Levana Zamir speaking at a UN conference
Two weeks after her election as President of the Organisations of Jews from Arab countries in Israel, Levana Zamir has hit the ground running.
Levana, who heads an association of Jews from Egypt in Israel and replaced Libyan-born Meir Kahlon at the helm of the Organisations of Jews from Arab countries, had a meeting with the official in charge of formal education programmes at the Ministry of Education. She has also written to the Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett.
In her letter she warned that three generations of Israeli pupils have not been told anything of the Jewish Nakba from Arab Countries. “These pupils, educated in our Israeli schools,” she wrote,” are today the students who demonstrate side by side with Palestinians in Israeli universities, the Siruvnik soldiers who refuse to serve – influenced by the Hasbara of Israeli pro-Palestinian movements like Zochrot, who hold special seminars for teachers explaining the Palestinian plight and Nakba.”
Levana’s organisation held a special session at the Knesset with Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova on 13 July. The young and dynamic Ms Svetlova heads the lobby for the Preservation and Care of the Culture and Heritage of Jews from Arab Countries. An Arabic speaker (albeit with a heavy Russian accent) she spent 10 years reporting from Egypt and other Arab countries for the Israeli-Russian media.
Perhaps with an eye on attracting the Mizrahi voters who put the centre-right into power, Yitzhak Herzog and Tzipi Livni, leaders of the Zionist Union opposition, attended the session, as well as the Deputy speaker, Hilik Bar. Two Arab MKs, Zoher Bahloul and Ayman Ouda, who complimented Ms Svetlova on her initiative, also attended. Dr Henry Green represented Justice for Jews from Arab Countries and the chairmen of organisations of Jews from Arab countries in Israel were also present.
At the special Knesset session dealing with the preservation of Jewish heritage in Arab lands. From left: MK Ksenia Svetlova, Professor Shmuel Moreh, Professor Menahem Ben-Sasson of the Hebrew University, and Levana Zamir.
Levana Zamir, who describes her new post as a ‘huge responsibility’, was expelled with her family from Egypt aged 10. In May 2015, she organised a Congress to look at the preservation of Jewish heritage in Egypt. She speaks five languages, including Arabic, and is the author of several books, including a cookbook. She devoted two years to translating into Hebrew Sir Martin Gilbert’s history of Jews in Muslim lands, ‘In Ishmael’s House’.