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Jews in the Arab world

   

Background

Before 1948 an estimated 900,000 Jews lived in what we now know as the Arab states. Since then, the vast majority have left, forcibly in many cases, bringing the total down to fewer than 8,000. The conflict with Israel has undoubtedly been a major factor in this.

The history of Jewish communities in the Arab world is not widely known and tends to be denied or played down by Arabs, often for political reasons.

The aim of this page is to cast a little more light on the subject through links to relevant websites (but please note that we are not responsible for their content). Recognising that this is a sensitive topic, we have tried to include a balanced range of sources. Readers are invited to contact us with suggestions for additional links or other improvements.

Although Jewish-Arab and Jewish-Muslim relations are often viewed in terms of conflict, the historical reality is a lot more complex, as some of the links on this page show. Some writers argue that conflict is by no means inevitable and that, in broad historical terms, Jews have been less ill-treated in the Arab world than elsewhere.


Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (Jimena)
An organisation concerned with "the forgotten Middle East refugees".

Statement on Jewish Refugees from Arab States
Submitted by the World Union for Progressive Judaism to the UN's Commission on Human Rights, 29 July, 2002

The treatment of Jews in Arab/Islamic countries 
Mitchell G Bard, Myths & Facts Online

The other refugees: Jews of the Arab world 
George E Gruen, Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, 1988

Reflections of an Arab Jew
Ella Shohat, Professor of Cultural Studies and Women's Studies at City University of New York

The "Arab Problem": Jews of the East in the West  
David Shasha reviews Sunlight and Shadow by Lucien Gubbay


Communities

World Jewish Congress
Information about Jewish communities in: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria Tunisia, Yemen

Jewish communities of Algeria (Am Yisrael)

Jewish communities of Tunisia (Am Yisrael)

The Last Jews of Libya 
Historical website

Jews of Bahrain  
Washington Times, 21 March 2000

The Jews of Morocco 
by Jay Sand

The Jews of Tunisia 
by Jay Sand

Jewish Cemetery Project 
International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen

The Sephardic World on the Internet 
A large collection of links

American Sephardi Federation

Sephardic House  
Institute for researching and promoting Sephardic history and culture

Sephardic Jewry 
A collection of useful links (B'Nei Shaare Zion)

Sephardim.com 
A research tool for Sephardic genealogy

Sefard Forum 
Discussion Group for Sephardic Genealogy Research


History

Jewish Virtual Library
Historical perspective on Jewish communities in: Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen

Ingathering of the Exiles
Immigration to Israel by Jews from the Arab world in the 1940s and 1950s. Source: Library of Congress Country Studies

Sephardic Genealogy Sources

The contribution of Yemenite Jewish writings to Yemenite history 
Yosef Tobi, Yemen Update 1993

Historical Society of the Jews of Egypt

Babylonian Jewry Heritage Centre

The last Jews of Libya  
Vivienne Roumani-Denn

Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center 
2,700 years of history

Iraqi Jews  
Site sponsored by the Iraqi American Jewish Community in New York "to perpetuate the history, heritage, culture and traditions of the Babylonian Jewry". 

Iraqi Jews  
A website about those who left Baghdad in the 1960s and 1970s

The Iraqi Jew 
Persecution in 20th century Iraq

Foundation for Moroccan Jewish Heritage


Culture

Judeo-Arabic 
A form of language developed by Jews living among Arabs.

Ivri-NASAWI 
International organisation promoting Sephardi/Mizrahi music, literature, art and history, while encouraging cross-cultural cooperation between all peoples of Middle Eastern descent. See sections on art, dance and poetry

Popular Arabic literature of the Jews  
Introduction, plus sample texts compiled and translated from Arabic by Alan Corre, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

Language of the Heart 
Encounters between Jewish and Muslim musicians in Morocco and Spain. By Amnon Shiloah (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel)

