Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Israel – CCXXIX. The Ma’abarot Stage (5 of 26)

Numerous other hurdles stood in the way of the migrants. I will address the most important one, namely the discrimination suffered by the Sephardic Jews at the hand of the Ashkenazy Jews.  This was not simple prejudice, it was bona fide discrimination; if you`re prejudiced you negatively prejudge a group(s) of people and leave it at that; if you discriminate, you act on your prejudice (we all have prejudices, but mercifully, we don`t act on them).

The Sephardic Jews are the Jews that came from the Middle-Eastern  and North African countries; for example Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, and Turkey.  The Ashkenazy Jews are the Jews that came from Europeans countries, predominantly Russia, Poland, Hungary, Germany, and Romania.

The Ashkenazy Jews were the first settlers in Palestine.  Accordingly, they were better established, and more importantly, they were in positions of power both in the government and in the private sector.

Sephardic Jews felt that The Ashkenazy Jews were favored over them and therefore fared better both when it came to jobs and housing.  Perhaps this was true, or perhaps this was due to the fact that the Ashkenazy Jews were better educated and had more to offer to potential employers.  Whatever the case, this situation resulted in a lot of bitterness between these two segments of the population.

What is my opinion?  There was outright discrimination; for instance Kfar Saba is a desirable location and the ma’abara was predominantly occupied by Polish people.  It took me three years to get a decent job.  That said, we were helped in many ways.  For instance they facilitated Robert’s education when he wanted to study in a technical school.  They helped my dad financially when he went into business.  They gave me a loan when I needed to go to an Ulpan (a school to learn Hebrew).  Finally, they moved us to a better ma’abara and eventually gave us an apartment.  But it was a fight every inch of the way; and again and again uncle Maurice’s knowledge of the country proved invaluable.

The animosity between Ashkenazy and Sephardic was not the only issue.  The dislike and suspicion extended between the different nationalities as well.

Many nationalities had labels that stuck to them.  For example, Romanians were considered as devious, Moroccans as violent, and Yemenites as primitive.

During my years in Israel, I met people from different nationalities, and based on my experience I do not agree with these labels.

It is ironic that so much racial discrimination existed in Israel, for the Jews more than any other people knew the terrible price racial discrimination exacts.

Two more points need be made.

First, as time went by, these differences became less and less important.  The reasoning was that we were after all Jews sharing the same land; shouldn’t we learn to live together peacefully?  God knows Israel doesn’t need internal dissension.  Early on, if, say, a young Ashkenazy woman wanted to marry a Sephardic young man, there would major opposition on the part of her family.  By the time I left, there was less opposition for so called interracial marriages.

Remember that this was the situation some 50 years ago.  Today, Israel is a prosperous country which can easily accommodate all the Jews that wish to migrate there.  My relatives living in Israel tell me that this type of discrimination is largely a thing of the past.  During my visits there, nobody really paid any attention to the fact that I was a Sephardic Jew.

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