Saturday, December 13, 2014

How Israel's Ashkenazi Immigrants Welcomed Mizrachi Immigrants and Giving Recognition to Both

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                      
Avraham Stern (1907-1942), leader of Stern Group (Lohame Herut Israel), former leader of Irgun Tzevai Leumi, underground organization, killed by British police at age 35 while being arrested.  This is the group my 3rd cousin, Stanley Goldfoot, served with as the Chief of Intelligence.  

Israel's Jewish population is made up mostly of  survivors of either the Holocaust from Europe or from being held in a state of Dhimmitude, 2nd class citizens and worse, in the Middle East.  Their experiences since 70 CE have been anything but pleasant.  Our one and only Jewish state in the world started off with a refugee population along with the Jews who had never left their land who were just catching their breath long enough to announce the creation of their state before they were attacked in an actual War of Independence.  From a population of 650,000 in May 1948, it grew to 3,164,000 by May 1972.  They were made up of the core group who had never left who embraced the returning immigrants; 1,400,000 called Olim.  While they had been fighting off terrorists trying to kill them off, they planned and worked to bring in about 5 waves of immigrants..                                                                                                                                        

Holocaust Jews, Warsaw Ghetto
The Western Jews of Europe, the Ashkenazis,  have had commemorations of the Holocaust going on each year, and finally are recognizing the tragedies  that their brothers from the Middle East, the Mizrachi Jews, have also had to live under.  On Sunday, November 30th, the state of Israel had their first annual Remembrance Day when they commemorated the Jewish refugees from Arab lands and Iran.
Five minutes after announcing the re-birth of Israel on May 14, 1948, Israel knew they were involved in a War of Independence.  It actually started on November 29, 1947 before the announcement when the Arabs responded with attacks of violence to the United Nations resolution on Palestine, and it lasted until the signing of the Armistice Agreements on April 3, 1949 between Jordan and Israel.  From becoming a state to ending a war was Israel's first 10 months and 20 days, and those few then turned to the plight of the Iraqi Jews.
David Ben Gurion, 1st Prime Minister of Israel
The fall of 1949, when Israel was about 5 months old, the new  Jewish Agency and Israel's new government brought 50,000 Yemen Jews to Israel in Operation Magic Carpet.  Israel liquidated the Jewish communities in Yemen with this air operation.  The majority of the Yemenite Jews made their way to Aden and from there they were flown to Israel.  Egypt did not permit their passage through the Suez Canal.  The project lasted for a year.
The new Jewish Agency and the new Israel government organized themselves with the Operation Ezra and Nehemiah project.  It was an airborne transfer of 120,000 Jews from Iraq to Israel.  This started in May  1950 and ended in October 1951, one year and one month after their first war and being less than 2 years old. Iraq was formerly what was called Mesopotamia, location of Babylonia, conquered by Arabs in 637 CE.  Iraq gained their own independence in 1932 which triggered off attacks against Jews.  Hundreds of Baghdad Jews were killed and wounded in a pogrom during the revolt of Rashid Ali in 1941.  Iraqi troops attacked Israel in 1948.  Though Israel won that war, Iraq never signed an armistice agreement with Israel.  Most Jews left Iraq then in Israel's operation, but their property in Iraq was all confiscated.  123,500 Jews reached Israel since 1948.  Those that remained were under severe restrictions; like the Jews of Syria.  After the Six Day War, Iraq treated them so badly that it led to international protests.  In 1991 about 150 Jews were found in Baghdad where they had one synagogue.

Iraq didn't permit direct Baghdad-Lydda flights and still don't today, of course.  The immigrants had to fly to Cyprus where they transferred to planes bound for Israel.  80% of the Iraqi immigrants were dispersed among MAABAROT,  which were types of temporary villages erected just for them.  They were located near towns and villages.  The residents found work in the neighborhood and remained in the maabarah until permanent housing was provided, often in that very vicinity.  From 1950, the maabarah were replaced by the Kephar Avodah, which were work villages.  It was a form of transitional settlement that evolved in Israel from 1950 to 1956.  The goal was to place the immigrants on the soil directly on their arrival into Israel.  To some extent, it replaced the maabarah, but this was the concentration point for a future permanent village.  The Iraqi Jews were initially employed by the Jewish National Fund in land reclamation, afforestation and other projects  while at the same time were building their own homes and receiving agricultural training from instructors.  The maabarot were gradually liquidated.  It was an answer to a serious situation.  10% were absorbed immediately in agricultural  moshavs and kibbutzim and 10% were welfare cases and needed more help to integrate into Israel's new society that even their assistants were doing likewise.   They all grew into it together.
 Ultimately, the Kephar Avodah became a Moshav Ovedim. This translates into "workers' settlement.  It's an agricultural village where the people own individual homes and small holdings, but they cooperate in buying equipment, etc, the sale of produce, and have mutual aid.  Certain central building, equipment, sometimes stock and some productive branches are also owned in common.  The land normally belongs to the Jewish national Fund, and non-employment of wage-labor is a nominal principle.  The first experiments in this style of living was at Beer Yaakkov in 1907, En Ganim in 1908, and Nahlat Yaakov in 1913.

