Tel Aviv lecturer: “The Jews have no history in Muslim lands.”

Who said: “the Jews have no history in Muslim lands”?

Was it an Arab commentator? A European Marxist? An ISIS operative?
No. The bombshell was dropped by an Israeli academic at Tel Aviv university in answer to the question: “why do you teach only the history of the Jews of Europe?” Lyn Julius blogs in the Times of Israel: 

Meir Gal exposed the shocking Eurocentricity of Israeli school textbooks in his artwork, ‘Nine out of 400’

 It is true that the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa did not write their own history. Their origins are shrouded in legend and mystery. The few chronicles that survive were mostly written by outsiders, such as the traveller Benjamin of Tudela in the 12th century.

In one fell swoop, however, the academic had dismissed 14 centuries of Jewish life under Muslim rule including the great contributions of Jewish poets, thinkers and translators in Muslim Spain – to say nothing of 1, 000 years pre-Islamic Jewish existence, as attested by the remains of ancient synagogues, Talmudic academies, and even a Jewish kingdom, such as once was established in Yemen.

 Most of the world’s Jews come from Europe and Europe deserves a prominent place in the teaching of the history of the Jewish people. But it is tempting to conclude, in the light of a recent survey by the mass circulation daily Yediot Aharonot,that our Tel Aviv academic was responding out of sheer ignorance.

The survey, entitled ‘Joining Israel’s elite is a long way off’ found that Ashkenazim remain dominant in six fields – culture, security, politics, the economy, the academy and law. Over 90 per cent of professors were Ashkenazi. The only Mizrahim the Israeli elite was likely to come into contact with were security guards, canteen dinner ladies or shop assistants.

Out of 14 History professors at Tel Aviv University only one deals with the history of the Jews from Muslim lands. He is Yaron Tsur, who is half-Yemenite, half-Yekke (German).

 In Israel, things ought to be reflecting the new reality : Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent form a majority, but schools have done little to educate children about Jewish history and heritage in Arab countries. Every schoolchild knows about the Kishinev riots of 1903, which claimed 49 Jewish lives, but not many have heard of the Farhud in Iraq, which took 179 identified Jewish lives. They hear about the Bilu’im – the waves of Ashkenazi immigrants who founded the Yishuv’s institutions – and nothing about the Yemenite Jews who preceded them.

 In 1997 the artist Meir Gal ridiculed this state of affairs with ‘Nine out of 400’, holding the nine pages out of 400 which covered the history of Jews in Muslim lands in an Israeli school textbook.

 All this is changing slowly. Yaron Tsur sees in his students the researchers of the future in the field of Jews from Muslim lands. Social Equality minister Gila Gamliel has expressed optimism that the Eurocentric trend is being reversed. Education minister Naftali Bennett is determined to reform the school curriculum so that it better reflects the rich history and heritage of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa.

 But education needs to start with the educators. As the saying goes,”physician, heal thyself.”

Read article in full


  • not off topic:

    Are Sephardim/Mizrahim much better than the Eurocentric Ashkenazim? Suppose the school curriculum does give equal treatment to Sephardi/Mizrahi history and culture. That would be wonderful but I think I can say with all confidence that the history and culture of the indigenous Israelis – Mustarabi Jews (who have lived in Israel since Biblical times) and Samaritans (who were declared in 1842 a branch of the House of Israel) – will continue to be trashed. The Ashkenazi Zionists have done an excellent job of that so far without the slightest complaint from the Sephardim/Mizrahim. Let's be honest. Israeli students will be just as ignorant about their heritage whether it's Eurocentric or not because Jews, regardless of their background, are simply awash with intense inter-Jewish racism, especially in regards to the indigenous people of Israel. That's just the way we are. And I'm speaking as someone who is partially Sephardi.

  • off topic//
    on the British-appointed mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini:

    on Habib Bourguiba, supposed enlightened and moderate Arab leader:
    Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia — a country where the Nazis had persecuted and murdered Jews just three years earlier — insisted [to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine, 1946] that “[It] is for the Jews to change themselves, to change certain contentions that they hold which make them offensive sometimes to the locality where they live.”
    This article also responds to Livingstone's rantings:

    Prof Herf on Nazi propaganda for the Arab world:

    Prof Herf on the Mufti Husseini:

    Book by Goda and Breitman based on archives showing, inter alia, Husseini's role as a war criminal.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

Point of No Return

Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

One-stop blog on the Middle East's
forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.