Historical Narrative

There has been an uninterrupted presence of large Jewish communities in the Middle East from time immemorial. The ancient Jewish communities of the Middle East and North Africa − including in the Land of Israel − existed for over 2,500 years before the birth of the modern Arab states.

Iraq 6th century BCE
Lebanon 1st century BCE
Libya 3rd century BCE
Syria 1st century CE
Yemen 3rd century BCE
Morocco 1st century CE
Algeria 1st-2nd century CE
Tunisia 200 CE

One thousand years before the advent of Islam, Jews in substantial numbers resided in what are today Arab countries. For centuries under Islamic rule, following the Moslem conquest of the region, Jews were considered ‘dhimmi’, or second-class citizens. But they were nonetheless permitted limited religious, educational, professional, and business opportunities.

It is within the last 55 years that the world witnessed the mass displacement of over 850,000 long-time Jewish residents from the totalitarian regimes, the brutal dictatorships and monarchies of Syria, Trans-Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.

The rise of pan-Arabism and independence movements in the 20th century resulted in an orchestrated, multi-state campaign against Zionism. These states vehemently opposed the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people. Hundreds of thousands of Jews resident in Arab countries were ensnared in this struggle.

Immediately before and after its declaration of statehood, the Arab world sought to destroy the newly created State of Israel between 1948-49. The rights and security of Jews resident in Arab countries came under legal and physical assault by governments and the general populations. In Syria, anti-Jewish pogroms erupted in Aleppo in 1947. Of the town’s 10,000 Jews 7,000 fled in terror. In Iraq, ‘Zionism’ became a capital crime. More than 70 Jews were killed by bombs in the Jewish Quarter of Cairo, Egypt. After the French left Algeria, the authorities issued a variety of anti-Jewish decrees that prompted nearly all of the 160,000 Jews to flee the country. After the 1947 United Nations General Assembly Resolution on the Partition Plan, Muslim rioters engaged in bloody pogroms in Aden and Yemen, which killed 82 Jews. In numerous countries, Jews were expelled or had their citizenship revoked (e.g. Libya). Varying numbers of Jews fled from 10 Arab countries. They became refugees in a region overwhelmingly hostile to Jews.

State-sanctioned restraints, often coupled with violence and repression, precipitated a mass displacement of Jews. While the results were similar, life became untenable and Jews were displaced from some 10 countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa. This caused the Jewish refugee problem in the Middle East.

The result: over 850,000 Jews were uprooted from the lands where they and their ancestors had lived for generations.