Tuesday 25 October 2016, 23 Tishrei 5777


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We survived, but we were penniless

Maria Aron-Rokah, who now lives in Israel, fled Tripoli just before the Six-Day War began in June 1967 after her brother was warned by an Arab friend.

“There were Jeeps with police and soldiers at the airport. I was trembling,” she said. “We reached Rome on Friday and on Sunday the war broke out,” she told the JJAC session in the Lords.

Others left behind were not so lucky. “We heard there was a Libyan general knocking on the doors of Jewish people to come out.

“He said he was taking them to a safe place. But it was not true. He was taking them and killing them.

“The house opposite us: the father, mother, son, daughter were all taken and killed.”

Sarah Fedida, 80, was ordered out of Egypt during the 1956 Suez crisis. Her husband arrived at his office to find the door sealed. “He was not allowed to pick up his personal belongings and papers. Everything had been confiscated.

“The Jewish community was well-off, but Nasser expelled us and we were made to leave penniless, with only the knickers we were wearing. As soon as the baby was born, my husband Joe left Egypt for France to look for a job. He left me and the baby behind. I was so upset that fateful November that I went back to hospital after the birth of my baby. I was ill for weeks with post-natal depression.

“In spite of excellent references, Joe was unable to find a job in France. As he had a British passport, he decided to try his luck in England. He shared a room with his brother and scoured the newspaper every day for job vacancies.

“My sister-in-law and mother-in-law were sent to a refugee camp up North, but the men had to be in London where the jobs were.

“The day finally arrived for me to leave Egypt with my mother and my five-month-old baby girl. I was due to board a boat bound for Italy. But it turned into a nightmare. As I passed through customs, I was suspected of carrying valuables. The customs men called me back.

“My mother pleaded to come with me as I was in a fragile state of health, but they would not let her. I had nothing, but they searched me as if I had been carrying bombs.

“They turned everything I had upside down. They turned the baby’s carrycot upside down. They stole anything they could.  

“I joined my husband in England. He had found work at £10 a week. But like most men from Egypt he was hardworking and intelligent, and led a full and busy life until his death in 1994.”

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