This week in Israeli history: Jan. 27 – Feb. 2


Jan. 27, 2006 — First U.N. Holocaust Remembrance Day

The first U.N.-recognized International Holocaust Remembrance Day is held on the 61st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The president of the U.N. General Assembly, Jan Eliasson, says the commemoration should be “a unifying historic warning around which we must rally, not only to recall the grievous crimes committed in human history, but also to reaffirm our unfaltering resolve to prevent the recurrence of such crimes.”

Jan. 28, 1790 — France Grants Citizenship to Sephardi Jews

The National Assembly of revolutionary France decides to give citizenship to Sephardi Jews after a three-day debate on Jewish emancipation the previous month. The Sephardim, whose families came to France in the 16th century, are well assimilated but represent the Jewish minority in France. The majority Ashkenazim, including Jews petitioning for citizenship amid violence in Alsace and Lorraine, are not emancipated until September 1791.

Jan. 29, 2004 — Israel Swaps Prisoners for Man, 3 Bodies

Israel frees more than 430 Arab prisoners to win the release of an Israeli businessman abducted in Dubai in October 2000 and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers captured the same month along the Lebanese border by Hezbollah and killed in captivity. The Palestinian Authority and Hezbollah celebrate the exchange. Israelis are divided, in part because the swap happens the same day as a bus bombing in Jerusalem.

Jan. 30, 1958 — U.S. Commits to Baghdad Pact

During a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles says the United States is committed to the defense of the Baghdad Pact nations: the Muslim-majority states of Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey, plus the United Kingdom. Dulles’ statement is seen as an extension of the Eisenhower Doctrine, under which any Middle Eastern country threatened by a Communist regime can seek U.S. economic aid.

Jan. 31, 1922 — Hebrew ‘Dybbuk’ Opens in Moscow

The Hebrew version of “The Dybbuk, or Between Two Worlds” begins its successful stage run at Moscow’s Habimah Theater. Written in Russian and then Yiddish by S. Ansky and translated into Hebrew by Hayim Nachman Bialik, the play tells the story of a young woman (played by Hanna Rovina) who is possessed by the malicious spirit of a man who loved her but died upon hearing of her engagement to another.

Feb. 1, 1979 — Khomeini Returns to Iran

Two weeks after a popular uprising forces the shah to flee, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returns to Iran after 15 years in exile. Under his guidance, Iran votes in March to establish an Islamic republic and later enacts two constitutions that give ultimate power to Shi’ite clerics. Iran’s Jews become second-class citizens, and a third of them emigrate within two years. The revolution ends decades of close military and economic ties between Iran and Israel.

Feb. 2, 1915 — Abba Eban Is Born

Politician, diplomat and historian Abba Eban is born Aubrey Eban in South Africa. After moving to England as an infant, he develops his trademark accent through an education that includes Cambridge. He makes aliyah in 1944 and, as part of the Jewish Agency’s delegation to the United Nations, plays a crucial role in the U.N. passage of its Palestine partition plan. He later serves as a member of the Knesset and foreign minister.

Items are provided by the Center for Israel Education (, where you can find more details.