History
Mizrahi Nation

Long shut out of the country’s story, Middle Eastern Jews now make up half of Israel’s population, influencing its culture in surprising ways. Who are they?

Originally posted on mosaicmagazine.com

The story of Israel, as most people know it, is well trod—perhaps even tiresome by now. It begins with anti-Semitism in Europe and passes through Theodor Herzl, the Zionist pioneers, the kibbutz, socialism, the Holocaust, and the 1948 War of Independence. In the early decades of the return to Zion and the new state, the image of the Israeli was of a blond pioneer tilling the fields shirtless, or of an audience listening to Haydn in one of the new concert halls. Israel might have been located, for historical reasons, in the Middle East, but the new country was an outpost of Europe. Its story was a story about Europe.

Purim

Purim is celebrated on the Jewish Calendar Date: 14th of Adar (15th of Adar for cities in the land of Israel that were walled during the First Temple period).

In the years 539-332 BCE the First Persian or Achaemenid Persian Empire ruled from the border of India to Egypt and Turkey. When the Babylonians expelled many of the Jews from the land of Israel in 586 BCE, they dispersed throughout the area ruled by the Babylonian Empire.

According to the Biblical Book of Esther, a senior Persian minister named Haman conspired against the Jews in the 5th-4thcentury BCE. He gained the approval of the Persian Achashverosh Commonly identified as Artaxerxes II, who ruled from 405 to 358 BCE.

It should be noted that there are many scholars who question whether the Book of Esther is meant to be read as an accurate historical account.

To wipe out the Jews and loot their wealth for the kingdom’s treasury. Haman cast a lot or pur to decide which month the deed would be carried out. The lot fell on the month of Adar.

A Jewish Persian Judge named Mordechai and a Jewish Persian queen named Esther intrigued against Haman’s plans and eventually succeeded in causing the King to execute Haman and his family. This seminal event resulted in the Jews gaining the right to organize and defend themselves against those who wished to destroy them. The Jews did so and killed many of their enemies. Thus for the Jews, the month of Adar was a month where the threat of destruction was replaced with salvation.

The Myth of Israel as a Colonialist Entity

An Instrument of Political Warfare to Delegitimize the Jewish State

While modern Israel was born in the aftermath of the British Mandate for Palestine, which called for a Jewish national home, its roots preceded the arrival of the British to the Middle East. In that sense Britain was not Israel’s mother-country, like France was for Algeria. Indeed, the Jews were already re-establishing their presence independently in their land well before the British and French dismantled the Ottoman Empire.

As time went on, it became clear that the British Empire was not the handmaiden of Israel’s re-birth, but rather its main obstacle. The accusation that Israel has colonialist roots because of its connection to the British Mandate is ironic, since most of the Arab states owe their origins to the entry and domination of the European powers.

Beit Hatfutsot (Diaspora) Museum

From the Museum’s website:

“Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People, is more than a museum. This unique global institution tells the ongoing and extraordinary story of the Jewish people… Beit Hatfutsot conveys to the world the fascinating narrative of the Jewish people and the essence of the Jewish culture, faith, purpose and deed while presenting the contribution of world Jewry to humanity”

BH1The museum showcases the development of Jewish communities throughout the Diaspora, focusing on the unique characteristics of each community while demonstrating how their roots tie them all together. Exhibitions are changing all the time and include many interactive elements. One such element has the visitor pretend that they are a Jew in a specific time and place and then make a decision as to how to deal with a dilemma or crisis typical of the period. The visitor is then given the likely result of his decision.

YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe

From around the 10th century CE onwards, the Jewish world was divided into two major groups. The first group, called the Sefardim or Spaniards, lived mostly in Southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The second group, known as the Ashkenazim or “Germans”, lived in the more Northern sections of Europe, from France and Germany to Poland and Russia.

europeantown

An Eastern European Jewish town.

Eastern Europe was an important cultural center of the Ashkenazi Jews from the 16th century until the Second World War. This region includes what are now the countries of Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Romania and Russia.

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