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Arab Jews

  • Israel's nation-state bill threatens the mother tongue of Mizrahi Jews

    The Israeli government's attempts, via the nation-state bill, to erase the Arabic language from this country not only threatens Palestinians, it also undermines Mizrahi identity. But their attempt is doomed to fail. By Netta Amar-Shiff When my grandmother, Sa'ida, came to Israel, she worked at Kfar Hadasim Youth Village as a house mother, and needed to undergo a quick process of Hebraization so as to communicate with hundreds of new immigrant children. Although they had much in common, there remained a gulf between them, the most prominent of which was their mother tongues. Hebrew served as a bridge for both the children…

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  • Downstairs, from heavenly Aleppo

    Aleppo, your stories will come back to my ears, like a child who sits on his grandmother's knees. By Mati Shemoelof Aleppo, I, Matityaho Ibn Shifra, your old daughter, a grandson of your Arab-Jews, mourn the erasure of your city of poetry, Aleppo, how did they forget to save your libraries? Aleppo, was it not fireworks that lit the skies of the Arab spring? Or were the night stars shining all night long? Aleppo, tell me who is the devil that drops explosive barrels upon your residents, and thinks that in this way — they will write his name in…

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  • Towards a new understanding of Arab-Jewish culture

    The severed ties between Arab-Jewish culture and the wider history and culture of Judaism and the Arab world are being repaired by a groundbreaking new university degree in Israel. By Hadas Shabat-Nadir and Almog Behar In the 1950s, Professor Shlomo Dov Goitein suggested establishing a chair of Arab-Jewish culture at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. But what place does Arabic-Jewish culture have at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem? What does a school for Jewish studies have to do with Arab-Jewish tradition? Or with a course on Arabic literature, classical Arabic from the pre-Islamic period, the Quran and the Caliphate, and the…

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  • What we left behind in Egypt: Mizrahi thoughts on Israel

    Even when they had reached the borders of the Promised Land, after 40 years in the desert, all the Children of Israel wanted was to go back to Egypt. In Erez Biton's poem, the immigrant from Algeria and his son fail to build a home in Israel. Independence Day is also the tale of the rift in our identity, created by immigrating here. By Mati Shemoelof "And the children of Israel said unto them: ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, when we did eat bread…

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  • Before Zionism: The shared life of Jews and Palestinians

    Before the advent of Zionism and Arab nationalism, Jews and Palestinians lived in peace in the holy land. Menachem Klein's new book maps out an oft-forgotten history of Israel/Palestine, and offers some guidance on how we may go back to that time. By Noam Rotem Menachem Klein's book, Lives in Common: Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Hebron, is a depressing one. Originally released in English, the book — which is being published in Hebrew  — paints a picture of a shared life between Palestinians and Jews at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th…

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  • It is time to rebuild ties between Mizrahim and the Arab world

    Five years after Mizrahi Israelis offered their solidarity to the young men and women of the Arab Spring, it is time to say it loud and clear: real peace will come once we recognize the deep cultural and religious ties between Jews and Muslims of the region. By Almog Behar Five years ago in April of 2011, in the wake of the events of the Arab Spring, a group of Jewish descendants from Muslim and Arab countries, second and third generation Mizrahim in Israel, published an open letter of the women and men of the Middle East and North Africa,…

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  • In Sisi's Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood are the new Jews

    Weighted down by historical, religious and linguistic inaccuracies, Egyptian television series 'The Jewish Quarter’ nevertheless tells an intriguing story of the political, social and religious changes that have transformed Egypt — in 1948 and in 2015. An Egyptian Ramadan television series called “The Jewish Quarter”* has attracted quite a bit of international media attention for its sympathetic portrayal of Jewish Egyptians during the years immediately following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, up until 1954. Set in Cairo, the ongoing multi-episode drama takes its name from one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, where Jews, Muslims and Christians…

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  • Egyptian TV series shines light on the untold story of Arab Jews

    A controversial new television show gives us a glimpse into Jewish-Muslim relations before Israel's establishment, as well as a better understanding of those Jews who left Arab countries only to become Israel's Mizrahim. By Nadia Naser-Najjab A recent controversy over a new Egyptian television series has served to highlight one of the central tensions at the heart of Zionist thought. This controversy has arisen in relation to "Haret al-Yahud" ("The Jewish Quarter"), a love story which depicts a romantic relationship between a male Egyptian-Muslim army officer (Iyad Nassar) and a female Egyptian-Jewish character (Mena Shalaby). The series, which is being broadcast…

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  • In 2015, memory of Nakba has inched closer to Israeli mainstream

    Two Nakba-themed events were organized by groups you'd least expect, suggesting that the legacy of the Palestinian catastrophe has ventured beyond Palestinian and leftist circles. By Eitan Bronstein Aparicio and Dr. Eléonore Merza Bronstein   Until a few years ago, inside Israel Nakba Day was marked primarily on Independence Day. It was a family and community tradition among internally displaced Palestinians going back to the days of the military government. After the Oslo Accords it developed into large, popular political demonstrations. Three years ago, Tel Aviv University students started holding a memorial ceremony on Nakba Day itself, May 15. The event…

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  • What Egypt's multicultural past teaches us about Israel's present

    Jacqueline Kahanoff’s novel, 'Jacob's Ladder,' strips 'multiculturalism' of its cold, academic veneer, displaying instead the reality of a Jewish, multicultural lifestyle. But the novel also directs a powerful question toward Israeli society: can the Arabs that live among us today ever live in Israel the same way Jews lived in Egypt? By Ktsiaa Alon (translated from Hebrew by Shaked Spier) Several decades after its publication, Jacqueline Kahanoff’s great novel, “Jacob’s Ladder,” has finally been translated into Hebrew. The novel portrays a vivid picture of a Levant of multiculturalism, as Kahanoff called it in her intellectual essays. After a delay of over…

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  • Re-learning history: A tribute to North Africa's Jewish artists

    Though often forgotten in Israel today, some of North Africa's biggest cultural assets were in fact Jewish. Meet the stars who shaped Maghrebi music, from the classical to the contemporary. By Ophir Toubul 'There arose the idea of taking people who have nothing in common. The one lot comes from the highest culture there is — Western European culture — and the other lot comes from the caves.' — famed Israeli poet, Natan Zach. I, too, used to think this way, and I imagine that a large part of those who went through the Israeli educational system do too. And…

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  • Farhud, 1941: Iraqi Jews remember a massacre

    On the holiday of Shavuot in 1941, Iraq's Jews experienced a pogrom that claimed over 180 lives and ended in mass looting. But there’s another story from the Farhud that often goes undiscussed: the bravery of Muslims during the crisis. "The Farhud" / Foreword By Orit Bashkin (translated by Asaf Shalev) Silently but not without some noise, a blessed thing is happening in Israel right now. The general category of “Mizrahiness” is falling apart into the stories of specific communities, cities, places, languages and memories: Iraq and Morocco, Aleppo and Oran, Ladino and Aramaic. All of them are asking to tell…

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  • Zionism and the Shah: On the Iranian elite's evolving perceptions of Israel

    It is a generally assumed that the Shah's downfall led to the severing of ties between Israel and Iran, which up until that point resembled a love story. However, both Iran's intellectual elite and the rest of the nation drastically changed their views of the Jewish State after 1967. By Lior Sternfeld The relationship between Israel and Iran dates back to the early years of the Jewish state, and constituted the basis of both countries’ geopolitical policies. This political relationship was not, however, merely a matter of the ruling elites. Insofar as Pahlavi's Iran is concerned, even oppositional circles in…

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