Schools to Mark Jews' Exodus From Muslim Countries to Israel

The move is part of the education system’s efforts to celebrate Jews with roots in Muslim countries and Spain.

Immigrants from Yemen at a transit camp in central Israel, 1950.
Seymour Katcoff, GPO

Each year schools will mark November 30 as the anniversary of Jews’ departure from Muslim countries, the Education Ministry said this week, following the recommendations of a special committee.

Earlier this year the panel, the Biton committee, recommended that Mizrahi and Sephardi studies be mandatory in the school system. Mizrahi Jews have roots in Muslim countries, while Sephardi Jews have roots in Spain.

Many Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews emigrated or were expelled from Iran, Turkey and Arab countries after Israel declared independence in 1948. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to divide British Mandatory Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state.

“Around November 30, the day marking the exodus of Jews from the Arab lands and the lands of Islam, a focused week of study should be held on the Jews of the East, including enrichment activities and tours in museums and at sites,” the Biton committee said.

It said that on November 30 students could meet with Israelis who “perpetuate the heritage of the Jews of the East and Spain, who will tell the students the whole story as they experienced it during the exodus and deportation from the Arab countries in the moments of truth of the pogroms.”

As the committee put it, “the students will also learn about the rich heritage and culture of ... the Jews of the East and Spain and their aliyah to and integration in Israel.”

Schools will also invite children’s grandparents who came from Muslim countries to tell their stories with the help of photos, artifacts, newspaper clippings and film clips.

The Education Ministry will recommend field trips to the Bukharan Quarter in Jerusalem and the Babylonian Jewish Heritage Center in Or Yehuda.

“From today, Israel’s children will learn the story of the Egoz,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett said, referring to a Mossad-leased ship that brought Moroccan Jews to Israel in 1961.”

The children would also learn about “the amazing Zionist journey of the Mizrahi community. The day of exodus and deportation is a milestone in filling out the story of the grand heritage of the Jews from Arab countries.”