Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews have turned the tables on the secular Ashkenazi founders of Israel. Their lifestyle and outlook draws outsiders to a rootedness that connects each person to the nation, tradition, and God, argues Rabbi Francis Nataf in the Times of Israel (with thanks: Lily):
Today, it is largely recognized that the group that did the most to prevent the secularization of the Jewish people in Israel were the Sephardic/Mizrahi Jews who arrived from North Africa and the Middle East in the early years of the state. As much as the secular Zionist establishment of the time tried, it was simply unable to convince these immigrants to accept the prevailing cultural agenda.
Moreover, those same Sephardic/Mizrahi immigrants turned the tables and went from being a population that was ostensibly influenced by the accepted norms to being the ones doing the influencing. For – in what veteran journalist Ari Shavit recently called Israel’s biggest rebellion – the Sephardim, gradually but unmistakably, used their numbers to change the Israeli “mainstream.”
However, it was not only a question of numbers. What draws outsiders to adapt a large part of the Sephardic lifestyle and usually unspoken outlook is a rootedness that provides an unspoken connection to one’s people that comes with the preservation of a tradition. This connection stretches across the generations, “vertically,” if you will, as well as the “horizontal” spreading to all other contemporary Jewish groups and communities. That connection made the Sephardim reach out – naturally and with no need for ideology – to other Israelis, as family.