Pe­ti­tion calls on Rivlin to back Aleppo res­cue

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY SANDY RASHTY

IS­RAELI PRES­I­DENT Reu­ven Rivlin has thanked the JC for high­light­ing the story of Syr­ian refugees who fled their home in Aleppo ear­lier this year.

Last week, this news­pa­per re­vealed how the last Jews of Aleppo es­caped an area of the city con­trolled by Bashar Al-As­sad in a high-risk mis­sion or­ches­trated by Is­raeli businessman Moti Ka­hana.

An 88-year-old Jewish woman, Mariam, and her two daugh­ters, Sara and Gilda, were smug­gled across the border to Tur­key, pass­ing check­points manned by Is­lamic mil­i­tants. They were joined by Gilda’s Mus­lim hus­band Khaled, and his three teenage chil­dren.

But only Mariam and Sara, who is in her 60s, made it to Is­rael, where they now live in Ashkelon.

The Jewish Agency (JA) de­cided that be­cause Gilda, in her 50s, had con­verted to Is­lam for her hus­band, she could not move to Is­rael un­der the Law of Re­turn.

As the lease on the house ex­pired and with no money left, a ter­ri­fied Gilda re­turned to Aleppo with her fam­ily.

The rev­e­la­tion has sparked out­rage, with one Lon­don pe­ti­tion call­ing on Pres­i­dent Rivlin to res­cue Gilda’s fam­ily and “bring them to Is­rael”.

A spokesper­son for Mr Rivlin’s of­fice said he thanked those in­volved for rais­ing the is­sue, adding: “We are look­ing into the facts of the case.”

But a JA spokesman has stood by the de­ci­sion, claim­ing that Gilda re­fused an of­fer of refuge in Is­rael — pro­vided she left her fam­ily be­hind. He said: “There are laws in Is­rael and it is cer­tainly not ‘con­tro­ver­sial be­hav­iour’ to abide by them. Our rep­re­sen­ta­tives went above and be­yond to as­sist the in­di­vid­ual in ques­tion, even go­ing so far as to sug­gest al­ter­na­tives that would have en­abled her to join her fam­ily in Is­rael de­spite her in­el­i­gi­bil­ity to make aliyah un­der Is­raeli law.”

He added that Is­rael’s In­te­rior Min­istry was re­spon­si­ble for the de­ci­sion.

Echo­ing com­ments made by a Syr­ian Jewish rabbi in Amer­ica, Mr Ka­hana said Gilda, like many Jewish women liv­ing in Arab coun­tries, con­verted to Is­lam for her safety.

He said: “The Sochnut (JA) told her to leave her fam­ily be­hind. You can­not do that to peo­ple. She thinks Mos­sad have kid­napped her mother and sis­ter. She is scared. She has to leave the area — it is dan­ger­ous.”

The Syr­i­ans’ names have been changed to pro­tect their iden­ti­ties.

Moti Ka­hana: or­gan­ised the orig­i­nal mis­sion

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