Ladino melodies 
A selection of songs

Moroccan Jewish cultural page

Moroccan Jewish music

Moroccan Jewish cookery 
With some recipes

Moroccan Jews  
The Sherwin Miller museum of Jewish art

Yemeni Jews 
The Sherwin Miller museum of Jewish art

Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature 
Including biographies and bibliographies of Sephardic/Mizrahi authors

Jewish Multicultural Project


Travel

Visiting Jewish Morocco  
Travel website compiled by Rick Gold, highlighting places of interest to Jewish visitors

Heritage tours 
New York based company offering travel in Morocco


Conflict and peace

Islam and the Jews: The Pact of Umar  
Document from the 9th century CE setting a basis for relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. (Jewish History Sourcebook)

Dhimma 
Rights and restrictions on Jews and Christians in Muslim countries. A critical view by yahoodi.com 

The Golden Age of Arab-Jewish Coexistence 
Did it really exist? (Peace Encyclopedia - yahoodi.com)

Ibn Rushd Foundation
Freedom and Democracy in the Middle East

Alternate Information Center 
A Palestinian-Israeli information bridge for peace and solidarity

Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information

Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group

Jewish-Palestinian Encounter

Middle East Virtual Community
Academics for communication and cooperation


West Bank

Israel occupied the West Bank during the 1967 war and many new Jewish settlements have been established there since. However, it is often forgotten that some Jewish communities, with ancient roots, existed among the mainly Arab population of the West Bank before the war.

History of the Jews in Hebron  
by Rabbi Joseph Schwarz

Hebron
History and places of interest (travelnet.co.il)

The hostility of Hebron 
An account of Palestinian-Jewish conflicts in the city. BBC, 3 December 2001

Hebron 
A guide (Virtual Israel Experience)

Jerusalem 
Places of Jewish interest in the old city (Virtual Israel Experience)


Publications

Sephardic News

The Scribe
Journal of Babylonian Jewry

Halapid 
Newsletter of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies

     

In the Jewish section

 
  

In the diversity section

  


Definitions

Jew: There is no scientific definition: a Jew is whoever wishes to be a Jew and calls himself a Jew. The same can be said about the definition of "Arab".

Oriental Jew: a general term for Jews of African or Asian origin.

Mizrahi: Jews originating in Arab countries and other Afro-Asian countries.

Ladino: Judaeo-Spanish speaking Jews originating in Spain/Portugal and extending to North Africa, Turkey, and parts of Europe.

Sephardi: descendants of the large Jewish community who lived in Spain and Portugal in the Middle Ages but were expelled. They are found living all over the world today.

Ashkenazi: Yiddish-speaking Jews originating in central Europe. Also present in other parts of Europe.


Books
  

Sunlight and Shadow: the Jewish experience of Islam  
Lucien Gubbay. Examines "the enriching and problematic relationship" between Muslims and Jews and suggests that there is a historical precedent that Jews, Muslims, and others can live together. Order from amazon.com or amazon.co.uk. See review.

The Jews in Modern Egypt: 1914-1952 
Gudrun Kramer, 1989. 
Reader's comment: "Best single volume on any Sephardic Jewish community in the 20th century. Shows the level of acculturation with no prejudice. Indispensable." Order from amazon.com or amazon.co.uk

The Lure of Zion: The Case of the Iraqi Jews 
Abbas Shiblak, 1986.
Reader's comment: "Well-balanced portrayal of the Jews of Iraq from the perspective of the clash of nationalisms. Shows the tensions generated by Arab and Zionist nationalism that brought catastrophe to the most ancient and venerable Jewish community in the Middle East." Order from amazon.com or amazon.co.uk

After Jews and Arabs: Remaking Levantine Culture 
Ammiel Alcalay. Reader's comment: "Brilliant synthesis of Faur and Said which has become the definitive work on modern Sephardic culture. Makes the case that Jewish and Arabic cultures are thoroughly intertwined. This is simply the most vital work written on Judaism in the past century." Order from amazon.com or amazon.co.uk.

Jews of Arab Lands a History and Source Book  
Norman Stillman. Order from amazon.com or amazon.co.uk.

 

 
 
 
 


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Last revised on 18 June, 2009