search
'They said to us: Welcome, why aren’t you coming back?'

12 Brooklyn Jews reportedly visit Syria with support of Assad regime

Group meets with handful of remaining Jews in Damascus, is welcomed by residents, report says

Illustrative: A Syrian man walks over a bridge past a campaign poster of President Bashar Assad in the Syrian capital Damascus, on May 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Illustrative: A Syrian man walks over a bridge past a campaign poster of President Bashar Assad in the Syrian capital Damascus, on May 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

A group of Jews from Brooklyn recently visited Damascus, Syria, with the support of the Assad regime, according to a Tuesday report.

The 12 Jewish New Yorkers are natives of Syria who left the country decades ago, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

The visitors met with a handful of Jews who still live in Damascus in a private meeting, and received a request to meet with senior government officials, although that meeting did not materialize.

One group member said the visit was partially to receive dental care, which is far cheaper in Syria than in the United States.

The New Yorkers were welcomed by the city residents.

“Everyone understood from our language that we were Syrian Jews, everyone remembered us,” one of the visitors told Kan. “We went to shops in every place. They got to know us and said to us, ‘Welcome, this is your country, why aren’t you coming back? Look what happened to the country, please come back.’”

The Assad regime has been encouraging visits by Jewish Americans with Syrian roots in recent months, and has indicated that it will protect the visitors while they are in Syria. There have also been discussions about renovating a historical synagogue in Damascus that was damaged during the civil war, the report said.

The now-destroyed Jobar synagogue, one of the world’s oldest, hosted a handful of Jews until shortly before the outbreak of the civil war in 2011. Jewish artifacts, including ancient Torah scrolls, are believed to have been looted during the war.

In the Middle Ages, Syria was home to one of the largest Jewish settlements in the world, with most living in the Damascus area. The community dates back to Elijah’s Damascus sojourn nearly 3,000 ago, but Jewish life really blossomed in the city after 1099, when Christian armies conquered Jerusalem in the First Crusade and massacred the city’s inhabitants.

Historians say 50,000 Jews fled to Damascus, making almost one in three Damascenes Jewish almost overnight. Some became government ministers and advisers, and the community grew to around 100,000 by the turn of the 20th century.

Tens of thousands of Jews fled following Israel’s creation in 1948, while others held in Syria against their will finally emigrated, once they received permission, which occurred with the commencement of Middle East peace talks in the 1990s.

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed