While in 1945 the Russian and American troops liberated the Nazi extermination camps, disgusted by the smell of death, and horrified by the appearance of the few survivors who still were found alive, the world suddenly took off its blindfold to witness the most brutal genocide in human history, the Holocaust. The systematic murder of millions of people – the vast majority Jews – in factories of death, marked a watershed in the history of humanity.
From these events, the term genocide was coined, and the United Nations signed the declaration of Human Rights. Seeking to protect all individuals regardless of their religion, nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity. Guaranteeing us the right to a dignified life.
Also, in 1945 as Western countries and institutions celebrated the end of evil and sought to repair the traumatic ravages of World War II, a new dark chapter of exodus was being written for the Jews of the Middle East. With the rise of Arab nationalism in the 20th century, the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa became a highly discriminated and vulnerable minority.
In 1945, the region was home to 850,000 Jews, however, due to violence and hostility from their Arab neighbors, they began to flee as refugees to Palestine. In 1948, with the imminent creation of the State of Israel, the Arabs -mostly Muslims- were against a Jewish sovereign country. Arab rejection intensified, leading to violent acts, forcing many Jewish communities to escape repressive conditions. This phenomenon was different in each of the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, but in general, Jewish communities disappeared, synagogues were vandalized and destroyed. Jewish life that remained in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Yemen for two thousand years, is no longer there. Migrants were smuggled across the desert or boarded ships to “make America” and find abundance and peace. They traveled with empty hands and took with them the traditions, language, flavors and customs to different corners of the world. Israel, the United States, Mexico, Panama, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil and Spain, among others. Those men and women sowed their seeds in new countries, and planted their destiny, their children´s future, and their grandchildren´s future. They never came back, and they never looked back.
I am the granddaughter of one of them, and for reasons of fate, the ships that my maternal great-grandparents boarded from Syria, and my paternal grandfather boarded from Turkey, arrived in Veracruz, and I am lucky to be Mexican. My family here founded a country that gave them peace and acceptance. I have many reasons to love my homeland, because here in Mexico we have been able to prosper as individuals and Jewish communities.
However, I have to admit that I belong to a melancholic people. My Shabbat table always includes dishes of Arabic food, the blessing when I say goodbye to my children and husband in the morning is “Ala Maak” (it means in Arabic might God be with you), and now after 75 years of the expulsion of the Jews from the Middle East, I decided to write this text to remember this painful chapter in the history of my people, of my family. Another chapter of darkness in which we were not endowed with the protection of human rights. In which the Jews, for religious intolerance, were murdered and persecuted.
And yes, in a corner of my soul and my collective conscience, it still hurts.