Plight of Jewish Refugees Remembered

An event was held on Zoom yesterday evening commemorating the plight of Jewish refugees in the Middle East. Many people in the world are familiar with the plight of Arab refugees from the conflicts in the late 1940s and 1960s, but few people realise that there were similar numbers of Jewish refugees who had to flee their homes due to persecution.

The meeting was arranged by the Embassy of Israel in the UK, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and Harif (a charity representing Jews from North Africa and the Middle East).

It featured a welcome message from Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, followed by messages from Edwin Shuker, whose family had to flee Iraq in 1971, Rabbi Elie Abadie, whose family had to flee Syria after the declaration of the UN Partition Plan in 1947, and Ben-Dror Yemini, a researcher into the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim lands.

Elie Abadie is Senior Rabbi of the Jewish Council of the Emirates in Dubai. His parents escaped from Syria to Lebanon so hurriedly that they left almost everything behind – a common problem for refugees. His father nearly got caught after going back and forth to Syria attempting to liquidate his business there. Some years later the family had to flee again as civil war broke out in Lebanon.

Edwin Shuker’s family came under increasing persecution in Iraq after the Six Day War in 1967 – persecution that had similarities to that in Germany in the early 1930s. A sequence of increasingly severe restrictions were place upon Jews in Syria, finally excluding them from work in both public and private sectors.  

For those who are interested in learning more about these little-known facts from the 20th Century, a recording of the event is available on YouTube and we stock a 48-minute documentary titled The Forgotten Refugees (in DVD format).