|Regions with significant populations|
|Related ethnic groups|
They are also referred to as Adot HaMizrach (: עֲדוֹת-הַמִּזְרָח Communities of the East)
Mizrahi Jews from Arab nations who retain fluency in Arabic are known as Musta'arabi Jews, which literally "Arabized Jews" ( : אראביזאד יהודים Yehudim Mista'Arevim, : المستعربون اليهود al-Yahud Musta'aribun) and "Arab Jews" by pan-Arab nationalists, particularily Iraqi Jews.
Etymology and Usage
The use of the term Mizrahi can be somewhat controversial. Before the establishment of the state of Israel, Mizrahi Jews did not identify themselves as a separate ethnic subgroup. Instead, Mizrahi Jews generally characterized themselves as Sephardi, because they follow the traditions of Sephardic Judaism (although with some differences among the minhagim of the particular communities). This has resulted in a conflation of terms, particularly in Israel, and in religious usage, where "Sephardi" is used in a broad sense to include Mizrahi Jews and Maghrebi Jews as well as Sephardim proper. Indeed, from the point of view of the official Israeli rabbinate, any rabbis of Mizrahi origin in Israel are under the jurisdiction of the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel. Today Sephardic rite make up more than half of Israel's Jewish population, and Mizrahi Jews proper are a major part of them. Before the mass immigration of 1,000,000 from the former Soviet Union, mostly of Ashkenazi rite, followers of the Sephardic rite made up over 70% of Israel's Jewish population.
"Mizrahi" is literally translated as "Eastern", מזרח (Mizraḥ), Hebrew for "east." In the past the word "Mizrahim," corresponding to the Arabic word Mashriqiyyun (Jews.: الشرقيين literally meaning "Easterners"), referred to the natives of Syria, Iraq and other Asian countries, as distinct from those of North Africa (Maghribiyyun). In medieval and early modern times the corresponding Hebrew word ma'arav was used for North Africa. In Talmudic and Geonic times, however, this word "ma'arav" referred to the land of Israel as contrasted with Babylonia. For this reason many object to the use of "Mizrahi" to include Moroccan and other North African
The term Mizrahim or Edot Hamizraḥ, Oriental communities, grew in Israel under the circumstances of the meeting of waves of Jewish immigrants from the Europe, North Africa, Middle East and Central Asia, followers of Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Yemenite rites. In modern Israeli usage, it refers to all Jews from Central and West Asian countries, many of them Arabic-speaking Muslim-majority countries. The term came to be widely used more by so-called Mizrahi activists in the early 1990s. Since then in Israel it has become an accepted semi-official and media designation.
Interestingly, most of the "Mizrahi" activists were actually originated from North African Jewish communities, traditionally called "Westerners" (Maghrebi), rather than "Easterners" (Mashreqi). Many Jews originated from Arab and Muslim countries today reject "Mizrahi" (or any) umbrella description and prefer to identify themselves by their particular country of origin, or that of their immediate ancestors, e.g. "Moroccan Jew", or prefer to use the old term "Sephardic" in its broader meaning.
Iraq, Egypt, Yemen and Iran were the jewels of Mizrahi presence in the Middle East prior to the mass exodus of Jews from Muslim lands following the 1948 creation. A lot of the presence came before the Arab and Islamic invasion of those nations, let alone Yemen which was already inhabited and populated by native South Arabians.
Alot of Jewish scholars, particularily in Egypt produced Judaic texts and commenataries written in the Arabic language using a modified form of the Hebrew-Aramaic block script.
Yemenite JewsYemenite Jews are debatably Mizrahi, although many argue that their ethnic classification it outside of the main three groupings of Jewish ethnicities. Judaism is one of the many monotheistic religions that thrived in Yemen or South Arabia before Islam. Unlike the situation with the Jews in the other Middle Eastern nations (which were not Arab nations at the time such as Iraq or Egypt), Judaism was known for attractive large groups of native South Arabian converts who favored the simplicity of worshipping one God rather than many.
