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_ (This story was taken from Dr. Moshe Amirav's 1988 book on Ein Kerem, published in Hebrew by Arial; the book was written when part of the house at #13 Ha-Ahayot Street still functioned as an active synagogue. In 1999, a plaque commemorating the story was placed in the building's courtyard. In a ceremony attended by Dr Amirav, Arab official Faisal Husseini and members of the two families. The story was also featured in a 1999 Israeli television documentary, on the Channel 2 "Shabbat Salaam" series. Since 1998, "Allegra House" has served as the home of Biblical Resources teaching center and garden-museum.)

The Story of the Jewish Woman Allegra
and the Arab Villager Jabra in Ein Kerem
(With Zionsake editorial comment, including, "The Story of Ruth;" The Husseinis)

The Tikva-Tenu (Our Hope) Synagogue is in an old Arab house, two stories high. It is one of seven synagogues in the village of Ein Kerem, four of them for the Moroccan community, two for the Yemenite community and one mixed Moroccan-Turkish Synagogue. The Moroccan synagogues had descriptive names like "The Gate to Heaven," "The Prayer to Moses," and "Israel's Victory," while the Yemenite synagogues were named after their founders, "Yaish" and "Haddad."

The people who prayed at Tikva-Tenu Synagogue may not have known that the big room with the high ceiling from where their prayers went up to heaven, was once the house of a Jewish woman named Allegra and an Arab man named Jabra who lived there in the 1930's. Where the ark of the Torah stood, Allegra Belu, the Jewish woman who became a Christian, used to sit reading the New Testament and entreating the Virgin Mary (instead of the God of Israel) that her father, Nahum Belu of Mehane Yehuda might forgive her (for despising her Jewish lineage). Among the Arabs who used to live in Ein Kerem and the old Jews of Mehane Yehuda, there are still some who would remember the love story involving the daughter of the Belu family, a family of respected undertakers, and the son of the Raheel family, one of the wealthiest Christian families in Ein Kerem. The old people will remember that in those days there was nothing more unlikely than such a love - the times were difficult and tensions between the two peoples were high.

In the summer of 1928, some men from Ein Kerem attacked the Jewish residents of nearby Beit Vegan, but in spite of this aggression, the same summer, Jabra Francis of the Raheel family found his great love among the Arab's enemies, in the person of the Jewess Allegra from Mehane Yehuda. He would come riding on his mare to Mehane Yehuda to pick up the beautiful Allegra and, shamelessly and defiantly ignoring the shouting of her father Nahum, they would go out on Jaffa Road for everyone to see. In those days nobody would have given such a love relationship much of a chance [and the situation has not changed up our time  due to the Arab's continued agenda to drive the Jews out the Middle East].

Nahum Belu was a religious Jew who wore a beard and a kippa, and was the principal undertaker in Jerusalem. Descended from the Jews who were expelled from Spain, he represented the eighth generation of the Belu family in Jerusalem. And in Jabra Raheel Nahum found three reasons - each in itself sufficient - to try to end the relationship with his daughter: Jabra was an Arab, a Christian and a farmer.

Then one day, without telling anyone or saying any good-byes, Allegra and Jabra disappeared as if the earth had swallowed them up. Some months later their families learnt they had been secretly married in Bethlehem and  were living there. That sane day, Nahum Belu tore his mantle, put ashes on his head, and "sat shiva" (observed the traditional Jewish seven days of mourning): He and his family considered Allegra to be dead. [In other words they both defied their parents and their people to do their own thing - compared to Ruth of the Bible]

I will not be able to return to my village with a Jewish woman, her husband told her. A year later Allegra again asked to return to Ein Kerem, and it was then that she decided to become a Christian [comparison with Ruth]. She entered St. Josephs Convent in Bethlehem and began to embrace Christianity throught prayer, study and works of charity among the poor of Bethlehem

Meanwhile her husband Jabra became very succesful in his business of buying and selling meat.[With the help of the British who did all they could to benefit the Arabs and to prevent the Jews from returning to take up there inheritance or to defend themselves]

"O God, do not remain quiet; do not be silent and, O God, do not be still. For, behold, Thine enemies make an uproar; and those who hate Thee have exalted themselves. They make shrewd plans against Thy people, and conspire together against Thy treasured ones. They have said, "Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more." Psalm 83:1-4

Two years later, in 1930, they returned to Ein Kerem. Allegra wore a big cross on her chest and Jabra had a license enabling him to become the main supplier of meat to the British Army in Jerusalem. They lived in a two story house in the center of the village. The local people called their old house where Allegra lived,"The "the house of the Jewess'" and they had both great great pity for her, as she made way daily to pray at St. Johns Church - while being considered dead by her own family in nearby Jerusalem.

Seventeen years passed before circumstances offered an opportunity for her to present herself to her family. Shimon Belu, great-grandson of Nahum Belu, was just a child of eight years old at the time, but remembered the incident all his life. It happened in 1945, the day after his great-grandfather, Nahum, had died. The whole family, sons, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, sat shiv'a when "the Arab woman" with her three children suddenly appeared in the door. A murmer passed through the family: "Aunt Allegra has come to sit shiv'a!" In the silence of the room, Nahum's wife spoke and was clearly heard saying to her in Castillian Spanish: "Leave the house, this was the wish of Nahum Belu before he died." Shimon Belu said that Allegra left the house and sat down outside near the fence with her children and wept there for a long time.

Her son, Yusef Raheel, who was then six, also remembered that moving scene from his childhood. It was his only memory of his Jewish grandfather - and his first memory of Jews. Later, sometimes when Shimon Belu, who became manager of a Jerusalem bank, went to the Mount of Olives to visit the tomb of his great-grandfather - on which only his name, Nahum Belu, was written, he also went to visit Jusef Raheel at his bookstore on Salah ed-Din in East Jerusalem. They politely asked each other about health and business matters, but talked little about the grandfather Nahum or Allegra. For them it was history they couldn't deal with.

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Editorial comment
(1) The story of a Gentile women, Ruth, who did the opposite of what Allegra did - by marrying a Jew (for other reasons than obstinate self-will).
(2) The Husseinis
History of anti-Semitism of the Husseinis
_ _ The father, the Mufti of Jerusalem:
  1. Nazi ally, Hajj Amin Al Husseini, is Arafat's "hero".
    By Itamar Marcus
    Palestinian Media Watch Bulletin
    http://www.pmw.org.il
    August, 5 2002


    Introduction:
    In an interview this week Arafat called the Arab leader and Nazi ally, Hajj Amin Al Husseini, "our hero". Arafat referred to "our hero Al Husseini" as a symbol of withstanding world pressure, having remained an Arab leader in spite of demands to have him replaced because of his Nazi ties. This he compared to Palestinian withstanding of world pressure for reform of the Palestinian Authority today, which includes the American demand to replace Arafat.

    Background:
    "Hajj Amin Al Husseini (1895-1974) was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem... He supported the Nazis, and especially their program for the mass murder of the Jews. He visited numerous death camps and encouraged Hitler to extend the "Final Solution" to the Jews of North Africa and Palestine. In 1946 he escaped to Egypt." [Simon Wiesenthal Center Web Site]

    Husseini and German soldiers and with Hitler

    Husseini with Nazi soldiers and with Hitler

    The following is the text from the interview with Arafat:

    Interviewer: "I have heard voices from within the [Palestinian] Authority in the past few weeks, saying that the reforms are coordinated according to American whims."

    Arafat: "We are not Afghanistan. We are the Mighty People. Were they able to replace our hero Hajj Amin al-Husseini? ... There were a number of attempts to get rid of Hajj Amin, whom they considered an ally of the Nazis. But even so, he lived in Cairo, and participated in the 1948 war, and I was one of his troops."
    [Al Sharq al Awsat, a London Arabic daily, reprinted in the Palestinian
    daily Al Quds, Aug, 2, 2002]

  2. Haj Muhammad Amin Al Husseini set the the trend for Arafat
    Benny Morris: Peace? No chance
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,653417,00.html
    Thursday February 21, 2002 The Guardian

    But my main reason, around which my pessimism gathered and crystallised, was the figure of Yasser Arafat, who has led the Palestinian national movement since the late 1960s and, by virtue of the Oslo accords, governs the cities of the West Bank (Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarm and Qalqilya) and their environs, and the bulk of the Gaza Strip. Arafat is the symbol of the movement, accurately reflecting his people's miseries and collective aspirations.

