Published in Haaretz, November 30, 2015
Gladys Cohen, 84, lit a memorial candle Sunday and dedicated it to two relatives who were arrested and imprisoned in the country of her birth, Iraq, many decades ago. “Shaul was an engineer. Ya’akov, his older brother, was a merchant. They took them to prison and ‘disappeared’ them. To this day, we don’t know what happened to them – nothing,” Cohen said.
She was attending a special ceremony at a seniors’ day center in southeast Tel Aviv, ahead of today’s memorial day that commemorates the expulsion and flight of close to one million Jews from Arab countries and Iran. The date, November 30, is the day after the UN resolution was passed in 1947 to partition Palestine, after which many Jewish communities had to flee their native countries.
The persecutions, murders and theft these Jews suffered began long before then, though. Iraqi Jews can’t forget the 1941 pogrom (or farhud – an ancient word that means “violent dispossession of the governed”). During the pogrom, which took place during the Shavuot of 1941, some 180 Jews were murdered by Arab rioters, another 2,000 injured and tens of thousands of others were robbed.
“Like all the Jews, we shut ourselves up in the house because we were afraid,” recalled Cohen. “I was 10 years old and asked what happened. They told me the Arabs had risen up against the Jews to hurt them, and all the Jews were running to hide.”
Speaking at the ceremony, she spared no details of the pogrom’s horrors, in which old people and infants were beaten to death.
Ten elderly women who had moved to Israel from Arab countries and Iran shared the stage at the day center yesterday. Each had a different life story, but all were shot through with suffering and pain... Read more