As testified by the renovation of the Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue in Alexandria and other projects, there is remembrance of extinct Jewish communities in Arab and Muslims countries, while in Israel there is community without remembrance. It is time for Israel to build a museum dedicated to Jews from Arab and Muslim lands, argues Ashley Perry, who has been the impetus behind initiatives in government and the Knesset. Must-read in JNS News:
Exterior of the renovated Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue in Alexandria
recent renovation projects involving Jewish synagogues and sites in Iraq,
Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon and Afghanistan are interesting developments.
whole, it is a positive move back towards recognition of these nations’ Jewish
communities that were either wholly erased or significantly reduced during the
last century’s exodus and expulsion of almost a million Jews from Arab and
However, due to the lack of a significant Jewish
community in these countries, these restoration projects are merely about
bricks and mortar and rarely about reaching out to the communities, or their
descendants, who remain largely unwelcome in the lands where their families
lived for centuries and even millennia.
Nevertheless, if in these lands there is remembrance and memorial
without community, in Israel there is community without remembrance and
In the more than 71 years since the foundation of the State of Israel,
there has yet to be built a single official memorial or institution dedicated
to the memory and history of the Jews from Arab and Islamic countries.
Considering that the majority of Jews in Israel have ancestry in the
Middle East or North Africa, this is negligence at best. For many decades the issue was almost completely ignored, or actively
kept off the national agenda for a variety of reasons, from not wanting to
further complicate complex relations with neighboring countries, to trying to
sever Jews from these nations from their history and culture, which was largely
associated with the Arab enemy.
This permeated the mindset of subsequent generations of Mizrahi Jews in
Israel, who were told explicitly or implicitly to forget about the past and
look to the present and future.
Of course, such an attitude was reserved solely for them; European Jews
would have been rightly outraged had such an approach been taken with regard to
To ignore the history and culture of Mizrahi Jewry is not to tell the
full Jewish story, whether to ourselves or outsiders. Thus, it is no surprise
that most around the world fail to fully grasp Jewish indigenous and ancestral
rights and see us as a foreign European import.
Even when the issue was finally placed on the national and international
agenda during the past decade, it was no easy undertaking.
In 2011, the National Security Council, which sits in the Prime
Minister’s Office, wrote a decision this author was proudly centrally involved
in, to the effect that, among other recommendations on the issue, Israel was to
build a museum dedicated to the Jews from the Middle East and North Africa.
However, nine years later, pitifully little action has been taken to achieve
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Jerusalem museum proposed for Jews from Arab lands