Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Sephardi Jews

“A Jewish childhood in Moslem Mediterranean Sea States”

Yves Turquier is one of the 34 contributors to the French book “A Jewish childhood in Moslem Mediterranean Sea States”. Yves was born in Beirut, Lebanon, before immigrating to France for good at the age of 23.

“Ahmad is 7 year-old and my best friend. We know the religions of our parents. In the courtyard of the synagogue, the Jewish kids play violent games, such as “khabissa“, and I was frequently beaten, thrown to the ground and suffocated by many bodies on top of me…

Even in the Jewish school Alliance, khabissa was my lot…

Ahmad never laid a hand at me or tore at my hair…I once asked my beautiful mother to bring Ahmad to the synagogue, and the answer was a categorical NO. Why? Because Ahmad is Moslem and he goes to a Mosque…Discussion closed.

In our street of Riskallah, you have shops lined up, owned by Christian Maronites, other christian sects, Moslems…

Ahmad father is the best baker around the block. Ahmad helps his father and frequently saves a hot loaf of bread to share with me behind the bakery. We lived at Zeituny (Olive), by the seashore (in current West Beirut).

My parents talk of “Them” the Goyim and “us” the bene ammenou

In our street, almost all the ambulatory merchants and daily workers and artisans are Moslems: mostly from the Shia sect… Mother says: “They are very nice people, they carry their heart on their hands…except that they listen to the radio…” (The State of Israel was created and the “Arabic” radios were pretty virulent against this new insertion of a foreign body of occupation in Palestine…)

One morning, mother wished us (dragging dad along with us) for an extended vacation at my grand mother. Mother decided to remove the “mezouza” (a tiny wood cylinder containing this tiny parchment of Jewish law) off the entrance door, in case demonstrators happened to climb the stairs of the building and discover the religion of the people living in the apartment…

When we came back to Beirut, everything was as we have left…Ahmad was very understanding: “I also visit my grand mother now and then…”

Except that one morning, a bomb blasted and torn down my school around 7 am, before students converge to school. One of the dead bodies was a female keeping her eyes wide open…She was my school principal. I didn’t cry. As Ahmad got this piece of intelligence, he had wet eyes…

Note 1: Yves Turquier, born in Beirut in 1941, immigrated to France at the age of 23. He is into movies, directing and teaching. He produced the documentary for ARTE “La derniere fuite” and is one of the founder of FEMIS. In 2000, Yves decides to research the immigrants of his community and produced the documentary “Little history of the Jews of Lebanon”

Note 2: There are evidences that it was the secret services of the Israeli State that blew up the Jewish school Alliance. In that period, Israel targeted synagogues in Arab States in order to give the strong impression of the Jews that they are no longer wanted in the various Arabic States such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt…Most of the Jews from the Near Eastern States immigrated to European countries (France and England…) and the USA.  The few who landed in Israel didn’t appreciated the life-style and security they enjoyed in the “Arabic” States of origine and re-immigrated to European countries. Only the Jews from Morocco and Yemen stayed in Israel and now consitute the majority of the Sepharadi Jews…

The “Blue Moslem” Jews of Egypt: Same cultural sympathies?

I am reading a French book of childhood memories of 32 Jews who immigrated to France in the 50’s and 60’s from “Arab African” States of Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Egypt, and the Near East Mediterranean Sea States of Lebanon and Turkey.

Should the occupation of the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe of Palestine and the establishment of a colonial apartheid State of Israel cancel out the centuries of cultural sympathies that the Sephardi Jews connected with the Arab and Islam culture, civilization and traditions?

I might review a few of these childhood memories and group them on gender and geographic location. I discovered that:

1. The male authors have very different recollections from the females, due to their greater freedom to mingle with other communities and stepping out of their homes…

2. The Jews in the northern African States during the extended French colonial period have been discriminated by the French from the Moslems and given French citizenship and forced to learn in French schools with French programs…

3. Most of the adult males, including fathers and grandfathers, had to be forced to immigrate, their feet first: They were totally unwilling to relocate to France and change their life style…

I am reporting in this post on the “Blue Moslems” of the Caraite (Karaite) Jewish sect community in Egypt.

