Israel launches NIS 150,000 research prize on Jews from Muslim countries

Award commemorates the 850,000 Jewish refugees displaced from Iran and Arab countries in the 20th century.

September 4, 2016 15:40
2 minute read.
jewish yemen

JEWISH IMMIGRANTS from Yemen in 1950 after their arrival to Israel. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Amid recent efforts to shine more light on the history of Jewish refugees from Arab countries, Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel announced on Sunday the launching of an annual NIS 150,000 prize for research into the history of Jews in Arab lands and Iran.

Gamliel, whose father is from Yemen and whose mother was born in Libya, said the prize will contribute to promoting the history of the Jews in Arab lands that has for too long been pushed to the side of the Zionist conversation.

“The story of the Jewish people is massive and has many layers, and the entire Israeli public should be exposed to it,” she said. “Preserving our heritage is our national expertise and the secret of our survival as a people.”

Gamliel thanked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for being responsive and understanding that “it is our responsibility to foster an understanding of our complete national heritage – the story of the East [Sephardi Jewry], and the story of the West [Ashkenazi Jewry].”

Netanyahu said providing support for researching the history of the Jews of the Arab countries and Iran is an important step, and one needed to “fill in the gaps.” He said the decision has “important implications” both for Israeli society and academia.

The prize will be bestowed annually on November 30, the day which – under a 2014 law – will be marked each year as the national day of commemoration for the 850,000 Jewish refugees displaced from Iran and Arab countries in the 20th century.

This day was selected because it immediately follows November 29, when the UN adopted the partition plan in 1947 and many Jews in Arab countries felt the need to flee their home countries.

In addition, Gamliel’s ministry will allocate an additional NIS 100,000 for 150 medals to be bestowed on people and organizations who have contributed to furthering an understanding of the heritage of Jews from the Arab countries and Iran, and who have worked to ensure that their rights to compensation as refugees will be recognized.

For a number of years, numerous organizations have fought both inside Israel and abroad to demand that as part of any eventual peace agreement, Jews forced to flee from Arab lands will be compensated, drawing parallels to demands made of the Israeli government to compensate Palestinians who left the country in 1948.

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