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Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians

Greece's relationship with the Sephardic Jew

URL: http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/israels_relationship_with_the_palestinians_greeces_relationship_with_the_se

Israel ’s relationship with the Palestinians mirrors that in the early 20th century between the government of Greece and the large Sephardic Jewish community of Salonika (modern Thessaloniki ). Growing up as a boy whose four grandparents immigrated to the United States from Salonika between 1913 and 1916—and many of whose relatives went through the Holocaust there—I regularly heard stories of the tense relationship between Salonika’s Jews and the Greek authorities prior to World War II. Greece captured the city from the Ottoman Turks in 1912. At the time Jews heavily outnumbered Greeks and Turks in the city. Descendants of Jews expelled from Spain and other Mediterranean lands during the Spanish Inquisition, their medieval Spanish dialect (Ladino) was the language most often heard in the coffeehouses and marketplaces of the city. Though Greece immediately granted them citizenship, most Jews would have preferred the city remain part of Turkey , which had given them refuge in 1492. There was a Ladino saying I used to hear as a boy: “Turko no aharva Judió.” A Turk does not beat a Jew. The implication, of course, is that they were beating other people. But the Turks had treated the Jews well, even letting Salonika ’s busy harbor close for the Jewish Sabbath.

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