Poll: 75 percent of Israelis have no positive perception of Mizrahi Jews in school

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Poll: 75 percent of Israelis have no positive perception of Mizrahi Jews in school

Survey commissioned by Iraqi-British Jewish businessman and philanthropist David Dangoor showed major gaps in knowledge of culture and history

Jews in Essaouria, Morocco.
Jews in Essaouria, Morocco.

Three-quarters of Israelis recently polled can’t recall experiences in education that reinforced a positive perception of Mizrahi Jewry.

The survey, commissioned by Iraqi-British Jewish businessman and philanthropist David Dangoor, showed a significant gap in knowledge about the heritage and culture of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

75 percent say they could not recall any programme or lesson in school painting MENA Jews in a positive light, while 80 percent said MENA history and culture was taught to either a small, or no extent, and almost 60 percent think it should be taught to a greater extent.

Highlighting the lack of knowledge, just 7 percent could identify the Farhud – pogroms against Iraqi Jews in 1941, which killed hundreds, compared to 58 percent who could identify Kristallnacht, against German Jews.

The survey also showed that three quarters of those polled would be in favour of a government-funded museum for MENA Jews, and almost 60 percent said Arab states should provide compensation for the thousands driven from their homes in the aftermath of the establishment of Israel.

David Dangoor

David A. Dangoor leads Dangoor Education, which is a subsidiary of the Exilarch’s Foundation, a charity which supports educational initiatives, including many in the field of Sephardi/Mizrahi heritage, culture and education.

He has been Vice-President of the World Organisation of Jews from Iraq (WOJI) for the past ten years.

“The results are both disappointing and heartening,” he said. “Disappointing that so little has been done to educate about the history, culture and heritage of MENA Jews in Israeli schools, but heartening that so many from different backgrounds seek to change that. I hope that these results serve as a wake-up call to the Israeli Government and those involved in education that the history and heritage of the majority of Jews in Israel is largely ignored.”

“I decided to initiate this poll in Israel because it is the place where much of the global Jewish agenda is set, and in changing its educational policies towards greater understanding and awareness of Mizrahi and Sephardi Jewish history, heritage and culture, it would send a message to the larger Jewish world that it too must reassess its pedagogical priorities.”

Findings were sent to Minister of Social Equality Meirav Cohen Minister Cohen, who said: “With great regret, in a country where more than 50% of its citizens, and their descendants, are from Arab countries and Iran, their history and heritage is not being passed on. Events and personalities such as the Farhud, Operation Magic Carpet (which brought 50,000 Yemenite Jews to Israel during 1949-50) and Rabbi Shalom Shabazi, are unknown in the Israeli education system. Through research, documentation and commemoration, we can change this trend and ensure that the history of the Mizrahi Jews is never forgotten and commemorated for eternity.”

The polling was carried out Smith Consulting, one of Israel’s leading polling agencies, among 500 Jews in Israel as a representative sample of young people up to age 30, with a sampling error of 4.5%.

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