These 10 artifacts from the Eretz Israel Museum tell intimate stories

Lifestyle

Dana Avrish created this installation which provides the context for the exhibit. She collected families’ photos to symbolize lives that were uprooted, stuffed into a suitcase and sent away. — Photo courtesy of Shmulik Balmas

When Israel was created in 1948, almost one million Jewish refugees were tossed out of their homelands throughout the Middle East and North Africa with a suitcase for their belongings and exit papers stamped “Leaving, Never to Return.”

A powerful exhibit named after those words is making headlines at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv and, if its creator has her wish, it will eventually be displayed in Jewish museums around the world, as well.

“There is a historical injustice which took place for so many years of erasing the stories of these glorious communities from the pages of history,” said Dana Avrish, a multidisciplinary artist, former Miss Israel and third-generation descendant of Iranian, Lebanese and Syrian Jews. “I’m determined to keep the stories of these individuals and their rich culture alive.”

Avrish spent three years researching and gathering artifacts, and learning about her own family along the way.

“It’s been an emotional journey not just for me but for those who visit and see their ancestors’ history finally being celebrated and validated,” she said. “More than 700 people showed up on opening day, and I continue to get letters and emails about what this exhibit means to them.”

“Leaving, Never to Return” takes visitors on a symbolic journey through the Jewish communities of 11 Arab countries and Iran which ultimately came together in Israel. The exhibit pays tribute to these once-vibrant Jewish communities through everyday items that tell the stories of the people who lived there.

Here are 10 items that show what was lost when these people were forced to leave their homelands.

Morocco

Silk velvet bags from Morocco, courtesy of the Gross Family Collection, Tel AvivSilk velvet bags from Morocco, courtesy of the Gross Family Collection, Tel Aviv — Photo courtesy of Hadar Saifan

In 1948, Morocco was home to one of the largest Jewish populations, with more than 265,000 Jews living there. Today, only 2,500 remain in the country.

These matching silk velvet bags, made to hold prayer books and shawls, were created for Shlomo bar Yehudah Benoliel in recognition of his contributions to education in Morocco. They’re embroidered with gilded metal thread. Goldsmithery was a craft passed down from father to son and practiced mostly by Jews since Islam forbade its believers to work with precious metals.

Algeria

Papercut from Algeria, courtesy of the Gross Family CollectionPapercut from Algeria, courtesy of the Gross Family Collection — Photo courtesy of Ardon Bar-Hama

In 1948, 140,000 lived in Algeria. Today, not a single Jew remains in the country.

This papercut, donated to the synagogue by Moshe De Eliyahu Ada, is rich with densely patterned ornamental motifs, elements inspired by local Muslim architecture and verses from Jewish sources. It features a horseshoe that encloses an ark inscribed with a combination of two of God’s names, “Yahadonhai,” as well as a menorah, which serves as a form of blessing and protection.

Tunisia

Filigree bracelet from Tunisia, courtesy of the Gat Family CollectionFiligree bracelet from Tunisia, courtesy of the Gat Family Collection — Photo courtesy of Hadar Saifan

In 1948, 105,000 Jews lived in Tunisia. Today, only about 1,000 Jews remain, mostly on the island of Djerba.

A filigree bracelet, decorated with motifs to ward off the evil eye – fish, hands, forms inspired by the animal world – is typical of Jewish goldsmiths in Djerba. This one has a rectangular clasp decorated with a Star of David which is emblazoned with the word, “Shaddai” (one of the names for God), at its center.

Libya

Circumcision tools from Libya, courtesy of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem: Gift of Joseph and Bruria Dadush, HolonCircumcision tools from Libya, courtesy of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem: Gift of Joseph and Bruria Dadush, Holon — Photo courtesy of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Elie Posner and Laura Lachman

In 1948, 38,000 Jews lived in Libya. Today, there are no Jews living there.

These tools belonged to Joseph Da’adush, a mohel who carried out the Jewish rite of circumcision and passed them from one generation to the next. Da’adush was sent to a concentration camp in Jadu, and he wrote in his diary about the horror he experienced there.

