Scottish Council of Jewish Communites
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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
Representing, connecting, and supporting Jewish people in Scotland

Uprooted – Highlighting the forgotten refugees

 

8 March 2019

Uprooted – Highlighting the forgotten refugees

SCoJeC was delighted to host a tour by Lyn Julius, author of Uprooted, the little-known story of the ancient Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa, and how an estimated 850 000 Jewish refugees were forced to leave their homes in the Arab world between the Second World War and the early 1970s.

Lyn began by explaining how ancient these lost Jewish communities were – some dating back nearly 3000 years to the days of the Bible and Talmud, and predating Islam by more than a millennium. They mostly flourished in the early twentieth century as colonialism broke down, and before the Holocaust they constituted around 10% of the world's Jewish population. However, in just 30 years, they were almost all aggressively forced to flee their homes and driven out of their countries, losing their homes and livelihoods, and there are now barely 10,000 Jews in the entire Middle East and North Africa outside Israel.

Displacement of Jews from Arab countries
 
Uprooted – Highlighting the forgotten refugees

Lyn also spoke about alliances during the Second World War between the Nazis and Arab leaders including Haj Amin Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and said that the same process of persecution is now being repeated against Christian and other minority communities such as the Kurds and Yazidis, across the Middle East. She also discussed how these 650,000 refugees were later integrated into Israel, where they now make up more than half the population, and suggested that acknowledging the cause of these refugees could contribute to peace and reconciliation between Israel and the Muslim world.

Uprooted – Highlighting the forgotten refugees

Introducing Lyn at each of these events, SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski pointed out that Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January is also the anniversary of one of the key atrocities in the persecution of Jews in the Arab world, the public hanging of nine Jews by Saddam Hussein's regime in Baghdad. These trumped-up charges were the beginning of the end of a community that had once numbered 150,000 and were now less than a handful. Lyn said there is a growing clamour for recognition, redress, and memorialisation for these Jewish refugees; in recent years an annual memorial day had been established on 30th November, and she called on Jewish communities to mark this date in an appropriate way.

Uprooted – Highlighting the forgotten refugees

Around 150 people attended the talks, and members of the audience described Lyn's presentation as "excellent", "enlightening and engaging", "very worthwhile and informative", and "informative, interesting, and well-presented", as well as praising SCoJeC's traditional kosher buffet and the "very pleasant and relaxed atmosphere". Several members of the audience commented that the persecution of Jews in Arab lands was "totally unknown – it needs to be publicised", "we need to hear more of this truth", and "of historical importance that should be spread more widely". One added, "the rich Jewish heritage in the Middle East has been mostly erased, and the harrowing mass exodus of Jews from Arab lands is a subject that is disgracefully overlooked and a topic that needs to be addressed and understood".

As well as her public meetings in Glasgow, Inverness, Edinburgh, and Dumfries, Lyn also spoke in the Scottish Parliament. Kezia Dugdale MSP, who hosted the meeting, said:

Uprooted – Highlighting the forgotten refugees

"I was delighted to host Lyn Julius in Parliament along with the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, and was both shocked and saddened to hear of an often overlooked and untold piece of history.

After years of research, Lyn's book Uprooted describes the plight of over 850,000 Jews, displaced from their homes in Africa and the Middle East after the Second World War. She intertwines personal case studies with first class historical research and clarity. It's a stunning piece of work which deserves to be read and shared far and wide.

Her work is yet another timely reminder of the plight Jewish communities face to live peacefully without fear or discrimination, but also to prosper with acceptance and inclusion, whatever part of the world they call home."

Commenting after the tour, Lyn said:

"As the author of "Uprooted", I thank SCoJeC for arranging such a successful Scottish tour for me. The highlight of my week was the session they organised in the Scottish Parliament. As well as attracting enthusiastic audiences in Glasgow and Edinburgh, SCoJeC pulled out all the stops to get me to the furthest reaches of the country – Inverness and Dumfries! I have taken away wonderful memories and made new friends."

Lyn’s tour was generously supported by Jewish Renaissance magazine and Netherlee and Clarkston Charitable Trust.

 

   
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