Rescuing the Mizrahi Jew: A Story of Heroes, Victims, Villains and Consequences
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On December 7th, 1932 The Palestine Post announced that a community for Moroccan Jews would be established in Jerusalem. The cornerstone for the new community would be the stone the builder’s had previously cast aside. From Israel’s perspective, the Moroccan Jews that began to immigrate in mass in the early 1950s were unable to contribute to the state building process, but essential to bolstering Israel’s Jewish population; the North African Jew, like the rejected stone, was both useless and pivotal to the state. Throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s The Palestine Post and The Jerusalem Post published a number of articles focusing on North African Jews immigrating to Israel, a population known as the Mizrahim (“Easterners”). The articles struck a careful balance between glorifying the immigrants for their numbers, and branding the Mizrahim as living in the “Dark Ages,” coming from a “different world” and bringing with them a “lower level of civilization.” The newspapers insisted that the Mizrahi Jews lived under the constant fear of Arab attacks, were confined to impoverished ghettos, suffered from rampant disease, and in the words of Ben-Gurion, were destined to be “destroyed physically or spiritually” if they were not rescued (Ben-Gurion Rebirth and Destiny of Israel 533). Treated as numbers and batches of human material that needed to be transformed, the Mizrahi Jews were brought to Israel and placed in ma’abarot, temporary immigrant camps located on the fringes of society. The immigrants left behind their walled-in ghettos to live in ghettos of flimsy tents. In order to understand the aforementioned heroic narrative and its consequences, articles appearing in The Palestine Post from 1948-1950 and The Jerusalem Post from 1951 will be analyzed and function as the foundation to this paper. The immigration of Moroccan Jews in particular will serve as a case study. Through the above sources it will become clear that in light of the millions of Jews killed in the Holocaust, the Israeli leadership was determined to increase Israel’s Jewish population, even if that required convincing the Israeli population that the Mizrahim needed to be saved and Israel was their savior.
DescriptionWinner of the 2009 Durden Prize (Third/Fourth Year)
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