Stories and news from Jews from the Al-Jamiliyah neighborhood in Aleppo

Iyad Jamil Mahfouz promised, in his book (Tales of Al-Jamiliyah – 2021), the next book that he would stop at the Jews in his city, Aleppo. And he fulfilled the promise in his new book (Tales of the Jews of Al-Jamiliya – Dar Al-Hiwar 2022). The writer singled out Aleppo for his two books (Houses of the Hidden in Aleppo, the Shahba: Unopened Safes – 2017) and (Amazing Wonder in the Nature of the People of Aleppo: Paintings of Aleppo – 2018). To me, these books are just episodes in the new Encyclopedia of Aleppo, similar to the venerable work (Comparative Encyclopedia of Aleppo) by Khair al-Din al-Asadi (1900-1971). The book (Tales of the Jews of Jamiliya) also comes as an important addition to the narrative narratives that its authors have bestowed on the Jews of Aleppo: Faisal Khartash, Ziyad Kamal Hamami, Ibtisam Al-Tarisi and Qahtan Muhanna. This book is also an important addition to the historical narratives its authors bestowed on the Jews of Aleppo, or made room for the Jews there, and Iyad Jamil Mahfouz confirmed it as references for his book: Alaa Al-Sayyid (The Illustrated History of Aleppo), Dhafer Victor Kalos (History of the Jews in the Levant), Mahmoud Haritani (History of the Jews in Aleppo), Sheikh Kamel al-Ghazi (Nahr al-Dahab in the History of Aleppo), Sheikh Muhammad al-Tabbakh (Ilm al-Nubala on the History of Aleppo al-Shahb).

Iyad Jamil Mahfouz dedicates his book to “the sons of the Mosaic sect of the people of Aleppo”. The encyclopedic researcher of Aleppo, Muhammad Qajah, introduced Mahfouz’s book, describing the author as a novelist who knows his storytelling well, a keen storyteller and a passionate documentary writer who loves his guarded city, Aleppo. He described the book as a model in its uniqueness, documentation, accuracy of information and pure, tolerant spirit. As for the author himself, he pointed out that Syria in general, and Aleppo in particular, the city of tolerance, coexistence and love, and its cosmopolitanism, as described by Muhammad Qajah, are woven from a colorful and beautiful mosaic.

Iyad Jamil Mahfouz sets the goal of his book to provide a contemporary human civilizational vision, through which he traces the economic, scientific and cultural activities of the Jews as well as social activities. And because Aleppo lost, through the migration of the Jews, an important element of its elements, and because the legacy of the Mosaic sect will be lost in that way, because it is part of the intangible heritage of the Jews, all this is a preserved situation (Tales of the Jamili Jews).

As for the book’s methodology, it is a review of stories, news and events that promote the values ​​of brotherhood, harmony and acceptance of the other, which prevailed in the Aleppo community. This includes celebrating the flags of the Jews and their common people. In the book’s methodology, it is also like a camera that follows beauty and ugliness, good and bad, without preconceived ideas and prejudices. The book explores the suffering of the Mosaic community after the decision to partition Palestine in 1947, until the last of them remained. Despite all this, the author promises to avoid religious and political issues “except what is necessary”.

Iyad Jamil Mahfouz promised, in his book (Tales of Al-Jamiliyah – 2021), the next book he will give to the Jews of his city, Aleppo. And he fulfilled his promise in his new book (Tales of the Jews of Al-Jamiliyah – 2022).

Al-Siriya illustrates the book, starting with the author’s announcement that he likes to search for forgotten stories and hidden news until he reaches their original sources, which led him to track down the veterans of the Al-Jamiliyah neighborhood and erase their buried memories. However, what made this difficult was compounded by the fact that “many Muslim residents of the neighborhood also left the city, following the unfortunate events that swept the city starting in 2011,” and Mahfouz would repeatedly describe these events as an earthquake.

Among the biographies, what the author narrates about the famous Aleppo building (the Mistat building), built by his grandfather, and in which he lived with his family, and with the family of Khawaj Salim Qabbani, a Jew whose wife used to be call the child Iyad or send your son to him to bring it back every Saturday, and he lit the gas with a match or He turns it off after lighting it an hour ago, and he can do other simple jobs, and from that they will know (hibernation) and they will talk about him as a cultural heritage. And sleep is what made the religious education exams for the Syrian certificates set on Saturday. Among the official contradictions of Adventism, Mahfouz states from his memoirs that a Jewish student, Mazida Kindi, joined the University of Aleppo in 1980, and that she, along with other Jewish students, informed the Department of Examinations about their Judaism, so it was taken into account. On the contrary, the date of the physics and chemistry exams for the secondary school certificate in 1968 was set for a Saturday, which caused a drop in the Jewish students, including the student Arlette Zayat, of pronounced beauty and extraordinary presence, who dominated the imagination. passers-by and voyeurs who awaited her view from the balcony as she made her daily commute from the Franciscan Institute to her home near Tramwayat House in the Al-Jamiliyah neighborhood. See, was the author one of those who got carried away? Arlette received a near-perfect score, but failed because of the Saturday decision, which he saw as a response to the brutal Zionist aggression of 1967 by taking revenge on several Jewish students.

Altruistic biography prevails over (the stories of the Jew Jamiliya), and with it, as well as personal biography, and with them (the sickle) of news and events, this book seems to spring up calling who writes it into a novel – novels, as is the case in the previous ones by Iyad Jamil Mahfouz, and he is connected to Aleppo, and I have been inciting him against him since his first book (The Houses of Hidden in Aleppo Al-Shahba).

