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November 04, 1994 - Image 38

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-11-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

cekdege

101111011
WEI
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Exodus Of Syrian Jews
Has Been Completed

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New York (JTA) — The exodus
of Syrian Jewry has been de-
clared complete.
The departure to Israel of Syr-
ian Chief Rabbi Avraham Ham-
ra marked the end of an
emigration which began in April
1992 and has brought 3,800 of
Syria's 4,000 Jews out of the
country.
Hamra, who had been living
in New York for the past year,
had been holding up his aliyah
until virtually all of his commu-
nity was safely out.
Israeli censors and American
Jewish organizations involved in
the exodus had kept the full pace
of the departures quiet. The fact
that a third of those who left Syr-
ia went on to Israel, after arriv-
ing in the United States,
remained a total secret until this
week.
At a reception in his honor in
Brooklyn, Rabbi Hamra, tall and
looking younger than his 51
years, stood at the podium in a
catering hall and pronounced the
Shehecheyanu blessing, thank-
ing God for "sustaining and bring-
ing us to this day."
All of the roughly 230 Jews still
in Syria are free to leave, and a
handful are expected to arrive in
New York this week, according
to those involved.
"Now the community in Syr-
ia is gone," Rabbi Hamra said at
a news conference, explaining
why the time had come to make
aliyah. "Now that there is an
agreement on peace, what was
recently a dream is being real-
ized," he said, referring to the
new atmosphere in the Middle
East.
On the eve of his departure,
more than 100 Syrian Jews gath-
ered at the reception hosted by
the American Jewish Joint Dis-
tribution Committee.
Some, like the rabbi, had only
recently left. Among that group
was Selim Swed, who had be-
come a focus of Jewish efforts
when he was imprisoned by Syr-
ian authorities in 1987.
He was released after more
than five years the same week
the exodus began in 1992. He was
happily making the rounds
with his daughter and son-in-
law, inviting people to the forth-
coming wedding of another
daughter.
Also at the gathering were
those from the community's sec-
ond generation, children of im-
trfigrants who left Syria early this
, century and who had fought for
the emigration of their cousins.
Others had arrived by stealth
during the decades in which em-
igration from Syria was banned,

but had risked everything to es-
cape.
Even after Syrian President
Hafez Assad permitted Jews to
travel freely, and thereby tacitly
permitted the community's em-
igration, Syrian Jews feared to
rejoice publicly.
Over the past years, Israeli
censors banned coverage of the
exodus out of fear of jeopardizing
the operation, and American
Jewish publications voluntarily
downplayed the story.
Israel had planned to lift the
cloak of secrecy, as Rabbi Ham-

Some are still
selling property and
getting ready to
travel.

ra stepped off the plane at Ben-
Gurion Airport, but the story was
publicized in Israel following an
announcement from Syria.
In Israel, Rabbi Hamra will
join 1,500 Syrian Jews who have
made aliyah in the past two years
after arriving in New York from
Damascus. That part of the exo-
dus has been kept absolutely se-
cret until now since in giving
permission for Jews to travel in
1992, Mr. Assad specifically stip-
ulated that they were not to go to
Israel.
More of the recent arrivals are
expected to follow the rabbi to Is-
rael, according to officials of the
Jewish Agency for Israel, which
has sent special emissaries to en-
courage aliyah among the new-
comers in New York.
"It's a hard time, said Eddie
Hamra, a cousin of the rabbi who
escaped to New York 15 years
ago, explaining why so many of
the new arrivals are moving on
to Israel. "The economy is going
down and it's very difficult to find
jobs."
Habib Kamkhaji, a doctor who
left Damascus two years ago,
hopes by the end of the year to
move to Israel. It will be easier to
be accredited there with his Dam-
ascus University medical degree,
he said.
Moving to Israel will be the ful-
fillment of all he was taught in
his Jewish school in Damascus.
"In the Talmud Torah, it was
always Israel, Israel, the Jewish
people have to go to Israel," he
said.
At the reception, those whose
families number among the esti-
mated 230 Jews still in Syria
were the most reluctant to talk
SYRIA page 40

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