The film-maker Pierre Rehov has just updated and made temporarily available for free viewing on Youtube his documentary, Silent Exodus, about the 856,000 Jews driven from Arab lands.
With the 30th November Day to Remember Jewish Refugees from Arab lands and Iran little more than a month away, organisations representing Jews from Arab lands have written to the Israeli Minister of Education urging him to make compulsory the teaching of the history of Middle Eastern and North African Jewry. This initative would have benefits both inside and outside Israel. Here is the text of their letter.
Israeli Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett
34 Shivtei Israel Street
Dear Mr. Bennett,
As the November 30th Day of Commemoration for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries and Iran approaches, we representatives of the international Mizrahi, Sephardic, and Iranian Jewish communities turn our attention towards education of Israeli and Diaspora Jews about our history and heritage. We commend your Ministry’s efforts to support this cause by creating curriculum and teaching materials relating to the history of Middle Eastern & North African Jewry. We are thrilled to have a Minister of Education in office whose values are so aligned with our own, in your championing of heritage studies, affirming the cultural diversity of Israel and recognizing the importance of Mizrahi history.
So far, the Israeli government has left the teaching of Mizrahi history and heritage to the discretion of schools. We ask that you continue to support this initiative by ensuring that the Mizrahi history curriculum be made compulsory and that all schools observe the Day of Commemoration. As you know, Israeli students of all ethnicities and cultural backgrounds must be given the tools to gain awareness and understanding of Mizrahi history, as it is integral to the fabric and foundation of Israeli society. In order to help disseminate the Day of Commemoration curriculum internationally, we also request that the educational materials be translated into English.
The upholding of the Day of Commemoration curriculum is vital not only to Israeli Jewry but also to those of us in the Diaspora who are not being exposed to the history of Jews from Arab countries and Iran. Israel will set the precedent for Jewish education and Israel advocacy in the United States and beyond. In western countries, students are not being exposed to the history of Jews from Arab countries and Iran. Most westerners, including Diaspora Jews, have a skewed understanding of Jews as a homogenous European people without roots in the Middle East. In turn, they lack an understanding of Israeli society and Israel’s role as a multi-ethnic safe haven for Jews from all parts of the world. It is vital for all students to learn that over 50% of Israeli Jews descend from Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran.
By implementing Mizrahi heritage studies, students in the Diaspora would be far better equipped to advocate for Israel. In order to effect this change, and influence our Jewish institutions, we depend on Israel to lead by example.
We have greatly appreciated all that you have done so far to carry out this initiative, and look forward to your continued partnership.
Sam Yebri, President
30 Years After
David Dangoor, President
American Sephardic Federation
Maurice Maleh, Chairman
Association of Jews from Egypt (UK)
Andre Dehry, President
Federation des Associations Sepharades de France
Lyn Julius, President
HARIF: UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa
Susan Azizzadeh, President
Iranian American Jewish Federation
Levana Zamir, President
Israeli Association of Jews from Arab Countries
Gina Bublil-Waldman, President
JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa
Rabbi Ellie Abadie, President
JJAC: Justice for Jews from Arab Countries
Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, International Director
Sephardic Education Center
Yehuda Azoulay, Founder
Sephardic Legacy Project
Israel is not a milkshake, Mizrahim are not the other