This cri de coeur from Almog Behar, an Israeli poet and activist of partly Mizrahi origin, in the leftist +972 magazine, calls for a renewal of dialogue between Jews and Arabs based on their history of shared culture. All very fine and dandy, but it is fallacious to believe that cultural connections alone can create peace. Besides, Jews and Muslims did not have a common past - the Jewish reality was as a vulnerable minority at the mercy of Muslim rule, and it ended with expulsion. There can be no building of bridges unless this hard reality is recognised.
Now, more than ever, when the hatred between Jews and Muslims is seen
as “natural,” it is important for us to emphasize the fact that our
ancestors helped contribute to the cultural development of the region.
The huge mutual contributions between Jewish and Arab cultures were
nearly wiped out of our collective memory over the past few decades, in
the wake of the nationalism that flooded the region in the 20th century.
We can, however, see traces in many aspects of our cultures and
religions, from music, to prayer, to linguistics and literature. For
many Mizrahim in Israel, the culture of Muslim countries and the feeling
of belonging to the region are an inseparable part of our identities.
It is my hope that our generation, across the Arab world — both
Muslim and Jewish — will be the one to rebuild bridges — to jump over
the walls and hatred of the previous generations, and will renew the
deep dialogue that we cannot understand our own identities with it —
between Jews, Sunnis, Shi’a, Christians.
Between Arabs, Kurds, Amazighs,
Turks, or Persians. Between Mizrahim and Ashkenazim, and Palestinians
and Israelis. I hope we are able to remember all those previous
generations that stood at the intersection between Judaism and Islam,
between Jewish culture and Arab culture — who left us with a bountiful
I hope that as people with a common past, we will be able to look at a
common future. Only inter-regional dialogue, whose goal is to fix and
rebuild everything that was destroyed over the past generations, will
provide the key for a renewed Andalusian Muslim-Jewish-Christian life,
and, God willing, inshallah, real cultural and historical
partnership in our countries. We meet many people in the Arab and Muslim
world who wish to make these connections, and who hope to remember the
Jewish legacy in countries such as Morocco, Egypt, Yemen, and Iraq.
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