Petition calls on Rivlin to back Aleppo rescue
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