March 31, 2007

Jews in the Muslim World Today

Via The Israel Highway:

As Passover approaches, Jewish families the world over are preparing to come together for the traditional Pesach seder commemorating the Jewish people’s Exodus from Egypt approximately 3300 years ago. While the Exodus is a universally known event, not that long ago there was another, less known, mass exodus of Jews from the Arab world to Eretz Yisrael. This time the Jews were fleeing modern day despotic rulers of the Arab world and this time they were arriving on the shores of a new, modern State of Israel.

These Jewish communities had grown and often prospered throughout much of the Middle East and North Africa from as early as the destruction of the first Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE. On the eve of the birth of the State of Israel, in 1948, there were approximately one million Jews living throughout the Arab/Muslim world. Through forced emigration, pogroms and natural attrition, the once great Jewish communities of the Arab world have dwindled to no more than 10,000-12,000 scattered remnants. This mass migration from Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, among others, has left most of the Arab world virtually devoid of the Jewish presence.

Today, these communities largely consist of elderly Jews, too old to make the move to Israel or the United States, who are living out their days in difficult circumstances. In 1948 there were approximately 265,000 Jews in Morocco; today there are about 5500. Tunisian Jewry numbered over 100,000 in 1948, and today there is less than one percent of that. In Algeria there were 140,000; now, fewer than 100. In the land of Babylon (now Iraq), home of the great Jewish academies and birthplace of the Talmud, there were over 150,000 Jews in 1948, and now there are perhaps 35.

Just last month, members of the tiny community of Jews in Yemen, numbering less than 1000 souls, were physically forced to leave their homes when faced with a threat from Islamic extremists associated with Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaida terrorist network. Locals and Yemenite Jews in Israel have stressed that this is not a government-sponsored threat and that the Jews of Yemen are not in imminent danger; however, they also admit that the community lives in difficult conditions with little hope of survival after this last generation slowly dies away.

Read the rest of this important article, here.