Mireille Cohen Massouda was born in Cairo in 1940 and immigrated with her family to France in 1953. Mireille wrote that she belonged to the Caraites community in opposition to the Rabbanite Jewish sect.

Much later, in France, she understood the difference between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews.

The Cariates religion was transmitted by the father instead of the mother, and the young males were dispatched to Crimea in order to select a Jewish wife.

Josy Eisemberg said in one of her 4 commentaries in 1994 that the Caraites were considered as “Jews of the Jews“, meaning not really accepted as original Jews by the local Jews in Palestine.

In fact, Nazi Germany delayed defining the Caraites as Jews till 1944.

In the meantime, the Caraites would issue certificates to the Rabbanites that they were Caraites and saved them from certain extermination for many years.

The Caraites were called the “Blue Moslems” in Cairo because all their praying and eating customs and traditions were identical to the Moslems, with this slight difference: Their praying garment had blue stripes…

Mireille wrote that she was assigned a separate section of the house where she slept with the female servant.  Apparently, the well-to-do Caraite Jewish families preferred to separate the females from the males gender…

Lower class Caraite families sent their young girls to work as servants at richer Caraite families in order to save for their dowry…

Apparently, the family of the girl was to provide the dowery of the girls for their marriage?

Is it about time to separate political Resolutions of Israel/Palestine from cultural sympathies in the Near East?

Note: Mireille Cohen-Massouda works at the hospital of Argenteuil as pedo-Psychiatry.  She is engaged at disseminating the belief system of the Carait sect, a Jewish faction that was established in the 8th century by Anan Ben David. She wrote and directed the film “From silence to speaking”

Most important question is “what are the superstitions that subjugate our spirit and body?”

What we desire are NOT what we lack or imagine that we are lacking to satisfying our life fulfilment: Our desires are the effects of our efforts that led to what we are and who we are; our desires are never the cause for our feeling of missing anything.  For example, when we desire a home it is because we feel the need for more comfort and security to go ahead with our drive to perfecting our happiness and contentment.

When desires are imitations of what other people claim to desire then, we are not acquiring what our personal nature requires and wants:  Our spirit is subjugated by external factors that we failed to control their affects.  We didn’t invest the necessary effort to “knowing ourselves”.

We are in essence constantly in a state of preparing to undertake an action or planning an activity in order to preserving our life and increasing the capital of survival as long as possible. Our essence is to developing our power for conserving our potentials to live and searching for what is useful to our body and mental development capacities.

What is essential to us is what our desires produce in reality to develop our nature.  We learn whatever is necessary to our natural conservation.  Thus, life is defined as a qualitative perception of what we feel as joy and sadness and we interact with our community according to our level of natural development.

We are not pure spirit to resemble God-like attributes and we are not pure body mechanical object that can be altered and be transformed to another specie. It is not possible to subjugate the body to obeying outside moral constraints.  Virtue is to acting according to our own nature.  Conjoint development of body and mind, as a unit,  is the natural inclination of mankind.  Weakening the body will never liberate the spirit and quell our natural passions for survival.

Knowing yourself can be reduced to the essential knowledge: “What external factors (in nature, society, institutions…) are altering and influencing our real natural desires for self-preservation and development?”

No, the body is not commanded by the spirit and neither the spirit by the body:  There is no separation but unity for doing the necessary efforts to live, to developing our natural capabilities in order to enjoying life and be happy.  The potentials of what the body is able to accomplish are not fully known; how a sane and well-conserved body can affect our mental potentials is still vastly undiscovered.  The kinds of feats of a sleep-walker are not fully accounted for.

You neglect the well-being of your body and your spirit is negatively affected. You neglect exercising your cognitive and emotional capabilities and your body is negatively affected. A general body fatigue is the interaction of afflictions of the body and mind; a depressed mood is the interaction of adverse influences on the body and mind.

Our natural personality is created by the combined efforts we exert on our body and mind.  The environment and society are external factors that constantly interact with our essence to live and form who we are.  Inequality in aptitudes among individuals are closely related to our constant efforts to interacting with the environment, people, and the changes in perceptions that we form of our potentials, of nature, and of the universe.

