The film-maker Pierre Rehov has just updated and made temporarily available for free viewing on Youtube his documentary, Silent Exodus, about the 856,000 Jews driven from Arab lands.
With the 30th November Day to Remember Jewish Refugees from Arab lands and Iran little more than a month away, organisations representing Jews from Arab lands have written to the Israeli Minister of Education urging him to make compulsory the teaching of the history of Middle Eastern and North African Jewry. This initative would have benefits both inside and outside Israel. Here is the text of their letter.
Israeli Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett
34 Shivtei Israel Street
Dear Mr. Bennett,
As the November 30th Day of Commemoration for Jewish Refugees from
Arab Countries and Iran approaches, we representatives of the
international Mizrahi, Sephardic, and Iranian Jewish communities turn
our attention towards education of Israeli and Diaspora Jews about our
history and heritage. We commend your Ministry’s efforts to support this
cause by creating curriculum and teaching materials relating to the
history of Middle Eastern & North African Jewry. We are thrilled to
have a Minister of Education in office whose values are so aligned with
our own, in your championing of heritage studies, affirming the cultural
diversity of Israel and recognizing the importance of Mizrahi history.
So far, the Israeli government has left the teaching of Mizrahi
history and heritage to the discretion of schools. We ask that you
continue to support this initiative by ensuring that the Mizrahi history
curriculum be made compulsory and that all schools observe the Day of
Commemoration. As you know, Israeli students of all ethnicities and
cultural backgrounds must be given the tools to gain awareness and
understanding of Mizrahi history, as it is integral to the fabric and
foundation of Israeli society. In order to help disseminate the Day of
Commemoration curriculum internationally, we also request that the
educational materials be translated into English.
The upholding of the Day of Commemoration curriculum is vital not
only to Israeli Jewry but also to those of us in the Diaspora who are
not being exposed to the history of Jews from Arab countries and Iran.
Israel will set the precedent for Jewish education and Israel advocacy
in the United States and beyond. In western countries, students are not
being exposed to the history of Jews from Arab countries and Iran. Most
westerners, including Diaspora Jews, have a skewed understanding of Jews
as a homogenous European people without roots in the Middle East. In
turn, they lack an understanding of Israeli society and Israel’s role as
a multi-ethnic safe haven for Jews from all parts of the world. It is
vital for all students to learn that over 50% of Israeli Jews descend
from Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran.
By implementing Mizrahi heritage studies, students in the Diaspora
would be far better equipped to advocate for Israel. In order to effect
this change, and influence our Jewish institutions, we depend on Israel
to lead by example.
We have greatly appreciated all that you have done so far to carry
out this initiative, and look forward to your continued partnership.
Sam Yebri, President
30 Years After
David Dangoor, President
American Sephardic Federation
Maurice Maleh, Chairman
Association of Jews from Egypt (UK)
Andre Dehry, President
Federation des Associations Sepharades de France
Lyn Julius, President
HARIF: UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa
Susan Azizzadeh, President
Iranian American Jewish Federation
Levana Zamir, President
Israeli Association of Jews from Arab Countries
Gina Bublil-Waldman, President
JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa
Rabbi Ellie Abadie, President
JJAC: Justice for Jews from Arab Countries
Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, International Director
Sephardic Education Center
Yehuda Azoulay, Founder
Sephardic Legacy Project