When Cyprus Became a Prison for Holocaust Survivors

Aug. 19 2021

Following World War II, Britain continued its pre-war policy of keeping Jews out of the Land of Israel, enforcing it more strictly than ever. Peter Martell writes:

Between August 1946 and February 1949, more than 52,000 Jews taken off 39 boats were detained in a dozen camps in Cyprus. . . . The British wanted the cramped camps to be a “deterrent” aimed at “breaking the power of the ‘Hebrew resistance movement’ in Palestine,” Yad Vashem said. More than 400 people died of sickness. It is a history that Arie Zeev Raskin, the chief rabbi of Cyprus—where, he says, several thousand Jews pray at the synagogue each year—wants to “teach to the next generation.”

When he discovered a farmer using one of the camps’ last remaining metal huts as a tractor shed, Raskin made it the centerpiece of the Jewish museum of Cyprus he is building in the port city of Larnaca. “The huts were boiling hot in summer, and freezing in winter,” Raskin said.

In the camps, some 80 percent were aged between thirteen and thirty-five, “among the more spirited and lively survivors of the Holocaust,” said Yad Vashem, which added that 2,200 babies were born in the camps.

Some Cypriots, also resentful of British rule, worked with Jewish militia forces [like the Haganah, which were involved in organizing clandestine aliyah]. Key among them was Prodromos Papavassiliou, who after fighting fascist forces in North Africa with Britain’s Cyprus Regiment was outraged at the camps. . . . Prodromos helped hundreds of Jews, hiding those who tunneled out in orange groves and caves, until he could organize boats to smuggle them away from coves near the now-popular tourist resort of Ayia Napa.

Read more at International Business Times

More about: Aliyah, Cyprus, Holocaust survivors, Israeli history, United Kingdom

Saudi Arabia Should Open Its Doors to Israeli—and Palestinian—Pilgrims

On the evening of June 26 the annual period of the Hajj begins, during which Muslims from all over the world visit Mecca and perform prescribed religious rituals. Because of the de-jure state of war between Saudi Arabia and the Jewish state, Israeli Muslim pilgrims—who usually number about 6,000—must take a circuitous (and often costly) route via a third country. The same is true for Palestinians. Mark Dubowitz and Tzvi Kahn, writing in the Saudi paper Arab News, urge Riyadh to reconsider its policy:

[I]f the kingdom now withholds consent for direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia, it would be a setback for those normalization efforts, not merely a continuation of the status quo. It is hard to see what the Saudis would gain from that.

One way to support the arrangement would be to include Palestinians in the deal. Israel might also consider earmarking its southern Ramon Airport for the flights. After all, Ramon is significantly closer to the kingdom than Ben-Gurion Airport, making for cheaper routes. Its seclusion from Israeli population centers would also help Israeli efforts to monitor outgoing passengers and incoming flights for security purposes.

A pilot program that ran between August and October proved promising, with dozens of Palestinians from the West Bank traveling back and forth from Ramon to Cyprus and Turkey. This program proceeded over the objections of the Palestinian Authority, which fears being sidelined by such accommodations. Jordan, too, has reason to be concerned about the loss of Palestinian passenger dinars at Amman’s airports.

But Palestinians deserve easier travel. Since Israel is willing to be magnanimous in this regard, Saudi Arabia can certainly follow suit by allowing Ramon to be the springboard for direct Hajj flights for Palestinian and Israeli Muslims alike. And that would be a net positive for efforts to normalize ties between [Jerusalem] and Riyadh.

Read more at Arab News

More about: Israel-Arab relations, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia