The History of Mizraḥi Jewry Gains a Place in Israeli Curricula

At most Israeli public schools, the history of the Jews of Muslim lands merits scant attention, with the sole exception of the poets of medieval Spain. The recently released Biton Report, commissioned by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and produced by a committee chaired by the poet Erez Biton—himself of Moroccan and Algerian descent—seeks to remedy that situation. Aryeh Tepper explains its significance:

[S]ince Mizraḥi Jews tend to be more [religiously] traditional and nationalistic than Ashkenazi Jews, augmenting the Mizraḥi story naturally dovetails with Bennett’s expressed desire to strengthen the bond between Zionism and Jewish history. . . .

And make no mistake, the depth of connection to Jewish tradition is what distinguishes Mizrahi culture from Ashkenazi culture in Israel. The roots of the split go back to the beginning of the 20th century, when secular and socialist European Jewish Zionists rebelled against tradition by “negating the Diaspora” in order to fashion a “new Jew” in the land of Israel. These animating principles were unknown to Mizraḥi Jews, but they got to know them pretty quickly when, upon arrival in the country in the 1950s and 60s, they “learned” in school and via the media that their traditional Jewish identity was a primitive relic of the Diaspora that deserved to disappear into a new secular-socialist melting pot. . . .

But rooting Israeli identity in Middle Eastern Jewish history via Mizraḥi heritage isn’t only a strike against the “negation of the Diaspora.” By explicitly placing the Mizraḥi story in its Israeli context or, in other words, by viewing the Mizraḥi story as part of the national Jewish story, the Biton Report constitutes an implicit response to a fashionable journalistic and academic trend that removes Mizraḥi experience from its national, Jewish context and leverages Mizraḥi suffering to attack the state of Israel. In order to pull off this pseudo-intellectual sleight-of-hand, journalists and academics are compelled to participate in a staggering act of intellectual dishonesty in which the openly expressed and deeply rooted Zionist sentiments of Mizraḥi Jews are either ignored or written off in good Marxist fashion as an example of “false consciousness.”

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More about: Erez Biton, Israel & Zionism, Israeli education, Mizrahi Jewry, Naftali Bennett

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror