November 2007 Archives

(This Original Essay is Copyrighted by Shelomo Alfassa - All Rights Reserved)

There are several reasons why there is an unfortunate modern day trend to declare that all non-Ashkenazim are Sephardim, and it comes from both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi world. First and foremost there is a grave ignorance coming from the Ashkenazi yeshiva world, which educates 95% of the worlds rabbinical scholars. Yeshivot are not places for learning history outside of Talmudic history. They are not set up or traditionally equipped to teach the history of the Jewish people. Of course a more progressive yeshiva which also offers college degrees might have some courses, but these are the exception and not the rule. Rabbi Berel Wein, one of Ashkenazi Jewry's well known modern historians declared,

Students without knowledge and a sense of history are doomed to be poor citizens and shortsighted in their political and national assessments and decisions. That is why I am disturbed by the lack of knowledge of the history of our people which is, unfortunately, prevalent in all sections of our society.
The other trend is the politically correct-erroneous viewpoint.  It is wrong in our modern day to declare that Sephardim are only those who come from Iberia, as the population exchanges between Iberia and North Africa were common and numerous. Clearly, when looked at carefully, the matter of 'who is Sephardic' is muddied when you use the location of birth as the indicator of what makes a person Sephardic. Would 15th century Spanish Jews that migrated to Poland be Sephardic? Would 20th century Salonikan Jews living in Seattle be Sephardic? What if 19th century Greek speaking Romaniote Jews from the Ottoman Turkish city of Janina migrated to Spain, would they be Sephardic? Would Moroccan Jews that fled to Montreal be Sephardic?—what if their grandparents had come from Spain? These are the types of questions that can and should be asked. Many times, non-Sephardim live in Sephardic lands, this is best known in Constantinople which had an overwhelmingly Sephardic milieu, but also substantial Ashkenazi community.

One typical argument previously issued by Judeo-Spanish Sephardim is that Syrian Jews are not Sephardic. However, although Syria had an ancient Arabic speaking population of indigenous Jews from time immemorial (known as Must'Arab'een), Spanish Jews arrived in Damascus and Aleppo in the early 16th century. After 1516, when Syria became part of the Turkish Empire, even more followed. Senor Shelomo Kassin of Spain lead an emigration of people to Aleppo, arriving there in 1540 and quickly becoming head of the community. While the Kassin family remains leaders in the Syrian community, even to this day, and have since the 16th century, they no longer speak Spanish; that language was probably lost by the second generation after the Spanish Jews assimilated into Syrian society.

Jews throughout the Arab world have been geographically vacillating for centuries. The first large wave of Jews emigrated in the course of the 9th and 10th centuries to Syria, and North Africa. Prior to the Islamicization of the east, the Arab lands were said to have very large Jewish populations. A 9th century Egyptian author recorded that upon the approach of the Arab legions into Egypt, some 70,000 Jews fled Alexandria, leaving some 40,000 remaining in that city; but even if these numbers are inflated, surely a large group left, but where did that body of people go? During the mid 13th century, Jews from Iraq and areas surrounding that region fled to Syria and Egypt in fear of the approaching Mongols.

It was said that, "When the news of the Mongol conquests spread, terrified Babylonians, Moslems and Jews alike, left their homes and wandered westward." This was the second "big wave" that fled Babylon, the first occurring three centuries prior. Mongols were enemies of Islam, and they began expanding from Persia toward Mesopotamia around 1250. In 1258, Baghdad was conquered. Religious intolerance toward the Jews from both the Muslim population and the Mongol army increased considerably. In a 2004 paper issued by the Journal of the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center, Victor Ozair reported how Iraqi Jewish families, most notably his own, fled from Iraq to Spain to escape the arrival of the Mongols:

