Members of a family trapped in the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo have implored the Israeli government to help them leave the country, saying they are Jews and Israel is therefore obligated “not to abandon” them.
In a recording aired Sunday morning that was given to Army Radio by a member of the family who managed to escape, a woman using the cover name Razan can be heard calling on Israel to help the family escape.
“There is no one who can help us leave this place. We are asking the government of Israel not to abandon us and to help us leave this place for any other country. I am asking the government of Israel to call on the world to do this. All of my love and devotion are to this religion [Judaism],” she says in Arabic.
Razan adds that “the government [of Israel] is a powerful government and I believe that it will not abandon any Jew in the world. Every Jew knows that [Israel] will not neglect him, because [Israel] is the mightiest country on the face of the earth and will not abandon its coreligionists.”
Razan’s younger brother Salah, who gave Army Radio the recording and now lives in London after fleeing Aleppo over a year and a half ago by way of Turkey, said that his father is Muslim and his mother Jewish, and that he and his two sisters have always considered themselves to be Jews.
“When I was a child my mother told me I am a Jew and I understand that. And before the war I told everyone, everyone knows I am a Jewish, all the neighbors around me. After the war, I couldn’t say that, because it is very difficult,” he said.
Despite the family’s appeals for help from Israel, officials at the Jewish Agency, which has carried out a number of operations extracting Jews from hostile countries, told Army Radio that they had doubts about the family’s Jewishness. People in similar positions have in the past ensured that their Jewish identities remained under wraps as to avoid magnifying the danger they face.
Israel has not taken in any refugees from the Syrian civil war and a plan to bring in 100 orphans has recently stalled.
Elizabeth Tzurkov, who researches Syria at the Israeli think tank Forum for Regional Thinking, told Army Radio that she was aware of similar cases to that of the woman in the recording and questioned the source of the Jewish Agency’s skepticism.
“I don’t know on what basis the [Jewish] Agency determined that the story is unreliable,” she said, as “a number of Syrians have gotten in touch with me who are the descendants of Jewish women and who converted to Islam or who did not switch faiths and inquired about immigrating to Israel.”
What were believed to have been Aleppo’s last remaining Jews left the country in 2015, when it was estimated there were some 20 Jews remaining in Syria.