Between 1945 and the 1970s, several thousand years of Jewish existence in Muslim-majority countries came to an end. This phenomenon of deportation and persecutions affected approximately one million people, but went unnoticed in the upheaval of the post-war period.
Trigano, a historian of Judaism, remedies the inattention by uncovering what is almost a hidden history by gathering texts regarding that Jewish exodus. He explains the characteristics of Judaism in the Islamic context, defined by the status of dhimmi that eventually the European colonizers abolished. He analyzes the conflict between Jewish and Arab nationalisms in the twentieth century. A variety of historians examine the processes that shaped the exodus of the Jewish communities from the eleven countries under consideration. Some texts are long and meticulously researched, while including an analysis of the historical, religious, and political territory, others less so, but all of them are captivating.
The essays show that persecutions and anti-Jewish hatred were less intense in the Maghreb than in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. The first three of these latter countries were steeped in the Islamism promoted by Amin al-Husseini, being close to Palestine and their armies having fought Israel in 1948, suffering a humiliating defeat. As for Yemen, the dhimmi condition had been among the worst anywhere.
The chapter regarding the Morocco exodus, long held secret, is the most detailed, examining the complex tangle of international political actors and negotiations. That said, it is a pity that Operation Mural, in which David Gerald Littman played a major role in safely transferring 530 children to Israel in July 1961, goes unmentioned.
Two elements of this book are innovative. First, all the authors evaluate the Jews' dhimmi condition to have been a determining factor of their relations with their Muslim environment. This perspective places these events in Islamic historical settings. Second, relying on archival documents of Ruth Tolédano-Attias, my husband, and myself, they show for the first time the full breadth of efforts arising from various backgrounds that enabled the rescue of Jews from Muslim countries.