The three most significant ancient Yemenite kingdoms were Himyar (Arab converts to Judaism were likely common during the reign of Israelite King Solomon, who exerted influence onto foreigners including that of Arabs and Ethiopians.: حمير), Qataban ( : قتبان) and Saba ( : سابا) all with thriving Jewish communities. Saba is thought by many to be the land known in the Bible as Sheba ( : שיבא).
Sheba was ruled by an unnamed monarch of some prominence, known as the Queen of Sheba (Arabs) or a native Cushite from the Horn of Africa (according to Ethiopians). The Queen of Sheba was one of the many foreigners the visited King Solomon of Israel. She is known as Bilquis ( : بلقيس) in Arab and Islamic sources.The Himyarite Kingdom's leaders were known to be sadistic converts to Judaism such as the Himyarite king Abu Kariba ( : מלכת שבא) - who was either a native Yemenite (according to : أبو كاريبا). The Himyarites fought against the African Christian Axumite kingdom, especially under the leadership of a Yemenite Jewish warlord by the name of Yusuf Dhu Nuwas ( : يوسف ذو نواس).
During the ministry of Moses Maimonides (an Arabic-speaking Sephardic Jew), he wrote the Epistle to Yemen (: אגרת תימן) during a time of religious persecution during the Muslim rule. Most of Yemen's Jews were deported at this point. The teachings of Maimonides are very important to sections of Yemenite Jews, some consider themselves "Rambamists", taken from Maimonides' Hebrew acronym RaMBaM ( : רמב"ם).
There were several Yemenite Jewish scholars, including Jacob ben Nathanael. One of the most famous and important Yemenite Jewish poets was Shalom Shabazi (: שלום שבזי, : سالم الشبزي). He compose thousands of poems, written in Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic (the traditional languages of Yemenite Jews), and is considered a national poet of Yemen.
In 1948, the Yemenite Jews were airlifted to Israel via a secret mission known as Operation Magic Carpet. The Yemenite Jews weren't fully assimilated, like their other Mizrahi counterparts (if one considers Yemenite to be Mizrahi). Today, Yemenite Jews are proud of their culture - and it remains popular in Israeli society. Countless numbers of famous Israeli singers of Yemenite Jewish descent such as Dana International, Eyal Golan, Zion Golan, Shoshana Damari and the late Ofra Haza were catalysts to popularizing Yemenite culture. Many of these singers even sing Arabic songs which extended their popularizes beyond Israel and into the Arab World. However, people in Arab nations often find themselves obtaining their music illegally since many Arab nations, since it is illegal in those countries.
The ancient Yemenite Jewish kingdoms are regarded as being ancient Arab states, or "Arab Jewish" states and tribes. However, Yemenite Jews today do not consider themselves to be Arab and the overwhelming majority lives in Israel with less than 100 living in Yemen.
The Jews in Iraq, who are known commonly as Babylonian Jews (The Jewish community of Babylon included Ezra the scribe ( : יְהוּדִים בָּבְלִים Yehudim Bavlim) in Biblical sources or Iraqi Jews ( : يهود العراق Yahūd al-ʿIrāq) is documented from the time of the Babylonian captivity c. 586 BC. Iraqi Jews constitute one of the world's oldest and most historically significant Jewish communities. : עזרא הסופר), whose return to Judea in the late 6th century BC is associated with significant changes in Jewish ritual observance and the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Talmud was compiled in Babylonia, identified with modern Iraq.
From the Babylonian period to the rise of the Islamic caliphate, the Jewish community of Babylon thrived as the center of Jewish learning. The Mongol invasion and Islamic discrimination in the Middle Ages led to its decline. Under the Ottoman Empire, the Jews of Iraq fared better. The community established modern schools in the second-half of the 19th century.
In the 20th century, Iraqi Jews played an important role in the early days of Iraq's independence, but the Iraqi Jewish community, numbered at around 120,000 in 1948, almost entirely left the country due to persecution following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Most of them fled to the newly founded state of Israel, and today, fewer than 100 Jews remain in Iraq.
Ovadia Yosef (: עובדיה יוסף), one of Israel's most prominent chief rabbis was born in Iraq as an Arabic-speaking Iraqi Jew under the name Abdullah Yusuf ( : عبد الله يوسف).