    Unfortunately, he has proven himself a worthy successor to Haj Muhammad Amin al Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, who led the Palestinians during the 1930s into their (abortive) rebellion against the British mandate government and during the 1940s into their (again abortive) attempt to prevent the emergence of the Jewish state in 1948, resulting in their catastrophic defeat and the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem. Husseini had been implacable and incompetent (a dangerous mix) - but also a trickster and liar. Nobody had trusted him, neither his Arab colleagues nor the British nor the Zionists. Above all, Husseini had embodied rejectionism - a rejection of any compromise with the Zionist movement. He had rejected two international proposals to partition the country into Jewish and Arab polities, by the British Peel commission in 1937 and by the UN general assembly in November 1947. In between, he spent the war years (1941-45) in Berlin, working for the Nazi foreign ministry and recruiting Bosnian Muslims for the Wehrmacht.

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The son, Faisal Husseini:
  1. "The Palestinians are waging war of independence - someday we will decide if Israelis get a state." Ha'aretz Services, 6 December 2000

    Palestinian Minister for Jerusalem Faisal Husseini has said the Palestinians are waging a war of independence that will end only when the last Israeli settler leaves the territories, and that when Palestinians become a majority in the Holy Land, they will decide whether to allow the Jews to have a state, Israel Radio reported Wednesday.

    It quoted Husseini as saying that the clashes in the territories are not a another intifada, or uprising, but a war of independence that will end only when the last Israeli leaves land captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

    Husseini also said that in another few dozen years the Palestinians will constitute a majority in the area, and that it will be they who will decide whether to grant Israelis a state, if Israel continues with its present policies.

  2. A sample quote from Feisel Husseini: "Peace for us means the destruction of Israel. We are preparing for an all-out war... we have become the most dangerous enemy that Israel has. We shall not rest...until we destroy Israel."
    (Feisal al-Husseini, Bulletin of the Jerusalem Institute for Western Defence, Bulletin 2, June 1994, quoted by the Int'l Christian Zionist Center (iczc@iczc.org.il)).
    Oslo accords are a Trojan Horse:
    "Had the U.S. and Israel realized, before Oslo, that all that was left of the Palestinian National movement and the Pan-Arab movement was a wooden horse called Arafat or the PLO, they would never have opened their fortified gates and let it inside their walls. This effort [the Intifada] could have been much better, broader, and more significant had we made it clearer to ourselves that the Oslo agreement, or any other agreement, is just a temporary procedure, or just a step towards something bigger... We distinguish the strategic, long-term goals from the political phased goals, which we are compelled to temporarily accept due to international pressure. . [Palestine] according to the higher strategy [is]: 'from the river to the sea.' Palestine in its entirety is an Arab land, the land of the Arab nation." [Al-Arabi' -Egypt, 24 June 2001 - translated from Arabic by Palestinian Media Watch. PMW Special Report No. 31, June 26, 2003. http://www.pmw.org.il]

  3. Husseini, who was long viewed as a "moderate," began to be seen in a different light following his recent death. In a speech in Beirut in April 2001, Husseini said, "There is a difference between the strategic goal of the Palestinian people, which is not willing to give up even one grain of Palestinian soil, and the political [tactical] effort that has to do with the [present] balance of power... We may lose or win [tactically] but our eyes will continue to aspire to the strategic goal, namely, to Palestine from the river to the sea..." On his way this past May to Kuwait, where he died of a heart attack, Husseini gave an interview - which turned to be his last - to the Egyptian daily "Al-Arabi," in which he said:
    "The [ancient] Greek Army was unable to break into Troy... [Following the Greeks' apparent defeat,] the people of Troy climbed on top of the walls of their city and could not find any traces of the Greek army, except for a giant wooden [Trojan] horse. They cheered and celebrated thinking that the Greek troops were routed, and while retreating left a harmless wooden horse as spoils of war. So they opened the gates of the city and brought in the wooden horse. We all know what happened next.

    "Had the U.S. and Israel not [thought], before Oslo, that all that was left of the Palestinian National movement and the Pan-Arab movement was a wooden horse called Arafat or the PLO, they would never have opened their fortified gates and let it inside their walls..."
    Arutz-7 News Brief, Aug. 24, 2001

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