JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa) seeks to educate and advocate for Jewish refugees from the Middle East.

Prior to 1948, approximately 950,000 Jews lived in Muslim countries of the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf.

Historical background

The Jewish exodus from Arab lands in the twentieth century was a result of the expulsion and mass departure primarily of Sephardi and Mizrahi background from Arab and Islamic countries. The migration started in the late nineteenth century, but accelerated after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. According to official Arab statistics, 856,000 Jews left their homes in Arab countries from 1948 until the early 1970s. Some 600,000 resettled in Israel, leaving behind property valued today at more than $300 billion. Jewish-owned real-estate left behind in Arab lands has been estimated at 100,000 square km (four times the size of the State of Israel). Thus, of the nearly 900,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands, approximately 600,000 were absorbed by Israel; the remainder went to Europe and the Americas.

Political activities

JIMENA played a key role in the unanimous passage of House Resolution 185 by the U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, February 27, 2008. This resolution urges the President to ensure that when refugees from the Middle East are discussed in international forums, any reference to Palestinian refugees be matched by a similarly explicit reference to Jewish and additional refugee populations.

In December 2007 JIMENA briefed Iraqi born Ruth Pearl, mother of slain journalist Daniel Pearl, before her meeting with the President at the Hanukka White House party. She informed President Bush, for the first time ever, of the plight of the 850,000 Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa. During the President's recent visit to Israel, he was reported to have mentioned the importance of including the Jewish refugees in future negotiations about refugees of the Middle East.

In March 2008, JIMENA testified at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, on behalf of Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa.

Joe Wahed was the founder of JIMENA.