Monday, August 14, 2006

Mind the gap...

'Point of return' will be taking a break. Posting will resume in September.

Most Iranian youth disapprove of regime

With the conflict between Iranian-backed Hezbollah and Israel, a local Californian newspaper asks some of the 50,000 Iranian Jews now settled in the state their views on the Iranian regime. (With thanks: Albert)

"I am not torn," said Farzaneh, a 44-year-old Encino mother of three who asked that her last name not be used because she fears retribution against her family in Iran.

"There is a definite distinction between Israel and Iran. I feel connected to Iran culturally. That is where I was born and picked up good, rich, ancient culture. But what Iran's regime has been doing for the last 20 years, I have nothing to identify with."

For half of the 20th century, Iran was a hospitable place for Jews. They had been there for 2,700 years, longer than Jews had remained in any one country.

After Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi came to power in 1941, Jews began to prosper. He gave them their best treatment since the 5th century B.C., when ruler Cyrus the Great freed Jews from captivity in Babylon and allowed them to return to Israel.

But then came the Islamic revolution. The shah was deposed in 1979, and an estimated 70,000 Jews left.

Still, almost 30 years after the revolution, Iranian-American Jews temper what they say about Iran, lest more caustic words cause retaliation against the 20,000 Jews remaining in Iran.

And in the past year tensions have escalated even further as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." He claimed the Holocaust did not occur. And he said the road to peace begins with the obliteration of Israel.

However, scholars see a cause for optimism in Iran.

"The overwhelming majority of youths disapprove of this regime," said Eliz Sanasarian, a University of Southern California political science professor and author of "Religious Minorities in Iran."

"You cannot have this kind of a regime going for another 10 years with this group of young people growing up."

Read article in full

'A good Muslim must be a Zionist ' - The Koran

David Yeagley's piece about the Koran's Zionism was prompted by what he felt was an ignorant and naive interview of Iranian President Ahmadinejad by Mike Wallace of the US TV programme Sixty minutes. (With thanks: Albert)

"The Qur'an doesn't condemn the state of Israel. Why do Muslims become hysterically murderous over it? Yes, the Qur'an sanctions and encourages aversion towards Jews and Christians, but there is no specific injunction of hate toward a nation of Israel. Did the prophet's vision fail to reach modern times? "

"Mike Wallace recently procured with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Wallace gave opportunity for Ahmadinejad to profess a fair and equitable disposition toward the Jews. Why, Iran has no problem with Jews. Look at the large and ancient Jewish population of Iran. Look at the number of Iranian parliamentary seats held by Jews (one, actually - ed).

"It is only the state of Israel that Ahmadinejad condemns. He asks why the Jews insist on a state in the midst of "our Arab homeland." Why can't the Jews have their state in Europe, in Germany, or in the United States?

"Ahmadinejad doesn't want to destroy Jews. He simply doesn't want a state of Jews in the middle of the "Arab homeland."

"This is error on all sides. First of all, the Wallace interview offers a pretentiously naïve view of Iran, Islam, and Ahmadinejad. It intentionally presents a fabricated "good" side, and Wallace insisted on the wonderful humanness of Ahmadinejad. The Iranian madman was cordial, warm, and very rational.

"Secondly, if Wallace is so ignorant of Iranians not to know they are the most charming, magical people in the world, then he shouldn't have gone to Tehran for an interview. He was a dupe from the outset.

"Thirdly, Wallace is so historically ignorant as to accept the false notion that Palestine is Arab homeland, or not to notice that Ahmadinejad identified himself with the Arabs when he is the Persian president of modern Persia (Iran), then Wallace should never have undertaken a conversation.

"Finally, if Wallace is uninformed of the actual teaching of the Qur'an, and the fact that it does not condemn any state of Israel, then he should have consulted with someone before prostrating so pretentiously before the great and mighty Oz of Iran.

"All the Qur'an does say about Jews in Palestine is simply a recount of their original entry into Canaan. "O my people! Enter the holy land which God has assigned unto you" (5:22). "We settled the Children of Israel in a beautiful dwelling place, and provided for them sustenance of the best" (10:93), and "Dwell securely in the land of promise" (17:104). (...)

