Hanbook of the Israeli-Arab Conflict - Jewish Refugees

  Monthly Report: 5/1/1988  



Shalom from Tel Aviv!

When the world speaks of the inalienable rights of the 590,000 Arab refugees that fled Israel in 1948 and 1967, they irrationally forget the more than 850,000 Jewish refugees that fled Arab nations from 1948-1973.

Even more astounding is the number of Jews that fled from Arab countries and arrived in Israel: approximately 590,000*, the exact number of Arabs that fled Palestine. (The remaining Jewish refugees went elsewhere.)

Israel is a nation of refugees. Between 1948 and 1973 the population of Israel rose from 657,000 to over 3,000,000, an increase largely accounted for by immigration of refugees.

In fact, the people of Israel have been refugees wandering from nation to nation for 1900 years. Persecuted, expelled, unwanted, these refugees wandered from country to country looking for a home.

It is an ironic twist of history that finally, with Israel born anew, these refugees who now had a home to come to were looked upon so positively by the new Jewish State that, upon arrival, they instantly lost their status as refugees. The nations, faced with a world of problems, likewise, happily and promptly forgot that these "immigrants" were actually refugees just as the
Palestinian Arabs are, with the same losses of property, businesses, land and homes.

Six hundred thousand other refugees reached Israel from Europe. The majority of these were victims of the Nazi Holocaust, whose homes and facilities had been destroyed. Many of these refugees have received reparation payments from the German government.

However, of the 850,000 Jewish refugees from 10 Arab nations, not a one has received a penny in return for the inestimable properties left behind. While the Arabs who left Palestine were, on the whole, peasants from primitive and underdeveloped areas, some of the Jewish refugees left fortunes, businesses and lands in the countries from which they fled. Obviously, not all Jews were wealthy but, where allowed to prosper, the Jews have always been a beneficial element to any nation's educational, economical and cultural life.

*(The Arab-Israeli Conflict, Martin Gilbert, Steimatzsky Ltd.)


It is interesting to note that the Oriental-Jewish community is much older than its European counterpart. The first Jews settled in North Africa at the time of the destruction of the Temple in 586 BC or even before.

Today Morocco is the only Arab country where there is a sizable Jewish community. It numbers today about 30,000. Morocco is the one Arab state that treats its Jewish citizens honorably and gives them considerable freedom today. However, that has not always been so even in recent history. Because of sundry attacks and slaughters by mobs of Moslems on the Moroccan Jews in 1948, 260,000 fled to Israel; another 40,000 went elsewhere.


Algeria was host country to one of North Africa's oldest Jewish communities. Although there were some periods of relative calm for the Jews, any upheaval in the country found the Jews getting the brunt of Islamic wrath.

From the 1880's on there were anti-Jewish riots, synagogues were looted and scrolls destroyed. From the 1930's anti-Semitic campaigns grew, and became full-blown under Nazi pressure. In 1960, the Great Synagogue in Algiers was desecrated. Kidnappings and assassinations of Jewish officials followed, etc., resulting in 100,000 refugees pouring into France, another 14,000 corning to Israel. Today there are less than a thousand Jews left in Algeria.


Jewish communities have existed here from Roman times and Tunisian Jews played a prominent role in world trade. There were many eminent scholars and rabbis throughout the centuries. When Tunisia was granted independence in 1956, Bourguiba tried to restrain extremism, even including a Jew in his first cabinet. However, the nationalist policy of "Arabization" left the Jews with a growing sense of insecurity. In 1958, the Jewish Community Council was abolished and Jews were made the scapegoat of a prolonged economic crisis, with many being arrested. Forty thousand left for Israel, 30,000 went elsewhere. There are about 7,000 Jews left in Tunisia, living under a very restricted conditions.


Jews first settled in Libya at least 2,000 years ago and the Tripoli community prospered for centuries. In the 1930's, the Jewish community began to feel pressure because of attacks by young Arabs.

In 1942, when Benghazi was occupied by Fascist forces, Jewish property was plundered and 2,600 Jews were sent to do forced labor in the desert, where more than 500 of them died. In Tripoli many Jews, too, were condemned to forced labor.

When the British reoccupied Libya, there were anti-Jewish outbreaks in Tripoli and other towns. In 1945, there was a sudden attack in the Tripoli community in which 120 Jews were killed, 500 wounded and 2,000 made homeless. Synagogues were desecrated and there were disturbances in other towns. The riots spurred Libya's 40,000 Jews to flee. Today under Gaddafi, there are virtually no Jews left in that country.


In 1948, there were some 75,000 Jews in Egypt; they had sojourned there since the time of Jeremiah. More than half were merchants and the community was relatively well-off; it included several multi-millionaires.
The Jews began to have considerable problems during World War II due to the influence of the Nazi wartime propaganda on the Arabs. When Nasser came to power in 1954, many Jews were arrested and their property confiscated.

