We Look Like the Enemy: The Hidden Story of Israels Jews from Arab Lands

We Look Like the Enemy: The Hidden Story of Israels Jews from Arab Lands

by Rachel Shabi
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Rachel Shabi was born in Israel to Jewish Iraqi parents. When she was a child her family emigrated to the United Kingdom in 1974. Their leaving reversed the spiritual trek of the Jewish Diaspora, around the world whose members wistfully repeat at the Passover tables, "Next year in Jerusalem." Years later, in fact, Shabi went back to visit and to live for an extended

Overview

Rachel Shabi was born in Israel to Jewish Iraqi parents. When she was a child her family emigrated to the United Kingdom in 1974. Their leaving reversed the spiritual trek of the Jewish Diaspora, around the world whose members wistfully repeat at the Passover tables, "Next year in Jerusalem." Years later, in fact, Shabi went back to visit and to live for an extended period, but her attitude toward her former homeland is conflicted by the longstanding discrimination suffered by Arab Jews in Israel. Shortly after its creation, Israel accepted close to one million Jews from Arab lands-from Yemen, Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey. Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) Jews now make up around 50% of Israels population. Yet Ashkenazi Jews have traditionally disparaged the Mizrahi as "backward" and have systematically limited their opportunities in the classroom and the workplace. "There is a class split," writes Shabi, "that runs on ethnic lines." She traces the history of how the Jewish Disapora lived alongside Muslims and Christians for centuries, and how the dream of Jewish solidarity within Israel in the mid-20th century was fractured by ethnic discrimination as pernicious as racism in the United States, Great Britain, and other parts of the world. Shabi combines scholarly research with intimate oral history to shed light on ethnic injustice, and her personal story and passion make We Look Like the Enemy a stunning, unforgettable book.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Journalist and first-time author Shabi reports on the societal struggle of Israel's Arabian Jewish population from her viewpoint as the Israel-born daughter of two Iraqi Jews. Backed with a long view of Jewish history in both the Middle East and Europe, Shabi explores the conflicts and inequities among the privileged Ashkenazi Jews-European, educated and cosmopolitan-and their Mizrahi neighbors, whose culture-incorporating many Middle Eastern and North African traditions-is often devalued or oppressed: popular Arabian music gets banned from Israel's airwaves, the Mizrahi accent has become shorthand for the lower class, and government programs meant to help Mizrahi migrants are set up to fail (like the "developmental towns" cut short of funding during the Six-Day War, and left half-developed thereafter). Interviews with Mizrahi citizens heap blame on the Ashkenazi-dominated Jewish Agency for presenting Israel as a haven for all displaced Jews, when the reality for Arabian Jews is likely less prosperous-and possibly less tolerant-than life in Arab countries. Shabi's investigative skill and grasp of Israeli history (especially her re-examination of the Jewish Diaspora) makes this a rare and fascinating overview of the other Israeli conflict.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
An Israeli journalist-born to Iraqi Jews and raised in England-presents a unique perspective on Israeli history: that of the oft-vilified Jewish immigrants from Arab countries. As Shabi amply demonstrates, the Arab Jewish minorities who first settled in Israel, or Mizrahis, were treated by the Zionist Ashkenazi founders (Jews from Europe) as inferior and even "uncivilized," suffering discrimination that still remains entrenched. The Sephardic Jews already living in Palestine when the European Zionists created the New Settlement had well-established business and social connections with the Arabs, and indeed maintained the so-called Oriental characteristics that were lost in the Diaspora. Yet the Jews of the Old Settlement were held suspect by the British-backed Zionists, who believed the Arabs were a corrupting influence on "authentic Jewish values." The Yemenis, for example, first arriving in Palestine in the 1910s, were said to possess "the lifelong habits of the Arab," and became the solution to "Hebrew labor"-that is, relegated to the low-wage, dead-end work that the Arabs had done. "Development towns," established on the outskirts of the state between 1952 and 1964 to house migrants, are overwhelmingly made up of Mizrahis, and they tend to be the poorest places in Israel. Shabi also looks at other groups, including the Iraqi Jews, and chronicles their litany of discrimination, as well as the stigma associated with the Mizrahi accent-wherein the lost gutturals of Hebrew still reside-and the Mizrahi students' tendency toward low achievement in education. Although Israelis often silence these groups from speaking Arabic, Mizrahi music, notes Shabi, is making a comeback. A finelycalibrated, intimate portrait of a diverse people, imbued with authenticity sympathy. Agent: Ben Mason/Sheil Land Associates
Booklist
Shabi hits hard and effectively in pointing out the fissures in contemporary Israeli society that belie some of the comforting Zionist myths.
Middle East Journal
Shabi explores the contentious questions of how these Jews arrived, the experiences they endured, and the lingering issue of where they fit into Israeli society. We Look Like the Enemy combines the author's own personal story with academic studies, cultural analysis, and on-the-street interviews in order to paint a full picture of this often overlooked population.
Jewish Book World
The importance of this very personal book is in the insights it provides to feelings and attitudes of both groups toward social, cultural, and political conditions in Israel rather than in providing new data.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802719843
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
07/01/2009
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author

Rachel Shabi was born in Ramat Gan, Israel, and grew up in London where she earned an advanced degree in politics and literature at Edinburgh University. Shabi is a journalist whose stories have appeared in the Guardian, the Sunday Times, the Daily Express. She also has covered social justice and campaign issues for UK media, including the New Statesman, and al-Jazeera online. This is her first book. She relocated to Israel while writing this book.
Rachel Shabi was born in Ramat Gan, Israel, and grew up in London where she earned an advanced degree in politics and literature at Edinburgh University. Shabi is a journalist whose stories have appeared in the Guardian, the Sunday Times, the Daily Express. She also has covered social justice and campaign issues for UK media, including the New Statesman, and al-Jazeera online. This is her first book. She relocated to Israel while writing this book.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >