Thursday, July 28, 2016

To sue for Balfour Declaration is breathtaking 'chutzpa'

The Palestinian threat to sue Britain for the Balfour Declaration is a move of  breathtaking chutzpa, says Lyn Julius in The Times of Israel. Edy Cohen in Israel Hayom (see below) says that today's Palestinian leaders are merely following in the wartime Mufti's footsteps in opposing the Balfour Declaration:

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki has threatened to sue Britain for issuing the 1917 Balfour Declaration because, he claims, it led to mass Jewish immigration to British Mandate Palestine “at the expense of our Palestinian people”.

The Palestinian threat is not as laughable as it sounds. It is not altogether unexpected either, being of a piece with the current Palestinian strategy – exploit any law, abuse any forum, to delegitimise Israel. 

The Balfour Declaration, named after then UK Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour, pledged Britain’s support for the establishment “in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”. It was not intended at the expense of the local Arabs, whose civil rights would not be prejudiced: later, the 1936 Peel Commission proposed to partition western Palestine into an Arab as well as a Jewish state.

“Nearly a century has passed since the issuance of the Balfour Declaration in 1917,” Malki was quoted as saying.”And based on this ill-omened promise hundreds of thousands of Jews were moved from Europe and elsewhere to Palestine at the expense of our Palestinian people whose parents and grandparents had lived for thousands of years on the soil of their homeland.”

Almost every word in Malki’s statement is economical with the truth. As soon as the Balfour Declaration was made, Britain reneged on its promises to the Zionists. It hived off 70 percent of Palestine to Transjordan in 1921 and drastically curtailed Jewish emigration,  sealing the fate of thousands more Jews trapped in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Lord Balfour and his Declaration

Jews who came to Israel were ‘moved’ from Europe and elsewhere, says Malki. The elsewhere accounts for more than half the Jews of Israel – those who came as destitute refugees or descend from refugees from Arab and Muslim lands. And it was not the British, but the Arabs who were responsible for that exodus.

No Arab states were enjoined to respect the civil rights of their Jewish citizens. These Jews were unceremoniously thrown out of the Arab world without apology and without compensation – and their pre-Islamic communities destroyed.

The Palestinians, it is widely believed, cannot be held responsible for what happened to the Jewish refugees. While Israel could legitimately discuss Palestinian refugees in peace talks, Jewish refugees would have to address their grievances to Arab states.

Arab League states, which instigated the 1948 war against Israel, were indeed responsible for creating both sets of refugees. However, an extremist Palestinian leadership, which collaborated with the Nazis and incited anti-Jewish hatred all over the Arab world in the decades preceding the creation of Israel, played an active part in all Arab-League decision-making and dragged five Arab states into conflict with the new Jewish state – a conflict they lost and whose consequences they must suffer.  The Palestinian move to sue is of  breathtaking chutzpa: it is as if Germans were to sue the Allies for starting World War 2.

The idea of expelling the Jews of Arab countries after 1948 was adopted by the Palestinians as a policy. According to the well-connected Egyptian-Jewish journalist Victor Nahmias, the Palestinians were a major factor in the Jewish migration to Israel in 1950 – 51.

From the outset, the Palestinian cause was a pan-Arab nationalist cause. It has also a powerful Islamist dimension: From an early stage the campaign for Palestine took on an antisemitic hue. Palestine was a zero-sum game: in Arab eyes, the Jews had no claim to a single inch.

Every anniversary of the Balfour declaration, mobs in the Arab world took to the streets and the demonstrations at times degenerated into full-blown riots, as in Egypt and Libya in 1945, when 130 Jews were murdered.

Not only did the Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini instigate deadly disturbances in Palestine in 1920 and 1929, wherever the Mufti went in the Arab world, he used the Balfour Declaration as a rallying cry to incite persecution and mayhem against the local Jews.

The Jerusalem Islamic congress of 1931, called by the Mufti,  was followed by violence in Morocco throughout the 1930s. An entente between Tunisian nationalists and the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee sparked violence in Sfax in 1932. There was trouble in Yemen and Aden. All this well before the creation of the state of Israel.

But the worst incitement, with the deadliest consequences of all, took place in Iraq: In 1939, Palestinian teachers expelled by the British to Baghdad together with the Mufti, along with Syrian and Lebanese nationalists, played a key role fanning the flames of Jew-hatred with false propaganda. Seventy-five years ago this year, the Mufti  fled to Berlin after being implicated in a failed pro-Nazi coup – but not before he had primed the Arabs of Baghdad to unleash the Farhud of 1941. The pogrom claimed the lives of at least 140 Jews, with many mutilated and raped, and 900 shops looted and wrecked.

This was the first battle in the Palestinian war against the defenceless Jews of the Arab world. Had the Nazis been victorious, the Mufti would have overseen the Jews’ extermination, not just in Palestine but throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

It is these Jews who have been denied justice, the right to compensation for their dispossession of assets and land several times the size of Israel itself, or the human rights abuses they suffered at the hands of Arab governments and mobs. It is these Jews who have every right to sue.

Read article in full


Dr Edy Cohen writes in Israel Hayom:

The Balfour Declaration, or "the cursed promise," as it's termed in Arabic, sets down in writing Britain's commitment to support the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel. The declaration does not nullify the establishment of an Arab state alongside the Jewish one, something the Arabs have rejected out of hand several times over the course of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas isn't the first Palestinian leader who has tried to take on the Balfour Declaration. In fact, the former mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, fought it tirelessly. Moreover, most of the mufti's political and financial support from the Third Reich had to do with the declaration and opposition to it. 

Everyone has always known that the Arabs can create propaganda that sounds good to Western ears. Their lies and incitement are boundless. Today, they are cynically exploiting the Palestinian Nakba festival just as, in the past, the mufti of Jerusalem would vociferously and cynically protest in Germany on the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration to curry favor with the Nazis. 

In effect, when the mufti arrived in Germany, he took care to mark the anniversary of the declaration with the Arab community in Berlin marching through the streets and a sermon at a Berlin mosque. This is what he said on November 2, 1943: "On this day, 26 years ago, the evil tidings of the Balfour Declaration, which intends to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine following the Jewish-English scheme in the previous war, was issued. This abusive declaration came from Britain, and it gives the Jews this Arab, Muslim land -- the direction of the first Muslim prayer, the homeland of Al-Aqsa mosque and other places holy to Islam." 


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Young Syrian Jew escaped to Sweden

It is thought that there were no young Jewish people left in Syria before Alanov, 25, who escaped to Sweden, suddenly popped up to give interviews to the press. He blames the 1970s Baath regime for spreading antisemitism, although the vast majority of the Jews of Syria had been driven out by violence and state-sanctioned persecution after 1947.  According to the Swedish medium Local Voices, 'he still dreams of returning home to help rebuild his country.'