If the prophet did not condemn Israel for being in Palestine the first time, why do the mullahs get hysterical about the Jews there now?

In 1999, when I visited Astan Quds Razavi University (a Shi’ite theological seminary in Masshad), Professor Khazee Ali pushed the same line. "We have no objection to Jews in Palestine. It is the ruling state of Israel that is unjust and immoral." Fine. Just don't say that's what the Qur'an teaches.

Islamic Professor Abdul Hadi Palazzi is quoted in the July 2, 2001, Washington Times: "A good Muslims must be a Zionist." "Classical Islamic sources do not support the so-called 'Islamic anti-Zionism' preached by radical groups." "The idea of making Islam a factor that prevents Arabs from recognizing any sovereign right of Jews over Palestine is an artificial apparatus that has no precedent in Islamic classical sources." Sheik Palazzi is director of the Cultural Institute of the Italian Islamic Community.

So, Muslims have a choice about what to believe, after all.

On the other hand, the Qur'an leaves the door wide open for the most base anti-Semitism—and hatred of anyone who isn't a Muslim. But that’s another column.

Read article in full

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Iranian Jews feel dutybound to support Israel

An emotional evening (featuring an address by Karnit Goldwasser, wife of one of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers) capped weeks of urgent fundraising on behalf of Israel by the 30,000 strong Iranian Jews living in Southern California and 15,000 Iranian Jews living in New York, the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles reports. (With thanks: Albert)

"The giving has special meaning for Jews who not long ago enjoyed the umbrella of protection Israel offered them while living in Iran. Now, they feel a sense of duty to support Israel at a time when it is being threatened by Iran.

"We are the children of parents who were born and raised in Iran's ghettos during the Holocaust and the subsequent birth of the state of Israel," said Sam Kermanian, secretary general of the IAJF, which is based in Los Angeles. "I think we have a keen understanding of the fact that when the chips fall, the only guarantee against another Holocaust is a strong state of Israel."

"Kermanian said Iranian Jews in Southern California and New York have been quick to stand behind Israel as many frequently do business in Israel and also have family ties with the 200,000 Jews of Iranian decent living there.

"Besides the donations pledged for Israel Monday night, younger Iranian Jews collaborating with the IAJF also raised roughly $170,000."

Read article in full

Charismatic rabbi who fought Iranian antisemitism

Persianrabbi profiles the late Rabbi Uriel Davidi of Tehran, who died in Israel last December. Throughout his youth in the village of Consair, the decades he served as rabbi in Tehran, and even during his final years in Jerusalem, Rabbi Uriel Davidi devoted his every moment and considerable talents to furthering the physical and spiritual well-being of his fellow Iranian Jews. (With thanks: Albert)

"Until the fall of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the Jews of Iran lived like citizens of any Western country. But beginning on the winter day in 1979 when the Shah ran for his life, and the Ayatollah Khomeini returned from France to take over the reins of the country, life changed for the Jews.

"The new government expropriated many industries and properties. Extreme fundamentalist practices of Islam became law in all areas of religion and culture; all opposition was squelched. The Jews of Iran, who had grown accustomed to a westernized lifestyle, realized that while Khomeini might allow them freedom of religion, their lives were now bound by strict limits. Their footsteps were dogged; they were forbidden from emigrating, not to mention moving to Israel. Those who applied to the immigration authorities for passports were turned down outright, or instructed to fill out mountains of paperwork. For all intents and purposes, the Jews were hostages in their own country, held against their will, and all had to pledge their loyalty to the new establishment.

"Very quickly, the tzaddik Rabbi Uriel Davidi comprehended the new and confusing reality. The relatively good times under the Shah had come to an end. Now they had to submit to the whims of the fundamentalist government. Bar-Osher is sure that Rabbi Davidi was able to sense the oncoming revolution, but he didn’t think of himself. Instead, he expended all his efforts on getting Jews out of the country. It was Rabbi Davidi who enabled the Iranian Jews to deal with the new reality and with the new government. (...)

