book: NOT THE ENEMY - ISRAEL'S JEWS FROM ARAB LANDS
Mention Israel and conflict, and most people immediately think of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. However, as this book reports, there is another crucial division within Israeli society: between Ashkenazi Jews, whose families come from Europe, and Sephardi or Mizrahi Jews, who come from Arab and Muslim countries across the Middle East and North Africa.
This book explores the history of this relationship, tracing it back to the first days of the new state of Israel. In a society desperate to identify itself with Europe, immigrants who spoke Arabic and followed Middle Eastern customs were seen as inferior. Sixty years later, such prejudices are still in force. Not the Enemy looks at how and why Mizrahis are strikingly less successful than Ashkenazis, condemned, often, to substandard education, low-quality housing and mockery for their accents, tastes and lifestyles. Not only does this damage Mizrahi lives and hopes, it also reflects a wider Israeli rejection of the Middle East and its culture, which makes it impossible for Israel ever to become integrated within its own region.
Coming from an Iraqi Jewish family, this is in part my story, too.
Some praise for Not the Enemy - Israel's Jews for Arab Lands:
"Thoroughly researched, carefully analytical and highly readable... a fascinating book" - the Guardian
"Rachel Shabi's revealing examination of Mizrahi culture, and its dismissal by the Ashkenazi - or European - elite of Israel, is a timely reminder that the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict is as much about culture as it is about land... Her parents were Iraqi-born, and her account of their vibrant culture is fascinating. So too is her investigation of the discrimination Mizrahis have suffered" - Financial Times
"An eye-opening book... a disturbing and important document, which should be read by everyone worried about what the author calls the "corrosive, entrenched polarity" of the Middle East" - Daily Telegraph
To purchase a copy of Not the Enemy - Israel's Jews from Arab Lands, please visit Amazon