Mizrachi Jewish Resettlement
When Israel was established, many countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa opposed its creation and turned against the Jews in their own country. In turn, many of the Jews in those countries were forced to emigrate, many of them moving to Israel. These are the stories of some of the countries that forced many of their Jews out of their countries.
In the year 1948, the Egyptian Jewish community consisted of approximately 75,000 Jews. By 1950, Egypt had started to expel all of the Jews and to sequester Jewish property. They also bombed the Cairo Jewish Quarter. About 14,000 Jews moved to Israel at that time. Approximately 25,000 Jews moved from Egypt to Israel after the Sinai Campaign in 1956 (Daniel Gordis: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn). Today, Israel has an Egyptian Jewish population of 57,500, while Egypt itself only has approximately 18 Jews.
In 1948, Libya had a Jewish population of about 38,000 people. However, due to Nazi-influenced pogroms by the local population, along with the Libyan independence declaration in 1951, almost all of the Jews decided to leave (Daniel Gordis: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn). By 2003, no Jews remained. Many had emigrated to Israel, although some went to other countries, including the United States and Italy.
In 1948, Morocco had a Jewish population of 265,000. By 1958, 65,000 of those Jews fled due to riots and economic boycotts against the Jews. By 1968, only about 50,000 Jews remained (Daniel Gordis: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn). Israel’s current Moroccan Jewish population is about 486,000 people, while only about 2,250 Jews remain in Morocco.
In the 1948 Independence war, Syria was one of the Arab countries involved in attacking Israel. Although Jews in Syria were never officially expelled, their situation gradually worsened, leading to almost all Syrian Jews choosing to leave. For example, in 1948 Jews could no longer sell property, and in 1953 their bank accounts were frozen and property confiscated. Many of the Jews went to Israel. Israel currently houses about 80,000 Syrian Jews.
In 1950, Iraq decided to make it legal for Jews to migrate to Israel. However, Jews had to liquidate their assets before they could leave, and they could only take $140 and 66 pounds of luggage with them. To transport so many people from Iraq to Israel, Israel created “Operation Ezra and Nehemiah”. In this operation, Israel transported over 120,000 penniless Iraqi Jews to Israel in the span of just over 1 year. By 1952, only about 6,000 Jews remained in Iraq.
In May 1949, the Imam of Yemen agreed to allow almost all of the Jews to be transported to Israel. Over the span of 15 months, Israel ran approximately 380 flights from Aden to Tel Aviv, transporting 45,640 people in total. Seats were removed, allowing each plan to carry over 500 people. This operation was carried out in secret, released to the media only after its completion.
What happened to all these people in Israel?
Many Mizrachi Jews arrived in Israel with little to no wealth and were faced with European Ashkenazi Jewish racism, so they were placed in ma’abarot (transit camps) at the outskirts of society. These were meant to be temporary homes, but construction ran behind schedule, leaving many Mizrachi Jews to live in these terrible conditions for many years. Lines were kilometers long for medical services, food, and restrooms (which often overflowed). There was insufficient water and electricity, and many people lived in tents or cheap huts.
Today, Mizrachi Jews remain poorer than their Ashkenazi counterparts, and many still live in the same ma’abarot as in 1950s and 1960s, although these have been made into permanent neighborhoods and towns. Mizrachim are mainly represented by the political party Shas.