The first session examined political parties and political identification in Israel. This week, the chanichim continued Part II of a session on Mizrachi (Eastern) immigration and identity in Israel. In the decade following the creation of the state of Israel, most Jews residing in the Middle East/North Africa fled their countries of origin after experiencing increased persecution. The majority of them were absorbed into Israel. and this session focuses on the cultural and economic challenges faced by the refugees and their ongoing consequences in Israel today. Workshoppers watched the documentary "The Forgotten Refugees (Jews of the Arab World)" and acted out excerpts edited into a play from Amos Oz's In the Land of Israel, relating a conversation with Mizrachi Jews of Beit Shemesh. The excerpt is from the chapter "The Insult and the Fury."
Avi: My parents came from North Africa; all right, from Morrocco. So What? They had their dignity, didn’t they? Their own values? Their own faith? Me, I’m not a religious man. Travel on the Sabbath. But my parents – why did you make fun of their beliefs? Why did they have to be disinfected with Lysol at the Haifa Port?
Shimon: [In a sad and desperate tone] The Labour Movement just wiped out everything that was imprinted on a person. As if it was all nonsense. And then they put what they wanted into him. From that ideology of theirs. Like we were some kind of dirt. Ben-Gurion himself called us the dust of the earth. That’s written in Bar-Zohar’s book about Ben Gurion. But now that Begin’s here, believe me; my parents can stand up straight, with pride, and dignity. I’m not religious, either, but my parents are; they’re traditional, and Begin has respect for their beliefs. Your whole problem is that you don’t realize that Begin is prime minister. For you he’s garbage, not prime minister. Who ever heard of such a thing?
Yaakov: You guys have been running crazy for five years now, and to hell with the country. What do you care, as long as you get back into power? Is that the way the opposition is supposed to act? Is it? To rat us out to the world? To throw dirt? To support the enemy? And ruining the army? To buy off Knesset members?
Moshe: Before every election, the kibbutzim show up here – Tzora and all the others – to ask for our votes. You go tell your friends; until they let us come to Kibbutz Tzora when we want, to swim in their pool and play tennis and go out with their daughters; until they accept the children of Bet Shemesh in their school, or bring their kids to school here instead of dragging them a hundred kilometers by bus to some white school; until they stop being so snooty, they’ve got nothing to look for here. We’re Begin.”
Shlomo: Look, if a guy like me shows up in your kibbutz, like you showed up in Bet Shemesh today, the secretary runs straight to the telephone to let the police know there’s a suspicious character wandering around. Tell me the truth: he’d call, wouldn’t he?
Moshe: And tell me something else: what would you guys say if, before the elections, a bus drove right into your kibbutz, full or riffraff from Bet Shemesh, and they scattered through the kibbutz, knocking on doors, canvassing to convince you to vote Begin. God’s truth: what would you do? Wouldn’t you throw us out like a bunch of dogs?
Shlomo: Really, think about this. When I was a little kid, my kindergarten teacher was white and her assistant was black. In school, my teacher was Iraqi and the Principal was Polish. On the construction site where I worked, my supervisor was some redhead from Solel Boneh. At the clinic the nurse was Egyptian and the doctor Ashkenazi. In the Army, we Moroccans are the corporals and the officers are from the kibbutz. All my life I’ve been on the bottom and you’ve been on the top.