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  • 'A Palestinian state isn't the solution, but it's a step in the right direction': Meet MK Jamal Zahalka

    Chairman of the Balad party says that unification of Israel’s Arab parties is nothing short of historic — both in Israel and the Arab world: ‘There has never been unity between the communists, nationalists and Islamists.' In an interview, Zahalka talks about his party’s appeal to Jewish voters, why the Joint List won’t join an Israeli government and what compromises he is willing to make to end the occupation. "A war of attrition." That is how writer Samah Salaime Agbaria, my colleague at +972's sister site Local Call, described the endless negotiations between the Arab parties in their attempt to form…

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  • The struggle for Mizrahi recognition isn't limited to Israel

    If Israeli Jewish society is going to move forward dealing with its own racial tensions, it needs British and world Jewry to do the same. Generations of Mizrahi Jews in the UK no longer understand their own history: they have been taught to weep for Krakow but never for Sanaa. By Leeor Ohayon Deep in the heart of North East London, where South Tottenham meets Stamford Hill, sits an Adenese Jewish community. Here, I was born and raised, born into a mixed Yemenite-Moroccan family in the middle of a Mizrahi Jewish bubble. Within that bubble, where Hebrew was sung in heavy…

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  • Every war, I lose more and more friends

    Sometimes I fantasize about what would happen if I were to be declared a traitor by the authorities. How would those women with whom I've worked for so long react. Now I'm beginning to understand. By Ruti Lavie (translated from Hebrew by Michal Wertheimer Shimoni) This week I unfriended another friend who reacted to my posts on Facebook with so much anger and rage I just couldn't take it anymore. How can one compare unfriending friends to losing lives, which has become so ubiquitous here? But life isn't a balanced affair. Technically it was very simple - a click on…

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  • No such thing as 'half-and-half': On mixed Mizrahi-Ashkenazi identity

    The melting pot’s favorite category, 'mixed,' doesn’t pass the test of reality: in Israel, banal characteristics like one’s last name, appearance and place of residence, continue to dictate one’s opportunities in life and create an ethnic identity, concerning both class and culture. On Talia Sagiv’s book. By Itamar Toby (Taharlev) (Translated from Hebrew by Maayan Goldman) I don't like definitions. When people assume I'm Ashkenazi I'll say I'm not. I don’t hide my Mizrahiness. I'm not relieved when people think I'm Ashkenazi. But I also won't try to highlight the fact that I have a Mizrahi side. (p. 130). On…

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  • Neither Russian nor Israeli: Lessons from a journey to the homeland

    After years of denying her Russian identity, Osnat Ita Skoblinski finally made peace with the cultural world of her friends and family. However, she never expected her first trip back 'home' to bring out feelings of hate and revulsion. By Osnat Ita Skoblinski My parents, who immigrated to Israel in the 70s, refused to have a decorated Christmas tree in our home. "We're Jews," they said, as they set out for a Novy God party on December 31st with Santa hats on their heads. Born in Israel to parents from the Soviet Union, I found New Year’s Eve celebrations especially confusing.…

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  • What is Mizrahiness? Seeking answers through questions

    What does it mean to be Mizrahi in Israel of 2013? And why is it that Mizrahiness is better expressed in questions than in answers? An exploration following Amnon Levy’s Hebrew-language TV documentary series, 'The Ethnic Demon.' By Almog Behar (Translated from Hebrew by Rachel Beitarie‏) What is Mizrahiness? What does it mean to be Mizrahi in Israel of 2013? Does it have to do with shared origins and identities of Jews who from “eastern” countries? (One of those countries, Morocco, bears the Arabic name Al-Magreb, which means “west”) Or is Mizrahiness the product of the economic and cultural oppression of Eastern…

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  • 'But you're not really Mizrahi': Rewriting an erased identity

