Sylvia Hazan (nee Amar) was born in Marrakesh, Morocco, a place she says her family felt safe in from the 1920s, under the Alawite royal dynasty. Her paternal grandparents Abraham and Aicha were Jewish Berbers from Ourika in the Atlas Mountains. Sylvia remembers her grandfather going by donkey every Sunday to sell goods to the Muslim Berbers and bringing back skins from the tanners in Marrakesh. Her grandfather always travelled with other Jews, as they were subject to attack. (Pictured above Left, Sylvia in Morocco in 1973, pictured below Berber jewellery given to Sylvia by her grandparents).
Sylvia’s maternal grandfather was born in Egypt, and her great-grandparents spent their lives trying to reach Israel, “to die there”. They never achieved this aim. Sylvia and her own family left Morocco in 1973, after King Hassan II was attacked and the lives of Moroccan Jews became precarious. Among many other attacks, her older son Georges had been knifed the first time he went to school alone.
As a young family of refugees in Paris, she says, “we asked for a visa to immigrate to Australia – as far as we could go from the world I grew up in”.
Sylvia is just one of almost 800,000 “forgotten Jewish refugees” from Arab lands and Iran, who are, at long last, now remembered every year on November 30. Israel designated this day in 2014 for the “Recognition of the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab lands and Iran” and in 2015 the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies established its own annual event in partnership with the Sephardi Synagogue and the Sydney Jewish Museum.
The 2015 event attracted almost 400 people, eager to hear and tell the stories of Jews from Arab lands and Iran who make up approximately one quarter of the local Jewish community. Since that time, the Sydney Jewish Museum has included Mizrahi artifacts in its permanent exhibition about waves of Jewish migration to Australia, established an interview program to record Mizrahi stories and is planning a temporary exhibition on the theme. Synagogues across NSW are encouraged to mark the Shabbat preceding November 30. NSW appears to be one of the only Diaspora communities in the world which honours its Mizrahi members in this extensive manner.
This year’s annual event will feature another set of personal stories, including one from Eitan Madar, whose background is Yemenite. 2017 marks the 70th anniversary of the pogrom against the Jews in Aden, Yemen, a murderous reaction to the 1947 Partition Plan. The 49-minute film “The Forgotten Refugees” will be screened and food made by the Sephardi Synagogue will be distributed. The event, from 6:30pm on Thursday November 30, is open to all. Location details provided on request by phone 9360 1600 or email email@example.com.
If you were born in an Arab land or Iran and wish to interviewed as part of the Sydney Jewish Museum’s Mizrahi Stories project, email firstname.lastname@example.org .
The Rona Tranby Trust (RTT) Australian Light Horse Project supported 12 descendants of Indigenous Australian Light Horse soldiers to travel to Beersheva to take part in the Centenary commemoration.
Pictured below are the participants of the RTT Australian Light Horse Project:
The participants toured Israel, some with the Australian Light Horse Association Tour and some with the JNF Beersheva Tour, and visited sights of importance to the Australian Light Horse which were crucial to the success of the WWI Allied Sinai-Palestine Campaign of 1916 to 1918.
The trip to Israel culminated in the ANZAC Centenary events at Beersheva on 31st October, the 100 year anniversary of the Battle of Beersheva, attended by Prime Ministers Turnbull and Netanyahu.
One of the participants, Ricky Morris, laid a wreath in honour of Indigenous Soldiers of the Australian Light Horse, for the first time in 100 years. Three of the participants, Elsie Amamoo, Ray Minniecon and Ricky Morris, rode in the re-enactment of the Charge in full Light Horse Uniform. One of the participants, Terry Hutchinson, was able to visit the grave of his Great Uncle, Ernest Firth at the Beersheva War Cemetery, the first one in his family to do so.
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Social Justice Committee member Jennifer Symonds and her husband Nick Schoulal travelled with the participants, and Jennifer laid a wreath in honour of her Great Uncle, Lionel Trenn, who fought with the 1st Light Horse Regiment at Beersheva and throughout the WWI Middle East campaign.
Following the trip to Israel, The Rona Tranby Trust Project will continue to support the participants to research their ancestors stories.
Pictured below are members of the the 11th Light Horse Regiment who were honoured by their descendants through the RTT Australian Light Horse Project:
The Rona Tranby Trust was established in 1991, from a bequest in the will of Holocaust survivor Thomas Rona. The Trust supports the recording and preservation of Indigenous Australian Oral History. It was set up as a collaboration between Tranby Aboriginal College, NSWJBD and the Rona Estate. Jennifer Symonds has represented the NSWJBD on the Trust since 2004.
Several of the participants will give a report on their experience at the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies plenum on Tuesday November 21 at 7.30pm.
Members of the Jewish and Indian communities marked the liberation of Haifa during WWI at Parramatta & District Synagogue. The event was co-hosted by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the Hindu Council of Australia. Special guests included Member for Parramatta Julie Owens MP and Member for Strathfield Jodi McKay MP. Guests were treated to traditional Indian and Israeli dance performances and a video of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Israel in July, before enjoying afternoon tea in the synagogue courtyard.
PHOTO GALLERY Photos: Mark Zworestine
“The battlefields at Beersheba may be distant, but the deeds committed there remain close to the heart of our nation”. – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
A pilgrimage to honour the contributions of Indigenous Light Horse soldiers during WWI will be undertaken by their descendants in late October when they travel to Beersheva, Israel to participate in the centenary commemorations of the 1917 Light Horse charge.