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Near East Kingdoms

Levantine States

 

Mizrahi Jews (Israel)
Incorporating Algerian Jews, Babylonian Jews, Bukharan Jews, Caucasus Jews, Edot HaMizrach, Egyptian Jews, Georgian Jews, Iranian Jews, Iraqi Jews, Kurdish Jews, Lakhloukh Jews, Lebanese Jews, Libyan Jews, Moroccan Jews, Mountain Jews, Oriental Jews, Persian Jews, Sudanese Jews, Syrian Jews, Tunisian Jews, & Yemenite Jews

Today's Israel and Palestine are irrevocably linked in terms of their history. The former was carved out of a large proportion of the already-expanded latter from 1948. Prior to that lies four thousand years of history, sometimes recorded, sometimes alluded to, and sometimes a complete mystery. Unpicking it to establish a relatively stable story has been the work of decades, and even today there are differences of opinion regarding many of the details.

The region in which both names came to be created was Canaan, which consisted of the long Mediterranean coastal strip between ancient Syria and Egypt. Today the northern part of this is known as the Levant. Various Semitic-speaking groups formed states in this region from around 3000 BC onwards. During climate-induced social collapse in the late thirteenth century BC, both a state known as Israel and a region known as Palestine emerged, giving both terms similar founding dates (very approximately), with the Phoenicians emerging to the immediate north during the same period.

Then came the beginnings of the Jewish Diaspora and the age of great empires in the form of the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Eastern Romans, Islam, and the Ottomans, until the twentieth century saw the most recent phase of empire-building come to an end and individual sovereign states emerge. Until that happened both Judea and Palestine remained occupied territories.

By the time independence was regained, Jewish groups had been emigrating to and from Israel and Palestine for two thousand years and more, spreading them far and wide across the Old World in a number of generalised groupings. Despite these groupings being joined across those centuries by converted regional locals, most modern Jews still carry a marked Near Eastern heritage in their DNA. Connections between the separate groups have also helped to maintain elements of unified practice in synagogues.

The term Mizrahi Jews was coined at the founding of modern Israel. Also referred to as Mizrahim or Mizrachi, and alternatively as Oriental Jews or Edot HaMizrach, the group includes all Jews who had remained in Roman Palestine following the termination of the province of Judea, along with those who had migrated outwards in the Near East and North Africa (including the strong community of Babylonian Jews which had existed in the city of Babylon since the Exile and which was heavily refreshed from the mid-third century AD.

The word 'mizrahi' translates as 'easterner'. It can be used to include groups which have also historically resided in the Caucasus and Central Asia, and is primarily a designation for Jewish communities which have historically existed alongside Arab communities. Mizrahi Jews are generally influenced by Sephardic laws and customs, so that they are sometimes also labelled Sephardi Jews.

The Babylonian Jews formed from the point at which Samaria fell in the seventh century BC. This community was greatly increased after the fall of an independent Judea, but it remained substantial even after Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem in the sixth century BC. Gradually, across the Parthian, Sassanid, and early Iranian periods, it filtered out across these various empires, remaining numerous as the Persian Jews or Iranian Jews until the twentieth century.

The Babylonian Jews fared less well during the Mongol invasions, with the result that their descendants, the Iraqi Jews, largely fled to medieval India where they formed the diaspora sub-group of the Baghdadi Jews.

At least three smaller groups are directly descended from the outwards spread of Babylonian communities: Mountain Jews (or Caucasus Jews) of Azerbaijan and the northern Caucasus, Bukharan Jews of the former emirate of Bukhara (now Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, with these specifically being exiled Persian Jews, and perhaps supplying the basis of the Kaifeng Jews), and Lakhloukh Jews of Kazakhstan. The Georgian Jews are separate from Mountain Jews, being descended from a group which settled in the ancient kingdom of Colchis, having travelled directly there from Judah at its fall in 586 BC.

