We Look Like the Ene­my: The Hid­den Sto­ry of Israel’s Jews from Arab Lands

Rachel Shabi
  • Review
By – November 10, 2011
Rachel Shabi was born in Israel to Jew­ish immi­grants from Iraq, who came to Israel dur­ing the mass immi­gra­tion of the ear­ly 1950’s but soon after moved to Eng­land, where she grew up and became a jour­nal­ist. Shabi returned to Israel in order to inves­ti­gate the cur­rent rela­tions in Israel between Mizrahim (i.e. Jews from the Mid­dle East and North Africa) and Ashke­naz­im (i.e. most Jews from Europe and the Amer­i­c­as). Her book is based on con­ver­sa­tions with fam­i­ly mem­bers and oth­er Mizrahi indi­vid­u­als she encoun­tered in Israel as well as select­ed stud­ies relat­ing to the sub­ject. Based on these sources Shabi describes life in Iraq, the mass immi­gra­tion, life in devel­op­ment towns in Israel, and atti­tudes to Mizrahi cul­ture and to Arabs. She sees as the source for the Mizrahi- Ashke­nazi rela­tions in Israel the fact that the vet­er­an Jews — main­ly Ashke­naz­im — shaped Israel’s char­ac­ter to resem­ble Europe, and viewed Mizrahim as both prim­i­tive and sim­i­lar to Arabs, the state’s ene­mies. 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. Index, map, notes.
Rachel Simon, a librar­i­an at Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty, does research on Jews in the mod­ern Mid­dle East and North Africa, with spe­cial ref­er­ence to Libya, Ottoman Empire, women, and education.

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