Egypt

Pocket watch from Egypt, courtesy of Atiya Houli, in memory of Isaac and Victorine HouliPocket watch from Egypt, courtesy of Atiya Houli, in memory of Isaac and Victorine Houli — Photo courtesy of Hadar Saifan

In 1948, 75,000 Jews lived in Egypt. Today, only three widows whose husbands were non-Jews and one Jewish man remain in the country.

Isaac Houly, an award-winning member of the Maccabi sports association in Alexandria, won the Egyptian championship in lightweight boxing and received this Omega pocket watch as a prize. In 1957, his family immigrated to Israel, where he founded Hapoel Herzliya’s boxing team.

Yemen and Aden

Hookah from Aden, courtesy of the Association for the Promotion of Society and Culture, The Museum of Yemenite Jewish Heritage, NetanyaHookah from Aden, courtesy of the Association for the Promotion of Society and Culture, The Museum of Yemenite Jewish Heritage, Netanya — Photo courtesy of Hadar Saifan

In 1948, 55,000 Jews lived in Yemen. Today, just a handful of Jews live there.

The Jews of Yemen are perceived as a distinct group, separate from the Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities. During their social gatherings, they would sing and read biblical analyses and poems while chewing khat leaves and smoking a hookah like the one pictured here. Hookah smoking was a custom that was common among both Jews and Muslims.

Iran

Tablecloth from Iran, courtesy of the Mashiach Family CollectionTablecloth from Iran, courtesy of the Mashiach Family Collection — Photo courtesy of Hadar Saifan

In 1948, 100,000 Jews lived in Iran. Today, only 12,000 Jews remain in the country.

Iranian Jews, many of whom were forced to convert to Islam while secretly living as Jews at home, found solace in the story of Esther, who rose to greatness while preserving her faith. This tablecloth was sewn by Malka Mashiach, one of those forced to convert, and it pays homage to Judaism through symbols like the Star of David and a menorah and a Persian inscription written in Hebrew letters, which reads, “Sabbath of Peace, Sabbath Holiday, may be rejoice at the gates of Jerusalem with the hope of God.”

Iraq

Oud from Iraq, courtesy of Menashe SassonOud from Iraq, courtesy of Menashe Sasson — Photo courtesy of Hadar Saifan

In 1948, 120,000 Jews lived in Iraq. Today, not a single Jew remains there.

The oud was one of the earliest musical instruments and was common in music performed by Iraqi Jews. Iraqi Jewry gave rise to a large number of talented musicians who were recognized by non-Jewish society as experts on classical Iraqi music and as the standard bearers of musical innovation and modernization.

In the 1940s, the band of a Jewish school for the blind became well-renowned, and a number of its members went on to play in the Kol Yisrael Orchestra after they immigrated to Israel.

Syria

Torah case from Syria, courtesy of the Gat Family CollectionTorah case from Syria, courtesy of the Gat Family Collection — Photo courtesy of Hadar Saifan

In 1948, 30,000 Jews lived in Syria. Today, there are no Jews remaining there.

The Jewish community in Syria was relatively small yet it exerted a significant influence, thanks to the economic power of its affluent members. This Torah case is ornamented with wood inlaid with mother-of-pearl forming Arabesque patterns characteristic of the Damascene tradition. These inlaid and carved elements were typical of luxury furniture produced in Damascus.

Lebanon

Ketubah from Lebanon, courtesy of the Gross Family CollectionKetubah from Lebanon, courtesy of the Gross Family Collection — Photo courtesy of Ardon Bar-Hama

In 1948, 7,000 Jews lived in Lebanon. Today, the Jewish population is estimated at 40.

Most Jews in Lebanon lived in Beirut, which was considered, at the time, to be the “Paris of the Middle East.” This marriage agreement, called a ketubah, is written in Aramaic and framed by a double arch. Jews in Muslim countries refrained from decorating their ketubahs with figures, which were prohibited in Islam. Instead, florals and plant motifs were popular.

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

2019 Basque Culinary World Prize Winner Anthony Myint Uses Cooking For Climate Solutions
The Best New Cocktail Books To Shake Up Your Happy Hour
Tokyo City Guide – Lonely Planet travel videos
10 delicious Appalachian foods you need to try
Top 10 Things to Do in Singapore

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *