Mizrahi Jews in Israel

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Mizrahi Jews in Israel
Regions with significant populations
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Be'er Sheva and many other places
Hebrew (Main language for all generations);
Older generation: Arabic language (Judeo-Arabic languages) and other languages like Judeo-Persian, Kurdish, Georgian, Urdu, Pashto, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Bukhori, Juhuri
Sephardic Judaism, Yemenite Nusach

Mizrahi Jews in Israel, or simply Mizrachim, constitute one of the largest Jewish ethnic divisions among Israeli Jews. Israeli Mizrahim are descended from Jews in the Middle East and Central Asia, from Babylonian and Persian heritage, who had lived for many generations under Muslim rule during the Middle Ages. The vast majority of them left the Muslim-majority countries during the Arab–Israeli conflict, in what is known as the Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim countries.

Some 607,900 Jews are immigrants and first-generation descendants by paternal lineage of Iraqi, Iranian, Yemenite, Egyptian, Pakistani and Indian Jewish communities,[1] traditionally associated with the Mizrahi Jews. Many more Israeli Jews are second and third generation Mizrahi descendants or have a partial Mizrahi origin. The other dominant sub-groups are the Israeli Ashkenazi Jews and Sephardic Jews. Often Mizrahi and North African Sephardic Jews in Israel are grouped together due to the similarity of their history under Muslim rule and an overwhelming migration out of their countries of residence during the 20th century. As of 2005, 61% of Israeli Jews were of full or partial Mizrahi ancestry.[2]


Post-1948 dispersal[edit]

After the establishment of the State of Israel and subsequent 1948 Arab–Israeli War, most Mizrahi Jews were either expelled by their Arab rulers or chose to leave and emigrated to Israel.[3] According to the 2009 Statistical Abstract of Israel, 50.2% of Israeli Jews are of Mizrahi or Sephardic origin.[4]

Anti-Jewish actions by Arab governments in the 1950s and 1960s, in the context of the founding of the State of Israel, led to the departure of large numbers of Mizrahi Jews from the Middle East.[citation needed] 25,000 Mizrahi Jews from Egypt left after the 1956 Suez Crisis, led to the overwhelming majority of Mizrahim leaving Arab countries. They became refugees and most went to Israel.

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.[5]

Absorption into Israeli society[edit]

Refuge in Israel was not without its tragedies: "in a generation or two, millennia of rooted Oriental civilization, unified even in its diversity," had been wiped out, writes Mizrahi scholar Ella Shohat.[6] The trauma of rupture from their countries of origin was further complicated by the difficulty of the transition upon arrival in Israel; Mizrahi immigrants and refugees were placed in rudimentary and hastily erected tent cities (Ma'abarot) often in development towns on the peripheries of Israel. Settlement in Moshavim (cooperative farming villages) was only partially successful, because Mizrahim had historically filled a niche as craftsmen and merchants and most did not traditionally engage in farmwork. As the majority left their property behind in their home countries as they journeyed to Israel, many suffered a severe decrease in their socio-economic status aggravated by their cultural and political differences with the dominant Ashkenazi community. Furthermore, a policy of austerity was enforced at that time due to economic hardships.

Mizrahi immigrants arrived with many mother tongues. Many, especially those from North Africa and the fertile crescent, spoke Arabic dialects; those from Iran spoke Persian; Mountain Jews from Azerbaijan arrived with Azerbaijani; Baghdadi Jews from India arrived with English; Bukharan Jews from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan arrived with Bukhari; the Bene Israel from Maharashtra, India arrived with Marathi, Mizrahim from elsewhere brought Georgian, Judaeo-Georgian, Juhuri and various other languages with them. Hebrew had historically been a language only of prayer for most Jews not living in Israel, including the Mizrahim. Thus, with their arrival in Israel, the Mizrahim retained culture, customs and language distinct from their Ashkenazi counterparts.

Disparities and integration[edit]

The cultural differences between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Jews impacted the degree and rate of assimilation into Israeli society, and sometimes the divide between Eastern European and Middle Eastern Jews was quite sharp. Segregation, especially in the area of housing, limited integration possibilities over the years.[7] Intermarriage between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim is increasingly common in Israel and by the late 1990s 28% of all Israeli children had multi-ethnic parents (up from 14% in the 1950s).[8] It has been claimed that intermarriage does not tend to decrease ethnic differences in socio-economic status,[9] however that does not apply to the children of inter-ethnic marriages.[10]

Although social integration is constantly improving, disparities persist. A study conducted by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS), Mizrahi Jews are less likely to pursue academic studies than Ashkenazi Jews. Israeli-born Ashkenazim are up to twice more likely to study in a university than Israeli-born Mizrahim.[11] Furthermore, the percentage of Mizrahim who seek a university education remains low compared to second-generation immigrant groups of Ashkenazi origin, such as Russians.[12] The average income of Ashkenazim was 36 percent higher than that of Mizrahim in 2004.[13]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Statistical Abstract of Israel, 2009, CBS. "Table 2.24 – Jews, by country of origin and age" (PDF). Retrieved 22 March 2010.
  2. ^ Jews, Arabs, and Arab Jews: The Politics of Identity and Reproduction in Israel, Ducker, Clare Louise, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, Netherlands
  3. ^ "Jews of the Middle East". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2014-01-21.
  4. ^ Statistical Abstract of Israel, 2009, CBS. "Table 2.24 – Jews, by country of origin and age" (PDF). Retrieved 22 March 2010.
  5. ^ The Jewish Population of the World, The Jewish Virtual Library
  6. ^ Ella Shohat: "Sephardim in Israel: Zionism from the Standpoint of its Jewish Victims,” Social Text, No.19/20 (1988), p.32
  7. ^ Yiftachel, Oren (2003-03-07). "Social Control, Urban Planning and Ethno-class Relations: Mizrahi Jews in Israel's 'Development Towns'". International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. Digital object identifier. 24 (2): 418–438. doi:10.1111/1468-2427.00255.
  8. ^ Barbara S. Okun, Orna Khait-Marelly. 2006. Socioeconomic Status and Demographic Behavior of Adult Multiethnics: Jews in Israel.
  9. ^ "Project MUSE". Muse.jhu.edu. Retrieved 2014-01-21.
  10. ^ Yogev, Abraham; Jamshy, Haia (1983). "Children of Ethnic Intermarriage in Israeli Schools: Are They Marginal?". Journal of Marriage and Family. 45 (4): 965–974. doi:10.2307/351810. JSTOR 351810.
  11. ^ http://www.cbs.gov.il/publications/educ_demog_05/pdf/t16.pdf
  12. ^ Adva Center Archived August 23, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Hebrew PDF Archived September 22, 2006, at the Wayback Machine