Consequently, in order to escape this intolerable oppression, numerous Jews including many Ozair families fled to Egypt and North Africa, then to Andalusia in Spain...On many tombstones in old churches in Andalusia and in other cities in Northern Spain the name Oxair is written (the letter z was changed to x in order to adapt the name to the Spanish pronunciation at that time).
To some extent, Spain always possessed a fluid population, a transitional populace which whether for business, fiscal opportunities or other rationale, migrated to and from the peninsula. Benjamin of Tudela relates that he found Sephardim in Rhodes, and Rottiers says that Jews fled Spain after persecution in 1280 at Tarragona, they then left and established themselves in Rhodes. When the Jews were banished from Spain and Portugal, the Jewish population at Bordeaux increased, for the refugees fled to the cities of southern France. Yacob ben David ibn Yahya Tam was a Portuguese-Turkish rabbi and physician; born in Portugal in the second half of the fifteenth century and passing at Constantinople between 1534 and 1542. It was said he presumably succeeded Eliyahu Mizrahi as rabbi of Constantinople. His father had fled Portugal with the family to Naples in 1493. In the late fifteen century, Yacob Berab, a Spanish born Talmudist and rabbi fled from Toledo to Tlemçen, then the chief town of the Barbary states, the Jewish community there, consisting of 5,000 families, chose him as their rabbi, and though he was but a youth of eighteen, he was highly respected.

In 1704 when the British took possession of Gibraltar at the southern tip of Spain, Jews were reported to have settled there, many coming from Amsterdam, a portion which could have been said to have fled some 200 years earlier. By 1890 there were four synagogues in the British colony. A community was established which contributed considerably to the growth of trade between Gibraltar and Morocco and between Gibraltar and England. At times, Jews of Gibraltar venturing on Spanish soil, were seized by the Inquisition. In 1843 a Ladino newspaper, "Cronica Israelitica" circulated on Gibraltar. As early as 1870 many newly educated young Sephardim from the Alliance Israelite Universelle departed from Tetuan, Morocco and emigrated to Gibraltar, as well as Algeria, Canary Islands, Latin America, Greece, Bulgaria, Egypt, France, Portugal, and Ceuta where they went to start families and seek employment. In 1878, there were 1,533 Jewish inhabitants in Gibraltar; by the early 20th century they had afforded shelter to many Russian and Rumanian Jews, and the total Jewish population of Gibraltar was recorded as much as 9,400, of which 7,000 were native Sephardi and 2,400 Ashkenazi immigrants.

The Spanish and Portuguese rabbinical leaders carried their traditions to North Africa, where they would expose the local population to their minhagim (religious traditions), thus expanding their customs and ways of life through out Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Just as there are many accounts of Jews migrating away from North Africa and Iberia, there are many showing migration toward that region. When this happened, the rabbinical leaders carried their traditions from Morocco, Tunisia and other parts of North Africa into Spain and Portugal. We can not forget the most famous case of emigration out of Spain, the family of Maimonides, they fled Islamic persecution by crossing over to North Africa. There was a well known rabbi named Mordehai Assaban who was born at Morocco in 1700 who died at Aleppo about 1760. He was at one time the chief rabbi of Leghorn, and emigrated to Jerusalem about 1729, where he dwelt for thirty years. Cases such as this of Jews coming from North Africa are popular in the literature.

As we can see, it is complicated to bluntly state that all Sephardim only come from Spain, because whether it was in the 9th, 10th or 11th century, or after the expulsion in the 15th, the literature is chock-filled with evidence of Jews going to Spain and Portugal from North Africa, some after coming from Babylonia, or Jews coming from those Iberian states to North Africa.

What is clear, is that Sephardic Jews developed and shared common religious and cultural bonds with their fellow co-religionists from the Iberian/North African Atlantic seaboard to the eastern portion of the Fertile Crescent for at least the last 1,500 years. The Jews living in this aforementioned geographic area all fell under the jurisdiction of the Babylonian Talmudic academies in the Iraq cities of Sura and Pumbedita, and it was from there (Babylonia), that religious instruction went to the Jews in cities such as Barcelona and Cordoba.

It is not geographical cultural items such as food or music which kept the Jews Sephardic, but their acceptance of Sephardic rabbinical scholars, their law, decisions and judgments. Sephardim, worldwide, have developed and possess a shared relationship based upon unique religious traditions, collective ideals, customs and ethnicity. These all revolve around a Torah-based nucleus which was deliberated on, and disseminated from, Babylonia.

