“Uprooted: How 3000 Years of Jewish Civilization in the Arab World Vanished Overnight” by Lyn Julius— The Jews from Arab Countries

Julius, Lyn. “Uprooted: How 3000 Years of Jewish Civilization in the Arab World Vanished Overnight”, Vallentine Mitchell, 2018.

The Jews From Arab Countries

Amos Lassen

“Uprooted” is the result of ten years Lyn Julius’ studying Jews in Arab countries and why they left. There has been a Jewish presence in the Middle East and North Africa for some 3000 years and it is fascinating and quite sad to realize that over the course of just the last 50 years, indigenous Jewish communities have all but disappeared. Many were able to get to Europe, Australia and/or North and South America. It is estimated that 650,000 went to Israel and now over 50 percent of Israel’s Jews are refugees from Arab and Muslim countries, or their descendants. Today we se the same thing happening to non-Muslims living in Arab countries of the Middle East. Those Jews who went to Israel did not have an easy time integrating into Israeli society. Some are still fighting for recognition.

As most of you who are interested in this subject know, there has not been much written—in fact I believe we can even say that the whole mater has been overlooked. Yet to understand what happening sociologically in the Middle East, this is compulsory reading. Quite basically, this is the history of Jewish refugees from Muslim/Arab countries. Here is a history of the treatment of Jews who lived under the governance in countries where the overwhelming majority was Muslim. In effect, this is also the history of anti-Semitism in the Muslim world and the total disregard of the Jews who also lived there. Muslim Arabs regarded Jews as being unclean and we can just imagine the effect that had on the victims. When this is expressed publicly, Jews become vulnerable. As far as I know and could find out, this is one of the first books that dares to challenge the idea that Jews were treated well by their Arab neighbors. The text goes into the very difficult areas of the likes and dislikes of Arabs and Jews and this often becomes confusing. Therefore some readers might find the complexity of likes and dislikes dynamics a bit confusing. I have often wondered if this is due to the Muslim quest to dominate while Jews not only see themselves as a religion but also as a people while in most cases except perhaps for ancient Palestine, they have been in the minority. They have the desire and the, shall we say, need to have good lives in their own country and on their own land. There were times in history when the two peoples got along beautifully yet Arabs tend to forget the good times. Both sides need to maintain an effective interaction.

I can only wonder why Jews stayed in Islamic and Arab countries where they suffered humiliation for long periods of time. Yet we must remember that it was not easy to leave especially after spending generations in these countries. Then there is the natural fear of staying where they have a general idea of how life will be or going and risk losing what they once had and not knowing if they would be accepted. Jews want to be sure that by leaving they will be gaining better lives and there was always the treat of expulsion from the Arab lands in which they live. We know that it is a human trait to be around others that are like you and share some kind of heritage and when there is oppression, the oppressed tend to stick together. The creation of the State of Israel as a refuge for Jews from everywhere shows that it is indeed possible to build a society that is democratic and takes in all who want to come without respect to a different origin or culture. Let me take a sidestep for a moment. When I moved to Israel in 1967, I began my life there at a facility known as an “Ulpan” where we were totally immersed in the Hebrew language. There were about 50 of us and no two people spoke the same language. Here we were adapting to a new cultural tradition in a language that was not our own and we managed. I believe that Israel has succeeded in the “ingathering of the exile not because of a common religion but in spite of it. It was the common past experiences that Jews had in intolerant communities that allowed them to form a new community in a new place.

I admire not only the research and writing of Lyn Julius but also the fact that she remains unbiased as she writes about Arabs and Jews and that is not an easy thing to do. Just as she criticizes the governments of Arab nations, so she criticizes the social and political dynamics in modern Israel and she looks at the dynamics between Jews from Europe and those from the Arab countries. She does not lose her unbiased feelings at any place here and it would have been so easy to do so. Arabs tend to think of Israel as a Jewish community in total harmony and we know that it is far from that. Arabs seem to have a hard time with difficult social issues. Going back in time to the exodus from Egypt, the Israelites constantly questioned Moses about where they were going an why. Muslims on the other hand, submit completely to what prophet Mohammad teaches them and those who did not had to deal with the Jihad. The basis for Muslim anti-Semitism comes from long ago when Mohammed fought Jewish tribes.

So much of what Lyn Julius shares with us is new—these are topics that were not discussed around the table after a meal, for example. what we have not been told. This is a story of Jewish exile, Jewish marginalization and Jewish loss of freedom. Through personal stories, writer Julius gives us the history of the Jews from Arab countries alongside historical facts. We read of the chaos of Jewish communities and lives that were totally changed by these experiences and that are still felt today.

It is already seventy years since Israel’s War of Independence when she was attacked by the Muslim nations that surround her. Even though they lost the war, Arabs still celebrate the “Nabka” as it has come to be called. The Arab nations will not forfeit their claims on Israel and there were more Jews driven from Arab countries than Arabs from Israel.

It is interesting to note that today the Jews who left the Arab lands and their descendants comprise over half of the number of Jews living in Israel today. Is it not interesting that until this book was published, we did not know their stories? There are questions and more questions but rest assured that Lyn Julius will answer them to the best of her ability.

The book is available in paperback@ $19.95 and in hardback@$37.95 and it is worth every penny. There is a 20% discount off “Uprooted” for orders direct from the publisher’s website www.vmbooks.com. Order code JULIUS17, offer ends 29th June 2018.

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