Damascus – Amid Civil War, Syria’s Remaining Jews To Celebrate High Holy Days


    File photo of Syrian Jews al-Firenj Synagogue in downtown Damascus Sunday April 20, 2008.(AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi).Damascus – The few remaining Syrian Jews, concentrated in the center of the capital city of Damascus, have been living under the protection of the Assad regime, according to Aleph, a source in contact with representatives of the community.

    Aleph, who asked that he not be identified in print to protect his identity as well as those with whom he corresponds, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that there are only about 50 Jews left in the country, most of whom are middle aged.

    Aleph would not put the Post directly in touch with any of the remaining Syrian Jews out of concern that being contacted by phone from Israel would endanger their lives, but he did describe how the community is doing based on his own regular communications with Damascus.

    “The average age there is around 45 or 50,” he said. “There are no more youths under that age to my knowledge. No youths, no children.”

    Since Syria began allowing emigration of Jews in 1992, most members of the community have left for either Israel or the United States, drastically shrinking the country’s Jewish population.

    As the two-year-old civil war has ground on with no resolution in sight, what began as a largely peaceful protest movement calling for democratization has turned into a sectarian conflict pitting the country’s Sunni majority against both Shi’ites and Alawites (the offshoot sect of Shi’ite Islam to which President Bashar Assad belongs). Other minorities, such as the Christians, Druse and Kurds, have split or tried to stay neutral.

    Given the location of the country’s remaining Jews in an area completely controlled by the Assad regime and the increasingly Islamist orientation of the various rebel militias, the Jewish community seems to have placed its hopes in the army.

    The local Jews are “in contact with the government,” Aleph said. “They receive protection from the government in the places that the government is still operating.”

    “Assad does not have a problem with Jews. He has a problem with Israelis. Like the Iranians, same thing,” Aleph said during an interview with Ami magazine in 2011.

    Asked if Syria’s Jews are concerned over the possibility of further escalation of the war should the west intervene, he replied that he had been in contact with Damascus on Saturday evening and that while community members acknowledge the situation as “complicated,” it is “not an immediate threat to their lives.”

    They “don’t feel” the war, Aleph said. “Everything [seen] in the press is not felt in the city center. It’s all in the peripheral neighborhoods.”

    “There life goes on as normal. Assad rules there absolutely. It is pretty safe [and] they are not getting ready to leave.”

    The remaining Jews have “opened the synagogue every Shabbat to pray” except for the last several weeks when it remained closed, Aleph said.

    He added that a member of the community told him that the synagogue will be open for the upcoming High Holy Days.

    “They will be celebrating the holidays,” he said, noting that a shipment of supplies, including kosher meat and wine will be sent to the community during the coming week.

    “I am also sending their lulavim, etrogim, hadasim and aravot,” he said, referring to four plant species that devout Jews bind together and wave during the holiday of Sukkot.

    Aleph has been sending religious necessities into Syria for several years, though he declined to enter into a discussion of methods and specific timing.

    Despite their declining numbers and the war raging around them, Aleph said, the Jews are trying to maintain what they can of their communal infrastructure.

    They “are taking care of the synagogue and the graves,” Aleph said.

    Content is provided courtesy of the Jerusalem Post

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    1. Wow this is wild. You only see Assad as being very evil. Yet here you see he’s tolerant to Jews. Sounds like the rebels wouldn’t be. Maybe Putin isn’t so wrong after all.

      • Anyone who kills men, women and children with chemical weapons is evil, perid. The fact that there are a few Jews in Damascus proves nothing. Its not as if these Jews are walking around with their heads held high, like equal citizens. They, and all of the other non-Muslims, are dhimmi and do not have equal rights.

      • It’s really hard to pick up and move – more so to a different country. And, they’re comfortable where they are. Maybe there is a sandbag falling, but they don’t see it.

      • they were born there, lived there their whole lives, and raised their families there. as the article says they feel safe. it is not always easy to move out of your comfort zone even when the whole world knows your in the wrong place…

      • Possibly they feel some “achrayos” (responsibility) to oversee the care of the “kevorim” (gravesites) & the synagogues. Remember, the Syrian Jewish community stretches back 2000 years. Not so easy to turn your back on that. Besides, it’s not children that are there. These are grown adults, and they probably feel that this is their “tachlis” (purpose) in living there.

        • you are clearly meshuga (mad) if you think that it is worth staying in Suria (Syria) for a few graves (kvorim) & old buildings. The ONLY reason that they have stayed in this gehenam (Hellhole) is because they want to keep their moolah (gelt).

          • At first I thought that your comment may have some validity, but then I noticed the correlation between your name and your reference to “a few graves and some old buildings”. Such flippant comments from a “Proud MO” bolster the complaint that many have that they feel that one of the main tenets of Modern Orthodoxy is to partly divorce oneself from their mesorah (tradition).

            • we choose (exercise free-will) to concentrate on the important things in life & not the unimportant things in life. Therefore looking after lives is more important to us than old graves.
              Please feel free to stay in galut (America) & I will live my life fanatic-free in the Eretz HaKodesh (State of Israel)

        • can you tell me why someone lives in israel surronded by a billion muslims who hates them to say the least.

          can you tell me why half a million frum jews live in israel surronded by 5+ million secular jews who hates them? תיקו


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