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The Silent Exodus cover image

The Silent Exodus 2004


Distributed by Choices, Inc., 3740 Overland Ave., Ste. F, Los Angeles CA 90034; (310) 839-1500
Produced by Pierre Rehov
Directed by Pierre Rehov
DVD, color, 59 min.

Sr. High - Adult
Jewish Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Area Studies, Israel

Date Entered: 05/12/2005

Reviewed by Sheila Intner, Professor, Graduate School of Library & Information Science, Simmons College GSLIS at Mt. Holyoke, South Hadley, MA

The Silent Exodus fills a critical gap in recent Jewish history, a gap that those who study Jews, Arabs, Israel, and other countries of the Middle East should address. Most Americans - all but those who insulate themselves from events concerning Jews - are aware of the World War II Holocaust in Europe, the Nazi’s Final Solution and murder of 6,000,000 European Jews, and the postwar migration of many of the survivors to Israel. Films such as Schindler’s List and Hollywood's Exodus, documentaries about the victims and the survivors, and recent commemorations of landmark anniversaries of wartime events including liberation of concentration camps, have popularized images from that time and those places. Americans seeing these images probably also realize that the United Nations’ establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 on the site of the Jews’ ancient homeland was, in part, a compassionate response to provide a place where the Jews of Europe, now destitute, might go to live. Once established, European Jews poured into the new State of Israel, more than doubling its population within a few years.

Israel’s war of independence was followed by new attacks by its Arab neighbors, and with each successful defense came new waves of immigrants, this time from the U.S., Canada, England, South Africa, Latin America, and other nations where Jews were not forced out, but from which they chose to “make aliya” (literally, “go up”) to Israel to join in a great Jewish adventure. Many Americans know about these migrations as well, though, perhaps, fewer than know about the European one. Some read in the headlines about the later airlift to Israel of Ethiopian Jews; and, still later, of groups of Russian Jews released by the Soviets before the breakup of the USSR.

What most Americans - even American Jews - know almost nothing about is what happened during all these years to the Jews living in the Arab countries of the Middle East, and how nearly all of them came to Israel. Silent Exodus tells this story in traditional documentary style. Live action interviews with Jewish survivors recount mini-Holocausts that took place in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria. Archival photographs and film clips of petty persecutions and wholesale massacres, documents evidencing discrimination and revoking citizenship, and recorded speeches by various government officials inciting Arab citizens to kill their Jewish neighbors, combine powerfully to tell a terribly sad story. Several times, filmed statements by Palestinian Arab spokespeople are shown, claiming that all is well with Arabic Jews and nothing but good will is extended to them within their countries.

Today, only a few thousand Jews remain in all the countries of the Arab Middle East. If students of Jewish studies, Israeli history and culture, and the Middle East wonder why - and they should - Silent Exodus will help to explain the answer.