Alanov, 25: told strangers he was Christian


There has been a Jewish community in Syria since Roman times. In the 19th century it numbered several thousand, but by 2005 just 80 Jews remained. Most of these have fled since the war started, and by the end of last year it was estimated that just 18 were left in the country.
Under Assad, Jews were officially banned from politics and government employment.
“If you talk to my grandparents, they would tell you that there was no hatred among Syrians toward Jews or anyone else. Jews used to have jobs and trade, and that was very popular in Syria before the Assad regime came to power in the seventies, after which most Jews were forced to flee.”
Despite this Alanov says he had a great life, and was two years into a Law degree when he came to Sweden. But back in Syria he had to be discreet about his Jewish background:
“Most of our neighbours knew that we were Jews, it was quite normal and fine. However, I have never said openly that I was Jewish to those who didn’t know us”.
Most Syrians don’t feel comfortable hearing about Jews living in Syria, he says.
“That was not because we lived in a society with a Muslim majority, it’s mostly because of the Assad regime’s approach, and what Syrians were taught at schools. Schools always taught indiscriminate hatred of all Jews.”
“Whenever I was asked, I would say that I’m Christian.”
Despite the difficulties faced by Jews, Alanov is clear that he loves his country.
“I love Syria, I love Damascus,” he says. 
“We used to love each other, my friends were of all religions. I celebrated Ramadan and Christmas with my friends, and that didn’t mean I changed my religion.” 
Alanov says his parents told him that before the Assads came to power in 1971, Syrians were highly educated, open minded and liberal. Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar, the current president, “destroyed the country on all levels, they kidnapped the whole nation.”
Jews felt this particularly: “We couldn’t practice our rituals normally by going to synagogues for example, and mostly worshipped at home in secrecy. The worst thing to me was hearing my schoolmates expressing hatred towards Jews,” he says.
“After all the destruction in Syria, a country with more than 5000 years of civilization, I started to doubt God’s existence.”
Alanov came to Sweden in 2014, after five years in Lebanon. His brother is also in Sweden, his sister is in Germany and his mother is back in Lebanon. Seeing his family is an impossible dream at the moment. He points to the irony of Europeans freely travelling to Syria to join Isis, while innocent Syrians are unable to travel. 
“In the asylum countries, they give you something and take others. Here for example, you have to wait for them to decide on your life. You might wait for two years to have the chance and know what they have decided for you; either to stay or to be deported – is that freedom? Isn’t that degrading?
"And that’s not only in Sweden, it’s everywhere. To all EU countries I ask, why have you closed your borders now? Now there’s more destruction in Syria than before?”
Despite the frustrations, he is full of praise for the “respectful and humane” way Swedes have received refugees.
“They are not racists – love stems from their hearts. At the time of the refugee crisis, I went to Stockholm’s Central Station to help people; and we saw how the Swedes were taking off their jackets and clothes to offer them to the refugees. They helped while no Arabic country wanted to do so.”
Alanov still longs to return to his homeland, despite the difficulties faced by Jews there.
 

 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The diaspora's blindspot for the (Mizrahi) poor

When it comes to raising money for Israeli causes, the Jewish diaspora routinely finds Jews from Africa less interesting than African refugees, argues the iconoclastic Seth Frantzman in the Jerusalem Post.

A report on poverty in Israel found that 12 percent of the Israeli population had to beg for food (Photo: Marc Sellem)

A while ago I pitched an op-ed to an American Jewish publication. The Friends of the IDF had recently raised $31 million in California. I wanted to write that it would be worthwhile for contributors to give the same amount of money to support educational initiatives for IDF soldiers after the army. Israel has a conscript army and while it may be important that average Israelis serve, it is more important that they can get into college afterwards and have a financially successful future for their families.

The newspaper said it wasn’t interested.

Why wasn’t it an interesting topic? Because it didn’t fit the narrative that focuses primarily on Israel as either a place of conflict or a place to negotiate Diaspora Jewish identities. Many Israelis live in poverty, but while poverty may be a Jewish concern abroad, wrapped up in such concepts as “tikkun olam,” it isn’t a “sexy” issue. African refugees in Israel are interesting, Jews from Africa are less interesting.

That is the blind spot of well-meaning, left-leaning Jewish Americans who are critical of Israel’s policies. A recent visit by Jewish activists to Hebron underpinned this. They focused on social justice for Palestinians and token “civil rights” protests. One activist wrote of the “beautiful act of partnership, we, Jews and Palestinians, came together through trust and understanding and made huge strides in creating the first cinema that will stand in Hebron since the 1930s.” Aiding Palestinians to build a cinema is a worthy goal, but there is a disconnect here. Social justice and the fight against racism should not end at the Green Line, but for many left-leaning activists they do.

Read article in full

Monday, July 25, 2016

The long Arab war against the Jews, in context

Just as you would never discuss African-American relations without reference to the Jim Crow laws and slavery, so should Arab-Jewish relations  never be discussed without reference to the Dhimmi rules, argues Mike Lumish at the Elder of Ziyon blog.



A Jew prostrates himself before the Caliph upon paying the Jizya tax

In order to understand the Long Arab War Against the Jews, we need to place it within the long history of Jewish people living under Arab and Muslim imperial rule from the seventh-century until the demise of the Ottoman Empire with the conclusion of World War I. From the time of Muhammad, until Islam ran head-first into modernity and the twentieth-century, the Jews of the Middle East were second and third-class non-citizens under the boot of Arab and Muslim imperial rule. However bad African-Americans had it in the United States under the vile rules of Jim Crow, it was never worse than Jewish people had it as"dhimmis"and what we call "dhimmitude" lasted one heck of a lot longer.

As dhimmis in Arab and Muslim lands, Jews (and Christians) could ride donkeys but horses were forbidden.

As dhimmis in Arab and Muslim lands, Jews (and Christians) were forbidden from building housing for themselves taller than Muslim housing.

As dhimmis in Arab and Muslim lands, Jews (and Christians) had no rights of self-defense.

As dhimmis in Arab and Muslim lands, Jews (and Christians) had no recourse to courts of law.

As dhimmis in Arab and Muslim lands, Jews (and Christians) had to pay protection money to keep their families safe from violence.

And this is one of my favorites, in certain times and places under Arab-Muslim imperial rule Jews were not even allowed to go outside during rainstorms lest their Jewish filth run into the street and infect their pure Muslim neighbors.

The point, however, is that just as we would never discuss African-American history without reference to both Jim Crow and slavery, so we must not discuss the Long Arab War against the Jews without reference to thirteen-centuries of Arab and Muslim oppression against all non-Muslims in the Middle East, including Christians and Jews.