Egyptian JewsLike the Iraqi Jews, Egyptian Jews also constitute both one of the oldest, historical and youngest Jewish communities in the world. Jewish presence in Egypt is found predominant throughout Old Testament times, to the Roman era and after Alexander the Great's conquest and through the Islamic period. Although the Book of Genesis and Book of Exodus describe a period of Hebrew servitude in ancient Egypt, more than a century of archaeological research has discovered nothing which could support its narrative elements— the four centuries sojourn in Egypt, the escape of well over a million Israelites from the Delta, or the three months journey through the wilderness to Sinai. The history of the Alexandrian Jews dates from the foundation of the city by Alexander the Great, 332 BCE, at which they were present. They were numerous from the very outset, forming a notable portion of the city's population under Alexander's successors. The Jewish community of Alexandria was virtually wiped out by Trajan's army during the Jewish revolt of 115–117 CE, which destroyed pagan temples.
The Jews of Egypt also produced lots of literature, Judeo-Arabic literature during the Arab rule. The Arab invasion of Egypt at first found support not only from Copts, and other Christians, but from Jews as well, all disgruntled by the corrupt administration of the Patriarch Cyrus of Alexander, notorious for his Monotheletic proselytizing. In addition to the Jews settled there from early times, some must have come from the Arabian Peninsula. The letter sent by Muhammad to the Jewish Banu Janba in 630 is said by Al-Baladhuri to have been seen in Egypt. A copy, written in Hebrew characters, has been found in the Cairo Geniza.
Many of the Egyptian Jews followed a conservative section of Judaism known as the Karaite movement, or Karaite Judaism (: הדות קראית Yahadut Qara'it). This particular section of Judaism originated from Iraq, and its adherents are strict followers of the Torah alone, and do not accept outside works such as the Talmud to be divinely inspired.
Saladin's war with the Crusaders (1169–93) does not seem to have affected the Jews in his kingdom. A Karaite doctor, Abu al-Bayyan al-Mudawwar (d. 1184), who had been physician to the last Fatimid, treated Saladin also. Abu al-Ma'ali, brother-in-law of Maimonides, was likewise in his service. In 1166 Maimonides went to Egypt and settled in Fostat, where he gained much renown as a physician, practising in the family of Saladin and in that of his vizier al-Qadi al-Fadil|Ḳaḍi al-Faḍil al-Baisami, and Saladin's successors. The title Ra'is al-Umma or al-Millah (Head of the Nation or of the Faith), was bestowed upon him. In Fostat, he wrote his Mishneh Torah (1180) and The Guide for the Perplexed, both of which evoked opposition from Jewish scholars. From this place he sent many letters and responsa; and in 1173 he forwarded a request to the North-African communities for help to secure the release of a number of captives. The original of the last document has been preserved. He caused the Karaites to be removed from the court.
Saadia ben Yousef (: سعدية بن يوسف) or better known by his title Saadia Gaon ( : סעדיה גאון) was a prominent Jewish scholar from Egypt who wrote extensively in the Arabic language (although using Hebrew script). Musta'arabi Jews consider him the father of Judeo-Arabic literature.
Dawood Hosni (: داود حسني), one of Egypt's more famous musicians and the mentor to future Egyptian singers like Umm Kulthum, was born to a Karaite Jewish family in Cairo.
Judaism is among the oldest religions practiced in Iran and the Biblical Book of Esther contains references to the experiences of the Jews in Persia. Jews have had a continuous presence in Iran since the time of Cyrus the Great of the Achaemenid Empire. Cyrus invaded Babylon and freed the Jews from Babylonian captivity.
According to the Bible, three times during the 6th century BCE, Nebuchadnezzar exiled the Jews (Hebrews) of the ancient Kingdom of Judah to Babylon. These three separate occasions are mentioned in Jeremiah (52:28–30). The first exile was in the time of Jehoiachin in 597 BCE, when the Temple of Jerusalem was partially despoiled and a number of the leading citizens removed. After eleven years (during the reign of Zedekiah), a fresh rising of the Judaeans occurred. Jerusalem was razed to the ground, and deportation ensued. Finally, five years later, Jeremiah recorded a third captivity.
