The 30th of November 2014 is the International Day in memory of the expulsion of Jews from Arab and Muslim countries. This is the first year that this day is being recognised by all Jewish communities around the world and came about as a result of a law which was passed by the Israeli Knesset on the 23rd of June 2014 calling for the people of The State of Israel to recognise the 30th of November as a national day to remember the expulsion of Jews from Arab and Muslim countries.
This mass exodus of Jews is certainly one of the great tragedies of the twentieth century, yet very little is known or spoken about it outside of Israel. It involved the expulsion and migration of almost one million Jews from a number of Arab and Muslim countries around the world. Vibrant Jewish communities that had lived peacefully in many of these countries for centuries suffered intolerable human rights abuses and were ultimately given no choice but to flee their homes. The exodus started in the 1940’s – around the time of the creation of the State of Israel – and continued into the 1950’s and 1960’s. My family experienced all this first-hand. My grandparents were proud citizens of Syria and Egypt but soon after the creation of Israel, life in these countries became unbearable for Jewish people. Members of the Jewish communities were murdered, synagogues were burned to the ground or converted into mosques, and the property and businesses of Jews were confiscated by the state. Eventually, my grandparents fled to Israel as political refugees (the only country willing to accept them) with just the clothes on their back.
Although most people expect me to look back at these events with anger, I remain of the view that this was the best thing that ever could have happened to my family and I. In the end I was fortunate enough to grow up in Israel – one of the greatest democracies in the world where its citizens live in peace, enjoy a very high standard of living and where it’s the population enjoys infinite life opportunities.