A sentence here and there. That’s all that the contribution of Mizrahi Jews to Israel gets in school books, charges a spokeswoman for the Women’s Council for Tunisian Jewry, as reported in Haaretz. But I would dispute Miriam Gez-Avigal ‘s assertion that ‘financial difficulties’ did not drive Mizrahi Jews to settle in Israel, but the desire to ‘build the land’. Many just did not have the choice (with thanks: Michelle):
The Israeli public education system misrepresents the role of Jews of Middle Eastern descent, the chairperson of Women’s Council for Tunisia Jewry said in a letter to Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar this week, urging the state to correct what she calls a years-long discrimination of Mizrahi Jews.
“The educational system still presents a distorted state of affairs, one that does not reflect the historical developments and Zionist movements working within the Middle Eastern Jewish community,” wrote Miriam Gez-Avigal, a former Education Ministry official in charge of incorporating Mizrahi heritage in Tel Aviv schools.
In her letter, Gez-Abigal writes that “the reality is right now, that students know and are familiar with historical issues taking place in Europe, but don’t know anything about what happened, in the context of those same issues, among Middle Eastern Jewry.”
Further on in her letter, the former Education Ministry official said that conflicts that took place between Jewish religious leaders and the Zionist movements in Europe are depicted as absolute historical facts, without any mention of the reverse phenomenon which was taking place among Mizrahi Jews.
“Today, students don’t study at all about the important and essential contribution of the rabbinical leadership in Middle Eastern countries which aided the relocation of Jewish communities in the Diaspora and brought them to Israel as one unit,” she added, saying that the it was those spiritual leaders and intellectuals which drove Jews in Tunisia, Iraq, Morocco, Syria, Persia, Afghanistan, and other places to make aliyah.
In addition, Gez-Avigal said that, contrary to what current textbooks state, Mizrahi Jews did not make aliyah as a result of financial difficulties, but to build the land of Israel, even though they could have emigrated anywhere else.
The former Education Ministry official added that even though Middle Eastern Jewry constitutes less than 20 percent of Jews around the world, it represented more than 50 percent of Israel’s Jewish population, making its place in history books that much more justified.
“I’m angry because even if they’re mentioned in a sentence here and there, the immense contribution of Middle Eastern Jewry to Zionism and the formation of the State of Israel is unrepresented.”