Cyrus ordered rebuilding the Second Temple in the same place as the first; however, he died before it was completed. Darius the Great came to power in the Persian empire and ordered the completion of the temple. According to the Bible, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah urged this work. The temple was ready for consecration in the spring of 515 BCE, more than twenty years after the Jews' return to Jerusalem.
With the Islamic conquest of Persia, the government assigned Jews, along with Christians and Zoroastrians, to the status of dhimmis, non-Muslim subjects of the Islamic empire. Dhimmis were allowed to practice their religion, but were required to pay jizya to cover the cost of financial welfare, security and other benefits that Muslims were entitled to (jizya, a poll tax, and initially also kharaj, a land tax) in place of the zakat, which the Muslim population was required to pay. Like other Dhimmis, Jews were exempt from military draft. Viewed as "People of the Book", they had some status as fellow monotheists, though they were treated differently depending on the ruler at the time. On the one hand, Jews were granted significant economic and religious freedom when compared to their co-religionists in European nations during these centuries. Many served as doctors, scholars, and craftsman, and gained positions of influence in society. On the other hand, like other non-Muslims, they did not work in Sharia Law since they did not have the obvious knowledge and qualifications for it.
Prior to the creation of the state, Mizrahi Jews only used Hebrew inside the temple, and as a means of prayer. It is opposite today. Most Mizrahi Jews today speak Modern Hebrew, since the current mostly reside in Israel. Upon Israel's creation as a state, Jews migrating from Arab and Muslim lands underwent a period of assimilation, dropping their Arabic names and adopting Hebrew names and teaching their kids in a strict Hebrew-speaking society. Mizrahi Hebrew usually is different from the Hebrew spoken by Ashkenazi Jews (European Jews) in Israel. Mizrahi Hebrew contains lots of Arabic-pronounciation while those spoken by the Ashkenazis have a Yiddish, German and Russian sub-stratum. The reason for this was for the tendancy of descendants of Mizrahi migrants from Arab nations to have exposure to spoken Arabic.
Arabic is still spoken by some Mizrahi elders mostly those who are migrants from the Arab World themselves. Like Hebrew, Arabic is a Semitic language and is Israel's second official state language. Before Israel's creation as a state, most Mizrahi Jews spoke the dialect known as Judeo-Arabic, which developed within the Jewish communities living in Arab territory, or those conquered by the Arabs. The Jews who spoke Arabic as a native language were known as Musta'arabi Jews, or "Arabized Jews". Other than speaking Arabic, they also bore Arabic names, and only used Hebrew references and names inside the temple. They also wrote their literature in the Arabic language, the best known surviving works of Jewish literature written in Arabic were those of Saadia Gaon from Egypt, and Maimonides of Islamic Spain - one of the world's most revered Jewish philosophers. However, after the exodus of Jews from Arab territory (mostly to France and Israel), their children were not tought Judeo-Arabic, and the language ceased to continue being used in the modern days. Most Mizrahis and Sephardis in France or Israel only speak Hebrew or French which now designates Judeo-Arabic as an endangered language. Like the nature of the Arabic language, Judeo-Arabic was also split into different dialects itself, depending on the region. As of 1995, there are approximately 60,000 speakers of the Yemeni dialect of Judeo-Arabic, specifically the Sana'a and Aden dialect. About 50,000 live in Israel and about 1,000 continue to live in Yemen.
Persian and Kurdish
Many Mizrahi elders who are descendent from Iran or live inIran speak Judeo-Persian or Judeo-Kurdish, both Indo-Iranic languages. There are 60,000 speakers of Judeo-Persian living in Israel.
While Arabic, Persian and Kurdish are mainly written using the Arabic script (being languages of predominantly Muslim nations), the dialects spoken by the Mizrahi Jews in those lands were written in the Hebrew script, a modified form of the Aramaic block script. The Hebrew script for Judeo-Arabic developed from Jewish communities living in lands conquered by Muslims and Arabs - who wrote Classical Arabic in the Hebrew script. Saadia Gaon successfully translated copies of the Torah from Hebrew to Judeo-Arabic. Maimonides wrote the Epistle to Yemen, addressing the Yemenite Jews, as well The Guide to the Perplexed in Judeo-Arabic as well. Often times, Mizrahi Jews in Arab territory were well-educated and familiar with both Arabic and Judeo-Arabic, and knew how to write the language in both Arabic and Hebrew script. Outside of the Jewish community, these Jews used the Arabic script and within the Jewish community they'd use the Hebrew script.
