Mizrahi Culture Gains a Voice, Experiences Revival in Israel

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Fictitious bills depicting famous Mizrahi cultural figures, devised by Café Gibraltar magazine in protest against exclusion of Sephardim from official banknotes.Credit: Cafe Gibraltar

For the first time in the history of modern Israel, Mizrahi Jews, Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent, are having their voices heard in the fields of art, literature, poetry, music, cinematography, and more.

This revival, known in Hebrew as the "Hithadshut HaMizrahi" (the Mizrahi Renewal), marks a shift in Israeli culture. For much of Israel's history, Mizrahi Jews suffered from discrimination and felt they were treated as second class citizens in this Middle Eastern country, created as a state that was supposed to welcome all Jews.

Since the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, Mizrahi Jews have been at a disadvantage. The 1950s, when hundreds of thousands flocked to the new nation from the Middle East and North Africa, are remembered as a particularly painful period in Israeli history, because of the Ashkenazi elite's treatment of the Mizrahi immigrants and refugees. When they would arrive in Israel, many felt they were marginalized as they were shipped into squalid refugee cities often in the country's settled periphery, the ma'abarot.

That era, a long-overlooked chapter in Israeli history, molded the Mizrahi experience for generations. Now Mizrahi Jews are channeling their collective experiences to create new art and depict a different Israeli narrative.

This revival is a way for Mizrahi Jews to reclaim their Middle Eastern culture, their experiences, and stop trying to fit into the Ashkenazi mold of Jewish life and culture. Mizrahi art is now being accepted and celebrated throughout the country: from the writings of the Ars Poetica group to Eyal Golan's pop music.

Haaretz has been closely covering this revival.

Roy Hasan is the Hebrew poet of our generation (Ilan Berkovich)

First Mizrahi to Win Israel's Literature Prize Was Wounded by a Grenade and Healed by Poetry (Eli Eliyahu)

The Silenced History of the IDF's 'Mizrahi Problem'  (Shay Hazkani)

The Price of intra-Jewish Ethnic Condescension in Israel  (Nehemia Shtrasler)

Even When Mizrahim Win, Ashkenazim Are the Victors  (Benny Ziffer)

An Iraqi-born Melodrama Master Who Was Reviled by Israel's Snobs  (Gili Izikovich)

Why Have Transit Camps for Mizrahi Jews Been Written Out of Israeli History? (Dalia Gavriely-Nuri)

The Other Haim Song-sisters Are Yemenite and Just as Viral  (Dafna Arad)

In Israel's Advertising World, Criminal Equals Mizrahi, Intellectual Equals Ashkenazi, Gay Equals Weakling  (Nati Tucker)

Zion Golan Still Scaling New Heights in Yemenite Music (Itay Stern)

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