Richard Melson

July 2006

Mizrahi Jews Israel

Mizrahi Jews

Moshe Katsav, current President of Israel

(Courtesy: Israeli Knesset)

Former Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef,

current spiritual leader of Shas

Mizrahi Total population nn Regions with significant populations United States: nn

Israel: nn
India: 250
Europe: nn
Asia: nn
Africa: nn
Oceania: nn

Language *Liturgical: Mizrahi Hebrew
*Traditional: JudŠo-Arabic, Dzhidi, Gruzinic, Bukhori, Kurdish Judeo-Berber, Juhuri and Judeo-Aramaic
*Modern: typically the language of whatever country they now reside in, including Modern Hebrew in Israel. Religion Judaism Related ethnic groups • Jews

Sephardi Jews
Ashkenazi Jews

• Other Jewish groups

Mizrahi Jews

Mizrahi Jews, or Mizrahim ( "Easterner", Standard Hebrew Mizrahi, Tiberian Hebrew Mizrahi; plural "Easterners", Standard Hebrew Mizrahim, Tiberian Hebrew Mizrahim) sometimes also called Edot HaMizrah (Congregations of the East) are Jews descended from the Jewish communities of the Middle East.

Included in the Mizrahi category are Jews from the Arab world, as well as other communities from other Muslim countries, including the Gruzim, Persian Jews, Bukharan Jews, Mountain Jews, Baghdadi Jews of India and Kurdish Jews.

The term "Mizrahim" is of modern Israeli origin, and its usage before the establishment of the state of Israel is almost nonexistent. The term came to be widely used by Mizrahi activists in the early 1990s, and since then has become a widely accepted designation. [1]

Many Mizrahim today also identify themselves by their country of origin, or that of their immediate ancestors, e.g. "Iraqi Jew", "Tunisian Jew", "Persian Jew", etc. In the past Mizrahim were also known as Oriental Jews (a literal translation of "Mizrahi"), though Oriental in English is now considered outdated, and also potentially offensive;[citation needed] today it is more commonly rendered as Eastern.

Prior to the emergence of the term "Mizrahi", Arab Jews was sometimes used for Mizrahim originating in Arab lands, though not by the Mizrahim themselves. Few if any accept any designation as Arab Jews or Arabs because of the hostility of Arab states, the conditions of life their ancestors endured, and the losses suffered during their expulsion. This term is mainly used in the Arab world.

Like Arab Christians, most of these communities predated the Arab Muslim conquest.

Mizrahi communities spoke a number of Judeo-Arabic dialects, such as Moghrabi though these are now mainly used as a second language. Among other languages associated with Mizrahim are Dzhidi, Gruzinic, Bukhori, Kurdish, Judeo-Berber, Juhuri and Judeo-Aramaic dialects.

Most of the many notable philosophical, religious, and literary works of the Mizrahim were written in Arabic using a modified Hebrew alphabet.

Most Mizrahi Jews fled their countries of birth following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and subsequent establishment of the state of Israel, when citizens of Arab countries acted out violently against their local Jewish populations. Further anti-Jewish actions by Arab governments in the 1950s and 1960s, including the expulsion of 25,000 Mizrahi Jews from Egypt following the 1956 Suez Crisis, led to the overwhelming majority of Mizrahim becoming refugees. Most of these refugees fled to Israel. Many Morrocan and Algerian Jews fled to France, and thousands of Syrians and Egyptians now live in the United States.

Today, as many as 40,000 Mizrahim still remain in communities scattered throughout the non-Arab Muslim world, primarily in Iran, but also Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Turkey [2]. There are few remaining in the Arab world, with just over 5,000 left in Morocco and less than 2,000 in Tunisia, with other countries harbouring less than 100 or none. A trickle of emigration continues, mainly to Israel and the United States. Many in Iran feel actively persecuted, and a number have been arrested, mostly for alleged connections with Israel and the United States. Some have even been executed, with religious intolerance often cited as the main contributing factor. [3]

Since their arrival in Israel, the Mizrahim have distinguished themselves from their Ashkenazi counterparts in culture, customs, and language. Arabic dialects were the mother tongue of some -- especially those from North Africa -- Persian for those from Iran, English for the Baghdadi Jews from India, and Gruzinic, Georgian, Tajik, Juhuri, and various other languages for those who emigrated from elsewhere. Some Israeli Mizrahim still primarily use these languages. Before emigrating, many Mizrahim considered Hebrew a language of prayer.

The Mizrahim were at first moved into rudimentary and hastily erected tent cities, and later sent to development towns. Settlement in Moshavim (cooperative farming villages) was only partially successful, because many Mizrahim had been craftsmen and merchants, with little farming experience.

Mizrahi Jews do have specific cultural differences from Ashkenazi Jews and from each other which can make assimilation into Israeli society a difficult, decades-long process. Sociologists have noted many factors that influence the rate of integration, among them the amount of education a community posesses before it arrives, and the presence or lack of a professional class within each community. However intermarriage between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim is now so common in Israel, and the Hebrew language so universal among the most recent generations, that later newcomers, such as Russians and Ethiopians, consider Mizrahim to be part of the Israeli establishment.

According to a survey by Adva Center, the average income of Ashkenazim was 36 percent higher than that of Mizrahim in 2004 (Hebrew PDF - [4]), but this difference is declining as the communities merge.




See also

Mizrahi Jews

July 3,  2006