November 30 will be the national day of commemorating Jewish refugees from Arab lands and Iran, after a bill to that effect passed into law Monday night.
“Today, we have finally corrected a historic injustice and placed the issue of Jews who were expelled or pushed out of the Arab world in the last century, on the national and international agenda,” said MK Shimon Ohayon (Yisrael Beytenu).
“In Israel, the history of the Jews who originally came from the Middle East or North Africa, who make up around half of the population, was ignored for too long.”
Under the law, which passed with 27 votes in favor and none opposed, children in Israel will learn about the history of Jews of the Middle East and North Africa, who, Ohayon noted, “arrived long before the Islamic conquest and Arab occupation” of the region.
“This is a vital part of our fight against those internally and externally who delegitimize our presence here [in the region] and claim we are somehow foreign to the region,” Ohayon explained.
The Senior Citizens Ministry will be responsible for organizing commemoration ceremonies, the Education Ministry will make sure to include the topic in curricula, and the Foreign Ministry will make sure it is raised in appropriate diplomatic channels.
Ohayon credited his party’s leader, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, with bringing the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran to the international agenda, including organizing an annual event at the UN.
“Finally our stories and our history will be heard. Too few people know about this issue in Israel, which is a national disgrace, and even fewer people around the world are even aware that Jews were ethnically cleansed from what is now known as the Arab world, [Jews] who were there before the Arabs even arrived,” Ohayon said. “I hope that the return of this issue to the national agenda will ensure that eventually there is redress for the hundreds of thousands of Jews and their descendants who were expelled from their homes and communities.”