Not everybody is satisfied with the findings of the Biton Report. Some are complaining that it contained too little about the tragedy of Jews from Arab lands. Ex-ambassador and deputy director-general of the Foreign Ministry Zvi Gabay, who has dedicated his life to advocacy on behalf of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, feels that the Biton Report should ensure that the 20th century dissolution of Jewish communities is taught in schools and properly memorialised. Translation below of his Maariv article in Hebrew:
The Biton Commission report, Concrete proposals for empowering Sephardic heritage and the education system has elicited much public curiosity, but also many questions.
Questions were asked about the source of this heritage and its
significance, and they chuckled about the concept of "the heritage of Spain
and the East."
But beyond the spontaneous comments disparaging the report and of
course the heritage, should recognize that a legacy was bequeathed to the population of Israel.
And this heritage, based on the history, customs, liturgical poems and
songs composed by the sages communities in exile, has been neglected so
far in Israel, and especially in the education system.
The diasporas that followed the destruction of the First Temple by the
Babylonians, the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans and the
expulsion from Spain, has meant that for thousands of years, thousands
of Jews lived in the Middle East and North Africa.
In a short time the exiled Jews managed to establish a thriving
community, play a leading role and amass rich cultural inalienable
assets for their communities and the entire Jewish Diaspora around the
world (such as the Babylonian Talmud, which was for centuries the basis
of Jewish life; the works of Yehuda Halevi and Ibn Gabirol, who
accompanied the spiritual life and sublime wisdom of the great
The Mufti of Jerusalem at his meeting with Hitler in 1941
When the Nazis destroyed Jewish communities in Europe, they conducted in
parallel propaganda fuelled by radical Arab nationalism and spread
throughout the Arab countries, with a view to the destruction of the Jewish
communities in the Arab countries which had just gained independence. In short, the Jews of West and East were to share the same fate.
In the 30s and 40s of the 20th century, the authorities ordered restrictions and prohibitions on the
Jewish communities in Arab countries , and made daily life unbearable.
At the same time an accelerated campaign of harassment that included
threats , robbery, burning of property and premeditated riots ended in
the deaths of hundreds of Jews.
The Farhud riots in Iraq in June 1941 killed 179 Jews, riots in Tripoli in
November 1945 killed 133 Jews; about 100 Jews were killed in Aden, Yemen, in November
1947 and in Egypt, where there were about 80,000 Jews, they sustained serious injuries. So did the Jews of Syria and Morocco.
As Zionism recorded successes, especially after the UN adopted the
partition of the country into two states, Jewish and Arab, November
1947, harassment against Jews in Arab countries increased.
Against this background, and especially after the declaration of the
State of Israel, most Jews were expelled or forced to leave their
homes in Arab countries and leave behind their personal and communal assets. Some left in an organized manner, others fled and some were caught while smuggling themselves across borders and were executed. This is the Jewish Nakba of Jews from Arab countries, which is not yet known and familiar to many.
* * *
In summer 2014, after years of neglect and contempt, the Knesset passed
a law to mark the day of departure and expulsion of Jews from Arab
countries and Iran. It was set for November 30, a day after the UN resolution
to partition the country. Marking this day, and telling the refugees' stories
must be a key part of implementing the committee's report in the
education system. This is in order to raise public awareness in Israel
and abroad of the historical heritage of Jews from Arab countries, as well
as their tragedies and especially the Jewish Nakba, which was the final
instalment of the Jewish presence in Arab countries.
Sons and grandchildren of these Jews need to know the historical facts that are part
of our legacy, so that they stand firm in their historic homeland and can
deal with the false propaganda spread against us.
However, should they take care that the study of Jewish history is
combined with the study of the entire history of Israel, especially
the Jews of Europe, and not separate from it.
This imperative requires the merger of Jewish heritage. Diaspora history should be
studied by all the children of Israel, and discussed by the public
and commercial media. This history should be commemorated in the museum of the Diaspora alongside the legacy of the Jews of Europe, it should be the legacy ofall Jewish people.
The Nakba of Jews from Arab countries has to be commemorated at Yad Vashem alongside the victims of the Jewish people during the
The pogroms against the Jews of
the Middle East and Africa, who were sentenced to death only because of
their religion, should be remembered too.
Implementation of the findings of the Commission should include
the study of the implications of the Jewish Nakba, as indicated in the
law marking the day of departure and expulsion of Jews from Arab countries and Iran.
This is to achieve international recognition of the suffering of the
Jews who lived in Arab countries, and today they and their descendants
make up about half the population of Israel.
At the same time there is work to do to advance the issue of compensation for
private property and communal left Arab countries after their
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