The Vital Energies, Especially Musical, of Israel's Desert Towns

A letter from the “development town” of Ofakim, where Jews from North Africa are helping to forge a new Israeli culture.

An Israeli woman and her children at the post-Passover festival of Mimouna, a North African Jewish tradition that is now a de-facto national celebration. Flash90.

An Israeli woman and her children at the post-Passover festival of Mimouna, a North African Jewish tradition that is now a de-facto national celebration. Flash90.

Observation
July 5 2018
About the author

Aryeh Tepper teaches at Ben-Gurion University and is a senior research fellow at its Center for Israel Studies. He is also the director of publications for the American Sephardi Federation.


Ofakim is a working-class city of 30,000 people in southern Israel, twenty minutes west of Be’er Sheva, the regional capital, and thirty minutes from Gaza’s Mediterranean coast. Conventionally referred to as a “development town,” Ofakim was established in 1955 with the aim of drawing newly arriving immigrants away from Israel’s central coastal region and strengthening the country’s hold on the sparsely populated Negev desert.

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More about: Arts & Culture, Israel & Zionism, Mizrahi Jewry, Negev