Moti Kahana with Mariam (not her real name), one of the last Jews of Aleppo

Aleppo's last Jewish women now live in Ashkelon

A mother and daughter escaped to Israel from Syria a year ago in a complex operation. The second daughter, who has converted to Islam, was forced to return to Syria with her husband and his children.

In a Jewish Agency absorption center in Ashkelon live two women whose personal story could form the basis of a Hollywood thriller. Members of the last Jewish family in Syria, they escaped from Aleppo – which was under heavy bombardment – a year ago. They came to Israel as part of a complex operation managed by the Free Syrian Army.



Their escape was financed by Moti Kahana, an American-Israeli businessman who for the last four years has been in close contact with Syrian rebels and has also visited them several times.


Mariam (not her real name), 88, and her daughter Gila (not her real name), 53, escaped to Istanbul via Syria's border with Turkey. From there they went to Israel under the Law of Return.


Mariam observed a Jewish lifestyle and kept kosher in spite of the difficulties brought by the civil war. Linda (not her real name), Mariam's second daughter, a convert to Islam, fled to Istanbul at the same time along with her Muslim husband and his three children from his first marriage. Linda and her family ended up returning to Syria from Istanbul.


Mariam knows Hebrew from reading prayers. In her youth she was able to pray in Aleppo's central synagogue that housed the legendary Aleppo Codex. However, the synagogue was set on fire and partially destroyed following the passing of the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan.  


The synagogue in Aleppo, as it looked in 2011 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The synagogue in Aleppo, as it looked in 2011 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)


The Jewish family lived under very difficult conditions in Aleppo, in an area under the control of President Bashar Assad's forces and suffered heavy shelling from the rebels. The journey from Aleppo to Turkey took 12 hours, with the family stopped at a Jabhat al-Nusra checkpoint en-route.


After a lengthy interrogation in which they were not discovered to be merely posing as Muslims, they were able to continue on their way to Turkey.


"This is the last Jewish family in Aleppo. This marks the end of a 2,700 year history of Jewish presence in the city," says Moti Kahana. He attacked the Jewish Agency for not allowing the daughter who had converted to Islam to make aliyah to Israel, in effect abandoning her in Istanbul.


The Jewish Agency accuses Kahana of convincing the family to leave Aleppo with the false promise that he would bring them to the US, because the family in fact did not want to go to Israel.


The Jewish Agency also emphasized that they offered for Linda and her family to come to Israel on a tourist visa and then to regularize their status, but they turned down the option.


פרסום ראשון: 11.25.15, 23:26
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