 Life in Tehran presented Rabbi Davidi with endless dilemmas of this sort: what to do, what to say, when to say it, when to remain silent. As local rabbi, he had to deliver the community’s birthday wishes and New Year’s wishes to Khomeini. “At those two events we used to watch how he entered the lions’ den,” Rabbi Kahanian recounts. “He had an amazing ability to say suitable words of Torah which would find a listening ear in our enemy. He also appeared on Iranian television, alongside the Iranian ruler. Of course, the television’s mainstay was fundamentalist-religious propaganda. He often visited the Majlis, the Parliament, and delivered Torah-based lectures that entranced all the Parliament members and ministers.” Rachamim Yaakovian remembers the profundity of Rabbi Davidi’s words. “The Muslims would be openmouthed. How was it that the Jewish chacham was so learned and well versed in their own issues? We often heard them praising our chacham.”

"Menashe Amir, an Israel Radio commentator and expert on Iranian Jewry, feels that Rabbi Davidi’s effectiveness in this area stemmed from his familiarity with Islam, which enabled him to present Jewish ideals in terms familiar to Muslims, and allow them to gain an understanding of the essence of Judaism. “In this way, he made a tremendous contribution to the battle against anti-Semitism and against the negative image of Judaism that the extremist Iranian clerics presented. His lectures in the synagogues were formulated with Muslim listeners in mind, as well, because top government officials would visit the synagogue on Jewish festivals to bless the community.”

"Amir relates that when the Tehran community tried to open a kosher slaughterhouse, extremist Muslims opposed the idea. “There were some Muslims who viewed Jews as ‘impure’ and opposed the establishment of such a slaughterhouse near their own slaughterhouse,” he explains. “Rabbi Davidi discussed the matter with the authorities, and delivered a typically charismatic speech. Once again, he facilitated an understanding between the Jewish organization and the establishment, and the slaughterhouse was approved.”

(...) "Rabbi Davidi did everything he could on behalf of his flock, helping those who were entangled in difficulties with the government to “escape the hangman’s noose,” as his students repeatedly phrased it. He expended every effort to help Jews who were caught attempting to escape. These activities required a very fine balance and great diplomacy, in order to avoid conflicts between the government, with whom he maintained warm ties, and his flock, some of whom hoped to leave the country."

Read article in full

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Jews were sheltered by Shi'a in 1920s

Relations between Jews in Palestine and the Shi'as of south Lebanon were excellent, so much so that Jews fleeing Arab attacks in the 1920s were even given shelter by them. Fascinating article from Haaretz.

. "In February, 1920, one week before the attack on Tel Hai in which early Zionist activist Joseph Trumpeldor and his comrades were killed, 120 farmers and their families left the moshava agricultural community in Metula to seek shelter in neighboring villages. The Galilee panhandle was delivered to the French Mandate (which controlled all of Lebanon and Syria) at the end of World War I. Arabs and Druze fought the French regime, and Jews were sometimes suspected of collaboration with the French. Only three years later, the panhandle became part of the British Mandate.

Meir Ben Dov, 70, an archaeologist and third-generation resident of Metula, is piecing together a book about the moshava and writing down the legendary tales of the evacuation of the farming community. His grandfather and grandmother, members of the celebrated Lishansky family, with other farm families, found a safe haven in the khan (caravansary) in Nabatiya, which then, as now, was the capital of mountainous South Lebanon and mainly inhabited by Lebanese Shi'ites (called mtewleh at the time).

Kfar Giladi residents also left their settlement during those volatile days and found shelter with Shi'ite leader Sheikh Kamal Assad Bek in the village of Taybeh.

Why did escaping Jews choose to seek asylum in these particular settlements? Ben Dov says that Jewish farmers enjoyed far better relations with their Shi'ite neighbors than with any other ethnic group in the region.

The ethno-religious mosaic on the slopes of the Hermon and surrounding mountains was highly varied in those days. There were Druze, left behind when most of their brethren abandoned the region for the East following bloody battles between Druze and Christians in 1860; Bedouin who sold dairy products to families in Metula; Maronite Christians, Catholics, and Greek Orthodox. One of them, a doctor in Marjayoun, treated Ben Dov's grandmother with leeches.

There were Alawites, like Bashar Assad, who became the military elite that controls Syria. Still living in the village of Ghajar, east of Metula, the Alawites were considered unsophisticated rubes because, in addition to other practices, they banged on pots during eclipses of the moon to repel the demon attempting to devour it. The clamor was heard all the way to Metula.