Language in Mizrahi and Israeli Culture
Moshe Katsav, a former president of Israel, born an Iranian Jew as Musa Qasab - still retains his fluency in the Persian language. Arabic is an official state language in Israel alongside Hebrew. In the modern days, many Israeli Jewish artists and musicians whose ancestors migrated from Arab territory have been trying to recover the elements of Arab influence in Mizrahi culture such as Dana International (actual name is Sharon Cohen) and the late Ofra Haza are both of Yemenite Jewish ancestry, and Zehava Ben of Moroccan Jewish ancestry sing songs in Hebrew and Arabic, among other languages as well. However, Moroccan Jews are either rejected or accepted as being part of the Mizrahi group. Accepted due to the fact that Morocco is an Arab nation, but rejected due to Morocco being a western Arab nation and Moroccan Jews belong to the bigger group known as the Maghrebi Jews, in which "Maghreb" means "west" in Arabic and Hebrew which is the opposite of Mashriq or Mizrah meaning "east". Many of the songs of these mentioned artists, especially those sung in Arabic, are popular in the Arab World there it is illegal in many countries such as Egypt or Yemen.
CuisineJews of the Mizrahi communities cook foods that were and are popular in their home countries, while following the laws of kashrut. The cuisine is based largely on fresh ingredients, as marketing was done in the local shuk. Meat is ritually slaughtered in the shehita process, and is soaked and salted. Meat dishes are a prominent feature of sabbath, festival, and celebratory meals. Cooked, stuffed and baked vegetables are central to the cuisine, as are various kinds of beans, chickpeas, lentils and burghul (cracked wheat). Rice takes the place of potatoes. Falafel, a famous Arab dish was brought to Israel both by Mizrahi Jews from Arab lands as well as the presence of Palestinian Arabs in the region. It is accompanied by a dip known as hummus, albeit both have become national snacks of Israel as they would be in Lebanon.
Hot sahlab, a liquidy cornstarch pudding originally flavored with orchid powder (today invariably replaced by artificial flavorings), is served in cups as a winter drink, garnished with cinnamon, nuts, coconut and raisins. Arak from the Anis drinks family, is the preferred alcoholic beverage. Rosewater is a common ingredient in cakes and desserts. Malabi, a cold cornstarch pudding, is sprinkled with rosewater and red syrup. Ikaddaif or kadaif is a very sweet pastry similar in style and technique to baklavah. It consists of shredded dough, which is wrapped around crushed nuts, baked and then soaked in syrup. It is common in various parts of the Middle East and is served at festive meals.
Notable Mizrahi Jews or Jews Descended from Middle East
A prominent rabbi, Jewish philosopher, and exegete from Egypt. The first important rabbinic figure to write extensively in Arabic, he is considered the founder of Judeo-Arabic literature. Known for his works on Hebrew linguistics, Halakha, and Jewish philosophy, he was one of the more sophisticated practitioners of the philosophical school known as the "Jewish Kalam".
An Egyptian musician and composer born in 1870 in Cairo to a Karaite Jewish family. He composed the first Operetta in the Arabic language. He was also the teacher to the famous Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum and the famous Syrian singer Asmahan al-Atrash. His son made the aliyah to Israel in 1977.
An Egyptian singer and actress of Iraqi-Jewish and Polish-Jewish descent. She is also credited as "Laila Mourad" and "Layla Mourad" In 1953, she was chosen over Umm Kulthum as the singer of the Egyptian Revolution. She was a national figure of Egypt, and it is theorized by some historians that Egypt's pan-Arab president Gamal Abdel Nasser tried to insist Syria, another Arab state that had hatred for Jews, to end their boycott of her films.
