Biton report will ‘right a historic injustice’

More Mizrahi and Sephardi content in the schools and university curriculum. Annual school trips to Spain and Morocco. A TV show. No longer will education about Jews from Arab countries be Israel’s Cinderella.  What’s not to like in the Biton committee’s report, submitted this week to Education minister Naftali Bennett? According to the Jerusalem Post, however, the report seems heavy with words like ‘enrichment’ ‘cultural works’ ‘ heritage’ and the ‘Mizrahi contribution to Zionism’, but seems less keen to emphasise that 90 percent of Mizrahim came to Israel as refugees. (With thanks: Lily, Michelle)

Blind, Algerian-born poet Erez Biton presents his report to Education minister Naftali Bennett

“After 68 years, we’re righting a historic
injustice,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett said on Thursday.

at a press conference in the Education Ministry offices in Tel Aviv,
Bennett was presented with the recommendations of the Biton Committee,
tasked with empowering Eastern Jewish cultural studies within the
general education curriculum.

Bennett launched the committee
some four months ago, and appointed as its head, Erez Biton, the first
poet of Mizrahi descent to win the Israel Prize in Literature (2015).

Biton was tasked with empowering the identity of the
Mizrahi Jewish community – including immigrants from Egypt, Iraq, Iran,
Tunisia and Libya – within the education system.

“The students
of Israel will learn the entire Zionist and Jewish story, including the
rich heritage of Mizrahi Jews,” Bennett said upon accepting the

“I’m deeply moved by the addition of amazing stories,
long left out of our education system, into our classrooms. I will make
sure every girl and boy studies their heritage, their family’s
history, and be proud of it.”

Bennett said that he was raised in an Ashkenazi home, and was
never exposed to the culture of Mizrahi Jews or their contributions to
the state.

“I want and ask that my children be raised on a
complete Israel story, that they be educated in the spirit of the entire
Jewish story,” he said. “We will tell the story of the entire Jewish
nation, of all its communities, of all those who helped us arrive at
the wonderful country we have today.”

The committee, comprised
of numerous subcommittee, among them literature, history, thought,
academia and research, and enrichment, presented their recommendations
in all fields on how to incorporate Eastern Jewish culture into the
education system.

According to the recommendations, first and
foremost, the general school curriculum as well as textbooks used in
classes should be updated to include chapters on the culture of Mizrahi
Jews and on their works and contributions.

The committee also
called to establish a National Day for Jewish Refugees from Arab and
Islamic States to be marked annually in schools on November 30. This
would include visits to museums and other enrichment activities.

recommendations also included the organization of annual school trips
for youth to Balkan states, Spain and Morocco as part of a heritage
tour to learn about Sephardi roots in those countries.

the committee recommended launching a television show on the
Educational Television Network about the many contributions of Eastern
Jewry to Zionism and to the development of the State of Israel.

regards to higher education, the committee called for equal
representation of Mizrahim and Ashkenazim on the Council for Higher

It urged that Mizrahi representatives be included in the social sciences in order to empower Mizrahi Jewish identity.

addition, the committee recommended establishing a new faculty in the
social sciences for the study of Eastern Jewry in order to promote
research in the field.

The committee also made recommendations
outside the purview of the education system, calling to establish
museums for all the different communities of Mizrahi descent, such as,
for example, establishing a Libyan Jewish heritage museum. (This already exists in Or Yehuda – ed)

recommendations also called for the commemoration of significant
figures in Eastern Jewish culture by naming schools and streets after

Additionally, the committee called to strengthen ties with
Diaspora organizations to explain and raise awareness of the situation
and history of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

Over the next few months the ministry is set to learn the recommendations, and put together a plan to implement them.

“I’m excited to open for our students a window toward beauty they haven’t yet met,” Biton told Bennett.

committee for the empowerment of Mizrahi Jews in the educational
curriculum took me on an unexpected adventure, meeting 17 communities
whose voices are silenced in the Israeli experience; communities
begging to be given a place and identity in the education system,” he

Biton said the report and recommendations are a “statement
of legitimacy to a valid Mizrahi identity, without taking anything
away from the current Israeli identity.”

He added that Bennett
had given a “historic meaning by establishing the committee” and said
the opportunity, the first of its kind, is “exceptional.”

