This is a family picture taken on our last holiday in Alexandria in August 1956 – though we didn’t know at the time this was to be our last holiday in Egypt – my parents with me and my two sisters, I am the eldest.

My story is the story of 850,000 Jews who lived in Arab lands and were expelled or forced to leave between 1948 and 1967, simply because they were Jewish.

I was born and brought up in Cairo, Egypt in a tight knit Sephardi community with its unique traditions and customs. We were not wealthy, but we were comfortable and my father had a good job as Managing Director of a British company. All of our family and friends lived close by and we saw them every day.

Our lives were shattered overnight as a result of the Suez crisis in 1956. There was a knock on the door in the middle of the night and an officer presented my parents with expulsion papers. We were given two weeks to leave and allowed to take nothing with us apart from a few clothes. Suddenly, families and friends were scattered all over the world, in some instances never to see each other again.

We arrived in England in December 1956 as penniless refugees and were placed in a disused run down hostel where we stayed for a few months. Fortunately, my parents were resilient and determined to start all over again.

This is a story of survival which is not unique to my family. I am proud that all Egyptian Jews, wherever they ended up in the world – some as far as Brazil and Australia – rebuilt their lives and did well. As did many of the Jews who lived in Arab countries and suffered the same fate. Jews survive, it’s in our DNA.

Source: Viviane Bowell