(This Original Essay is Copyrighted by Shelomo Alfassa - All Rights Reserved)

In the days and weeks leading up to the Annapolis conference, the media has been flooded with statements discussing various Arab leaders and states threatening to boycott the gathering. Boycotting is nothing new. History demonstrates that Arabs have had a long (yet ineffective) account of boycotting people, places and things. Still, it seems that no matter how hard they have tried, these boycotts always failed, and they remain today as mediocre attempts to make a strong statement or to take a strong position, usually one their constituents don't hold by.

In 1947, a group of Palestinian Arabs made representations to the King of England regarding their boycott of Jewish goods, seeking to gain support for their action. Yet, instead of finding support from the Brits, London advised them that their actions were inconsistent with the Geneva based International Trade Organization, and essentially told the Arabs they were out of line. The tactic of using economic and political boycotts against the Jews is something Arabs have been doing for many decades. Their boycott of Jewish interests started in the 1920's and technically remains in effect through the Arab League to this day.

In 1922, the Arabs boycotted elections which had been developed for a Legislative Council that the British had been planning. Ten years later, the Arabs boycotted the 1933 Levant Fair, a trade show designed to show the world the "Zionist enterprise in Palestine." That same year the Arabs held several other boycotts, all generally large in bark and small in bite. This includes the 1933 boycott of the opening of the Haifa Harbor and later that year the threatened boycott of the Haifa municipal elections.

In October 1933, angered by the arrival of 30,000 Jews to Palestine, the Mufti led demonstrations which became violent and led to 30 deaths and 200 injured throughout Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa and Nablus. When the British sought to investigate this, the Arabs boycotted the Inquiry Commission that convened examine the incident.

As Arab nationalism grew, Arab boycotting continued, or at least it was attempted. In 1933 the Arabs boycotted the Athletic Sports Meeting of Pupils of Government Schools. That same year, Arab leaders attempted to boycott the celebration in honor of King George, yet many Arab notables showed up, including the Mayor of Jaffa, Ramle and other cities. In February 1934, a boycott of municipal elections was prepared in Gaza by Arabs who opposed heavy taxes, even though another Arab leader said that such a boycott would be beneficial to the Jews. Later that year Arabs boycotted Jewish movie theaters in Haifa, and also used the slogan, "the Jews gain is the Arabs loss."

In November of 1936, the Arab Higher Committee issued a boycott declaration to the Royal Commission opposing the entering "of a single Jew a year" into Palestine. That same month, when their utility bills were running high, the Arabs stated they would boycott the Jerusalem Electric Company. A year later, in the Spring of 1937, while Jewish leaders attended British military parades and celebrations held in Nablus, Hebron, Jenin and Tulkarm, Palestinian Arab leaders boycotted the events. In March of 1938, Palestinian Arabs boycotted the new Technical Commission because Arabs were opposed to the principle of Partition which "would be harmful to the Arab political cause."

Starting in the early 1940's the Palestinian Arabs once again made strides to boycott Jewish goods. However, Palestinian Arabs were not the only Arabs to boycott Jewish products, often other Arab countries joined in. In February 1947, the Premier of Iraq proposed a boycott in his country to show solidarity with the Arabs in Palestine. His Baghdad based boycott was to "strangle Jewish industry in Palestine." Ironically though, even when the Arabs thought they were supporting their own cause by refusing goods and services of the Jews in Palestine, their trade links abroad both in the USA and England, found them patronizing some of the most generous supporters of Zionism.

In February of 1946, a resolution was issued by the British slamming the Arab boycott, it indicated "the boycott echoes Nazi propaganda." Of course, even if the Arab authorities (self-declared or otherwise) instituted boycotts on Jewish products, that was not necessarily the deciding factor which would halt the Arabs from desiring or consuming Jewish products. While Arab leaders voiced their opinion to stay away from Jewish products, it was not that the Jewish products were tarnished nor blemished, quite the contrary. For example, while the Palestinian Jews were having their cheese boycotted throughout the Arab world, the Egyptian government continued to place orders for Galil cheese, a type of premium Blue Cheese prepared by Jews. To ensure the Jewish cheese had no difficulty getting to Egypt, officials at Cairo communicated their needs to the Food Control authorities in Palestine. This of course came at the same time when the Palestine Post was reporting that Egypt had closed its ports to "Zionist" goods and exports--and at a time when truck loads of Jewish products and foodstuffs, being transported to Beirut from Haifa, were being hijacked and confiscated by Palestinian Arabs, most likely for their consumption.