There were Circassian, Kurd, Moughrabi, and Turkmen villages in the Golan and, of course, Sunni Muslims in the eastern town of Rashaya al-Foukhar. Residents of "Rashaya" made ceramic utensils and sold them throughout the region. Nawar, Muslim gypsies, forged iron, sharpened knives, made horseshoes and lined bronze cooking pots with zinc to prevent poisoning.

Ben Dov says that, in many cases, central regimes intentionally settled minority groups in the area because of its strategic location as a point of passage between the coastal plain and interior regions and because minority groups are typically loyal to the government. They tend to fight among themselves but often turn to reigning governments to settle scores between them. This may be why, during the latter years of the Ottoman Empire, rulers allowed Jews, including the farmers in Metula, to settle in the region. There were so many minorities in the area, there might as well be another.

When the Metula farmers returned from exile to the moshava in 1920, they discovered that their Arab neighbors did not loot the farms and did nearly no damage to them. Relations with the neighboring Shi'ite village of Kila were especially warm.

Read article in full

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Anti-Jewish laws and practices in Arab countries

Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, which is leading the November international campaign to raise awareness of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries across 40 countries, has produced a useful chart showing anti-Jewish laws and practices in Arab countries after 1948. The chart covers the following countries: Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen/Aden.

Stripping Jews of citizenship: this happened in all countries except Lebanon and Tunisia.
Arrests and detentions: all countries except Lebanon and Tunisia.
Riots/pogroms: all countries without exception.
Islamic religious restrictions: these were in force in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen.
Zionism a crime: laws were introduced branding Zionism a crime in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco and Syria.
Freedom of movement curtailed: Jews were restricted in Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Syria and Yemen.
Loss of work and employment discrimination: Jews were dismissed and/or banned from certain careers (eg government service) in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria and Yemen.
Freezing of assets: all countries except Morocco.
Confiscation of property: all countries except Morocco.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Iranian Jews in US still love Iran

There is no doubt that Iranian Jews in the US overwhelmingly support Israel's fight against Hezbollah, but they still have affection for the country of Iran. (With thanks: Albert)

"The first Iranian Jews in Great Neck arrived several decades ago, community leaders said, but the influx grew dramatically after the 1979 Iranian revolution brought to power an Islamic regime. Except for the occasional Persian-language store sign, though, there are few signs of the Iranian Jewish presence in Great Neck.

"The Iranian Jews in town are very affluent and tight-knit - some say insular - with their own synagogues and organizations.

"Parents try to transmit their ethnic as well as religious traditions to children, even if it is just through Persian cooking or music. It is not unusual to see Iranian Jews in a rally supporting Israel, which is home to some 200,000 Jews of Iranian descent. At the same time, they may root for Iran in the World Cup.

"We're Jews, but we're Iranian," said Houman Sarshar, a scholar who has written extensively about the community. "Everybody wants their children to speak Persian. Everybody's always reminding each other that they're Iranian. They want their children to marry Iranian Jews."

"Iranian American Jews often note that before 1979, Jews lived relatively freely in Iran and the country had good relations with Israel. They point to 2,700 years of Jewish presence in the Persian land, predating Islam. They also note that at least 25,000 Jews still live in Iran, and that as a religious group, they are technically protected by the country's constitution.

"The position we take is that we support what the majority of the Iranian people want for that country, which in essence translates into the ability of the majority to speak their mind - a democracy," said Sam Kermanian, secretary general of the Los Angeles-based Iranian American Jewish Federation, which also has a New York counterpart.

"Raymond Iryami, a lawyer from Great Neck who serves on the board of the New York federation, said that although Iranian Jews keep both Israel and Iran at the forefront of their identities, the younger generation in particular considers itself very much American, taking an active role in professional and political circles.

"Iranian Jews in the U.S. tend to approach the pro-Israeli cause more quietly than other groups, keeping in mind the safety of the Jews in Iran. The money raised goes to Israel for humanitarian purposes, community leaders said. In the past, when Iran has suffered from earthquakes, the community also raised money to help people there.