Various sub-sets of Oriental Jews exist such as the Yemenite Jews. Known also as Yemeni or Temanin Jews, their communities formed between the start of the Babylonian captivity and the creation of Roman Palestine (and possibly even before Babylon if a tradition which involves the Solomonite period is to be believed). Following a flourish thanks to the first millennium AD Judaic kingdom of Himyar, they were subsequently isolated from the rest of Judaism by the formation of the Islamic empire. During this period they developed into three main groups which could be differentiated through liturgy and practices. Today these groups are classed as having been the least-changed of all diaspora groups.

The Arch of Titus

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from the Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, Geoffrey Wigoder (Gen Ed, 1986), from Jewish War & Jewish Antiquities, Flavius Josephus, from Unger's Bible Dictionary, Merrill F Unger (1957), from Easton's Bible Dictionary, Matthew George Easton (1897), from Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times, Donald Redford (Princeton University Press, 1992), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Bible Atlas, and Jewish Encyclopaedia, and Jewish Heritage Cultural Routes in Georgia.)

c.1000 BC

According to the Old Testament, the 'Queen of Sheba' visits Solomon of Israel, bearing riches, and is seduced by him. Nine months after her return from Israel she bears a son, Menelik. He subsequently visits Israel and from there travels to Africa to found the Ethiopian empire. Saba is not mentioned again in ancient sources.

Queen of Sheba
This medieval depiction of the queen of Sheba riding a horse unfortunately has no basis in fact as no images exist of the mysterious Arabic queen

However, tradition declares that Solomon sends Jewish merchants to Saba (today's Yemen) to prospect for gold and silver which will adorn the new temple in Jerusalem. Such a trade-related mission is entirely likely given the relations between the two states, but could these merchants and their families form the basis of the later Yemenite Jews? An alternative option is that Israel makes converts amongst Saba's population.

597 BC

For its continued support of Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar invades and occupies Jerusalem (with the help of Ammon), showing no hesitation in stripping the city of its treasures. The Judeans are made vassals under Babylonia, and ten thousand subjects are shipped to Babylon, including the ruling elite.

This population forms the basis of the beginnings of the Jewish Diaspora, and the formation of a group known as Babylonian Jews. These will serve as the progenitors of later groups which include Persian Jews, Iranian Jews, and the Mountain Jews of ancient Georgia.

External Jerusalem compound of the Iron Age
This Iron Age compound which is located three kilometres outside the walls of Jerusalem was an eighth and seventh century BC administrative centre which was 'encircled by concentric walls'.

586 BC

Following conquest of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar II exiles the majority of the native populace, with many being taken into captivity in Babylon itself. Those who never return to Judah - Babylonian Jews - form the earliest basis of today's Mizrahi Jews classification (otherwise known as Oriental Jews).

Exiles can apparently be found across areas of northern and western Canaan, with Israelites in Sarepta and Judeans in Sepharad. Remarkably, a community of members of the Jewish Diaspora appears in the Caucasian kingdom of Colchis, later to be known as the Georgian Jews (although this is only the most popular of theories regarding the origins of this group).

Gedaliah ben Achikam, the Babylonian governor of Yehud province, advocates submission as a means of ensuring continued partial Jewish autonomy. Under his brief administration, the Jewish colony does indeed prosper.

After just seven months however, Gedaliah is killed by conspirators during a rebellion which is instigated by Baalis of Ammon. The entire Babylonian representative embassy is also murdered. In retribution, even more of the population is shipped to Babylon - although some flee to Egypt - and any surviving autonomy is removed.

The Roman destruction of Jerusalem
Nebuchadnezzar's attack on Jerusalem in 586 BC deliberately destroyed the city, making it generally inhabitable to all but a small populace, with Mitzpah in the northern Benjimanite territory becoming the region's capital

539 BC

Persia's Cyrus the Great enters Babylon. Cyrus adopts an enlightened attitude to his subjects, allowing the Judeans to return to Jerusalem after officially handing over all their captured idols and treasures. He also proclaims that they can rebuild their temple. They and Jerusalem are organised into the self-governing Persian region of Yehud Medinata, by which time the 'Princes in Exile' have been allowed to return.

