watch from the side
At the tragic hen and egg situation
And weep together with all the sorrowful
People from both sides
But still, first and foremost –
Text: Solveig Hansen
In this interview, Motti Gerner talks with Prof. Ada Aharoni, Dr. Sara Zamir and singer and composer Shoshya Beeri-Dotan about the newly released book The Golden Age of the Jews from Egypt, edited by Prof. Aharoni. This book documents the stories of 73 individuals and families who were ousted from Egypt following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
Among the topics discussed is the refugee situation, with so many Palestinians still living in refugee camps. By raising awareness of the mutual history of Jews and Palestinians and the mutual uprooting the book can play a part in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, says Aharoni, who has been researching the forced migration of the Jews from Arab countries in the 20th century.
They also discussed the need for mutual recognition between the two peoples. According to Dr. Zamir, lecturer at Ben-Gurion University, some of the main obstacles to peace education are mistrust towards the peace process, and stereotyping, demonization and de-humanizing of the other party.
Shoshya Beeri-Dotan is the singer of many of Aharoni’s poems put to music and released on the CD Rare Flower.
Universal Obstacles to Peace Education – included in UNESCO-EOLSS (Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems)
The PowerPoint presentation below is from a lecture held by Prof. Ada Aharoni on the uprooting of the Jews from Arab countries in the mid 1900’s. She argues that the knowledge of this banishment, the “Second Exodus,” can be a strong element for the reconciliation and peace between Palestinians and Israelis. It would help both sides to discover their common history.
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
Text: Ada Aharoni
IFLAC has launched a new project, called The Golden Book of the Jews of Egypt: My Own Second Exodus, that can pave the road to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Out of the 100,000 Jews living in Egypt in the mid-twenties, only twenty old Jews are left there today, after their tragic uprooting. IFLAC is collecting the stories of “The Second Exodus of the Jews from Egypt,” and will publish them in a “Golden Book” in 2012. These stories will help to promote peace between Jews and Arabs, and Israelis and Palestinians, as they will clearly show that the Palestinians were not the only victims of an uprooting during the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
The Jews from Egypt and from other Arab countries were a million when they were uprooted, whereas the Palestinians, who fled Israel at the same time, were according to UNRWA 650,000. The property of the Jews from Arab countries, who are today almost half the citizens of Israel, was hundreds of times more than the property of the Palestinians (according to the International Court at The Hague). Yet the Jews from Arab countries in Israel have not made any Intifada, and only want peace with their Palestinian neighbors.
When Palestinians read about the historical facts above, their reaction in general, is: “So you have already paid for the ‘Sulha – Reconciliation’ when you had to flee from Arab Countries in the mid-twentieth century and to leave all your property and assets behind! So please tell your story and tell it loud, as it saves our honor and that of our people. It clearly shows we are not the only victims of the Arab-Israeli Conflict!” The important narrative of the uprooting of the Jews from Egypt and from other Arab Countries can pave the road to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
It is urgent to collect these dramatic oral-history narratives before their authors pass away and take their stories with them. We call upon all those who would like to publish their story titled: “My Own Second Exodus” to send it to: email@example.com as soon as possible.
Dr. Ada Aharoni
Editor in Chief: The Golden Book of the Jews from Egypt