This is not merely a political tactic. It is a matter of framing the conversation within something that resembles an historical context. The historical context is vital because without it the conflict is incomprehensible outside of the prominent western notion of mindless Jewish malice toward Arabs, presumably as unjust payback for the Shoah.

Westerners think that this is a fight between big, strong, mean Israel against the innocent, thumb-sucking "indigenous Palestinians" over land.

It isn't.

What the struggle actually is is an ongoing attempt by the Arab peoples to force Jews back into dhimmitude out of a Koranic religious imperative. 

Read article in full

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Canadian Jews name Yazidi rescue after Ezra

Canadian Jews have named their rescue mission for Yazidi families Operation Ezra, after the great airlift of Jews from Iraq in the 1950s (Operation Ezra and Nehemiah), the Forward reports: 

The small Yazidi community in Canada is teaming up with local Jewish organizations to help refugees running from ISIS find new homes.
With an initial goal of raising $34,000 to sponsor one refugee family, activists and community members in Winnipeg, Canada raised $250,000 to help 7 Yazidi families with a total of 42 people settle permanently in their city. Two families have already been greeted at the Winnipeg airport this July while 5 more will be joining them later in the year.
Nafiya Naso, an organizer with Operation Ezra, said that the collaboration started in 2015 when conversation around Syrian refugees was just beginning to seep into Canadian dialogue. With some of her family in Turkish refugee camps, Naso felt that the plight of the Yazidi people, who are a separate religious and ethnic group in Iraq and began to be killed and persecuted once ISIS took control of their region, often went unnoticed in most refugee discussions.
“Nobody knew who the Yazidis were and what had happened to them,” she said.
“We have many people who have offered their time to help them with their English, take them shopping, take them to the doctor,” said Naso.
The families come from two different refugee camps in Turkey, where the Yazidis were placed separately from other refugees due to discrimination in the camps.
Naso’s cousin Saood, 21, was shocked to see so many different groups come to greet him with signs and cheers when his family landed at the Winnipeg airport on July 12.
“The most surprising part of arriving at the airport was all the people there,” he said. “We can’t believe how many people came and how many helped in giving us a new home here in Winnipeg.”
Michel Aziza, who works as chair of Operation Ezra, said that he immediately saw similarities between Jews who had been taken from their homes during World War II and the Yazidis.

“They’re a religious minority where they came from,” he said, noting that both groups have persecuted due to their religion. “They have been persecuted for hundreds of years.”
Naso and Aziza said that they will continue rallying to raise money for new families to join the 500 or so other Yazidi people who currently live in Canada for as long as the persecution continues.
“Unfortunately for the Yazidi people, time is of the essence,” said Aziza. “There’s a genocide going on as we speak and so we don’t have the luxury of time.”
The push is not connected to a Montreal Sephardic businessman whose claim to have singlehandedly rescue hundreds of Yazidis drew criticism last year.

Read article in full




*******

Steve Maman refutes allegations by a French-Canadian journalist that he did not rescue certain Yazidis (with thanks: Michelle)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Another Jew emerges in Pakistan

Point of No Return exclusive

Pakistan does not recognise Judaism and there were no known Jews living in Pakistan until Fishel Benkhald embarked on the struggle to self-identify. Now another young Jew, Aryeh Ben Samuel, has decided to declare himself as a Jew, despite all the risks. Here is his story. (With thanks: Wayne)




"Shalom to the whole world from Pakistan,

 I am an 18 year- old Pakistani boy. My grandparents crossed the Indian border in 1948. They used to live in Hyderabad, South India. During the migration process, my grandfather told me that those days were the toughest days he had ever seen in his life: there was blood all the way, kidnappings, rapes.

Extremists also robbed my grandparents ; when they forced my grandparents to accept Islam and leave Judaism, my grandparents refused, then they raped my grand mother, so I was told. When they got into Pakistan at the Wagah border with Lahore, they were processed so as to obtain migration documents. When it came to religion, the migration registrar refused to provide documents for my  ancestral family. His words were, so as I was told: " we hate Jews, because of non-Muslims we had to sacrifice our lives to obtain a country, and you people will ruin it, and make our land unholy."

My ancestral family was forced to accept Islam once again, but they now decided to pretend rather than accept. From that very moment we were registered here under Muslim names.

A few days ago when I became legally an adult of 18 years of age, I filed an application to the registration department NADRA for my ID card. I also mentioned to them that I want to make my religion Judaism again. The registration officer lady, replied with an angry face, " once the religion is Islam it can never be changed as per  the policy laid down by the Interior Ministry." Thrice I received same reply,  even though I showed them some documents which we obtained after migration, documents which still show that we are Jews.

Shalom from Pakistan.
Baruch Shem kavod malchuto leo'lam vaed.* 🙂

Aryeh Ben Samuel from Pakistan

 Even though we are pretending to be Muslim, we have never forget to observe shabbat, and we do pray the shema, read Tanach (Torah) Tehilim (psalms).

*Verse from the shema

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Biton Report perpetuates a false narrative


Education minister Naftali Bennett with Erez Biton

You cannot solve a real problem by using a false narrative, argues Oded Lifschitz in this must-read Haaretz article, written in the wake of the Biton report, which he fears will be used as a Mizrahi vote-winner and an instrument of the 'thought police'. He shoots down various myths spread by 'Mizrahi deprivation activists': Rather than have had their 'Arabic culture stolen from them',  Moroccan Jews had already assimilated French culture before they arrived in Israel and number more Nobel prize-winners than another group.

Most of the Middle Eastern and North African Jews in Israel, other than the small number who lived here before the state was established, immigrated to the country in the 1950s and ‘60s. According to the narrative woven by Mizrahi deprivation activists, most of the immigrants from Morocco and the Maghreb had their glorious Mizrahi-Arabic culture stolen from them by the left-wing Ashkenazi regime, which forced them into a Zionist, secular, European “melting pot.”

The Mizrahim, they say, were discriminated against economically, socially, culturally and in their dealings with the government. Jewish and Zionist history focused on Ashkenazi Jewry and ignored the Jews of the east. The conclusion: The Mizrahim were discriminated against and there must now be economic and social affirmative action to make both parts of the nation equal.
The facts are different.  (...)

And to what extent were Moroccan Jews Mizrahi-Arabic? Colonialist France seized Algeria in 1830, Tunisia in 1881, and Morocco in 1912. Even before that, France’s Ashkenazi Jewish community had integrated into secular society in France and into its colonialist French culture. It declared itself the patrons of the Jews of the east, and set up the French-Jewish Alliance school network, which operated hundreds of schools between Baghdad and Casablanca.

