Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Israel isn't a milkshake, Mizrahim are not the Other (updated)

 With thanks: Sarah

Naftali Bennett: "Israel is a mosaic"

Update: Organisations representing Jews from Arab countries and Iran have written to minister Naftali Bennett urging him to make compuslory the teaching and commemoration of Sephardi and Mizrahi heritage and uprooting. For full text of letter click here.

As the school year begins, organisations representing Jews from Arab countries in Israel are rejoicing that Israel's minister of Education Naftali Bennett has  criticised a  key educational program introduced by his predecessor, Shai Peron,“The Other is Me.”

Haaretz has reported Minister Bennett as saying, “I do not agree that the Other is me. The Other is not me, everyone is different. I don’t believe in blurring identities; I believe in strengthening identities....
"I don’t believe in making a milkshake so all the students in Israel will come out as a pink liquid. Israel is a mosaic, and that is its strength. We have, for example, the heritage of the Mizrahi communities that has not been expressed in our history studies,” he added, referring to Jews of Middle Eastern descent.

In choosing to make these remarks, Mr Bennett has - the associations of Jews from Arab countries in Israel believe - taken on board a letter sent to him in mid-July signed by all the individual chairmen. The chairmen kept up the pressure, continuing to meet senior officials in the Department of Education.

Says Levana Zamir, overall chairwoman: "This is a turning point and the result of many years of work by Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), JIMENA in the USA and others. We explained to him that more than 55% of the population cannot be "the Other".

The representative organisations have been lobbying to make learning about the Sephardi/Mizrahi heritage compulsory in the school curriculum, a position which minister Bennett is thought to favour. So far, the government has only agreed to make such studies optional.

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