The Untold Story of Sephardi Zionism

The modern Zionist movement was overwhelmingly led by Ashkenazi Jews, notes Asael Abelman, the vast majority of whom hailed from Eastern Europe. So too, most of the Jews who came to the Land of Israel in successive waves between 1881 and 1939 were Ashkenazim. For this and other reasons, Sephardi and Mizraḥi Jews have largely been left out of the story Zionism. A new book tries to set the record straight. Abelman writes in his review:

At the beginning of the book, the reader is informed of a number of facts largely unknown to Israelis today. First, two of the [ideological forerunners] of Zionism, Rabbi Yehuda Bibas and Yehuda Alkalai, responsible for formulating ideas of nationalism in the first few decades of the 19th century, were both Sephardi. Second, in the decades leading up to 1881, when the First Aliyah from Eastern Europe began, tens of thousands of Jewish people emigrated to Palestine from Muslim states, in what is called the Mughrabi Aliyah (i.e., of those coming from the Maghreb, North Africa). These Jews worked to renew Jewish life throughout the Land of Israel, adopted modern ways of education and living, married Ashkenazi Jews (something almost completely unheard of in the Old Yishuv); they wrote for newspapers, bought land, and created job opportunities for their Jewish peers.

European Jewish communities, Abelman goes on to explain, were sharply divided over Zionism, which was opposed by Orthodox rabbis, Communists, and those who simply felt Jews should see their future in the countries where they lived.

Compared to these specific ideological conflicts and difficulties, Sephardi Zionism was slightly different. The culture is more amicable, there is a constant endeavor to combine tradition and modernity, and there is the belief that Zionism is a natural development in the history of Jewish tradition, with the unity of Israel standing above any and all racial identity.

All of this is greatly important for Israel today. Today’s Israeli-Jewish society [displays many of the once-distinctive] traits of Sephardi Zionism: a sense of a natural belonging to Israel; creating a simple connection between tradition and modern living; allowing the Jewish tradition to have a place in the life of the individual, families, and communities; and a desire for non-sectoral national cooperation.

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Read more at Tel Aviv Review of Books

More about: History of Zionism, Mizrahi Jewry, Sephardim

Terror Returns to Israel

Nov. 28 2022

On Wednesday, a double bombing in Jerusalem left two dead, and many others injured—an attack the likes of which has not been seen since 2016. In a Jenin hospital, meanwhile, armed Palestinians removed an Israeli who had been injured in a car accident, reportedly murdering him in the process, and held his body hostage for two days. All this comes as a year that has seen numerous stabbings, shootings, and other terrorist attacks is drawing to a close. Yaakov Lappin comments:

Unlike the individual or small groups of terrorists who, acting on radical ideology and incitement to violence, picked up a gun, a knife, or embarked on a car-ramming attack, this time a better organized terrorist cell detonated two bombs—apparently by remote control—at bus stops in the capital. Police and the Shin Bet have exhausted their immediate physical searches, and the hunt for the perpetrators will now move to the intelligence front.

It is too soon to know who, or which organization, conducted the attack, but it is possible to note that in recent years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has taken a lead in remote-control-bombing terrorism. Last week, a car bomb that likely contained explosives detonated by remote control was discovered by the Israel Defense Forces in Samaria, after it caught fire prematurely. In August 2019, a PFLP cell detonated a remote-control bomb in Dolev, seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, killing a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl and seriously wounding her father and brother. Members of that terror cell were later arrested.

With the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing its grip in parts of Samaria to armed terror gangs, and the image of the PA at an all-time low among Palestinians, in no small part due to corruption, nepotism, and its violation of human rights . . . the current situation does not look promising.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Jerusalem, Palestinian terror