From 1860, Alliance established dozens of schools in Morocco, with 80 percent of the Jewish children studying in them. Avraham became Albert, Moshe became Moise, Sarah turned into Jacqueline and Miriam to Claudine. The pupils memorized Moliere, learned algebra and aspired to do well on “le bac,” the French matriculation exams, so they could study in French universities.

While the Muslims in these countries dreamed of independence, the Jews supported the French colonial regime, which advanced them in the economy and the civil service and which generously funded the Alliance network.

The Francophile melting pot was a tremendous success; three Jews of Moroccan origin have won the Nobel Prize: Baruj Benacerraf (Medicine, 1980); Claude Cohen-Tannoudji (Physics, 1997) and Serge Haroche (Physics, 2012). Moroccan Jews are thus the group with the highest rate of Nobel Prize winners in the world.

The deprivation activists complain about the repression of Mizrahi music in Israel, even though most Jews of the Maghreb preferred French chansons to Mizrahi music, and here many of them are fans of Gaston Ghrenassia, the talented Algerian-born French-Jewish singer and songwriter better known as Enrico Macias.

The deprivation activists never boast about Macias or the Nobel Prize winners because it would mess up their narrative of how their “authentic Moroccanism” – mufleta, clapping and Arabic songs – was stolen from them. That’s as insulting as arguing that the main legacy of Polish Jewry is gefilte fish, Hasidic dances and Polish songs. There’s a Hungarian saying that roughly translates as “Whoever comes from a distant land says that there he was a king.” Indeed, whoever had a cabin in his native land says he lived in a palace, and if his father taught little children the son says he was a famous rabbi.
In contrast to the false narrative, no one stole pure Mizrahi-Arab culture from the Jews of the Maghreb, because most of them had lost it long before they came here. In Israel, all they did was move them from the Francophile melting pot to the Zionist-Hebrew one, which combined those who spoke Yiddish, Romanian, Arabic, Ladino and French, and gave them a language and crucial tools they needed to integrate and advance in secular, Western Israel.

Migration is a difficult and painful process, but the difficulty would have been intensified had these immigrants been left to seclude themselves in their Franco-Maghreb Mizrahism. If they were deprived, it was for the opposite reason – many of them were sent to distressed towns and neighborhoods and to homogenous immigrant communal settlements where they didn’t meet enough Israelis or other types of immigrants. This undermined their integration and delayed their advancement.

Is there still an ethnic gap? There is, and the deprivation activists blame the Ashkenazim, Mapai, “the left,” the kibbutzim, everyone. This is despite the fact that by the 1970s, after decades of left-wing, Ashkenazi rule, Israel was a leader in socioeconomic equality, while today, after decades of right-wing rule, it’s a world leader in socioeconomic gaps. Because the ratio of Mizrahim in the lower deciles is high, the obvious conclusion is that the left actually advanced the Mizrahim and it’s the right that impoverished them.

Momi Dahan, a Morocco native and a professor of public policy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, claims that in 1996 the income gap between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim was 40 percent, while in 2011 it was 26 percent, meaning that it is closing at a fast pace, one percent a year. Interethnic marriages are accelerating the closing of this gap and are blurring the boundaries; when one asks how to define a Mizrahi or what percentage of the population is Mizrahi it’s hard nowadays to find an answer. The Mizrahi thought police now being established following the great cultural revolution of Naftali Bennett, Miri Regev and Erez Biton will only perpetuate the false Mizrahi narrative.

The initiators might benefit. Bennett will try to pick off Mizrahi voters from the Likud, Regev will solidify her position, and for the matriculation exam in literature pupils may learn more Biton than Bialik. But the tough commissars that will be taking over the educational, cultural and media institutions to condemn, denounce and punish those who will deviate from the official Mizrahi narrative, and the tough kashrut inspectors who will purge the Ashkenazi hametz from the textbooks will do all of us harm, particularly the Mizrahim among us.

You cannot solve a real problem by using a false narrative. What’s urgently needed is a reliable Mizrahi narrative that will define the real reasons for the ethnic gap and work to erase it. This is the only way we can bury the fabricated and divisive ethnic demon that is nurtured and exploited by the deprivation activists and right-wing governments. They continue to enrich tycoons and oppress the weak, including many Mizrahim, who are still misled and continue to vote for those who are screwing them.

Read article in full


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Once Biton, Mizrahim are twice shy

Erez Biton presents his report to Education minister Naftali Bennett

It's been a torrid few days since the Israel prize-winning poet Erez Biton presented his committee's 366-page report to education minister Naftali Bennett. Biton had been charged with the task of making recommendations for how Israeli schools might introduce more content about Mizrahi and Sephardi history and heritage into the curriculum. But not everyone is happy, Lyn Julius blogs in The Times of Israel: 

The report, which purports to acquaint school kids with their rich and beautiful Mizrahi heritage by sending them on trips to North Africa and the Balkans, among other suggestions, came in response to pressure from Israeli organisations representing Jews from Arab lands. Mirroring the western origins of the founders of modern Zionism, the history Israeli schoolchildren learn is Eurocentric, although over 50 percent descend  from Jews driven from Arab and Muslim countries. Mizrahi leaders have been pushing for the Biton report to correct the imbalance.

The published report has sparked a variety of reactions - some violent. The Israel Army Radio critic Gidi Orsher lost his job over remarks he made that the Biton report marked a victory for eastern superstition and obscurantism over science and technology. Miri  Regev, culture minister of Moroccan descent,  lost no time in savaging Orsher as a worthless elitist.

By contrast, the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper has been crowing its glee, commending the report for letting 'Arab-Jewishness out of the closet'. For Zvi Barel, it's all about ending the state's historic  'discrimination' against the Arabic language and culture. At last, Barel enthuses, Israeli school kids will be able to tap into their latent 'Arab' identity by studying the now officially-approved works of the great medieval Muslim poet al-Mutanabbi.

But as Ashkenazi opinion-formers descend into time-worn cliches about 'discrimination' - to which the Biton report pays lip service, recommending that school kids be taught in civics classes of the Black Panthers, the Wadi Salib  riots and the 'kidnapped' Yemenite children - no one seems to have asked Mizrahim themselves what they thought. A survey by the Israel Democracy Institute found that only 1.4 percent of respondents thought that Ashkenazi discrimination of Mizrahim was a point of conflict. Economic inequality and lack of career prospects were far more pressing issues.

 Although they recognise that the Biton report is an important first step, Mizrahi leaders, for their part, are bitterly disappointed." It's a scandal," says one. The coalition of Mizrahi representative bodies are reported to be drafting a scathing letter to the Biton committee members, with a copy Naftali Bennett.


The reason for their disappointment is that the report does not adequately reflect the 'tragedy' of the Mizrahi Jews - the  expulsion and dispossession of Jews from Arab and Muslim lands. Cryptically, the Biton report promises that "Arabs and  Islam will be presented not just in relation to the Jews (as subjugators or providing good treatment) but as themselves." Quite what the report writers mean by this is not entirely clear, but to wax lyrical about the cultural points of connection between Jews and Arabs while glossing over one of the worst examples of mass ethnic cleansing of the 20th century would be like enthusing over the great Jewish contribution to Eastern European culture while barely mentioning the Holocaust.

It is essential for children to learn the context of why their parents and grandparents had to come to Israel without exaggerating the Mizrahi contribution to Zionism.  For the most part, they came as refugees, and no amount of studying the great poet al-Mutanabbi can  obscure this fact.

IBA programme (watch from1:39): Ephraim Kishon's son Rafi speaks in favour of the Biton report and maintains that his father's 1960s blockbuster Sallah Shabtai was not racist (with thanks: Michal)






Monday, July 18, 2016

Honouring Circassians who rescued Jews

 Muslim Circassians who saved Jews during the Holocaust will be among those honoured in a new memorial at the Arab-Jewish village of Neve Shalom, Haaretz reports. Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust memorial,  already honours 'Righteous Gentiles': to meet its strict criteria, these Righteous must have themselves risked their lives to rescue others. (With thanks: Lily)



The new Neve Shalom memorial will honour those rescuers who do not meet Yad Vashem's strict criteria

NEVE SHALOM – A makeshift sign tacked onto an olive tree is for now the only clue to the grand plan in store for this stretch of woods overlooking the Ayalon valley in central Israel. “Honoring the Circassians who saved the lives of Jews,” it reads.

If all goes as planned, this several-acres-large plot will become the site of an ambitious memorial project commemorating courageous individuals around the world who, during periods of war, ethnic cleansing and genocide, risked their lives to save others. Alongside the tree commemorating the tiny Muslim Circassian village in the Caucasus that saved 32 Jewish children during the Holocaust, there will be others — many others, in fact.

Within the next few years, according to the latest blueprint, the entire area will be covered with plaque-bearing trees and other monuments paying tribute, among others, to Turks who saved Armenians during the World War I genocide, Palestinians who rescued Jews during the 1929 Hebron riots, Jews who saved Palestinians during the Jerusalem riots that same year, Armenians who saved Jews in Budapest during the Holocaust, Jews who saved gypsies from the Nazis, as well as Hutus who rescued Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide — in short, any rescuer, no matter their origin or creed, not officially acknowledged by Israel’s state institutions.

Read article in full (subscription required)


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Christians for Israel launch 'Mizrahi Project '

This week, Christians United for Israel hold their summit in Washington. The launch  of their 'Mizrahi Project' is expected to be a talking point:  it is a real breakthrough in the campaign for justice for Jewish refugees from Arab lands and Iran. For the first time, three million Evangelical Christians who support Israel will be exposed to the story of the Mizrahi Jews told through a series of video clips and recorded testimonies. Leading the Mizrahi Project is Pastor Dumisani Washington, who has been working closely with the advocacy group JIMENA. He spoke to Karmel Melamed of Jewish Journal:


Dumisani Washington: Christian students and pastors are 'intrigued' by the Mizrahi story (photo: Karmel Melamed)

KM: Can you please shed light on why you think it is important for young Christian Zionists in your organization to know more about the plight of 850,000 Jews who fled or were forced out of the Arab lands and Iran during the 20th century?

 Like much of the world, most Christians are completely unaware of the story of the Mizrahi Jews.  They are somewhat aware of the Holocaust, but do not know that more than half of Israel’s Jewish population came from North Africa (and the Middle East - ed), and the It reminds Christians that the God of the bible is indeed gathering the “dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth,” by challenging them to think beyond the Jews of Europe.  It is also a reminder that Jewish communities in what are now Arab or Muslim countries predated Islam and Christianity by more than 2,000 years. Finally, knowledge of the Mizrahi Jews gives a more accurate account of the Arab-Israeli conflict, making an even stronger case for the need for a Jewish state.  For example, knowing that the Jews of ancient Babylon or Iraq were persecuted and expelled during the Farhouds of the early 1940’s is evidence that the current “conflict” is not truly about territory.  It’s about hatred for the Jewish people. 

KM: With all due respect, the Ashkenazi Jewish community in the U.S. has never shown an interest in hearing about the story of the forced Jewish exile from the Arab lands and Iran. As you indicated, some do not even know about it. Why do you believe Christians will have interest in this story?

 Not only do I believe Christians will be interested in the Mizrahi narrative, CUFI is already seeing the extent of the interest.  In January we shared this story with CUFI’s top college advocates during our Student Advocacy Leadership Training Conference.  There were also many pastors and CUFI staff in attendance.  We connected the Mizrahi Jews with the biblical narrative, and showed 19th century pictures of the Jews of Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Lebanon, and Yemen.  The conference attendees were inspired, empowered, and strengthened in their spiritual faith.   A few pastors asked that the presentation be made at their churches.  Many wanted even more information.  The stage is set.

  KM: I understand you’ve mentioned to CUFI members and even to Christians who had support for the Palestinians about this issue of the forced Jewish exile from the Arab lands and Iran in your speeches here and there. What have been their initial reactions to learning about these Mizrahi Jews and their forced exile during the 20th century?

 As I mentioned, our ‘CUFI On Campus’ leaders and pastors were very intrigued by the initial presentation we made at our annual student conference in January.  Since that time I’ve had the opportunity to share the Mizrahi narrative in our introductory events which are Pastors briefings, and the reaction has been consistently positive.  Also, I have begun including the information in campus lectures – lectures that have both pro-Israel and anti-Israel attendees.  Even Israel’s detractors are taken aback by the unfamiliar story of over 850,000 Jews expelled from Arab and or Muslim lands.  I strongly believe that, as this topic becomes a staple in Israel advocacy on college campuses, it will help our students make an even stronger case against the de-legitimization of Israel – especially during BDS campaigns.

  KM: Can you please share why you have outreached to the L.A. Iranian Jewish community and other Mizrahi communities to tell their story about their forced exile and escape? What impact do you believe it will have if Christian Zionists here it directly from those whose families experienced this exile?

I’m a believer that one who has actually experienced something can make the most compelling case for it.  For The ‘Mizrahi Project’ that will include both the first generation who fled to Israel and other places, as well as their children. I have personally interviewed many members of the Mizrahi community both in Israel and the United States and have found them to be among the most passionate and articulate supporters of the Jewish State.  The older generation has vivid memories of what it was to live in places like Egypt and Turkey.  One of my dear friends is a Jew of Egyptian and Iraqi descent who remembers being stateless for years while waiting for immigration to the U.S.  Her mother’s family was kicked out of Iraq with nothing more than what they could carry in a briefcase.  Her father left Egypt when the Arabic version of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” became a best-seller.