During the 3rd Aliyah from 1918 to 1921, people came and didn't like the early Kevutzah plan which had led to creating the moshav ovedim of Nahalal and Kephar Yehezkel.  There are at least 411 of these moshav ovedim (oved means work) linked to various organizations.
Operation Moses was the first operation to take 17,000 Ethiopian Jews who had reached camps in the Sudan in 1984.  There were political difficulties causing the remainder to not be able to get out. .  I lived in Safed, Israel at that time and saw first-hand how the Ethiopians came dressed in sheets and were barefoot.  The only apartments empty at that time were in Safed in the northern part of Israel which was high on on top of a mountain where it can get very cold in the fall and winter.  An empty apartment was used as a used clothing store where people could come and try on donated clothing.  Soon they were catching on how to shop in our little supermarkets.  I went to an art show of their wares and they had created beautiful objects.  These people were fascinating themselves to look at; delicate features, slender, beautiful people.  When they arrived so many had to be hospitalized as they carried all sorts of environmental problems.  It took doctors to pronounce them ready to be assimilated.
Operation Solomon was a 2nd of the 2 operations to take the Jews of Ethiopia to Israel.  The fall of the Marxist government in 1991 gave the opportunity to bring by air another 14,000 in 2 days They had been persecuted by the surrounding population. About 135,000 Ethiopians are now living in Israel according to the Bureau of Statistics.

Iran's Jews began to emigrate after 1948.  The Shah had introduced equal political rights, but the social and economic status of Jews didn't really change.  In the 60s and 70s many Jews moved to Teheran.  They weren't persecuted after the Khomeini revolution in 1978 but felt uncomfortable under the strict Islamic regime and left for Israel and the West.  From a population of 80,000, their numbers went down to 20,000 by 1989.  One of my relatives escaped out of Iran on a camel as a teenager with other boys his age.  A few died in this fleeing for freedom.  He now lives in the USA and is a doctor.
You will notice that Syria's Jews are not listed as being rescued by Israel.  At the creation of Israel, Syria clamped down on their Jews and kept them in ghetto circumstances, not allowing them to leave.  It took a Canadian mother, Judith Feld Carr, to spend 28 years rescuing 3,228 Syrian Jews in secret underground planning from about 1973 to one hour before the USA's 9/11 attack to get them out of Syria. One of her rescue operations happened in 1994.   The hitch was that she had to promise Assad that they wouldn't be taken to Israel.  Abbas didn't want them to be able to fight against Syria.  After what he had put them through, it would be no wonder that this was a fear of his.  Many that Judith freed were found in prisons-their reason being they had tried to escape from Syria's ghetto existence.  Judith is THE most brave of our Jewish women of today to take on such an undertaking single-handed without any organization behind her like the Jewish Agency or the state of Israel.  She, with her husbands, as her first husband died after they had started this operation, and her connection to Rabbi Hamra, chief rabbi of Syria, bravely saved all these people.

Half of Israel's population are Mizrachi Jews.  They've probably been very relieved to know that their ancestors chose to stay in the Middle East after hearing the horrendous stories of their Ashkenazi brothers who survived the Holocaust that killed 6 million of them.  The Holocaust was the most destructive episode in the history of the Jewish people.  Many Ashkenazi Jews may not have known about the pogroms in Kishinev, Bessarabia in the Russian Empire in 1903/1905,  or Damascus, Syria in 1840 called The Damascus Affair-a blood libel of immense proportions, or the expulsion from Spain of 1492 or the pain of having to become as Anusim and hide their Jewish beliefs while living in Spain or Portugal and how unbearable that was.

 Everyone knows the scale of the Holocaust and its horrors, at least if they are 50 years of age and older today.  I'm not sure about younger ones being informed.  .In Israel they know.  In the Galut-probably not.  "The Holocaust was a civilizational convulsion without peer."  It's time now to realize what our Mizrachi Jews have gone through.
What amazes me is the condition of the small population of 650,000 at the time of Israel's creation.  They were already exhausted from fighting the Arab attacks.  I have the 2 hr 18 minute video, "Cast a Giant Shadow," about its beginning days, starring Kirk Douglas and Senta Berger with Angie Dickinson, Frank Sinatra, Yul Brynner, and John Wayne and cry through it each time.  It tells quite accurately of Israel's struggles and an American who helped them who was regarded as Israel's first Aluf (General)  played by Kirk Douglas.

Resource:  The Jewish Press, December 5, 2014 page 8:  At Last, Israel Commemorates Mizrachi Jewish Dispossession by Ben Cohen
Book: Messages From a Syrian Jew Trapped in Egypt by Nadene Goldfoot
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
The Jerusalem Report-magazine  December 15, 2014, page 3.

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