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November 30, 2015 10:05 am

Israel Commemorates 850,000 Jews Expelled From Arab Countries

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Israeli flags and Muslim minarets in Jerusalem's Old City. Photo: Dave Bender

Israel’s annual Memorial Day commemorates the expulsion of some 850,000 Jews from Arab states and Iran. Photo: Dave Bender – Thousands of people attended Israel’s first official commemoration event for Jews expelled from Arab countries and Iran, held in Jerusalem on Monday.

Social Equity Minister Gila Gamliel spearheaded the initiative, calling the event “Longing for Home.” The ceremony began with a moment of silence for Jews killed in pogroms in Arab countries and Iran. Afterward, emigrants from those countries told their stories and performers took the stage—including singer Kobi Oz (of Tunisian heritage), actress and singer Liraz Charhi (of Iranian descent), musician Gilad Segev (of Syrian descent), musician Haim Oliel (of Moroccan heritage), musician Yair Dalal (of Iraqi descent), singer Dikla (of Egyptian heritage), singer Rita Shalhoun (of Lebanese descent), and actor-singer Guy Zu-Aretz (whose family is from Libya).

Gamliel said the ceremony corrected the lack of acknowledgment of the suffering of more than 800,000 Jews who were forced to flee or were expelled from Middle Eastern and North African countries in the 20th century.

“We will work to introduce Jewish heritage from Arab countries and Iran to the Israeli education system,” she said.

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