"Nahid Rahimian, 36, left Iran almost four years ago and is now in Great Neck. She said the Jewish community in Iran is allowed to worship freely, "but you could only go so far."

"She dreams constantly about Iran but is getting used to life in America. For her, that includes helping Omidvar prepare Payam for his 1,000-plus subscribers. And it means wondering when the latest Middle East crisis will end.

"At the end of the day, everyone just wants peace, she said.

"What if the battle escalates, transforming itself from Israel versus Hezbollah to Israel versus Iran?

"Some Iranian Jews refuse to entertain the hypothetical, saying it is too far-fetched. Others, apparently having heard this question before, pose one in return: "How can one choose between their mother and their father?"

Read article in full

Monday, August 07, 2006

'The Jews are our dogs' makes a comeback

Joseph Abdel Wahed argues that as long as Arabs are taught to despise and dehumanise Jews, there is no hope for them - or for us.

A man brazenly shoots his way into the Jewish Federation of Seattle, kills a woman and wounds four others, three critically. As he opens fire, the alleged assailant shouts: "I am a Muslim and I'm angry at Israel", as if to indicate that his religious affiliation gives him permission to kill Jews.

In a second incident, Mel Gibson, a Hollywood director and actor, is arrested in Malibu, on suspicion of drunk driving. He allegedly, screams at the officer: "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world", not realizing that nearly all to-day's wars are Islamic wars. He also tells his arresting officer: "Are you Jewish?"

In the third incident, Palestinians, in the streets of San Francisco, chanted proudly in Arabic and without fear of being detected: "The Jews are our dogs".

The common denominator in all three incidents is hate, racism, intolerance and bigotry. While Jew hating is not a new phenomena, it has recently become the insult de rigueur in many parts of our society. As a human being, I deplore all forms of hate, the third incident has a special meaning to me as the following paragraphs will clearly show.

The incident happened when I was at the anti-Israel demonstration in front of the Israeli consulate in San Francisco on Thursday, July 12 organized by a Palestinian group called Al Awda. The demonstration was loud, boisterous and passionate. Suddenly, shockingly, demonstrators began chanting in Arabic, Al Yahud Kelabna, the Jews are our dogs.

My first reaction to the Palestinian chanting was one of disbelief, then I felt a mixture of fear, anger and heavy-heartedness. Terrible memories cascaded before me taking me back to when I was a young boy, growing up in Egypt. These memories included Egyptian mobs descending upon the Jewish quarter of Cairo chanting Al Yahud Kelabna, followed by violence that left some Jews dead and injured, and the community dazed.

Egyptian Muslim mobs no longer do this, because there is no longer an Egyptian Jewish community to speak of. We once were over 80,000. Today there are fewer than 50 Jews remaining in Egypt. Indeed, once thriving Jewish communities in ten Arab countries were likewise cleansed. Today, virtually no Jews remain in the Arab or Muslim world.

Arab spokesmen blame the creation of Israel, but, in reality, the situation of Middle Eastern Jewry began to deteriorate years before Israel was established.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Egypt was a much more cosmopolitan place than it is today. While not an apology for colonialism, nevertheless Egypt under the British was a place where Muslims, Jews and Christians got along fairly harmoniously. But all this began to change as the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamic group whose Palestinian branch is Hamas, began agitating against both the British and the Jews. Along with the rise of Arab nationalism and Arab independence, life for Jews in Egypt and other Arab countries became intolerable. All this happened decades before Israel was established.

In the end, within a 20 year period starting in 1945, nearly one million Jews were forced out of Arab countries. In the Egypt of the late 1940s, being Jewish was criminalized. In other Arab states, such as Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc. similar laws were passed. Jews began facing iron walls of discrimination and harassment by the authorities. Most of us were dispossessed. Our schools, homes, synagogues, businesses, farms, hospitals, were all confiscated by Arab governments. Our rich, 2,000 year old culture and heritage was decimated. No trial, no jury, no justice.

Also heard at the anti Israel demonstration were chants such as "Black, red, brown, white! We support Hezbollah's fight! Black, red, green, blue! We support Hamas too!" Personally, I found it rather ironic when demonstrators were screaming at me to "go back to Europe." These demonstrators' ignorance is profound: the majority of Israel's Jewish population is like me, Jews of color from Arab and other Muslim countries.

