Why did Jews go to Israel from other Middle Eastern countries?
El Ghirba Synagogue in Tunisia.
Following the 1947 United Nations vote to partition Palestine, Arab violence against Jews erupted throughout the Middle East and North Africa where more than 870,000 Jews were living (1945 estimate). Many of the Jews resided in communities with a continuous Jewish existence for 2,500 years or more.
Even before the November 1947 UN vote, Arab delegates to the UN, in particular those of Egypt and Iraq, had hinted at their intentions in speeches, warning that Partition might endanger Jews in Arab lands, intensify antisemitism and lead to massacres of Jews. These veiled threats must have had a chilling impact on Jews in Arab lands where memories of the pro-Nazi stance of the local Arab governments and nationalists were still fresh, especially in Iraq, Syria and Egypt, as well as in Libya where Arab mobs had accepted the occupying Germans’ invitation to plunder the Jews. And recall the incitement to murder Jews issued over Radio Berlin during World War II by Haj Amin al-Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem. These facts make obvious nonsense out of claims that Jews were expelled from Arab countries only because the Palestinian Arabs were expelled from Palestine.
In Iraq, new laws made Zionism punishable by death. In Aleppo, Syria, 300 Jewish homes and 11 synagogues were burned to the ground, and half of the city’s 4,000 Jews fled elsewhere. In Aden, 82 Jews were killed. Pogroms accompanied by confiscation of Jewish property and belongings was the norm in Arab countries. From 1948 on, Jewish communities that had survived in Arab countries since antiquity dwindled to a few families or became extinct.
Aproximately 600,000 Jews sought refuge in the State of Israel. Since their belongings were confiscated as the price of leaving, they arrived in Israel pennyless, but they were welcomed and quickly absorbed into Israeli society. In reality, an exchange of populations took place between Jews leaving Arab countries and Arabs leaving Jewish Palestine. But while the Jewish refugees quickly became productive citizens of their new home country of Israel, the Palestinian Arabs were forced by their politically motivated leaders to fester as “refugees” for generations.
Israel absorbed the Jews who fled Arab countries and millions of refugees from Nazi and Soviet Europe in the same time. After brief periods of adjustment, the Jews fleeing life-threatening conditions in other lands became indistinguishable from other Israelis. Today tiny Israel, with relatively few resources, has no “refugee problem” while the wealthy Arab countries, with vast lands and oil riches, cannot find a way to help the Palestinian Arabs.