Israelis from Syria
Updated: May 5
Most of you know that Syria is Israel's next-door neighbor, but do you know how different their culture is? Find out what it's like from Syrians who made Aliyah below!
Syria borders Israel, but life for Syrian Jews was much different there than it is in Israel! Once upon a time in Damascus, there were 20 synagogues -- as of the last decade, only 2 were open on Shabbat. Now, in 2020, there are no Jews documented in Syria at all, whereas once there were more than 100,000. The largest community of Syrian-Jews is now in Israel -- around 115,000!
After the 1948 War, where ultimately the Syrians were defeated by Israel, they did not immediately kick the Jews out. It was a slow process. In general, the situation was not great for Syrian Jews. They were targeted by rioters in 1947, and their homes and places of worship were destroyed. Many were murdered.
So began the great exodus to Israel.
But even before then, Syrian Jews had still found their way into Israel. Since the 1800's there have been groups living in Jerusalem. After that, a group of Syrians moved to Israel in the early 1900s, where they founded the Ades Synagogue in Nachlaot. You can still go there today! It's a great place to go if you want to check out a cool Syrian tradition -- singing baqashot. Baqashot are songs and prayers on Shabbat morning. The Ades synagogue is probably one of the best places to check out this 500-year-old tradition.
After the first big wave of emigration in the late 1940s, Syria really restricted letting Jews leave. The numbers dwindled until there are supposedly none left.
But when they left, they did bring great aspects of their culture, notably, of course, the food. Since Syria is so close to Israel, it has stereotypically Israeli foods. Eggplant, meats, chickpeas, salads, and the like. Staple cuisines include lamb shawarma, hummus, and lots of meats spiced with za'atar. In general, Syrians have assimilated into Israeli culture.