At a point when one particular Arab boycott was needing help, the boycotters developed an imaginative public relations plan, it included developing and distributing an attractive lapel pin, designed with an olive branch. This pin was engraved with the slogan, "The Arab Land for the Arabs." Even so, the Arabs placed the order of these pins with a Jewish firm that would manufacture them.

In December of 1948, an Arab boycott of "Zionist products" was approved by delegates from eight different towns that had gathered in Jerusalem for a conference of Palestinian Arab women. This came after a boycott was issued by the Arab League in regard to the same. Yet, a "leading Arab resident in the Old City of Jerusalem" told a reporter from the Palestine Post that his coat, shirt, socks and shoes were made by Jews; and the canned food he ate came from Jewish sources. He would be forced to shut down if it was not for Jewish goods. "Those in the Arab League who decided on a strike don't worry about us," he said. "We need the Jews and they need us, we cannot live without such mutual aid."

(This Original Essay is Copyrighted by Shelomo Alfassa - All Rights Reserved)

A couple of months ago the Jewish people lost a leader, an educator, a scholar, and a defender; his name was Hayim Azses, and he was one great man. Hayim, a short gentle man, with a soft voice, was the epitome of a man that let his passions in life--lead his life, and he would not have had it any other way. Hayim was a lover of the Jewish world, specifically the Sephardic world, and everything having to do with Jerusalem, the city he called home.

Hayim Azses was born in Aleppo, Syria. During his life he lived all over the world. While in Turkey and France, he studied at Istanbul University and at the Sorbonne in Paris. He also studied Middle Eastern Affairs, French Literature, Economics and English Literature at the Hebrew university. Hayim spoke English, Hebrew, Turkish and Arabic, but his passion was French.

Hayim had published extensively. He was editing and creating books in the 1960's, and his works include anthologies, books, films, and audiovisual kits for educators. The Hadracha & Hasbara Digest series were conceived and developed by Hayim Azses in 1982. Education was his life. He spent 30 years working for the Jewish Agency for Israel where he became a leading educator and project developer at the former Youth and Hechalutz Department, the modern day Education Department. He had extensive experience in the field of educational and leadership training, directing many projects at the Education Department of the Jewish Agency. Hayim's last project was one he really proud of. It was a 360 page book entitled. "The Shoah in the Sephardic Communities." which was published by Dr. Jose A. Nessim's Sephardic Educational Center with support from the Claims Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

Hayim was a well known expert on the Arab media and on Hasbara, a Hebrew word Golda Meir once said was described as best meaning "public diplomacy." Hayim often used a unique media-oriented approach when developing new educational content in his drive for Hasbara. Recently, Gila Ansell Brauner, an editor and producer who works for the Jewish Agency told me, "Hayim developed numerous Hasbara workshops, kits, and educational booklets that led the field in informal and formal education." Gila also said, "unfortunately, we can't find the 'This is your life, Hayim Azses' slideshow that we made about him before his shlichut to France in 1985, it had a lot of family history, for which I interviewed his close relatives in Jerusalem." Gila had worked with Hayim from January 1982 to summer 1985.

Hayim Azses had a love of film making, and made several films with several different production teams. Among his films were: "If I forget Thee O Jerusalem" (distributed in 12 countries) and "The Confrontation" (a short film on Theodore Herzl twice broadcast on French TV). He also did films and docudramas about Jews and Arabs, one called, "I am a Palestinian," and one about Jews who lived during the period of the Inquisition.

Hayim was an international man who spoke in many countries promoting Israel and explaining its policies to the world, especially young people, who he knew--would be the leaders of tomorrow. In his last years, he lectured at several New York area campuses including NYU, Fordham University Law School, Hunter College, and Baruch College.

Proud of his Halabi (Syrian) Jewish roots, Hayim Azses remained a vital spark which helped keep the glow of the Sephardic torch burning. He was an expert on Syrian Jewry and "Sephardic Jerusalem" and was a keeper of tremendous knowledge on the topic. His last professional position was as the Educational Director for the Sephardic Educational Center in the Old City of Jerusalem, and that is where I met him. I remember one particular day, it was a wonderful quiet Shabbat in Jerusalem, and he, his wife, myself, and a couple friends had a beautiful quiet lunch in the courtyard next to the Yohannan Ben Zakkai (Kal Grande) synagogue. There, in the bright sun, while the birds were chirping and distant church bells rang, Hayim told us the sweet story about how he met his wife, about his emigration to Israel, and about his passions for inspiring young Jews about the Jewish world and the land of Israel.