Read article in full


Pastor Washington's video (in conjunction with Prager University) "Why are there PalestinianRefugees?" has had over a million views

Friday, July 15, 2016

Egyptian media in a panic over Israel restitution move

Whenever the question of Jewish property seized in Arab countries comes up, it is not unusual for Arab media to become somewhat hysterical. Yesterday's Knesset session on restitution  of Jewish property in Arab lands, and Israel's secret efforts to advance this issue,  was enough to send the Egyptian internet site Dotmsr.com into a panic.

Instead of doing its own research Dotmsr.com lifted whole chunks from the Facebook page of Dr Edy Cohen, a Lebanese-born academic researcher and activist on behalf  of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, including his photos. Perhaps in anticipation of Arab media interest, Dr Cohen had thoughtfully posted his comments in Arabic.


Zionist Union Isaac Herzog attended the Knesset session on Jewish property in Arab lands, underscoring the cross-party nature of the issue.

Dotmsr..com quoted Dr Cohen's words: "there will be no solution to the Palestinian refugee problem as long as it does not solve the Jewish refugee issue and the problem of  their looted property, especially in Egypt, Iraq and other Arab states. He added: "Arabs know that the Israelis would ask Arab states to compensate Jews who left the Arab countries and moved to live in the Jewish state. They will soon themselves demanding of the countries of the world, and in front of international tribunals, and institutions of public law, compensation for their suffering, their property and their rights which they left in their countries of origin. The Arabs carry the moral responsibility for the departure of the Jews. "

Dr Edy Cohen 


Dotmsr.com found it noteworthy that on his Facebook page Dr Cohen had called for the leader of the Zionist Union Party, Isaac Herzog, to raise the issue to the forefront of Israeli public opinion, and  asked him to talk about this issue in the media.


Some of those attending the Knesset session. In the blue blouse, Mrs Levana Zamir, head of the organisations representing Jews from Arab countries in Israel.

The meeting was chaired by MK, Oren Hazan, who heads the lobby for the return of the property of Jews from Arab countries. Hazan belongs to the Likud party.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Israel 'working secretly to get restitution in Arab lands'

Israel is working secretly to obtain the return of Jewish property in Arab countries, Social Equality Ministry Director-General Avi Cohen said Wednesday, adding that millions of shekels have been allocated to the process, Haaretz reports. Quite what this 'covert activity' involves, and how Israel will obtain the 'restitution' is not clear, but it shows that at last the Israeli government is willing to do more to gather data than simply relying on the relatively small number of claims made. (With thanks: Yoram)

Most of the Jews came to Israel with nothing, having abandoned assets and property worth millions of dollars 

Speaking to a Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee hearing on restitution, Cohen said, “There is classified activity in conjunction with the Foreign Ministry in which we will invest millions to restore property belonging to Arab and Iranian Jewry, which will come to fruition within a month to a month-and-half. I cannot elaborate further.” Alon Simhayoff of the National Security Council confirmed the statement, adding that the covert move has the backing of the Prime Minister’s Office and the NSC.

 The news that Israel is secretly working to secure the return of property stolen from the Jews of the Islamic world some 70 years ago is surprising. Though the restitution issue resurfaces in the public debate every few years, until now, virtually nothing has been done about it. The sensitive issue resurfaces in public debate every few years. Though numbers aren't exact, it is believed that nearly a million Jews resided in Arab countries and in Iran on the eve of the War of Independence in 1948.

After Israel was established, around 600,000 of them immigrated to Israel over the next three decades in waves that continued in 1956 and 1967 and after the Iranian revolution in 1979. A State Comptroller report published 2014 blasted the state for neglecting the issue, and put the combined value of the lost assets at “a few billion dollars.” Despite repeated promises by successive governments, the state has made almost no effort to gather data on this lost property, and as of when that report was published in 2014, it hadn’t even formulated any real plan for doing so.

The Knesset did pass a law in 2010 stating that restitution for the lost property would be part of any future peace negotiations. And three years ago, the Social Equality Ministry, which is responsible for dealing with this issue, issued a public appeal to any whose family lost property in the Arabs states or Iran to fill out forms seeking its restitution.

Read article in full (registration required)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Libyan Jewry's unspoken Holocaust

It is only through a novel published two years ago by Yossi Sucary that many Israelis first learned that Libyan Jews were victims the Holocaust during WWII .  Hundreds ended up in Bergen Belsen. Sucary talks to JenniferLipman in the Jewish Chronicle:

In Israel, the Holocaust is almost always front of mind. Yet for decades, explains Sucary, whose novel Benghazi - Bergen-Belsen has just been published on Amazon, almost nothing was said publicly about the experiences of the Jews of Benghazi, Tripoli and beyond after the Nazis occupied Libya in 1942.

"They suffered from the Holocaust in the most brutal way, like their brothers in Europe, but people didn't know about it in Israel," says Sucary, shaking his head. "We call it the unspoken Holocaust."

 Even now, the story of the Libyan Jews during the Holocaust remains in the shadows. What's known is that after seizing the country, the Nazis created at least three concentration camps: Jado, Gharyan and Said al Aziz, where many died from disease or starvation alongside Nazi brutality. Jews were also transferred through Italy to Belsen and Birenbach Reiss.

Many of the latter group, Sucary's grandparents included, were upper class Libyans who, by virtue of having worked in Egypt, held British passports. "The Nazis planned to make prisoner substitutions," he explains. Unlike in Europe, the Nazis did not keep meticulous records and the number of victims is the subject of ongoing debate. Sucary puts it in the thousands, but is clear that "every one of the 50,000 Libyan Jews suffered one way or another from the Nazi occupation… every family suffered from someone who was killed, wounded or collapsed."


 After liberation, survivors were sent back to Libya. Vast numbers of Libyan Jews joined other Mizrachi communities and emigrated to Israel, where Sucary was born in 1959. Growing up hearing his mother wake from nightmares in which she would cry "the Nazis are coming", in Arabic and Italian, Sucary always knew this story needed to be told. When his novel was published in Israel in 2014, it won critical praise - Sucary received the prestigious Brenner Prize for Hebrew Literature -- and sent shockwaves around the intelligentsia, most of whom knew nothing about what had happened.

A few historians had written about it, he says, but people didn't pay attention. "Literature can encourage history to speak and that's what happened. Now everybody knows about this story." The novel tells of Silvana, a young woman who watches her community crumble and displays leadership in the face of this crisis. It is not his mother's story - she was just 10 when the Nazis arrived - but is inspired by it. Sucary's family were wealthy - his grandfather a successful merchant importing building material from Italy to North Africa – and had flourished in then-cosmopolitan Benghazi.