The demonstrators in San Francisco last week attacked Jews, not Israel. They did it in Arabic thinking perhaps only they would be in on the "joke." They didn't count on a group of indigenous Middle Eastern Jewish "dogs" being present at the counter rally across the street.

They clearly felt certain that we are "their" dogs. In Arab culture, dogs are considered filthy, dirty beasts, and negotiating with "dogs" is not an option. Historically Jews were often identified this way because for centuries, we were living as a subjected people under the dominant culture of Islam.

We were a "protected" minority living under a religious caste system where we had to wear identifiable clothes, pay a special tax, were not allowed to ride horses, forced to live in ghettoes, and were submitted to other indignities. Our fortunes fluctuated with the benevolence of whoever was ruling at the time. When he was fair and just, Jews prospered. Otherwise, watch out! Massacres of Jews by Arab Muslims were not unknown. While most people know how European Jews suffered, little is known of the Jews of the Arab world.

Today, the Arab and Muslim worlds are the most anti Semitic of any region. Much of their media - TV programs, cartoons, editorials - promote the kind of anti-Semitism not seen or heard since the time when Hitler walked this earth. In many mosques, too, throughout the region, religious leaders who are quick to take offense over such matters as cartoons regularly teach the vilest anti Jewish defamation.

The effects of this "education" are seen and felt even here in San Francisco, where a crowd of young Arab men and women feel perfectly free to chant "Al Yahud Kelabna"!

As long as Palestinian and other Arab children are taught such dehumanizing hatred of Jews, there is no hope for them, and there is no hope for us. Peace in the Middle East will not come with the next ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah, but only when tolerance, compassion, understanding and respect for religious freedom become the dominant value in Arab society. When Arab young people honestly feel too ashamed to chant about Jews being "our dogs," then there will be real hope.

Joseph Abdel Wahed is a member of

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Beware fraudulent Lebanese website...

Found on a propaganda website called 'Uruknet: From occupied Iraq' (with thanks: Albert):

"From the Jews of Lebanon website:

Condemnation of the War in Lebanon
July 26, 2006

"We once again renew our appeal for people to differentiate between Zionism and Judaism and ultimately between our mission and the current crisis in our beloved Lebanon. Hundreds have been killed in the latest violence between Israel and Lebanon and we pray that this will open the door to a final and comprehensive peace agreement. Though we believe in the universal principal of the right to self-defense we condemn the indiscriminate and disproportionate response from the State of Israel. Ultimately, we condemn the violence wholeheartedly.

Our heartfelt condolences to the innocent lives that are lost in this conflict- whether Lebanese and Israeli."

There's only one problem with this statement: the Jews of Lebanon website is a hoax.* It purports to speak on behalf of Lebanese Jews, but no Lebanese Jews are known to be associated with it. The website exists to drive a wedge between 'Jews' and 'Zionists', but no such distinction exists: the vast majority of Jews from Arab countries support Israel.

Uruknet fabricates a tale of collaboration between Lebanese Jews and the PLO during the Lebanese civil war, and capitalises on statements extracted under duress from the Jews of Iran, or made by self-loathing communists in Morocco, to back its argument that most Middle Eastern Jews condemn Israel's actions in the current war with Hezbollah.

*Update: the webmaster, a Lebanese Shi'a, has since identified himself and made clear his honourable intentions of documenting the story of the Jews of Lebanon.

Ades synagogue preserves Syrian traditions

Gavriel Fiske of the Jerusalem Post profiles the Ades synagogue, built in 1901 in Jerusalem by Jews fleeing blood libels and economic decline in Aleppo, Syria. (With thanks: Albert)

"One of Nahlaot's oldest synagogues is one of its best-known and one of its most active - the Ades Synagogue (pronounced like Addis Ababa), housed in a old-style stone building on the corner of Beersheba and Shilo streets, just off Bezalel.

"Renowned as a center for Mizrahi hazanut (Middle Eastern-style Jewish liturgical singing), Ades is one of only two synagogues in Jerusalem that maintain the ancient tradition of bakashot, a set cycle of kabbalistic poetry sung in the wee hours of Shabbat morning during the winter months.

