Sudan’s new minister for religious affairs called on Jews who previously resided in the African country to return following the ouster of long-time leader Omar al-Bashir.
“Sudan is pluralistic in its thought, pluralistic in its culture, in its ideologies and Islamic religious sects, and even religions. There is Islam, Christianity, and a minority that follow the Jewish faith,” Nasr-Eddin Mofarah said.
“It is possible that they [the minority] have left the country and from here we would like to call on them through their right of citizenship and nationality to come back to this country because this country, Sudan, as long as there is a civilian government, the basis of nationality is rights and obligations,” he added.
Few Jews are believed to remain in Sudan, which at its peak had a Jewish community numbering some 1,000 people.
But the creation of Israel in 1948, and a series of Arab Israeli wars, made daily life uncomfortable for many Sudanese Jews. Anti-Israel protests erupted, and rhetoric at times became antisemitic, bringing on suspicion, hate and intimidation.
The nationalisation of big businesses in the early 1970s added to doubts about their future. Feeling threatened and uncertain, most Sudanese Jews reluctantly decided to migrate to the United States, Britain, Switzerland or Israel, leaving their homes, shops, friends and wealth behind.
“There is a rumor there that Benjamin Netanyahu was born and raised in Sudan. They say that he was born in the city of Nuri, in the northern state of Sudan, and that he was raised there. In any case, this is proof that there was a Jewish presence, at least in Merowe,” Mukashafi said.
As per the potential return of Sudanese Jews to the country, Mukashafi said they had little reason to come back.
“The country had rejected them,” he said. “They have no reason to return unless there are reforms in the country, and unless there are incentives for Sudanese Jews or non-Jews to return.”
The country has also appeared to make overtures toward Israel. Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said in a 2016 interview that Sudan was open to the idea of normalising ties with Israel in exchange for lifting US sanctions on Khartoum. According to Hebrew-language media reports at the time, Israeli diplomats tried to drum up support for Sudan in the international community, after it severed its ties to Tehran.