Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Iraqi Christians Crowd Churches for Christmas Mass. But Where Did the Jews Go?

Here is a feel-good story for Christmas 2007. "In numbers unthinkable a year ago," Iraqi Christians crowded churches for Christmas Mass. Muslim clerics -- both Sunni and Shiite -- also attended the service in a sign of unity. [HT: Instapundit.]

Perhaps someday Jews will be able to worship in peace and safety in Baghdad as well. A 1947 census showed that about 118,000 Jews lived in Iraq, some 77,500 of whom lived in Baghdad. The millenia-old Baghdadi Jewish community had produced great merchant families such as the Sassoons and great rabbinic scholars such as Chacham [Sage] Yosef Chaim (1832-1909) (pictured above right), more commonly known by the name of his most famous treatise on Jewish law, the Ben Ish Chai. Today there are about 35 Jews in Baghdad, and virtually no Jews elsewhere in Iraq.

For all the charges that fly back and forth the world about Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs, and even accusations of genocide, millions of Arabs remain in Israel and Gaza--but where are the Jews of Iraq? Or the 75,000 Jews who lived in Egypt in 1948? Or the 500,000 Jews who lived in Morocco in 1948? (Only about 7000 remain there today in the most "philo-Semitic" Arab nation.) Or the 140,000 Jews of Algeria, the 105,000 of Tunisia, and the 31,000 of Libya? Why are there more than 40,000 Jews of Syrian descent in the U.S., but fewer than 100 Jews left in Syria, out of a 1948 population of 30,000? How did the Jewish population of Yemen (including Aden) drop from 63,000 in 1948 to about 200 today?

Thank God, those Jews from Arab lands were for the most part not murdered, but merely driven out of the lands where they had lived for centuries and even millenia--in the case of Iraq for some 2500 years.

One hears constantly about the Palestinian refugees created by the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. There is even a U.N. Agency, UNRWA, devoted exclusively to their welfare. UNRWA runs Palestinian Arab refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, and Gaza. Where are the Jewish refugee camps? One never hears anymore about Jewish refugees who fled Arab lands in 1948, although their numbers, some 944,000, exceeded UNRWA's figures for the 1948 Palestinian Arab refugees.

The answer, of course, is that the Jews who fled from Arab lands are no longer refugees. Without a UN agency and with little assistance from anyone other than the world Jewish community, they resettled in other nations, primarily Israel, the United States and France. Although in some cases they left behind prosperous businesses and family fortunes--Jews had been prominent bankers and merchants of their Arab homelands--whether rich or poor they left with almost nothing, but then they rebuilt their lives.

Please think about these facts the next time that you hear someone accuse Israel of genocide and ethnic cleansing. [For a related story, involving the arrival in Israel today of 40 Jewish refugees from non-Arab but very Islamic Iran, please go to Boker Tov Boulder.]


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