When Egypt went to war against Israel in 1956, Nasser interred 3,000 Jews without trial. Thousands of others were served deportation orders and ordered to leave Egypt within a few days. They were not allowed to sell their property nor to take capital with them. The community dwindled to 8,000 in 1957 and 3,000 in 1967.

When the Six-Day War broke out, some 200 Jews were again arrested and held prisoner. Some were not given water for 48 hours, others were beaten and whipped. Today there are less than 500 Jews, mostly elderly, living in Egypt.


The Jewish community in Syria dates back to Bible times. As tradesmen the Jews prospered in good times. As soon as economic difficulties hit, they began to suffer government harassment and restrictions.

Even before the State of Israel war born, the community became a target for violence. Anti-Jewish legislation included the freezing of bank accounts and confiscation of property. Jews were not allowed to sell their property, and as they began to flee, Palestinian Arab refugees took over their homes. Forty thousand Syrians escaped under most difficult circumstances. Five thousand are still in Syria living under serf-like conditions, unable to get out.


The Jews of Babylonia formed one of the oldest and most distinguished communities. As in most Arab states, Jewish fortunes in Iraq varied according to the mood of their rulers. When Iraq achieved independence in 1932, the new government acted against the Jews. Over the next few years hundreds of Jews were killed by Iraqi mobs. Yet the Jews were not allowed to leave. In 1950 the ban was lifted for a short time and 120,000 Iraqi Jews fled to Israel; another 10,000 went elsewhere. Twenty thousand Kurdish Jews in Northern Iraq also escaped, most of whom are in Israel. The handful who remain live under constant threat of death. In 1968, chanting mobs in the streets of Baghdad acclaimed the public hangings of nine Jews whom they claimed were spies. Zionism was made a capital crime.


Jewish settlements in the Yemen date back to the destruction of the First Temple. After a few centuries of relative prosperity they entered a period of decline. They were employed in a variety of occupations - tailors, porters, goldsmiths, silversmiths and armorers, among others. They were also called upon to do certain jobs which were held to contaminate Muslims, such as cleaning the public latrines and sweeping the streets. They were expected to preserve an air of poverty and stoning Jews was a popular habit in some parts of Yemen.

Immigration to Palestine began as early as 1882 and 16,000 arrived between 1919 and 1948. The great surge came between June 1949 and June 1950. Nearly 50,000 fled to Aden, and were flown from there to Israel in "Operation Magic Carpet." In Israel they acquired a reputation for hard work and quick assimilation.


Aden's 55,000 Jews fled to Israel between 1948 and 1967 after mob attacks against the Jewish quarter. The last 130 left in 1967 after further riots, in which an aged Jew was beaten to death. Even though Lebanon had traditionally been tolerant of its minorities, psychological and economic pressures led most of its 20,000 Jews to leave. In the last 10 years civil war has turned Lebanon into a living hell, and virtually all Jews have fled.


Bernard Dineen, Literary Editor of the Yorkshire Post observed:

"The history of Jews in the Arab world varied by country and century but one thing was usually true: there was no real equality between Jew and Muslim, in theory or in practice. If the Arab ruler was tolerant, the laws governing minorities were interpreted lightly; if the ruler was tyrannical, the Jew was reduced to the status of a slave.

"Jews were expected to recognize their inferiority. When trouble, occurred, it was usually because the Arab thought the Jew had failed to keep his place. At times through history tyrannical, Arab rulers invented ways to stigmatize the Jew. One Sultan ordered them to dress in black cloaks and pointed hats; an Egyptian ruler forced Jews to wear wooden blocks around their necks; in some countries they had to walk head downcast, or squat when they talked to a Muslim. The oath of a Muslim automatically nullified the oath of a Jew, so he was always at the mercy of hostile Muslim neighbors.

"Oriental Jews came to realize that there was no future for them in Arab countries, either as individuals or as part of a Jewish community. Under the new nationalist regimes they found themselves robbed of legal status, stripped of whatever right they had possessed and potential future victims of Arab political extremists.

"Before the State of Israel was established, Jews in Arab countries were victims of occasional anger, but after 1948 they became hostages. Whenever Arab fortunes suffered a reverse, Jews under Arab rule paid a price."


The absorption of a couple of million refugees into Israel's economy and society has received worldwide acclaim but few realize how difficult it has been.

Many hundreds of thousands of refugees were housed in tents allover Israel for several years. These families, many with a large number of children, were then given a house which consisted of two midget rooms, a tiny kitchen and bathroom. Even today there are a great many Oriental Jews still living in these huts.

Many of the refugees came from harsh conditions where they had been crowded together into ghettos in the Arab countries. Their health put a heavy burden on the new State of Israel. Eighty percent of the Jews coming from Southern Tunisia had trachonia, an eye disease. Tuberculosis was widespread, and infant mortality was outrageous.

