Syrian Jews living in Syria and USA say they are proud to be ‘Arab Jews’
Damascus (October, 2009) – Syrian Jews living in Syria and the US told Syria’s leading monthly, Forward Magazine, their Arab roots are a source of identity and pride – amid speculations about the reality of Syrian Jews at the time when Turkish intermediation is taking place between Syria and Israel towards a possible peace scenario.
According to media analysts, Syrian Jews are seldom mentioned in the media, having distanced themselves from the Arab-Israeli conflict due to their natural integration into the Syrian society’s fabric. They do enjoy, contrary to misconception, full citizenship rights in Syria, with many Jewish Syrians refusing to relocate into Israel if a peace treaty takes place.
A peace scenario between Syria and Israel doesn’t mean Syrian Jews might leave their homeland Syria
“We are Jews of Arab culture, and we are proud to be Yehudi Arabi (Arab Jews). It is in our veins,” Carlos Zarur, an Oriental Jewish researcher from Boulder, Colorado, told Forward Magazine. Like many third generation American-Syrian Jews, Zarur’s grandparents hail from both Damascus and Aleppo. He echoes similar sentiments by Jewish Syrians residing in Syria.
Abdulsalam Haykal, Syrian media entrepreneur and CEO/publisher of Forward Magazine, says the time is ripe to communicate to the world the reality of the Syrian Jews community. “They have synagogues, exercise religious freedoms, have a community leader whom we featured in our magazine, and are fully naturalized,” Haykal said. “When we were children we used to accompany my grandfather for a weekly visit to his Jewish friend, Abu Jamil, a shop keeper in Old Damascus. Jewish, Muslim and Christian friendships are a natural part of Syrian life, no question marks raised.”
In their two articles – “Culturally Syrian, Religiously Jewish” and “He is not my enemy” – Brooke Anderson and Julian Weinberg, two of Forward Magazine’s senior writers, recounted how historians believed that Jews have inhabited Syria since before Roman times. According to legend, King David built the area’s first synagogue in Aleppo. Dura-Europos, a Greek colony on the Euphrates River in eastern Syria, built in 300 BC, is considered to be the site of the earliest known Jewish Diaspora synagogue. The ruins can be visited on the road between Deir ez-Zor and Abu Kamal (which was bombed early this year by American war planes flying crossing from Iraq).
The report also shows that from 1919 until 1949, there was always a Jewish deputy in the Syrian parliament. To read the full text of the Jews-in-Syria report, you can visit www.fw-magazine.com:
- He is not my enemy: Jewish and Palestinian Syrians living in peace in Old Damascus
- Culturally Syrian, Religiously Jewish: Jews who call Syria home
- Syrian Jews role in the anti-French movement
Filed under: Media in Syria | Tagged: Abdulsalam Haykal, Brooke Anderson, Forward Magazine, Haykal Media, Jews in Syria, Julian Weinberg, Palestinians in Syria, religious freedoms in Syria, synagogues in Syria, Syrian Jews |