459 BC

Ezra, a 'scribe', leads the second body of exiled Israelites back to Jerusalem from Babylon. He also writes the Book of Ezra, and according to tradition collects and edits the books of the Old Testament. Those who remain form the main basis for today's classification of Mizrahi Jews, while smaller groups gradually head into the Arabian peninsula where they form the Yemenite Jews (joining potential earlier communities there which could date back to the Solomonite period).

110 BC

The Judaic Himyarite kingdom becomes independent of the Qatabanian kingdom. Both states dominate the southern highlands of today's Yemen. The kingdom survives until an invasion from Aksum destroys it in AD 525.

AD 68 - 73

Marcus Antonius Julianus fails to prevent the serious disturbances across the region from devolving into all-out warfare. Instead Vespasian (Titus Flavius Vespasianus) is appointed as overall commander, of senatorial rank.

The Roman destruction of Jerusalem
Jerusalem was besieged for two years, with starvation, disease, and murder being the order of the day for the increasingly desperate inhabitants

He besieges Jerusalem until the 'Year of the Four Emperors' provides a distraction. With popular support from across the eastern regions, he becomes the first Flavian emperor in AD 69, leaving his son, Titus Caesar Vespasianus to complete the siege. Jerusalem and the Second Temple are destroyed in AD 70, and many Jews are taken as captives to Rome, either to be executed or to be used as gladiatorial sacrifices.

The development since the Hasmonaean period of an oral teaching tradition known as the tanna becomes the means by which the Judaic faith is able to survive the fall of the Second Temple, becoming central to Judaic prayer which replaces sacrifice. It leads directly to, and through, the emergence of Rabbinic Judaism.

The destruction of the Second Temple marks the end of the Hellenic era as far as Jews are concerned. The remnants of the revolutionary Zealots are now holed up in Masada, the Sadducees have either disappeared or are about to, and the Essenes also vanish (perhaps because they have already moved so far away from Temple-based worship that they are no longer relevant). The age of Judaic sectarianism is over.

Roman siege of Jerusalem AD 70
The Nabataeans are perhaps unknown for the part they played in the siege of Jerusalem in AD 67-70, however minor that part may have been, with their support going to the Romans against their long-standing regional rival

Only two major groups remain: Christians and Pharisees. The early Catholic Christian faith is still largely indivisible from Judaic practice, but it is Christians who will gradually gain dominance in Judea, and then across the Roman world. The Pharisees and their Pharisaic Judaism will gradually mutate between the second and fourth centuries AD into Rabbinic Judaism.

Considering the fact that some of the Exile-period Jewish families had remained in Babylon, it is also likely that migration begins or is stepped up in that direction, increasing the population of Mizrahi Jews. The Ashkenazi Jews are also probably created at this time, while the Georgian Jews of Kolkis are also known to receive a fresh boost to their population at this time.

The history of the Mizrahi Jews now largely follows that of the Near East, although some groups do also end up in the Caucasus and Central Asia following some persecution in the Ottoman era. This includes groups which form in medieval Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Afghanistan, Bukhara, and Kurdistan.

Umayyad Great Mosque in Damascus
The Umayyad Great Mosque in Damascus was built between AD 706-715 on the site of the Basilica of St John, which itself had been converted from the Temple of Jupiter

136

By this year Rome has forbidden Jews from entering Jerusalem. Christian pilgrims, though, are permitted entrance. Large Jewish communities now exist across the Roman empire, beginning (or furthering) a general Jewish Diaspora which develops independently of events in the Near East. The end of the recent bar Kochba revolt especially sees a large exodus to the Judean Himyarite kingdom of today's Yemen, greatly increasing the population of Yemenite Jews there.