Hayim Azses was tragically killed in an automobile accident when a young man crossed the road and crashed into him head on. He remained in the hospital for several weeks, but eventually succumbed to his injuries. While he was an older man, he was not ready to go, and had much life and energy to persevere.

Hayim leaves behind a heartbroken family, including his loving wife Michal and a brother who he was very close with, (and I remember him always speaking fondly of), Prof. Yom Tov Assis, Professor of Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Hayim was a charming and special man who was worldly, sophisticated, and had a passion for Jewish education rarely found these days. I, and countless others, from the many friends he had in Brooklyn, Buenos Aires, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Istanbul, Panama, Paris and other locations, are going to miss him greatly, but remember him always.

In Jerusalem with R' Benarroch, R' Elnecave and the late great Haim Azses ZS"L and myself.

(This Original Essay is Copyrighted by Shelomo Alfassa - All Rights Reserved)


During the period of the Holocaust, some 5,000 North African Jews were uprooted from their homes, and thousands were drafted into forced labor internment camps. Some were deported to Italy and died in extermination camps in Europe. The Jewish quarter of Benghazi, Libya was sacked and 2,000 Jews were deported. Under Axis and Vichy rule in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, & Libya, Jews were denied rights granted to them during colonial rule, including citizenship. Economic restrictions were imposed and Jews were sent to forced labor camps where many perished. The Jewish prisoners were dispersed over 30 camps, which for all practical purposes were no different from concentration camps.

During this period, the Great Synagogue in Tunis, was taken over by the Nazis and used as a horse stable, just like the main synagogue in Krakow, Poland. Although it was not a common event, on several occasions between 1942-1944, German truck convoys deported Jews from Morocco to the death camps of Europe. By late 1942, there were 5 different camps in Algeria, all together they held 4,470 persons, including Jews. In February of 1943, an American reported that "concentration camps" existed in Morocco. The report indicated that the situation has "deteriorated seriously in the past two months." Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Memorial Museum shows a total of 17 slave labor concentration camps in North Africa: 3 in Morocco, 3 in Algeria, 7 in Tunisia, and 4 in Libya. There, some of the prisoners were tortured and murdered. Other internees worked as slaves in the desert building the Trans-Sahara railway.

In addition, while the entire Jewish world has heard of Kristallnacht, few have heard of the Farhud, where Arabs that were Nazi sympathizers in Baghdad, killed, maimed and committed numerous atrocities against the local Jewish community. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's (USHMM) mission statement describes the Holocaust as the "Systematic persecution and annihilation of European Jewry by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945" --this is not just an incomplete description--it is erroneous.

This essay is just a brief overview of Nazi activities in Arab countries. The intimate relationship and collusion between the Germans and their Arab partners is now well known. We also must remember Nazi activity took place in Syria, Egypt and other locations; much has been written about this topic, this essay strives only to be a pithy synopsis which seeks to bring much needed attention to the subject. Today historians and genocide scholars realize that Hitler's hand and influence stretched across North Africa from Morocco to Egypt and through the Arab countries to the north and east. The goal of the German leadership was to cleanse not only Europe, but the whole world of Jews.

(This Original Essay is Copyrighted by Shelomo Alfassa - All Rights Reserved)

(Hanuka starts December 5, 2007 this year.)

While we know Hanuka is the holiday commemorating the rededication of the Beit HaMikdash (the holy Temple) in Jerusalem, after the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks, it is this latter portion that we often forget. It is critical to remember is that the Jews were in a state of war with the Syrian-Greeks, one that went on for several bloody years.