 "They lived a very good life and had relatively good relationships with the Arabs." While they survived, his mother's eight-year-old cousin was shot at close range, and other relatives perished. Beyond the atrocities, Sucary is struck by how those taken to German concentration camps survived against the odds; speaking Arabic not Yiddish, used to warmer climates.

Read article in full

Monday, July 11, 2016

First visit by Egyptian official to Israel in 10 years

Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry  discussed Palestinians, but not Jews in his meeting with Israel's prime minister Netanyahu

Perhaps it is too much to ask, but compensation due to Egyptian Jews or the future of their heritage did not figure in the first visit by an Egyptian official to Jerusalem since 1967. Al-Jazeera reports: 
Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, the first such visit in nearly a decade. Speaking at a news conference on Sunday alongside Netanyahu, Shoukry called for renewed peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials, and warned of the "constant deterioration" of the situation on the ground since the last round of negotiations between the two sides collapsed in April 2014.

 "My visit to Israel today is a continuation of Egypt's long-standing sense of responsibility towards peace for itself and all the peoples of the region, particularly the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, who have suffered many decades due to the perpetuation of the conflict between them," Shoukry, the first Egyptian official to visit Israel since 2007, said. "The plight of the Palestinian people becomes more arduous every day," he added. "The dream of peace and security moves further out of the Israeli people's reach as long as the conflict continues."

  Read article in full

Yemenite families want document declassification

 More than 100 families are ready to sue the Israeli government unless it releases classified documents concerning the (allegedly) kidnapped children of Yemenite refugees who arrived in Israel in the 1950s, Ynet News reports.

The Yemenite Children affair has resurfaced once again in the public debate following the Achim Vekayamim organization’s stated intention to renew efforts to discover the truth behind one of the cases, which has caused a storm in Israel for decades.
Yemenite family

The governmental investigative committee on the mysterious disappearance of Yemeni children classified documents and materials about the case that were classified in 2001. Achim Vekayamim, which comprises dozens of Yemenite family members who were either allegedly kidnapped (or parents of those allegedly kidnapped), announced its intention to petition the Supreme Court to provide access to these files.

The Yemenite Children affair raised much suspicion in Israel after hundreds of babies and toddlers belonging to Yemenite immigrants to the newly founded state between 1948 and 1954 were said to be kidnapped and sold to Ashkenazi families. The parents were reportedly informed that their children had died in the hospital. However, some of the children later sought to track their biological families and discovered DNA matches. Suspicions were further vindicated when parents received military draft orders when their “deceased” children would have reached 18 years old—an indication that they were still, in fact, recorded as alive.

Read article in full 

Netanyahu wants closure on vanished Yemenite  children

Sunday, July 10, 2016

At last, a voice for Mizrahi history and culture (updated)

Update: watch Ashley Perry, president of Reconectar, being interviewed by Eylon Aslan-Levy on the IBA news channel.

The day that the Biton report  recommending more Mizrahi and Sephardi content in Israel's schools was presented to minister Naftali Bennett was a red-letter day for the 50 percent of Israelis who hail from Arab and Muslim countries. For Ashley Perry in The Times of Israel it means that recognition that  there is no one Jewish way in anything, but a myriad of histories, has arrived.

                                                     Ashley Perry
While for many, this will barely merit a blip on their radar, for the millions of Jews of Sephardi or Mizrahi background, it is a day that has finally arrived, albeit 68 years too late.
Statistically, every other Jew in Israel comes from the Middle East or North Africa and when the Jews of Morocco, Iran, Spain, Portugal, Yemen, Greece, Afghanistan, Egypt and other places throughout the Sephardi and Mizrahi world study their history and culture at school, it was largely ignored or skipped over.
The lack of education about the history of these Jewish communities allows for bigoted reactions simply largely because of a lack of knowledge and awareness.
Many still refer to Sephardi Jews as somehow “backward,” “superstitious”, “oriental” or “medieval”, as we heard from a well-known radio film critic recently, which is simply bizarre when one understands that, to give but one example, during the last century some of the worldliest, educated, successful and cosmopolitan Jews in the world could be found in places like Cairo and Baghdad.
Others will simply refer to Jewish history, culture and tradition through an entirely Ashkenazi lens.
I can’t count the amount of times I have heard people refer to the “usual” prayer book, the “normal” way of doing things or “traditional” Jewish culture when referencing Ashkenazi custom and tradition.
For those who think this is an exaggeration, try a little thought experiment. When you think of Jewish music, food or language, do you think of anything other than klezmer, gefilte fish, or bagel and lox, and Yiddish, or similar examples?
Do you know any Judeo-Spanish romansas, ever tried Kubbeh matfuniya or heard Judeo-Berber?
This has an effect of creating an “otherness” in respect to these communities, which creates the impression that they are somehow outside the normative social identity of the state and society.
There is no one Jewish way in anything, not history, culture or tradition.
There are a myriad of histories, a kaleidoscope of cultures and cacophony of traditions which makes the Jewish People a beautiful mosaic, each with its roots in our ancestral homeland but with different experiences during the millennia Diaspora.
The State of Israel has always had a tension between two models of identity politics, that of ‘melting pot’ and multiculturalism.
While many of the founding fathers and mothers understandably sought to create a ‘New Jew’ and new society for the reestablishment of sovereignty in our national homeland, it largely meant that it was constructed along Central and Eastern European lines that they had experience of and attempted to emulate.
Israelis Jews were expected to melt away their cultural prism into a largely Central and Eastern European pot.
Unfortunately, this meant that the history and culture of the Jews from other parts of the world were deemed superfluous and even damaging to this national ethos.
Nevertheless, in recent generations there has been a greater move towards multiculturalism, where multiple cultural traditions have gained slightly more prominence, if still not equality.

Read article in full

Biton report re-ignites culture wars

With thanks: Sylvia and Eliyahu

The Biton report, which was released last week, has already sparked a furious controversy.


No sooner than the ink was dry on the report into how more Mizrahi and Sephardi culture and history might be incorporated into Israel's education system, than Gidi Orsher (above), a movie critic on the Army Radio station Galei Tsahal, launched a rant on his Facebook page. Orsher disparaged Biton's recommendations that more should be taught about North African rabbis such as the Baba Sali.

"Next time you want protection from missiles, forget Iron Dome and put a chicken leg on your head," Orsher wrote, referring to a North African old wives' superstition.

"Next time you want to conceive a baby, bypass the fertility clinic and go and prostrate yourself at the tomb of Rabbi Kosama in the Galilee. And wait, wait, and wait."