214 - 224

The fractured Parthian empire which controls Babylon is breaking down. It is already effectively divided in two, with other minor kingdoms already emerging. By 224 the last Parthian king, Artabanus, has left it too late to confront expansion by his rivals within the empire. The Battle of Hormozdgān costs Artabanus his life, leaving the victorious Sassanids as the most powerful faction in Iran.

Sassanid control of Babylon proves beneficial for many, not least the Mizrahi Jews, although precise records are sadly lacking. A large Jewish community certainly prospers in Babylon during the first few centuries AD. It is likely that there follows a small level of diffusion of Jewish Diaspora groups eastwards through the empire and, eventually, into medieval India to become labelled Indian Jews.

Sassanids
The coming of the Sassanids as replacements for the Parthians meant an entirely new and more vigorous empire being created on the eastern border of the Roman empire

260 - 272

Crisis strikes the weakened Roman empire, with two major splinter states forming in the same year. The Rhine frontier collapses completely at around the same time.

The second of these splinter states is the Palmyrene empire, which encompasses the Roman provinces of Syria, Palestine, Egypt and large parts of Asia Minor. It is ruled as little more than an expanded kingdom by Queen Zenobia for her infant son Vaballanthus, with a capital at Palmyra.

These crises, and the expenditure required to bring them to resolution, means a great deal of increased taxation across the empire. The Jewish population of Palestine seems to be especially impacted.

Large numbers of Jews emigrate to Babylon and the more tolerant Sassanids (where they form a large contingent of modern Israel's Mizrahi Jews, which in turn eventually supplies the nucleus for the later Indian Jews). There, autonomous Jewish Diaspora communities are allowed to flourish, with individuals able to lead full and rewarding lives.

395

The Roman empire finally divides permanently between the Eastern Roman and Western Roman portions, acknowledging a state of affairs which has already existed in practise for many years. Palestine and its population of Mizrahi Jews falls under the jurisdiction of the eastern half, as do the Byzantine Jews within the European section of the eastern empire.

Ravenna
Ravenna became an imperial city in 402, and remained Italy's capital under succeeding Gothic, Ostrogothic, and Eastern Roman administrations

481

A Second Sassanid-Hephthalite War is launched by Shah Peroz, with Vakhtang I Gorgasil of Chosroid Iberia in support. Initially successful by chasing the Hephthalites out of Bactra, the war ends in the capture (again) of Peroz, with him agreeing to the payment of thirty mule packs of silver drachms as a ransom, parts of which he pays through imposing a poll tax.

To meet the rest of the demanded sum he leaves his son Kavad as a hostage with the Hephthalites, along with a daughter and the chief priest. His tax-raising drive across the Sassanid empire may involve some communication with the empire's Jewish Diaspora community of Persian Jews.

Peroz is known to conduct a pogrom against them during his reign which drives some of them eastwards, into Samarkand. There they coalesce in the later emirate of Bukhara to become known as Bukharan Jews. In turn it seems either to be Persian Jews or Bukharan Jews which provide the basis of the Kaifeng Jews.

Hephthalite coins
Shown here are both sides of a silver drachm which was issued by the Hephthalites and which imitated issuances of the powerful but unlucky Sassasnid Shah Peroz

500s

It is during this century that Judaism, effectively (but in greatly simplified terms) the Jewish form of post-Second Temple Christian worship, cements its traditions and doctrines. The Babylonian Talmud, completed around 499 amongst the Babylonian Jews and generally known as 'the Talmud', forms one of the central texts of Rabbinic Judaism, the mainstream form of Judaism from this century onwards.

Elements of Jewish Diaspora communities within the Eastern Roman empire face persecution during the sixth century. As a result many Jewish families emigrate, with some going east into the Sassanid empire with its better tolerance of Jews, and the first such groups heading into the mountain kingdom of Iberia-Kartli. They live in new communities in the capital, Mtskheta, which are distinctive from the long-established homes of the Georgian Jews or Mountain Jews in Kolkis.