"All the hazanim [cantors] you know of learned here," promises Shmuel Abdan, the shamash (caretaker). A friendly and to-the-point man in his 50s, he escorts In Jerusalem around the ornate interior of Ades while straightening up after evening prayers.

"During the densely packed bakashot sessions (which start at 3 a.m.) he can be found dispensing endless cups of steaming tea or coffee, making sure seniors have a seat - and generally making sure everything is okay.

"Ades was built 105 years ago by a community of Jews from Aleppo, Syria. The outside of the building famously declares, "The Great Synagogue Ades of the Glorious Aleppo Community, Est. 1901."

"At that time much of the Jewish community had fled Syria due to a combination of blood libels and economic downturn relating to the decline of the Ottoman Empire. While many settled in the greener pastures of England, the United States and South America, some families decided to try their luck in the Holy Land. Most were laborers, shopkeepers or merchants."

Read article in full

Friday, August 04, 2006

Have the Jews of Iran really been persecuted?

An interesting exchange on the Guardian's Comment Is Free about the Jews of Iran:

GIJoeSixPack (referring to a comment that Jews were 'forced out' of Iran): When I read this, I immediately called my dentist to see what he thought of this statement. He is an Iranian Jew currently living in California but goes back to Iran on a regular basis to see his parents. He says you are full of it. No Jews were ever forced out of Iran. According to him, they (Iranian Jews) even have a member of Parliment in Iran. They are guaranteed a seat in the parliament. Go figure!

Mclefty: Erm, the Jews of Iran were immediately put in a position of second-class citizenry upon the ascension of the Ayatollah. They were stripped of their assets, their women were forced to wear headscarves and they were immediately earmarked as potential Zionist spies. Their decreasing community is under constant suspicion and every few years, a show trial is arranged that involves accusing Iranian Jews of spying for Israel. Most are desperate to get out and live in the UK, US or Israel. They were barred from starting or joining political parties or voting (Muslims only) and their lone representative is nothing more than a stooge - a scared one at that, who is forced to condemn Israel and pay lipservice to the authorities. Even worse than the Jews was the treatment meted out to the peaceful and benign Baha'i people (considered Apostates by hardline Shia Muslims.) Left alone under the Shah (a despot in his own right) - these people have been systematically and brutally eliminated.

GIJoe: A long standing girlfriend of mine fled Iran and I know many, many Persian Jews - they all fled a vibrant life in Iran because their rights and freedoms were curtailed by the Revolution. Why is your 'doctor' in the US if life was so wonderful in Iran?

Richardisrael: (...) I live in Israel and three of my best friends are Jews of Persian descent, and I know many others. They tell a bit of a different story. How their families were threatened after the Islamic revolution, how that had to flee and leave their belongings. Of course there is still a community of about 40,000 Jews in Iran (estimates usually range between 20,000 and 25,000 - ed), the largest outside of Israel in the Middle East, but they aren't allowed any contact with Jews outside of Iran, unless these Jews are vocally against Israel.

Don't believe me? It would seem that you are the one that is misinformed. Maybe you should read about Persian jewry in wikipedia.

Why don't you scroll down to the section where they talk about discrimination.

I have to say that giving them a seat in the Iranian parliment is a nice gesture, it might even make them almost feel they aren't persecuted.

Of course we know that anybody, particulary non-Muslims, that live in Iran and speak up about the government are persecuted. It goes without saying that if the Jews would open their mouths they'd be in trouble.

If it interests you so much, why don't you conduct a poll of Persian Jews that live outside of Iran, and see what they really think. I'm sure your dentist is an honest guy, and I know that many Jews that remain in Iran still live decent lives, but it doesn't meant the 120,000 that have fled since the revolution weren't persecuted.

Or the other million or two (one million will do -ed) that were forced out of other Muslim countries over the years weren't persecuted either.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Peretz accused of 'war crimes' by Moroccan Jews

Haaretz reports: three Jewish Moroccans have submitted Rabat's high court with a petition against Defense Minister Amir Peretz, accusing the Moroccan-born Israeli of war crimes.

Leftist activist Abraham Tsarfati, author Amran al-Malich and human rights group official Zion Asidon claim Peretz may be tried in their country due to his Moroccan citizenship.

