Joseph Abdel Wahed

Joseph Abdel Wahed

My name is Joseph Wahed. I am an Egyptian Jew and my father and his father were Egyptian Jews.

I am here to tell you, unequivocally, that we are behind you, shoulder to shoulder, defending Israel and the Jewish people. You are not alone. We, the Jews from Arab lands understand what it feels to be insulted and intimidated.

I represent nearly one million Jewish refugees, indigenous to the Arab/Islamic world. Many of us were brutally expelled from nine Arab countries, leaving behind our homes, heritage, culture and worldly possessions.
Today, less than 8,000 Jews remain in Arab countries.

I was young when I was in Egypt, living during an age of innocence. I remember the pyramids, my school, my neighborhood, and a strong Jewish community with a rich, 3,000 year old heritage. I remember in particular, the unique bond I shared with friends of different ethnicity’s, now, unfortunately, dispersed all over the world.

I learned a lot about tolerance and respect from this multi-ethnic community and about the gracious Egyptian neighbors I grew up with.

Unfortunately, I also carry around with me, like a burden, less pleasant memories. I call it the dark side. This was due to the virulent anti Semitism and xenophobia, and to the constant fear of always being at the mercy of the authorities. I saw how suddenly without warning, tolerance and love can turn into blind rage and racist behavior.

What made this happen?

Three powerful forces combined to change our life, especially after 1945: they were:
One Islamic fundamentalism. (Muslim Brotherhood)
two, Arab nationalism, and
three, the Birth of Israel.

I vividly remember those days. I was only 6 years old in 1942, when the German general, Rommel, was outside Alexandria, poised to attack.
My father knew what would happen to us if the Germans entered Cairo. The Egyptians had already prepared signs saying: “Welcome Rommel”. After all, it was the grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el Husseini, who colluded with Hitler to apply “the final solution” to the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa. By the way, I find it paradoxical that anti Israel signs during recent demonstrations, equated Israel with Nazis. Strange, because the Arabs colluded with them and praised their actions.
The future looked bleak indeed. But the Germans lost the battle and the war and we were saved, temporarily.

Many German Nazis escaped to Egypt. They helped the Egyptians implement their vicious agenda, resulting in violent anti Semitic riots around the Arab world.

Hundreds of Jews were killed, many put in prison and many more had their businesses, my father’s business among them. Conditions were particularly brutal in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Egypt. In Cairo, the Arabs chanted: “The Jews are the dogs of the Arabs.” The final blow was the birth of Israel. Then came the Six Day war and what Jews were still in Egypt, were put in concentration camps.

You should know, that many of the nearly one million Jewish refugees from the Arab/Muslim world, went to Israel. No question that life was tough at first. But they helped forge a strong nation, independent and proud of its achievements. Others, like myself, were spread to the four corners of the world.

We, Jews from the Arab/Islamic countries, want to tell the world our story. But there is one problem: our generation is getting old and we don’t have much time left. The media doesn’t care much about us, neither does the UN.

They call us the Forgotten Refugees. The Arab world wants us to stay forgotten. But we will not be silenced So, we formed our own organization. It is called: Jimena, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa. Check our website:

We organized and, listen carefully, because history repeats itself, and the same forces that kicked us out 50 years ago are back at work: this time, to destroy Israel and the jewish people: Islamic Fanaticism, xenophobia and anti Semitism.
Instead of anti Semitism, the Arab nations should teach respect.
Instead of hate, they should teach love.
Instead of an education full of poison, they should teach them, science, moral philosophy, languages and civics.
Instead of war, peace.
Instead of how to be suicide bombers, they should teach them the love of life, not death.

Today, I am proud to be a Jew, proud of my 3,000 year old heritage, proud that I am still alive to defend Israel against those who want to destroy it.
Dear friends, Our ultimate mission must always be Peace.
But, we must stay united and strong, for our children’s sake and for the sake of the free world. Most of all, we must have hope, just like Israel’s national anthem, the Hatikvah.

I wish to end my talk by reading to you part of an article written by an Israeli writer:
“I thank God for allowing us to have a homeland of our own and for teaching us the right and honorable things in life. “Thank you for making me a Jew, and teaching me your laws, at this time, and in this place, when so many all over the world have lost their moral bearings and sunk so low. Thank you for keeping Your promise to Abraham, for bringing me, his descendant, back here thousands of years later. I will try to be worthy of being a Jew, to be worthy of all the good you have showered on me and the Jewish people by giving us back our homeland, and helping us defeat our enemies, the enemies of all good people everywhere.” By Naomi Ragen, Israeli writer. May 2002

Thank you for inviting me to tell you our story. Thank you, Hillel, for organizing this rally and doing such a good job at doing so.
Despite the ugly anti semitism, the harassment and incitement by Arab and Palestinian students, we have shown them today, that we stand solidly behind Israel against those who want to destroy her.