Culture minister Miri Regev (right), who is of Moroccan extraction,  has applauded the suspension of Orsher pending an inquiry. On her Facebook page, Regev denounced Orsher as an elitist who 'rated zero' in her scheme of things.

The Biton report seems to have ignited a new phase in Israel's culture wars, recalling the resurgence of the 'ethnic demon' at the time of the 2015 national elections.  Yair Garbuz, scion of the Ashkenazi cultural elite,  had then denounced the 'talisman kissers and tomb-worshippers' who supported the Likud party.

Seth Frantzman has translated Orsher's entire rant

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Jewish couple murdered in Casablanca

An elderly Jewish couple in Morocco were murdered in their Casablanca home last week, allegedly by their gardener. The Times of Israel has the gruesome story: (with thanks: Michelle)

 Sam Toledano and Vicky Chetrit

 The killer then dismembered their bodies and disposed of the parts in different areas across the city.

According to Moroccan media, the couple’s gardener was arrested by police and has confessed to the crime, which he said he committed due to financial hardship.
The victims were identified as Sam Toledano and Vicky Chetrit.

According to local reports, the man, identified in the Moroccan daily Le360 by the initials M.R., was facing eviction from his apartment when he hatched a plan to kill the couple and steal their money and jewellery.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Biton report will 'right a historic injustice'

More Mizrahi and Sephardi content in the schools and university curriculum. Annual school trips to Spain and Morocco. A TV show. No longer will education about Jews from Arab countries be Israel's Cinderella.  What's not to like in the Biton committee's report, submitted this week to Education minister Naftali Bennett? According to the Jerusalem Post, however, the report seems heavy with words like 'enrichment' 'cultural works' ' heritage' and the 'Mizrahi contribution to Zionism', but seems less keen to emphasise that 90 percent of Mizrahim came to Israel as refugees. (With thanks: Lily, Michelle)

Blind, Algerian-born poet Erez Biton presents his report to Education minister Naftali Bennett

“After 68 years, we’re righting a historic injustice,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett said on Thursday.

Speaking at a press conference in the Education Ministry offices in Tel Aviv, Bennett was presented with the recommendations of the Biton Committee, tasked with empowering Eastern Jewish cultural studies within the general education curriculum.

Bennett launched the committee some four months ago, and appointed as its head, Erez Biton, the first poet of Mizrahi descent to win the Israel Prize in Literature (2015).


Biton was tasked with empowering the identity of the Mizrahi Jewish community – including immigrants from Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia and Libya – within the education system.

“The students of Israel will learn the entire Zionist and Jewish story, including the rich heritage of Mizrahi Jews,” Bennett said upon accepting the report.

“I’m deeply moved by the addition of amazing stories, long left out of our education system, into our classrooms. I will make sure every girl and boy studies their heritage, their family’s history, and be proud of it.”


Bennett said that he was raised in an Ashkenazi home, and was never exposed to the culture of Mizrahi Jews or their contributions to the state.

“I want and ask that my children be raised on a complete Israel story, that they be educated in the spirit of the entire Jewish story,” he said. “We will tell the story of the entire Jewish nation, of all its communities, of all those who helped us arrive at the wonderful country we have today.”

The committee, comprised of numerous subcommittee, among them literature, history, thought, academia and research, and enrichment, presented their recommendations in all fields on how to incorporate Eastern Jewish culture into the education system.

According to the recommendations, first and foremost, the general school curriculum as well as textbooks used in classes should be updated to include chapters on the culture of Mizrahi Jews and on their works and contributions.

The committee also called to establish a National Day for Jewish Refugees from Arab and Islamic States to be marked annually in schools on November 30. This would include visits to museums and other enrichment activities.

The recommendations also included the organization of annual school trips for youth to Balkan states, Spain and Morocco as part of a heritage tour to learn about Sephardi roots in those countries.

Additionally, the committee recommended launching a television show on the Educational Television Network about the many contributions of Eastern Jewry to Zionism and to the development of the State of Israel.

With regards to higher education, the committee called for equal representation of Mizrahim and Ashkenazim on the Council for Higher Education.

It urged that Mizrahi representatives be included in the social sciences in order to empower Mizrahi Jewish identity.

In addition, the committee recommended establishing a new faculty in the social sciences for the study of Eastern Jewry in order to promote research in the field.

The committee also made recommendations outside the purview of the education system, calling to establish museums for all the different communities of Mizrahi descent, such as, for example, establishing a Libyan Jewish heritage museum. (This already exists in Or Yehuda - ed)

The recommendations also called for the commemoration of significant figures in Eastern Jewish culture by naming schools and streets after them.

Additionally, the committee called to strengthen ties with Diaspora organizations to explain and raise awareness of the situation and history of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

Over the next few months the ministry is set to learn the recommendations, and put together a plan to implement them.

“I’m excited to open for our students a window toward beauty they haven’t yet met,” Biton told Bennett.

“The committee for the empowerment of Mizrahi Jews in the educational curriculum took me on an unexpected adventure, meeting 17 communities whose voices are silenced in the Israeli experience; communities begging to be given a place and identity in the education system,” he said.

Biton said the report and recommendations are a “statement of legitimacy to a valid Mizrahi identity, without taking anything away from the current Israeli identity.”

He added that Bennett had given a “historic meaning by establishing the committee” and said the opportunity, the first of its kind, is “exceptional.”

Read article in full

*************

Ynet News has a more specific report on the Biton recommendations (with thanks: Ralph)


"Other topics the commission recommended to add to the curriculum are: Mashhadi Jews, the Damascus affair,the resettlement of Jews in Tiberias by Dom Joseph Nasi, the Golden Age of Safed in the 16th century, and other topics. The students will also learn about Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Israel's fifth president Yitzhak Navon, and others.

In civics class, the commission recommended incorporating topics like the Wadi Salib riots, Israel's Black Panthers, the Yemenite Children Affair, the 2011 protest over the cost of living, and more.

"As part of civics class, students should discuss the reasons for the failure to integrate the immigrants in the 1950s," the commission noted.

In literature, the commission lamented the fact students could take their matriculation exam in the subject without learning even one Sephardic or Mizrahi piece of literature. Therefore, the commission recommends introducing creations by Sephardic and Mizrahi poets and authors to the curriculum of all age groups (pre-school to senior year in high school), including Erez Biton, Amira Hess, Shimon Adaf and Haviva Pedaya. In addition, the commission recommended to add the topic of "immigration poetry" to the curriculum in which students will have to learn five poems from a list of poets including Adi Keissar, Roy Hasan, and Shlomi Hatuka."


Times of Israel 

Haaretz 

Education minister learns something new 

More about Erez Biton