Three main characteristics are to be retained:

First, the body is not a simple mechanism animated by external factors:  The body has a dynamic inner vital energy that is conscious of its existence.

Second, the body interactions with the external world are both-ways actions and reactions.  It is because of these interactions that the spirit progresses and develops.

Third, the body has its internal qualities and the power to be and to act.  It is because “who I am and who I became” that I can acquire new habits, new skills, and new comprehension.

Man is an integral part of nature:  First, man has nothing exceptional to placing him above nature and he is devoid of any free-will independent of his natural living essence.  Second, man is in constant trade with his biological and social environments (cultural and natural).  Third, man shares in the  infinite power that characterizes nature and thus, man is endowed with sizable amount of power.

Free men do not need rewards, stimulants, or marble statues to obeying laws coinciding with individual’s vital natural  rights for happiness and opportunities to live in dignity.  Joy, sadness, and desires are the three main affects that drive all the other feelings and passions.  Nature is the same everywhere and it follows the same process regardless of what and how man want to change in it.

The wise man comprehends the universal rules and laws of nature and follows their virtues.  The power of an individual is limited and is superseded by external forces.  We don’t have an absolute will to adapt to what is beyond our power to act upon.  Our intelligence, the best part of ourself, will be fully satisfied and contented as it keeps within nature’s restrictions for drastic changes.  We cannot over indulge in eating or drinking without suffering their consequences.  Whatever we do within our power we can support equally well and our conscious is at peace because we acted within the range of our possibilities and nature’s limitations on u”s.

“People are submitted to affections such as feeling of pity to those in misfortune; feeling envious of those happy; we tend to be more vengeful than compassionate or forgiving;  We want people to conform to our positions, approve what we like, and reject what we hate.  Consequently, we want to be the first among all men.  The glory of the victor is to have vanquished his opponent rather than obtaining anything of value.  All these tendencies are the consequence of not focusing developing our natural essence and passively reacting to external factors”

“There are two founding principles:  Refusing tyranny and refuting superstitions. It is impossible for an individual to abandon his natural rights.  In order for a citizen to obey laws he must retain the legitimacy of keeping his power intact to resisting tyranny and defending his vital natural rights.”

“A happy individual has the right to fighting all kinds of superstitions.  Only an envious person takes pleasure of my impotence and my sufferings.  There are no Gods or persons who consider tears of sufferings, crying of pains and humiliation, fears of everything in society and nature are virtues to hang on.  The greater is the joy, the greater the perfection of our passions.  This is my rule and my resolution: I will eat and drink in moderation of whatever pleases me.  I will partake in cultural activities that I like.  I will participate in games that I love to do and that do not harm others.”

“A talented ruler gives the impression to the citizens that they are living according to their free will, that they can increase their wealth, and have opportunities to acceding to honors.  Erecting status and lavishing honors and rewards to loyal citizens and parading them as first among men will degrade their characters and performance by inflating their pride and driving them to laziness. Equality among citizens is reduced and so is common freedom and collective liberty.”

Context of  the period:  Bento was born in current Netherlands (Holland), lived and died there.  Holland had acquired its independence: It kicked the Spanish army, thwarted a British navy landing, and forced a French expeditionary army during Louis XIV to retreat.  At the age of 24, Bento was ex-communicated by the Sephardi Jews who immigrated from Portugal to Amsterdam: He believed that God is a philosophical concept; when the body dies so does the spirit.   He had to live far from Amsterdam and earn a living, polishing lenses for microscopes, telescopes and corrective glasses.  Holland was the wealthiest nation in Europe and enjoyed the largest merchant navy. Spinoza was the contemporary of Descartes, Thomas Hobbes,Isaac Newton, Leibniz, Huygens, Galileo, and the famous Dutch painters such as Vermeer, Velasquez, Van Ruysdael, Rembrandt, …

Note: Yes, the individual spirit dies with the body but it is the spirit we had communicated and disseminated while alive that keeps mankind evolving.  disseminate happiness and joy:  That is our natural disposition.




November 2022

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