This (story) is about Tawfiq Manafikhi (Muslim) and Haim Merzahi, who founded a company (Manafikhi and Marzahi), and the company lived until Merzahi emigrated in 1987. His children married non-Jews, and his daughter Maya covered the facade of her house in Brooklyn (New York) with Aleppo stone. Employed, and the author is the first to introduce this stone to the Emirates. Maya persisted in visiting Aleppo until “the fire of the Syrian earthquake flared up in 2011,” Mahfouz writes. During the visit, Maya met with friends from childhood and youth. As for her mother, Rachel Abadi, she visited Aleppo in 2007 while she was sick with cancer, but was cured of the disease in Aleppo, and then died two weeks after returning to New York. And this is the story of the factory of Hajj Muhammad Omar Sabbagh with Jack Shaqla, the accountant of the factory, to whom Hajj entrusted the calculation of the amount of zakat for the factory and its distribution. A Jewish accountant emigrated in 1992. Among the heterosexual biographies is the story of Hajj Saad Allah Salahiyeh and Rabbi Murad Sardar, who founded a company to trade in women’s clothing and assigned each of them an inner room to perform their religious duties. And like the characters of the previous stories, the characters of engineers, lawyers, teachers, doctors, dignitaries, artists and athletes shine among the Jews. Among them and those in the front rows is the artist Fayrouz al-Mamish – who is Fayrouz Samaha – and it is said that the Lebanese Fayrouz was named after Fayrouz from Aleppo, who sang (in you all I see is good) and (Oh Malika, glory to victory), which she sang to King Faisal I during his visit to Aleppo in 1920. The song was composed by Ahmed Al-Awry. Fayrouz Al-Mamish also sang 1926 (Shake Your Mihrimatk) and (Ya Maila ala Al-Ghusun). Like Fayrouz Mamish is also Moshe Elia, the first singer in the Jewish Social Sports Club, who was known for his performances of Andalusian Muwashah and Halabi Qudud. He continued to perform Al-Tarab Al-Halabi in the clubs of Haifa after emigrating. Mahfouz mentions Zaki Murad, who is known for playing the oud and singing. Mahfouz mentions that Zaki Murad is the father of Laila Murad, and that Laila Murad was famous in Aleppo before she emigrated to Egypt.

The writer dedicated his two books to Aleppo (Houses of Invisibility in Aleppo, the Shahba: Unopened Safes – 2017) and (Amazing Wonder in the Characters of People of Aleppo: Paintings of Aleppo – 2018).

Mahfouz made an important note in this context, namely that the references rarely referred to the creations of writers, poets, painters, sculptors, journalists or athletes from the Jews of Aleppo. But he – who was an international basketball player before moving to the UAE – notes that many Jewish boys joined the basketball team at the Aleppo Al-Ahly club, which became the Al-Ittihad club, until the year’s Premier League championship. in 1979.

Iyad Jamil Mahfouz paints the area of ​​the Al-Jamiliyah district, and the area of ​​Aleppo in general, in an interesting way, not missing a single detail or name. And if a street, building, square, inn, synagogue or… had a story of construction, expansion, changes or removal, then all this is a cinematic eye and sharp memory, from Jewish educational institutions (Samawal School – Alliance Institute and others) to Al-Riyadi Jewish Social Club to Al-Jamiliya Cafe to Al-Bloor Cafe to Al-Jamiliya Synagogue to ABC Store to the old markets and so on. And just as the native Jewish author fulfilled his right, he also stood by the immigrant Jew, starting with the year of the Nakba/Partition in 1947, which had devastating reverberations in the Al-Jamiliyah neighborhood, as well as in all of Aleppo, from the burning of the Silvera Synagogue in the street Al-Jamiliyah, the Jewish Community Sports Club, houses, shops… On the other hand, the author elaborates on the protection of the majority of Muslims for the lives and property of Jews. He describes the strange and freakish decision of the authorities to deprive a Jew who immigrated of his Syrian citizenship, as well as the decision to renounce his property. It was the time of Syrian-Egyptian unity (1958-1961). In the early fifties, the authorities prohibited Jews from moving within Syria, going abroad and buying new real estate without prior approval, and when they canceled that decision, rich families began to migrate (Al Safra – Al Nahmad – Al Silvera…). The migrations were mainly to Lebanon, and from there to America and Brazil… Mahfouz mentions that the Jews from the Jamiliya neighborhood kept their Syrian passports and identities, and some of them visited Aleppo almost every year, and stayed in his house in Aleppo, and adds: “These habits have receded a lot with the outbreak of the earthquake.” Syrian in 2011. Because of all this: “Aleppo has lost the color of its bright texture.”

Mahfouz reinforces his book’s message of tolerance, coexistence and national cohesion, with everything else in it. From Al-Asadi’s encyclopedia, he reports the testimony of the late great scholar Khair al-Din al-Asadi, and he reports that “some of the proverbs or sayings circulated by the common people of Medina against the Jews are mostly unjust and unlawful. place. These are the bad qualities they attribute to them, except for what is smaller and rarer than them. It is also the testimony of the Aleppo novelist Fadel al-Sibai (1929-2020) when he wrote that he was born in a house that his grandfather bought from a Jewish family, then they moved to the Al-Jamiliyah neighborhood and lived in a building whose land belonged to the Jewish family of Ezra Shweka, opposite the building owned by Morduk Silvera. Al-Sibai mentions that it was a synagogue opposite their residence, which was burned in 1948, and that he protected the Jewish neighbors when he claimed that their building belonged to his Muslim family, and in his house the Marduk family slept, and their son Abraham was at a good age and they studied together, “I write my assignments in Arabic and he in Hebrew.”

Finally, so that doubts do not turn into sectarianism, the book (Tales of the Jews of Jamila) repeatedly emphasizes the difference between Zionism and Israel and the Syrian mosaic that lost “one of the colors of its bright texture” in Aleppo, as it says in the rich, interesting and documented the book.

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