1517

The Ottoman empire conquers Palestine. They maintain the previous administrative and political organisation in the region whilst carrying it out effectively. Ottoman controls allow an exodus of Jews, with the Yemenite Jews in particular being boosted in numbers at this time.

Ottoman coin
The early sixteenth century Ottoman conquest of Egypt (and Palestine) saw an influx of Ottoman coins, with this example being issued during the reign of Suleyman I the Magnificent (1520-1566)

The Baghdadi Jews are a sub-grouping of Iraqi Jews who resettle mainly in ports along the trade routes in South Asia (especially early modern India) and in the South China Sea where they may interact with later-arriving communities of Chinese Jews.

1757 - 1765

In January 1757, the sultan of Bengal captures Calcutta, which contains the headquarters of the British East India Company. However, the British general, Robert Clive, has allies within Bengal who help to defeat and dethrone the sultan at and after the Battle of Plassey on 23 June.

The East India Company is now the effective master of Bengal through the Bengal presidency, which is established between 1765-1766, and then the position of governor-general which effectively ruled all East India Company possessions in the sub-continent. This makes the potential for advancement for the Indian Jews to be much more noticeable.

1804 - 1813

King Solomoni II is attempting to enlist Ottoman and Persian support for Imeretia in preparation for the anticipated Russian encroachment on his borders. The Russian commander in the region is Prince Pavel Tsitsianov. He marches his army into Imeretia and forces Solomoni to accept vassalage under the terms of the convention of Elaznauri, on 25 April 1804.

Russian troops of the Second Russo-Turkish War in 1787
The Second Russo-Persian War in 1787-1792 witnessed a continuation of imperial Russia's push to extend its borders southwards at the expense of the weakening Muslim powers

This effectively triggers a Russo-Persian War (1804-1813) which sees some early Persian victories followed by defeats, stalemate, and the effective loss of Dagestan, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. Territory which Persia officially surrenders at the end of the war includes a large swathe of the eastern Caucasus. The Jewish Diaspora population here subsequently crystallises under the later definition of Mountain Jews, descendants of Persian Jews.

1869

Expansion outside of Jerusalem's Old City walls has been gradual over the previous decade, but it now accelerates. Two more suburbs are started in 1869. Mahane Israel comes first, built by Jews from the Mahgreb in Africa (part of today's Mizrahi Jews grouping which covers all of North Africa's former Jewish Diaspora communities. This grouping is heavily intermixed by this time with Sephardi Jews who had left Castille-dominated Spain in 1492, and had entered North Africa in large numbers).

1881

The first modern-era wave of Jewish migrations back to Palestine begins with an event known as the First Aliyah. The Jews are fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe, most notably in the territories of the Russian empire under Alexander III and his imposition of anti-liberalisation reforms.

Ottoman janissaries
The janissaries were infantry units which formed the Ottoman sultan's bodyguard and household troops, but they also sometimes played a role in deciding who sat on the throne

The Jewish population of the 'Pale' (mainly Ashkenazi Jews) is restricted from moving eastwards into Russia proper and is now being discouraged from remaining in the western border regions of the empire.

Several months prior to this event however, migration by Yemenite Jews to Palestine has already begun. Communities are drawn back from Ottoman-controlled Yemen by improving standards and employment, especially due to European backing in the region.

At this point the Jewish population of Palestine consists largely of Sephardi Jews who had arrived during the restored Islamic Palestine period and the subsequent early Ottoman Palestine period, along with their inter-marriage relationships with Arabised Jewish families which had remained in the region since the Herodite period (if not always in Jerusalem itself), and Mizrahi Jews who have migrated from eastern parts such as the ancient city of Babylon. Mixed into this are a small number of Ashkenazi Jews who are mainly made up of strictly orthodox groups such as the Haredi.

