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Jews in Kuwait

In the pre-Zionist era, before the Zionist occupation of Palestine, Jews were spread all over most Arab and Muslim states, including Kuwait, where they arrived in the year 1800, settled, had children and even had their own cemetery and synagogue to go to for prayers.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, there were over 200 Jews in Kuwait and then their numbers started to decrease when the Jews’ claim in Palestine became more politicized.

In Kuwait, Jews used to own property and buildings. There was a market named after them, known as the Jews market, where all types of cloths and fabrics used to be sold. If asked where she was returning from, a Kuwaiti woman would say she was returning from the ‘Jews market’ and people would automatically understand she had bought some fabrics.

The Jews here were known to work in money exchange and commercial activities. Many of them became very successful businessmen.

The last I saw leaving Kuwait was a money exchanger and a merchant known as ‘Kerji Rafael Yaqoub.’ The last Jewish shoe polisher in Kuwait was known as ‘Khoujah’ and he used to speak Arabic in a Palestinian dialect.

Saleh Mahleb was another famous Jewish merchant in Kuwait. There were also two famous artists; Dawoud and Saleh Ezra, who then left for Palestine and still used the family name ‘Al-Kuwaiti.’

Recently, a street was named after the Kuwaiti brothers in Tel Aviv; and Shlomo, one of their grandsons, still demands the right to come to his grandparents’ birth country.

— Translated by Kuwait Times ( Al-Anbaa )

By Dr Saleh Al-Ojairi

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This article was published on 24/06/2015