A well known Iraqi Jewish singer and was highly respected both in the Arab world and Israel. She was the wife of very successful Iraqi singer and actor Nazem Al-Ghazali. Even after the bulk of Iraqi Jews left Iraq, Salima continued to live there until her death in 1974.
An Iraqi statesman and financier. Regarded in Iraq as the Father of Parliament, he was the first Minister of Finance in the Kingdom and a permanent Member of Parliament until his death. Along with Gertrude Bell and T. E. Lawrence (a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia), he was instrumental in the creation and the establishment of the Kingdom of Iraq post Ottoman rule and it was he himself, who founded the nascent Iraqi government’s laws and financial structure.
ناصر داوود خلیلی
|A world-renowned British-Iranian scholar, collector and philantropist. Although he is a Persian Jew, he is known for his large collection of Islamic art and is known as the "cultural ambassador of Islam".|
|An Israeli pop singer of Yemenite Jewish ancestry. She has released eight albums and three additional compilation albums, positioning herself as one of Israel's most successful musical acts ever. She is most famous for having won the Eurovision Song Contest 1998 in Birmingham with the song "Diva".|
|An American singer, choreographer, songwriter, dancer, actress and television personality. She began her career as a cheerleader for the Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA. Her six number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 tie her with Diana Ross for sixth among the female solo performers who have topped the chart. She won a Grammy for "Best Music Video – Short Form" for "Opposites Attract" and twice won the "Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography, born to a Syrian Jewish father and a Hungarian Jewish mother|
|An Israeli windsurfer and Olympic bronze medalist, surfing in the "Neil Pryde" RS:X discipline. He is a nephew of Gad Tsobari, the 1972 Olympic wrestler who escaped from terrorists in the early moments of the Munich massacre, he is of Yemenite Jewish origin|
|An Israeli singer and songwriter. He won the fifth season of Kokhav Nolad, the Israeli version of Pop Idol, and represented Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest 2008 finishing in 9th place, he is of Yemenite Jewish descent|
|A popular Israeli singer of Yemenite and Moroccan Jewish origins who sings in the Mizrahi style and considered one of the most successful singers of the genre in Israel.|
An Iraqi Kurdish Jew and a member of Lehi ("Freedom Fighters of Israel," aka the "Stern Gang"). He was born in Baghdad to a Jewish family from Northern Iraq that moved to Jerusalem when he was an infant. He joined Lehi at an early age and took part in sabotage operations. His story became a celebrate tale by Zionists.
|Born as Abdullah Yousef, a recognized Israeli Talmudic scholar and an authority on halakha. He was the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel from 1973 to 1983. His responsa were highly regarded within Haredi circles, particularly among Mizrahi communities, among whom he was regarded as "the most important living halakhic authority." He is a Mizrahi Jew from Iraq.|
|A Haredi Israeli rabbi who is best known for his involvement in activities which are centered on helping Jews to become more religious or observant. In public speaking in Israel and around the world and his 'Shofar' organization distributes his lectures in various media and on the internet. He is a Mizrahi Jew, born to a secular family of Yemenite Jewish background in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv|
|An Israeli singer and songwriter. He represented Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest 2010 with the song "Milim" ("Words"). Skaat has been singing and performing in public since he was a child. At the age of six, he won a children's song festival competition. He is of Iraqi Jewish and Yemenite Jewish descent.|
Dalia Itzik |
A former Israeli politician who last served as a member of the Knesset for Kadima. She has previously served in several ministerial positions, and on 4 May 2006 became the first female speaker of the Knesset, and has since served as President of Israel in an interim capacity on two occasions, she is of Iraqi Jewish descent
|Born as "Musa Qasab" in Iran, the eight president of Israel, served as Israeli president from 2000-2007, he was born to a Persian Jewish family in the Iranian city of Yazd and still speaks fluent Persian (Farsi) as a native language|
- ↑ "Iranian Jews". Iranjewish.com. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
- ↑ "The World Factbook - Morroco". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
- ↑ James Weinstein, "Exodus and the Archaeological Reality", in Exodus: The Egyptian Evidence, ed. Ernest S. Frerichs and Leonard H. Lesko (Eisenbrauns, 1997), p.87