In the 50's and 60's Oriental Jewish children paid the cost of being resettled in Israel. With no books to read and no parents who could help them with their Hebrew schoolwork, most dropped out of school. By the ninth year of schooling only 24 percent of the Oriental children were still in school.

The government has done what she could to narrow the gap between the educational level of the Oriental former refugees and Israelis who were born in Europe.

However, with Israel's population doubling and tripling in a few short years, with no oil wells to pay for refugee resettlement and with the imminent threat of war draining Israel's resources, Israel has faced the Herculean task of resettling her refugees, and has done admirably. Contributions from Jews around the world and financial aid from the U.S. has been an essential ingredient.

Yet, as Dineen concludes in his study:

"The arrival of three-quarters of a million* refugees from Arab countries saddled Israel with a massive burden. Most arrived when the new state was least able to cope with them. Since much of the immigration was of the 'rescue' type, it could not by its very nature, be planned ahead. Israel is still paying the price of the years which these immigrant masses spent in tent-towns and ma'abarot (huts).

"The standard of life for Oriental families has improved dramatically: higher incomes, better housing, greater ownership of consumer goods and better education. Despite the progress towards economic and political equality, however, a gap between Europeans and Orientals still remains; it has produced social problems which will not be totally solved for many years to come.

"The Jews left behind property worth hundreds of millions of pounds. In Baghdad alone, the Iraqi Government in 1951 confiscated 35 million pounds ($65,792,000 U.S.) in cash from Jewish accounts in banks plus vast quantities of other assets and property. In Egypt an estimated 350 million pounds ($657,920,000 U.S.) of property was left behind. In Algeria the sums involved were even larger…

"The solution of the Middle East refugee question has to be based on a recognition that an exchange of population has taken place. Though the circumstances varied, the exchange was irrevocable."


Israel has consistently lost the "war of words" concerning the refugee exchange. Everyone in the world knows about the Arab refugees. Refugees flowed in two directions, but justice is demanded only for half of them.

However, Arab "justice" does not mean that the Arabs should be compensated for any loss of property, but that an Islamic State should be established in place of Israel.

The fact that 99% of all Palestinian Arabs accept the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people emphatically articulates their acceptance of the PLO's covenant of death with Israel -- that Israel must be destroyed.

To be continued next month: The believer's stand on the Israeli-Arab conflict.

*(Dineen's figures are significantly larger than Gilbert's.)


On May 14, 1947, (Hebrew Calendar 5th of Iyar, 5708) David Ben-Gurion called the State of Israel into being. Israel, he said, would be a Jewish nation where Jews throughout the world would have a home. Every Jew has as an inalienable and automatic right to come to Israel and receive citizenship, unless he had changed his religion.

Forty years and five days later, (May 19, 1988) the Supreme Court of Israel is to decide whether a Jew who believes that Yeshua is the Messiah and King of the Jews has a right as a Jew to be a part of the nation of Israel. The question debated is whether or not a Messianic Jew has the legal right to immigrate and receive citizenship as a Jew. (Remember there are already several thousand Israelis living in Israel who are Messianic Jews.)

To those of you who have been praying for the Gary and Shirley Beresford vs. Interior Office of the Government of Israel case, we can only say, now is the time to pray! It is very possible that May 19th will conclude the case.

Also, Ari Sorko-Ram vs Israeli Defense Department (Israeli Army) is on the Supreme Court Agenda for May 19th, if there is time. The latter case has been brought to the courts to stop discrimination against Messianic Jews in the Israeli army.

These are historic decisions which will affect the future of the Messianic Jewish Movement in Israel. PRAY!


The next day (May 20) starts the three day Shavuot Conference when an expected 1000 Messianic Jews from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Europe and Israel are coming together to celebrate the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) when the Holy Spirit of God came down upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem who were followers of Yeshua.

Our theme verse is: "And I will pour out on the...inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication (prayer) so that they will look upon me whom they have pierced" (Zech 12:10).

We expect the windows of heaven to open upon this conference (May 20-22). Your intercession will make a difference!

The conference budget is well over $20,000, while registration fees have been kept extremely low to allow Israelis to attend. Therefore, we have not begun to cover the budget and Maoz has had to carry an unexpected part of the administration costs. This, plus the enormous cost of the court cases and the regular needs of the ministry in Israel have caused us to fall behind these last two months by several thousand dollars.

To all of you who feel a desire to partake of the work of God in Israel's vineyard, we challenge you to respond this month. Indeed, we need your faithful participation on a regular basis.

Please be assured your help will make a difference in this critical moment in Israel's history.

Yours for the Salvation of Israel,

Ari & Shira Sorko-Ram




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