Ministers call a truce over Mizrahi refugee project

 The two most senior Mizrahi women in the Israeli cabinet, Gila Gamliel and Miri Regev, have called a truce after weeks of fighting over who should take responsibility for preserving the heritage of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa. The issue, according to this Walla News report, has been declared ‘a national interest ‘. (With thanks: Levana)

 Fighting it out: Top, Miri Regev (whose parents are from Morocco) and bottom, Gila Gamliel of Libyan and Yemenite origin

The government will today debate a proposal submitted by minister for social
equality Gila Gamliel , for documenting heritage communities of
Jews from Arab countries and Iran. The Ministry of Culture tried to block
the program in the past, but now they have reached a compromise.

Likud has become inured to the
ongoing battle between the two top women in the party – Minister of
Culture and Sports Miri Regev and Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel.
For once, the two political rivals were able to agree a compromise: on
Sunday the government’s latest proposal is expected to be put forward
: to establish a national program to document the heritage of
Jewish communities from Arab countries and Iran –  and Regev is expected
to support it.

Two weeks ago, a similar proposal fell off the agenda
following the opposition of the Minister of Culture, who claimed that
the field was under her aegis.

Tense relations
between Regev and Gamliel became a byword in the Likud. The scene of the last
tussle between the two, was the ‘Yemenyada’ (Yemenite festival) event in
Eilat last August. They then clashed  on who should preserve Jewish
heritage from Arab countries and Iran. Late last month, Gamliel organized, for
the second year running,  a major evening dedicated to mark the day of departure
and expulsion of immigrants from Oriental countries. At the Jerusalem
convention center, attended by thousands of participants, Minister
Gamliel declared her proposal for a Government-backed heritage center with a database that includes testimonials and
stories of Jews from Arab countries.

According to
the proposal,  ten million shekels will be allocated over  two years from the ministry’s
budget for social equality to set up a large
version of  the film archive by Steven Spielberg. The project will
include testimonies of Oriental origin and 
personal and community biographies, while encouraging academic research on the
subject of  Jewish community life in the East and their expulsion.

But
ahead of the vote, the Ministry of Culture and Sport gave its
opinion, opposing the decision and demanding that the issue be discussed jointly. Gamliel offered   (Miri Regev) an opportunity to endorse her proposed budget
and even to add from her own Ministry of Culture budget, but  Regev refused. Gamliel accused her of sabotaging the decision in
order to hurt Gamliel’s major event taking place in the same week at Binyanei
Ha-ouma in Jerusalem.

Over the last two weeks
there were contacts between the two ministries and the two reached a
compromise: they will approve the recording of testimonies, while how and where these will be stored will be a decision deferred to a later date. 

According to a new
resolution, the Government Press Office will operate the project and
will begin to build up the collection of personal testimonies written
and filmed in cooperation with bodies who are accountable to Regev, including Yad Ben-Zvi
and Beit Hatfutzot (the Diaspora Museum) – but it will not include the
establishment of a physical heritage center at this stage.

The
office of Regev said that the move went ahead after Gamliel promised that the
powers of the Ministry of Culture and Sport will not be curtailed. “The
initial proposal of the ministry for social equality dealt with a
subject under the authority of the Ministry of Culture. After the
Ministry for Social Equality  received  comments from the Ministry
of Culture, it made the necessary adjustments, and after the usual
consultations, resistance has been removed.”

Gamliel
welcomed their cooperation and said that this is a shared interest.
“After 68 years during which the agenda of the Eastern Jews
was pushed beyond the boundaries of the historical canon, it’s time to fix it,” said the
Minister, who has been promoting projects for years to instil knowledge and public
awareness of the heritage of the Eastern Jews.

“Facts and evidence will
ensure that the Jewish story will be brought  out finally in full: East and well as West. It is not uniquely of interest to Mizrahim, it is of national interest, to all Jews and 
Zionists. A people who are Chofetz Chaim (who choose life)  had to
acknowledge their past and their legacy in a variety of fields, and this initiative to collect testimonies will ensure it. ”

Read article in full (Hebrew)

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