Wednesday, November 30, 2016

For the Refugees

Oftentimes, one thinks of refugees as people who were forced from their homes. Most refugees, however, are not specifically expelled, but rather forced to flee due to increasingly untenable situations.

This was the case of the Jewish communities in the Middle East. As Arab nations emerged out of the ruins of colonialism, they were deeply affected by nationalism. In many countries, Jews were stripped of their citizenship rights. In others, there was outright legal discrimination. In countries such as Tunisia and Libya, communication with Jews abroad was restricted. Jews were forced out of certain businesses or instructed to teach their artisan skills to Arabs.

This discrimination did not begin with the creation of the State of Israel, but it intensified severely after its creation. In fact, there were reactionary pogroms in numerous countries. Thousands of Jews decided to resettle in Israel, while others joined communities in France and the United States. Those who remained in their native countries, often found themselves trapped, allowed to live as Jews but significantly restricted in their freedoms.

The influx of these refugees, many of whom had been forced to leave their possessions behind, was quite a challenge for the new Jewish State that was just beginning to develop its economy. However, these Jews were welcomed and settled, which is, perhaps, why the Jewish refugee situation (which continued into the 1970s), did not become a world concern.

In 2014, the Israeli Knesset declared November 30th to be “The Day to Mark the Departure and Expulsion of Jews from the Arab Countries and Iran.”

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