Jerusalem's Golden Gate
Jerusalem's Golden Gate was sealed at least fifteen hundred years ago, with a Muslim cemetery being laid in front of it because the Messiah is due to ride through the gate on a donkey

1910

The Shiraz pogrom or Shiraz blood libel of 1910 is the result of increasingly aggressive anti-Jewish pogroms in Iran. The Jewish quarter in Shiraz is the victim of the 1910 pogrom, on 30 October 1910, although it also spreads to other towns. It is sparked by accusations that Jews there have ritually killed a Muslim girl.

Twelve Iranian Jews (or thirteen, accounts differ) are killed and around fifty more are injured, while thousands are robbed of everything they possess. An increased level of Jewish Diaspora migration takes place after this, mainly focussed on a return to Palestine.

1948

David Ben-Gurion makes his proclamation of the creation of the state of Israel on 14 May 1948, the last day of British Mandate Palestine. On the following day the neighbouring Arab states of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria attack Israel, prompting the start of the Arab-Israeli War. Saudi Arabia sends its own military contingent to support the Egyptians. The war lasts for a year before a ceasefire is agreed.

The Green Line is established - temporary borders which can be generally agreed by all sides. Egypt gains the Gaza Strip while Jordan controls East Jerusalem and the West Bank region, but an estimated 700,000 Palestinians have been expelled or have fled their homeland, mostly to enter southern Lebanon or Jordan.

Official declaration of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948
The white-haired, sixty-two year-old David Ben-Gurion proclaims the declaration of the creation of the state of Israel, doing so in the small art museum on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv in 1948

During the war violent anti-Jewish riots had broken out in Morocco's Oujda and Djerada, with forty-four Jews being killed (part of the overall Mizrahi Jews grouping). Following the war's end a total of eighteen thousand Moroccan Jews leave the country for Israel. Further migrations follow but in much smaller numbers.

The modern state of Israel has been established. It offers a home for Jews of all groups, whatever their part in the Jewish Diaspora and whatever their history across the two millennia or more since their ancestors had departed the region. Indian Jews return home in heavy numbers, leaving their diaspora communities in India greatly reduced in size.

Around thirty-eight thousand Jews live in Libya in 1948. However, temporary Nazi occupation during the war has resulted in a generally lower tolerance of these communities after the war's end. Pogroms continue through 1948, but outwards migration is allowed in 1949, with around thirty thousand leaving Libya for Israel, approximately eighty percent of the entire Jewish population.

A similar situation exists in Egypt, with the 1945 anti-Jewish riots in Cairo being a particularly dangerous low point. Following the war's conclusion around twenty thousand Jews leave Egypt to return to Israel.

David Ben-Gurion and Harry Truman
David Ben-Gurion (right), Israel's first chairman of the 'Provisional State Council' in 1948 and also its first prime minister, chats to US President Harry Truman (left) and Abba Eban

1949 - 1950

'Operation On Wings of Eagles', colloquially known as 'Operation Magic Carpet', sees the great majority of the Yemenite Jews rescued from constant persecution in Yemen. Between June 1949 and September 1950 it carries forty-nine thousand Yemenite Jews to the new state of < a target="_top" href="CanaanIsraelitesModern.htm#Modern">Israel.

1951 - 1952

Operation Ezra and Nehemiah sees between 120,000-130,000 Iraqi Jews airlifted to Israel via Iran and Cyprus. This massive emigration is one of the last grand acts of modern Israel's formation period. It takes place during a one year window of opportunity in which Iraq permits a large-scale departure of its Jewish citizens, all part of the modern Mizrahi Jews classification. The operation is named after Ezra and Nehemiah, leaders of the Jewish second return from Babylon in 459 BC.

1954

Attempting to free Algeria from French rule, the long and bloody Algerian War of Liberation begins with the National Liberation Army (FLN) fighting using guerrilla tactics. Non-Algerian communities begin to emigrate in large numbers, whether Muslims, Christians, or Jews. Many of the latter prefer France, although a sizable number do end up in Israel.

French tanks in Algeria in 1954
French tanks patrolled the roads in Algeria from the start of the Algerian War in 1954, this unit being pictured near Blida, where they hunted guerrilla bands in the hills

1955 - 1956

Jewish migration back to Israel peaks at about seventy-five thousand in all, just as Morocco achieves independence. Such migration is banned in 1956, but around eighteen thousand Mizrahi Jews still find their way out.

Tunisia takes no steps against emigrating members of the Jewish Diaspora, having had a relatively stable and prosperous relationship with them. However, Tunisian independence in 1956 certainly does turn a small emigration into a much larger exodus to Israel so that, by 2022, the Jewish population in the country is minimal.

1956 - 1957

Israel occupies the Sinai peninsula as part of its efforts against Egypt in the Suez Crisis. While its objectives are achieved as part of an agreement with France and Britain, Israel is pressured into withdrawing by the United Nations and even more especially by the USA, which fails to support any of its allies in this affair.

UN peacekeepers are positioned in the Sinai to act as a buffer between Israel and Egypt. Immediately after the conclusion of the crisis, migration spikes in Egypt's Jewish Diaspora, leaving an increasingly small community of Oriental Jews behind it as it heads to Israel.

1961

With Israel's Mossad agency secretly agitating within Morocco to end the migration ban on Jews, Operation Janchin is financially backed by a US-based Jewish organisation. The fifty million dollars of funding they supply help to organise undercover migration out of Morocco. The Moroccan king abandons his 1956 ban with the result that over seventy thousand Jews leave in the next three years.

Isser Harel, head of Mossad, 1952-1963
Isser Harel, head of Mossad between 1952-1963, had been born in Byelorussia - then part of the Russian empire - before emigrating at the age of eighteen to pre-statehood Israel when it was still British Mandate Palestine

1962

Algeria wins independence from France, in a fight which has cost the lives of more than a million Algerians. The Algerian state is proclaimed on 3 July 1962, but Algeria's democracy is often hard-line and dictatorial in nature. The country's remaining Jewish community is not permitted citizenship, so it promptly abandons Algeria wholesale, dividing itself largely between France and Israel.

1972

Regulations on immigration are loosened in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. This allows massive numbers of Bukharan Jews to leave, with Israel or the USA generally their selected destination. By the 1990s the region has almost exhausted its centuries-old Jewish Diaspora communities.

1991

Thanks to behind-the-scenes manoeuvring by the newly-elected president of the Russian republic, Boris Yeltsin, on Christmas Day 1991 the USSR's President Gorbachev announces the termination of the Soviet communist state. The Soviet republics become independent sovereign states, while millions of ethnic Russians suddenly find themselves living in foreign countries, and large numbers of Jews suddenly opt to emigrate to Israel.

Boris Yeltsin in 1991
Boris Yeltsin won mass popular support during his leading role in thwarting the attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991

At the same time, large numbers of Georgian Jews and Mountain Jews emigrate from independent Georgia to create communities in Israel. Over subsequent years these disparate communities gradually integrate into Israel's general population.

In the same year Syria joins the US-led First Gulf War to oust Iraq from its occupation of Kuwait. In the same year, following the 'Madrid Conference' to reignite the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the USA pressures Syria to ease its extremely tight restrictions on its Jewish Diaspora community.

In the following year Syria does so, allowing exit visas to be granted on the condition that holders do not emigrate to Israel. The country's several thousand Jews head mainly for the US and a large Syrian Jewish community in South Brooklyn, New York. Others head for France and Turkey. Only a handful of Jews remain in Syria, mainly older people.

Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat
The famous handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (left) and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat (right) in 1993, overseen by US President Bill Clinton, seemed to presage a new beginning in Palestine, but Rabin's assassination in 1995 soured matters

2022

The modern population of Israel consists of a dominating combination of Sephardi Jews and Mizrahi Jews, the latter with a history which covers various eastern states and regions. Minority Jewish Diaspora populations remain in Arab countries, or in Turkey, or in Iran where they do still have some protections which are sometimes of a somewhat dubious value.

 
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