Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Lawmakers Ask Bush to Intervene on Behalf of the Jews of Syria

January 29, 1990
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

More than 100 members of Congress have asked President Bush to act “on behalf of the beleaguered Jewish community in Syria.”

In a letter written by Rep. Stephen Solarz (D-N.Y.), the lawmakers implored Bush to make “continued expressions of concern” that Syria allow “at least unmarried Jewish women, and hopefully the entire Jewish community, to emigrate.”

The letter, signed by 122 members of the House of Representatives, said there are roughly 4,000 Jews in Syria who “face a number of deprivations and hardships, the most serious of which is the denial of their right to emigrate.”

It asked Bush to persuade Syria to let about 100 single Jewish women emigrate “for whom there are few marriageable Jewish men available.”

“In this very traditional culture, if a woman is not married by an early age, it can become a real stigma that jeopardizes her chances of ever marrying,” the letter stated.

Jewish women in Syria have a difficult time finding husbands because many young men have fled Syria. Women are more fearful about trying to escape, out of fear of being caught and raped.

The lawmakers also asked Bush to make an “immediate, humanitarian appeal” to Syrian President Hafez Assad to release three Jews who are in prison.

Each of the three, Jack Lalo, Selim Soued and Eli Soued “has already served more than the usual six to 12 months for their alleged offenses,” they wrote.

An administration official said Lalo has been in jail since July 1988 and has a term of two or three years, for trying to escape from Syria.

The Soueds have been in jail since December 1987. Until November, Syria did not allow relatives of the Soued brothers to visit them, the official said. They have been detained for two years without a trial, on the grounds of having visited Israel.

Under Syrian law, visiting Israel is illegal. Most Jews leave Syria either by illegally crossing the border or by legally taking a trip abroad and not returning, the official said.

The official called Syria’s handling of the Soueds’ case “most troublesome.”

Recommended from JTA