| Harif marks new Jewish Refugee Day
Harif marks new Jewish Refugee Day
Yesterday evening, 17th February, marked a watershed in the campaign for justice for Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Harif, a UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, held a Soiree Orientale’ dinner to mark the imminent introduction of an official day in the calendar to commemorate the uprooting of 870,000 Jews forced out of 10 countries - from Morocco to Yemen.
A bill to add such a Day to the statute book has just passed its first reading in the Israeli Knesset.
The Harif evening featured entertainment by Yossi Alfi, a celebrity storyteller from Israel, and oriental singing music and dancing by Sari Alfi, oud player Ehsan Aleman, and the Oranim troupe. It took place in a London hotel decorated with tents, lanterns and outsize Moroccan teapots. Many of the 300 guests entered into the oriental spirit of the occasion, wearing tarbushes, kaftans and keffiyas.
Lyn Julius, who co-founded Harif eight years ago, said:
"Jewish Refugee Day is an occasion for commemoration: we remember the bad times; the families expelled at a moment’s notice, the insecurity, loved ones tortured and jailed, or even executed; the property abandoned or confiscated.
But there were good times too. We are also here to celebrate the points of connection. For 14 centuries Jews and Arabs lived as neighbours and friends. However, when things go wrong for the Jews, then are never the only ones to suffer. We have Arab and Christian supporters here because they know that a society that destroys its minorities ends up destroying itself."
The Israeli Deputy Ambassador, Eitan Naeh, reminded the guests that 17th February was the date in 1948 when the Arab League threatened discriminatory measures against their citizens - "the Jewish minority of Palestine": bank accounts frozen, money extorted to pay for the war effort against Israel, confiscation of property.
Other speakers were Dr Rabbi Abraham Levy, emeritus rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation and Rabbi Joseph Dweck, who takes up his post as senior Rabbi of the Congregation in June.
The Harif celebration coincides with a surge in interest in Jews from Arab countries. The Kerry peace framework proposals may include a clause compensating Jewish refugees for lost property.