Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Were sepharadim discriminated against in the early years of the State of Israel (part 2)?

    Maabara (Tent Camp} 1950

    The background (Golda Meir, My Life p211-212):

    Their signatures didn't mean that the Arab states were now reconciled to our existence. On the contrary,it meant that the war they were so anxious to wage against us and which they had lost on the battlefield would now be fought differently and in a manner less likely to result in their defeat but just as likely, they hoped, to destroy the Jewish state. Having been trounced in battle, the Arabs now switched from military weapons to economic ones. They boycotted.......closed the Suez Canal to israeli shipping.....
    But they didn't stop killing Jews altogether. For years there was a steady infiltration across our borders of armed Arab gangs that murdered and robbed Israelis, set fields and orchards on fire, stole cattle and generally made life a misery in our border settlements. Whenever we protested or tried to convince the UN that these constant raids were, in fact, a continuation of the war and a major violation of the armistice agreements, the Arab states, loudly proclaiming their innocence, said that there was nothing they could do about these 'incidents' – although we knew that they were providing the money, arms and backing and, what's more, we could prove our allegations.

    Under normal circumstances,I suppose this continuous, malicious and very dangerous harassment would have so enraged us that we would have retaliated in a way, and on a scale, appropriate to a sovereign state. But since, at that point, we were all so preoccupied with the problem of feeding, housing and employing the 684,201 Jews from seventy countries who arrived in Israel between 14 May 1948 and the end of 1951, all we did, at first, was to complain to the UN about the raids and hope that something would be done about them.
    It may be difficult today to imagine what that flood of human beings was like. These were not immigrants of the kind that had come when Sheyna and I did – sturdy young idealists in good physical condition who couldn't wait to settle on the land and who regarded the discomforts of pioneering as part of the great Zionist experiment in which they had so eagerly involved themselves. Nor were they the professionals, tradesmen or artisans who came in the 1930's with some means of their own, and whose contribution to the yishuv's economy began as soon as they reached Palestine. 

    The hundreds of thousands of Jews who streamed into Israel in those early years of statehood were utterly destitute. They had nothing at all except the will to live and the desire to get away from their past. Most of them were broken in body, if not in spirit, and many thousands were broken in both. All of the Jews of Europe had suffered crippling tragedies; as for the Jews from the Arab lands of the Middle East and North Africa, they had lived, for the most part, uneducated,poverty-stricken and terrorized in the ghettos and casbahs of some of the most repressive countries on earth, and they knew little or nothing about twentieth-century life.

    It was, in short, a flood of Jews from opposite ends of the earth who spoke different languages, came from widely contrasted backgrounds, ate different foods and were frequently quite ignorant of each other's traditions and customs. The one thing they had in common was that they were all Jews; but that was a great deal – everything, in fact.

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