Thursday, March 5, 2015

Jewish Encounters With Syria Including Golan Heights Today

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                     

The Bible called today's Syria "ARAM."  Aram had many kings ruling but never succeeded in creating a homogeneous state.   Their coastal strip along the Mediterranean was settled by the Phoenicians.
In Kings I and II in the Bible is described a constant contentious battle with the kingdoms of Israel and Judah until the 700s BCE when Syria was overrun by the Assyrians who attacked Israel in 722 BCE, leading Israelis off as captives, and again in 721 BCE.  It was in 853 BCE when the Assyrian King Shalmaneser II attacked Ben-Hadad II of Damascus and King Ahab of Israel was the ruler at the time.

Ben Hadad was a name used by 3 Aram-Dammasek (Syrian) kings.
1. Ben-Hadad I reigned c 908-886 BCE and was an ally of Baasha of Israel until bribed by Asa of Judah to attack Israel.  (Remember that when Solomon died, the southern part of Israel broke off to be the state of Judah).
2. Ben-Hadad II was the first's son or grandson.  He declared war on c856 BCE but was defeated and captured.  He was then freed by King Ahab and so he allied himself in the war against Shalmaneser III of Assyria in 853 BCE.  Later he turned against Ahab in a battle at Ramoth Gilead where Ahab fell.

3. Ben-Hadad III was king from the end of the 9th to early 8th centuries BCE.  He was 3 times defeated by Jehoash of Israel who recaptured the towns previously ceded to Aram (Syria).  .  

The Jews who lived in Syria suffered from the hostility of the Greeks.  These were the ones living in Antioch during the Seleucid era. (After the death of Alexander III of Macedon in 323 B.C., the territories he had conquered were divided between his generals, the so-called Diadochi. Alexander's friend Seleucus Nicator (r. 312–280 B.C.) became king of the eastern provinces—approximately modern Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, together with parts of Turkey, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. The huge kingdom had two capitals, which Seleucus founded in around 300 B.C.: Antioch in Syria and Seleucia in Mesopotamia (Iraq). Seleucus established a dynasty that lasted for two centuries, during which time Hellenistic art, a fusion of Greek and Near Eastern artistic traditions, developed and flourished."

 There were few Jews there in the Talmudic Period and under Theodosius II in 408-50.  Their religious freedom was restricted and many synagogues were converted to churches.
Everything improved for the Jews with the Arab conquest from 634 to 637.  This is when Jews were allowed to maintain their faith but were forced to become dhimmis and pay a poll-tax..   It was sort of like paying for protectia.  There were all sorts of restrictions put on Jews.   In the 1100s, the largest Jewish communities were in Aleppo with 5,000 Jews and Damascus with 3,000 Jews and Palmyra with 2,000 Jews.

Jews immigrated to Syria from Spain's 1492 Spanish Inquisition decrees and they also came from Sicily.  Syria became important in the transit trade between Europe and Asia because of these Jews.  However, the very well-known DAMASCUS BLOOD LIBEL in 1840 was shocking and caused worldwide reaction.
French soldiers in Syria 
By 1920 Jew finally had equal right under the French mandate that came at the end of WWI.  These were infringed on during WWII in the French Vichy regime, meaning that the French were going along with Germany. During this period from 1940 to 1944 when the Vichy government was headed by Marshal Petain during the German occupation of France, anti-Jewish legislation was introduced.  A commissariat for Jewish affairs, aimed at outlawing Jews, was directed.  The Vichy authorities didn't hinder the deportation of Jews by the Germans to extermination camps.  It carried out its policy through the Union Generale des Israelites de France, founded in 1941.  What was happening to Jews in France was repeated in Syria because they held the mandate-were the ruling party.  The  Jews who could then emigrated to the USA, Lebanon and Palestine to the Jewish cities.  Syria had about 30,000 Jews in 1943 and by 1947 found they only had 14,000 left.   More then left because of terrorism against Jews during Israel's War of Independence (1947-1949), material decline and moral isolation.
1992 Jewish class in Maimonides School in Damascus before leaving with Judith Carr.
1991 girls class in ghetto of Damascus 
Jewish Boy in  Ghetto in Damascus, Syria 1991 

From then on, the Jews of Damascus were prisoners in their Jewish quarter which became a ghetto.  Jews lived on Jew Street.   By 1973 only 4,000 were living there.  Syria was consistent in the virulence of its anti-Israel policy  and has continued acts of hostility since 1948 when it joined up with the Arab invasion of Israel.
Syria's extremism was responsible for the SIX DAY WAR in 1967  when Israel defeated the Syrian army and occupied the Golan Heights from which the Syrians had been bombarding kibbutzim along the upper Jordan Valley.  The Golan Heights became extensively populated with Israeli towns.  Its 1985 population was 22,500 including  the Druze population.Since 1988, Druze clerics have been permitted to make annual religious pilgrimages to Syria. Since 2005, Israel has allowed Druze farmers to export some 11,000 tons of apples to the rest of Syria each year, constituting the first commercial relations between Syria and Israel.

Since the breakout of the Syrian Civil War in 2012, the number of applications for Israeli citizenship is growing, although Syrian loyalty remains strong and those who apply for citizenship are often ostracized by members of the older generation. Israel annexed the Golan Heights causing President Ronald Reagan to suspend a strategic cooperation agreement in 1981.    Right now the Syrian army, backed by Iran and Hezbollah terrorists, are trying to take back the region. 
Judith Feld Carr and her husband, a Canadian couple, found out about how the Jews were imprisoned in Syria without even having telephones and came to their aid.  Miraculously during the 1990s, she was able to talk Assad into letting them out of Syria with her to live in the USA.  Many wound up in Brooklyn, New York. Only a few remain today.  They are a few older women who stayed to tend the Jewish Cemetery.

Resource:  The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
Novel:  Messages From a Syria Jew Trapped in Egypt   picture of Jewish ghetto


  1. IS is going to get theirs. i think isaiah 17:1 is in the making and IS there will bring that on. sooner not later...and in my mind sooner is all the better. is atrocious what is happening.

  2. Ah, that is the prophecy going back to 722 BCE when the Assyrians were attacking Israel and evidently Syria at the same time, taking away the 10 tribes of Israel and concerning Damascus; the breakup of an Ephramite-Aramean alliance where Damascus will be negated from being a city, and it will be a heap of rubble. Damascus was the capital of Aram then, too. By the time this prophecy was uttered the tribes of Reuben and Gad had already been exiled from their lands. Isaiah warns Aram that it would be exiled by Sennacherib, just as he had exiled the Jewish city of Aroer and then the rest of the 10 tribes of Israel. So IS is in the northern part of Syria and Damascus is in the southwestern part of Syria , bordering Israel. That's why the wounded have been able to come and get help from the Israelis. Before Syria's Civil War in 2012, there were over 22 million Syrians populating their country. Damascus had about 1,711,000 million in 2011. More have moved there from cities that were being bombed. Portland, Oregon in 2013 had 609,456 people and it's the largest city in Oregon, USA. I hope IS is wiped out/stopped before they ever get to Damascus. Yes, IS must be stopped-the sooner the better.