As Greek occupiers established themselves in Jerusalem, a large number of Jews began to embrace the Greek culture and its Hellenistic pagan way of life. During this period, the Greeks ravaged and defiled the Temple with pig blood as well as through other means. Altars were erected with statues of the Greek gods and goddesses in every city and town. The Greeks banned the Torah all together, any Torah scrolls that were located were shred or burned. Soldiers forced Jews to make offerings, to eat forbidden foods, and to engage in other immoral acts. Maimonides tells us that the Greek leaders outlawed Judaism, that Jewish women were attacked, that money belonging to the Jews was taken. They caused the Jews great anguish, until the God of our Fathers granted them mercy and delivered them from the hands of their enemies. The Greeks killed anyone observing Shabat, Rosh Hodesh, or who sought kasher food. In accordance with a decree by Antiochus, they put to death the women who had circumcised their children, hanging the newborn babies around their necks; they also put to death their families as well as those who had circumcised them.

Some Jews fled from the cities to the hills of Judea, forming themselves into bands of guerrilla fighters. They were faithful to Judaism and would not assimilate into Greek culture and idolatry. The fighting began in Modiin, a village north of Jerusalem. A Greek officer along with his soldiers assembled the villagers in Modiin, asking them to bow to an idol and eat the flesh of a pig. The officer asked Mattitiyahu, a kohen gadol (High Priest), to take part in this pagan ceremony. He refused, and another villager stepped forward and offered to do it instead. Mattitiyahu became outraged, took out his sword and killed the man, then killed the officer. His five sons and the other villagers then attacked and killed the soldiers. Mattitiyahu's family went into hiding in the nearby mountains, where many other Jews who wanted to fight against the Greeks joined them. They attacked the Greek soldiers whenever possible. About a year after the rebellion started, Mattathias died. Before his death, he put his son Yehuda Maccabee in charge of the growing army. After three long years of fighting, the Jews defeated the Greek army, despite having fewer men and weapons. Eventually, Yehuda and his fellow "Maccabees" captured Jerusalem, expelled the Hellenists and triumphed over the enemy.

After some time, the Jews were able to return to the Temple and purify the building of idols and other sacrilegious items. This is at the point when they located only one small sealed jar of oil, a vessel with only enough oil for one day to light the oil lamp, the Menorah that was in the Temple. The miracle--was that a small amount of oil was able to sustain the lights, to illuminate the Temple for eight days.

As Jews, we are taught to be humble, but we should never forget about our great warrior past, one that once included protecting Jerusalem and the Torah no matter how hard or long the sacrifice was.
(This Original Essay is Copyrighted by Shelomo Alfassa - All Rights Reserved)

On November 2nd, 1918, the very first anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, the Chief Rabbi of Salonika and future first Chief Rabbi of Israel, Haham Jacob Meir, declared, "this date is henceforth a fete day (celebration), for it was on this day that Israel was recognized as a NATION among the other nations." His declaration was met by official representatives of England, America, France, Italy and Greece with great applause, and he was congratulated for his statement.

It was during Jacob Meir's term as chief rabbi in the holy land, that Sir Herbert Samuel, a Jew, had been appointed as the first British High Commissioner of Palestine in 1920. Under his direction, thousands of Jewish immigrants settled in the land. In each of the years between 1920 and 1923, about 8,000 Jews entered Palestine. In 1924 the number jumped to 13,000 and the following year to more than 33,000. Sadly, many Jewish people came to Palestine because they could go nowhere else, as America closed its doors to mass immigration in 1924. In 1920, Rabbi Meir was appointed by Samuel to be head of the Spanish Jewish Community of Palestine (from which all chief Sephardic rabbis were chosen) and soon after was honored with the Commander of the Order of the British Empire award for service to the British.

Jacob Meir was a peace maker; he was a profound student of Talmud, a patient and astute scholar, fluent in Hebrew as well as five other languages. He was a student of modern Hebrew letters, and enjoyed a reputation as one of Jerusalem's great rabbis. A demonstration of his passion for harmony, is his 1936 letter called an "Appeal for Friendliness." This was a call to Muslims of Jerusalem to make peace, he wrote:

