How it really was: Israel’s first government vs ‘Fiddler on the Roof‘

Jews were in the forefront of modernization.

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December 28, 2017 22:12
‘Tevye the Dairyman’ played by Chaim Topol in the popular 1971 film, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’Bechor-Sha

‘Tevye the Dairyman’ played by Chaim Topol in the popular 1971 film, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’Bechor-Shalom Sheetrit, the minister of police, leaves Tel Mond Prison on November 2, 1949, before pardoning prisoners in a general amnesty. (photo credit: HUGO MENDELSON/GPO)

A RESPECTED colleague wrote that the Ashkenazi leadership in the early years of the State looked down on the new arrivals pouring into Israel from Arab-speaking countries as “primitive.” The colleague, Seth J. Frantzman, criticized the country’s first governments and other elites as being men of limited culture and people who knew only one language. Who then, he asked were these elites to judge the newcomers as “primitive”?

This writer would be the last to say there was not a sense of superiority that European immigrants and old-time Israelis felt towards some of the newcomers. But it was not just an Ashkenazi attitude. Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa, Tiberias, for example, all have a Sephardi elite dating back to the expulsion from Spain and in the case of Morocco from the middle of the 19th century.

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