    In the face of repeated sexual harassment and offhand racist comments by friends and acquaintances, one writer turns her anger into a reformulation of her identity. The awakening of sorts follows Amnon Levy's Hebrew-language TV documentary series, "The Ethnic Demon." By Naama Katiee (Translated from Hebrew by Rachel Beitarie) I’m about to finish high school, and I’m taking the bus. A guy sits himself besides me, places his hat between us and starts playing with it. Five minutes pass and I begin to suspect he is stroking my thigh. I’m not sure though. My heart is pounding but I stay mute, and…

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  • Turning Israel's port workers into public enemy number one

    In May of this year, Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett devised a plan to replace port workers with IDF soldiers in the case of a strike. Not only did Bennett’s spin make for a dangerous contribution to the ongoing incitement campaign against port workers, it also fit neatly into the racialized way the majority of Israelis view them. By Yossi Edry (Translated from Hebrew by Noam Benishie) “Code Name 1981,” screamed the headlines, revealing Minister Naftali Bennett’s plan: “The military is to replace port workers in the case of a strike.” It was the boldest yet step in a well-organized…

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  • Hasidic music: Pushing the boundaries of the Israeli comfort zone

    Why don't most of Israelis know this music that has been passed down from generation to generation? How open are we to a culture that seems so far away from us, despite the fact that it is just across the street?  By Merav Livneh-Dill He dances like Madonna, dresses like Lady Gaga and has more glasses than Sir Elton John. He's Lipa Schmeltzer. Heard of him? Lipa is the outlier who proves the rule, and the rule is very simple: the non-Haredi public in Israel is almost entirely oblivious to the music that Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) listen to, or as it is…

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  • Tel Aviv's mayoral race: Time for a Mizrahi candidate

    The Mizrahi Jewish community is Israel’s largest ethnic group, and its historic links to the Middle East, along with its class position make it a critical component in any revolutionary coalition. Thus, running a Mizrahi candidate will be a clear sign to the residents of south Tel Aviv that they are a central priority. By Matan Kaminer Although municipal political party Ir LeKulanu is not considered “left” in Israeli terms, it embodies one of the greatest successes of the non-Zionist left in Israeli history. In national elections, the non-Zionist or “radical” left keeps slamming into the brick wall of privileges enjoyed by…

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  • From Umm Kulthum to Woody Guthrie: Thoughts on cultural sovereignty

    For an Israeli who has only known occupied, subdued and desperate Middle Eastern cities, there is something exciting about rediscovering the cultural world of a confident, proud Levant, cognizant of its traditions and histories. By Amos Noy (translated by Matan Kaminer) To 'Amar, with fond remembrance. Between the demand for "authenticity," which, while conscious of itself, is impossible (and has something petty and repressive about it), and the option of assimilation, or "self-effacing imitation" - one form of cultural oppression (which is, of course, a form of political oppression) - there is also third option: cultural sovereignty. I imagine that many…

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  • The Mizrahi canon: Top classics from the margins of Israeli society

    Although Mizrahi artists have become household names that can sell out amphitheaters, their music is still missing from the Israeli musical canon. The culture that Mizrahi Jews never forgot, along with the attachment to their roots and faith, are excellent tools for creating new Mizrahi classics. By Avi H. Muthada Classics, like good wine, must be preserved in wooden barrels in dark basements for years upon years. Only every so often do we open the treasure, have a taste and fondly remember the memories of the past. When it comes to Israeli classics, the association is clear and one-dimensional: the…

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  • Between Ashkenazim and Sephardim: A guide to Passover piyutim

    Jewish liturgical poetry dates back to the Bible and the rabbinical sages that came after. In honor of Passover, Café Gibraltar presents a primer to traditional Jewish religious singing for the holiday and the Jewish month of Nisan. By Patia Hana The holiday of Passover summons a plethora of piyutim (Jewish liturgical poetry usually sung, chanted or recited during religious services). Not just on the night of the seder, but also throughout the Jewish month of Nisan, on the last night of Passover. Of course, piyyutim are designated for the Shalosh Regalim (the three Jewish Pilgrimage festivals), the Hallel (a prayer used for…

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