"The criminal terrorist, Zionist Amir Peretz, has retained his Moroccan citizenship and is still registered in Morocco's census," the three told reporters during a press conference. "Moroccan law allows the trial of any Moroccan national who has committed war crimes in or out of the country."

Read article in full

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Why don't the Jews in Muslim lands leave?

Shelomo Alfassa says that Jews are under pressure in Iran, Turkey and Morocco - and urges them to leave before it's too late: (with thanks: Albert)

"A complex and bizarre situation exists in Turkey, Morocco and Iran, where Jews are essentially living as dhimmis-subjugated non-Muslims that are now are facing the dual-loyalty issue. They are living in a fish tank, being watched by those that dislike them, their people, and their historic homeland. One would think that we as Jews would have developed a very strong and accurate early warning system after what happened to us only six decades ago. One would think that when we sense danger, we would take measures to mitigate hazards. One would think that when those around us shout for the destruction of our homeland, we would believe them. One would think that in this post 9/11 world when radical Islam's hatred of Jews and Israel is becoming mainstream, Jews living in Muslim countries would plan to leave -but that's not the case.

"There is an American expression that says, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." This says that you can give someone the opportunity to do something, but you cannot force them to do it if they do not want to. Jews in Turkey, Morocco and Iran all have the availability and support system available to relocate to Israel, but they don't take advantage of it in any substantial manner. Yet, some good can come from the evil spouted by the lips of Iran's Ahmadinejad, if in fact it rouses more of the Jews from Turkey, Morocco or Iran to consider emigrating to Israel -before he inspires radical elements to act on his words against the Jews in those Muslim countries."

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Iranian Jews condemn Qana deaths

The Jews in Iran have been compelled once more publically to condemn Israel's actions. The reference to the 'Prophet Moses (peace be on him)' is a Muslim turn of phrase, suggesting that the statement was written on behalf of the Jews, and political demands are being made in their name. (With thanks: Albert)

TEHRAN, Aug. 1 (MNA) -- The Jewish Association of Tehran (JAT) issued a statement on Tuesday condemning the Zionist forces’ massacre of innocent women and children in Qana. Rabbi Yusef Hamedani Kohan, MP Morris Motamed, who represents Iranians Jews in the Majlis, and chairman of the JAT directorate Harun Yashayaii announced in the statement that by slaughtering women and children in Qana and killing civilians in Lebanon and Palestine, the Zionist military forces have actually violated human rights as well as the natural law promoting peaceful coexistence among different nations and ethnic groups.

“The Israeli army’s reckless attacks on Qana as well as other regions in Palestine do not comply with the religious doctrines of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him). Free, God-fearing, and devout Jews all over the world denounce these crimes and call for an immediate halt to aggression against civilians, women, and children.

“We want a ceasefire to be declared between the two warring parties and peaceful living conditions to be provided for the war-stricken people. We call on all international organizations, including the United Nations and the UN Human Rights Council, as well as all other noble people, and particularly the Jewish world, to condemn the atrocities of the Zionist regime, take measures to terminate this aggression, and help those injured in the war,” the statement continued.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Jews in hostile states pray for Israeli soldiers

Jews living precariously in the world's most violently anti-Israel states in the Middle East have apparently signed their names and countries of origin on an Internet site that is coordinating a world-wide prayer rally slated for Tuesday for IDF soldiers, the Jerusalem Post reports (with thanks: Albert).

Twenty-eight from Iran, 12 from Syria, and five from both Lebanon and Iraq ( funny, there are only six Jews left in that country - Ed) have signed up so far, according to Eran Gefen, CEO of Y&R Interactive, a PR firm that established the site with the aid of Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger. Others involved with the effort include the Jewish Agency, the Foreign Ministry and numerous media, including The Jerusalem Post.

Gefen admitted that he could not know for sure whether those who signed up were actually Jews. "We can't check their family tree, but they are joining the prayer for the IDF," he said. He added that he would keep the names of these signatories secret to protect their safety.

"Iranian Jews normally do not have access to Israeli Internet content," said Gefen. "But it seems that some managed to bypass the block and it is very exciting to hear their virtual voices."

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