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Immigration to Israel from Arab lands

History of Jews in Arab lands

Jews lived in what are now Arab states since the Babylonian destruction of the first Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, in 586 B.C.E.

Except for intermittent periods when Jews in Arab lands were able to contribute to their countries of residence, Jews, along with Christians and Zoroastrians, had the legal status of Dhimmis: second-class citizens who received some measure of protection in exchange for subordination to their Muslim rulers. Jews were required to live in segregated quarters, wear distinctive clothing, and either embrace Islam or pay the jizya, a protection tax. In return for this they received some benefits such as exemption from military service. The Jewish and Christian communities constituted semi-autonomous entities under their own religious laws and leaders, who carried the responsibiliy for the community towards the Muslim rulers.

In 1945 there were nearly 900,000 Jews living in communities throughout the Arab world. Today, there are fewer than 8,000. In some Arab states, such as Libya, the Jewish community no longer exists; in others, only a few hundred Jews remain.

Middle Eastern and North African Jewish communities, came to an end in the 1940s and early 1950s when most Arab governments forced hundreds of thousands of Jews to flee after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Palestinian exodus, and the creation of the state of Israel.

Absorbing Jewish refugees

Of the nearly 900,000 Jewish refugees, approximately 600,000 were absorbed by Israel. Today, almost half of Israel's Jewish citizens are the original refugees and their descendants. The remainder went to Europe and the Americas.

These refugees were forced to abandon virtually all of their property, especially as they fled from the most hostile countries: Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Libya. Israel absorbed any Jewish refugee who wished to become an Israeli citizen.

Jewish refugee advocacy groups

There are a number of advocacy groups concerned with Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

The World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries

Wojac was founded in 1975. According to their website, it was founded "in Paris by several leaders of immigrants' associations and communities of Jews from Arab countries living in Israel and the Diaspora. It was first headed by Mordechai Ben-Porat, a former Israeli cabinet minister and Knesset member and by Leon Tamman of blessed memory, one of the leaders of World Sephardi Jewry. The organization?s purposes were, at that time, two-fold: to work to relieve the distress of the Jews remaining in Arab countries who suffered from persecution, imprisonment and executions, and to react to the overwhelming importance given to the issue of the Palestinian refugees in world public opinion. WOJAC's founders saw the organization as one which would do what no other organization or government entity was doing at the time: it would raise the forgotten issue of the Jews who had been forced to leave Arab countries and to abandon all their communal and private property."

WOJAC is an international, non-profit organization, associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information as an N.G.O.

Justice for Jews from Arab Countries

According to their website "There exists a moral imperative to ensure that justice for Jews from Arab countries assumes its rightful place on the international political and judicial agenda and that their rights be secured as a matter of law and equity. Justice for Jews from Arab Countries is being created with the following objectives: i) To chronicle the experience and document the legitimate claims of Jews displaced from Arab countries. ii) To educate public opinion on the causes and plight of Jews who were displaced from Arab countries; and ii) To advocate for, and secure rights and redress, for Jews from Arab countries who suffered as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict."

Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa

According to their website "JIMENA's mission is to advocate and educate about the history and plight of the Jews indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa. Our core goals are: TO TELL OUR STORY. The world must know about our plight as former refugees from Arab countries. We were victims of mass violations of human rights, and justice calls for our story to be told, and our rights addressed. TO REESTABLISH HISTORICAL CONTEXT. Our story must be returned to the narrative of the modern Middle East from which it has been erased. TO HELP BRING ABOUT A JUST SOLUTION TO THE MIDDLE EAST CRISIS. In the absence of truth and justice, there can be no reconciliation, without which there can be no just, lasting peace between and among all peoples of the region."

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