"Our Moslem brethren in places near and far...I am eighty years of age today, and Providence has privileged me with the duty of serving the Faith of Israel for over sixty years...In my path of life I have met Heads of the Moslem and Christian Churches, and they have all expressed their appreciation and sympathy to the People of Israel and His Holy Writ, upon which rest the foundations of the faiths of the world. I recall the wise words that I have heard from Caliphs and Sultans, rulers of Turkey, who have had an unbounded admiration for the People of Israel, who are truthful in all their way...For many generations past, we Moslems and Jews, have lived as brethren, as well in Palestine, as in other countries, and have ever extended one to the other a truly helping hand. In the Holy City of Jerusalem, in Baghdad, in Granada, in Algiers, in Damascus, in Medina, in Fes, Tunis, in Cairo, in Constantinople...and in all other Moslem countries...We are all the sons of Abraham and Isaac, all the sons of the same Father in Heaven and we have common usages, which it is the duty of all of us to live up to....
I was born in Jerusalem, and all the leaders and heads of the Moslems in Palestine and in adjacent countries know me personally and appreciate that truth has ever been the torch by which I was guided. To all of those of my Moslem brethren who appeared before my religious court I meted out justice. My attitude to all sons of the Arab race, Christians and Moslems alike, has always been one of respect and true friendliness. Like the Prophet Samuel I can truly affirm today in the presence of the Almighty: 'Whose Ox have I and my people taken? Or whose Ass have I taken? Or whom, have I defrauded." Or whom, have I oppressed? Or of whose hand have I taken a ransom to blind mine eyes therewith?'.

Therefore, I beg you to pay your attention to the following. The Almighty God, Senior of all nations, wanted that the people of Israel should return to its Holy Land as it is ordered in our Holy Torah, in which you also believe, so who can oppose the volition of God? I deem it unnecessary to repeat our contention that any intention to prejudice the rights of the people of this country is far from our minds.
Therefore, I appeal to you, my brethren, why cause any harm? Clear your hearts of all hatred and animosity. I affirm before the Almighty that no Jew has any design on your Holy Places. Come and rally to the service of God Almighty. Learn His commands and abide by His ways, and thereupon will be fulfilled the words of the Prophet: 'Nation shall not lift up sword against Nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, and the wolf shall dwell with the lamb. So help us God.'"
Arab violence against Jews was a common occurrence during Jacob Meir's tenure. Even though he was a man of peace he was not a man to back down and he stood for the ideals and interests of the Jewish people. It is remembered that when testifying to the League of Nations Wailing Wall Commission of 1930, he declared, "The Bible is our kushan (deed) to this last relic of our Temple." Even with the rabbis emotional statement, the British commission concluded that the Muslims had absolute ownership of the Wall. Yet, they felt the Jews had the uncontested right to worship and to place seats in the narrow street, though not to blow the shofar there. The Arabs objected, and the Jews agreed, except for the last point, considering it a humiliation. In response, each year, proud Jewish youths would blow the shofar near the wall at the termination of Yom Kippur, which would always lead to the intervention of the British police who enforced the law against the blowing of the shofar.

Rabbi Jacob Meir died on May 26, 1939, he was 83 years old, his family was at his bedside when he passed. Over 10,000 Jewish residents of Jerusalem, representing all sections of the population took part in the funeral of the rabbi. The blue and white colors hung half staff from the offices of all Jewish public institutions. Many orations were made for the late Meir. Rabbi Yosef Levy declared it was a day of sorrow for all, that the passing of Jacob Meir had robbed Israel if a great leader and scholar, one of the last of the Knesseth Gedola (Great Assembly). Chief Rabbi Dr. Isaac Herzog said it was more than difficult for him to adequately mourn the saintly and scholarly man, whose efforts for unity had been so strenuous and successful. The loss was exacerbated for the "Betrayal Paper" was then hanging over Jewry. Herzog went on to ask that the spirit of Rabbi Meir would intercede for mercy before the Throne of the Almighty to annul the "evil decree" This decree that Herzog was speaking about was the British White Paper. This was the notorious document in which demonstrated the British had reneged on the earlier Balfour Declaration and announced that creating a Jewish state was no longer a British objective. Thus, it was their opinion, that only a divided Palestine could permanently settle the ongoing Jewish-Arab violence, and their first implementation of this new agenda was to severely restrict the number of Jewish refugees desiring to emigrate to Palestine. Shamefully, history demonstrates that during this period, Arab attacks on Jews increased, often under the eye of the British.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from November 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

October 2007 is the previous archive.

December 2007 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 4.01