Read article in full


Ynet News has a more specific report on the Biton recommendations (with thanks: Ralph)

“Other topics the commission recommended to add to the curriculum are: Mashhadi Jews,
the Damascus affair,the
resettlement of Jews in Tiberias by Dom Joseph Nasi,
the Golden Age of Safed
in the 16th century, and other topics. The students will also learn
about Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Israel’s fifth president Yitzhak Navon, and

In civics class, the commission recommended incorporating topics like the Wadi Salib riots,
Israel’s Black Panthers,
the Yemenite Children Affair,
the 2011 protest over the cost of living, and more.

“As part of civics class, students should discuss the reasons for the
failure to integrate the immigrants in the 1950s,” the commission

In literature, the commission lamented the fact students could take
their matriculation exam in the subject without learning even one
Sephardic or Mizrahi piece of literature. Therefore, the commission
recommends introducing creations by Sephardic and Mizrahi poets and
authors to the curriculum of all age groups (pre-school to senior year
in high school), including Erez Biton, Amira Hess, Shimon Adaf and
Haviva Pedaya. In addition, the commission recommended to add the topic
of “immigration poetry” to the curriculum in which students will have to
learn five poems from a list of poets including Adi Keissar, Roy Hasan,
and Shlomi Hatuka.”

Times of Israel 


Education minister learns something new 

More about Erez Biton


  • Orsher raised quite a storm. Bear in mind that Galey Tsahal [army radio] is notorious as an anti-national, "leftist" station, however unlikely that may seem to people outside of Israel. Avigdor Lieberman, Minister of Defense, has called for firing Orsher, but Galey Tsahal enjoys a sort of sacrosanct status among the anti-national camp [the "left"] so it would likely be difficult to get rid of him, even with Lieberman against him and C-in-C Aizenkot [of Moroccan origin] whose opinion I have not yet heard, if he has expressed one.

    Furthermore, given the 20th century history of the Jews, I don't understand why we have to somehow be in awe of Europe.

  • Violent verbal reactions to the Bitton report in Israel today

    Gidi Orsher, a movie critic at the Army radio, published on his facebook page a long rant calling on the "professional wailers" to relinquish the benefits of Western culture such as the Iron dome defense system when they're hit by missiles and instead put on their head a rabbit leg, lay on the grave of Baba Kosama, and wait… wait… wait…

    He was suspended from his job pending a hearing after Miri Regev published a reaction to his post.

    Interesting that he was supported by the usual suspects. I noticed among his supporters the pseudo-historian Igal Bin Nun worried that school students might visit Spain and Morocco instead of Auschwitz and therefore he is against studing anything other than Europe..

  • July 08 2016

    What a silly typically journalistic waste of words,to dodge the necessity of punishing the real{Muslim} culprits for a typically Islamic "historic injustice": The almost successful attempt to exterminate the aboriginal Jewish community of the Muslim orient: Over one million strong,even in 1948,it stretched from Casablanca on the Atlantic, across North Africa to the eastern borders of Iran. And it antedated the appearance of Islam by 14 centuries. Why must we go on and on flaggelating ourselves for the deeply embedded propensity to evil of our adversaries?
    There is little doubt about what the fate of a great historic Jewish community would have been,if Israel had lost the war of extermination launched against her in 1947-48.It is the people of Islam themselves,who are intensifying the same behavioural patterns that have marked THEM,since "time immemorial". There is no real potential for "change for the better" among THEM. It is THEY who have "otherized" themselves. No matter where we find them.
    Therefore, self-preserving and even quasi humane solutions to the Universal problem of Islam's always threatening presence must focus on strategies and local tactics that recognize the state of war which the real Islam has imposed upon us. Inevitably,it must include policies and actions which are unthinkable during periods of peace and the rule of law,that is so precious to us: And so contemptible and incomprehensible to the Muslim psyche.
    This means that collective punishments that involve wholesale transfers of inherently irremediable roidef {pursuer}populations can no longer be considered unthinkable. When,day after day, week after week,month after month, year after year,
    WE,their host societies are just living between attempts at eradication and enslavement by our "guests"…Even the ones born among us.
    What choice is there any more ?
    Norman L. Roth, Canada


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