Exhibition on Jewish history in Arab countries opens in France

The Institut du Monde Arabe is also planning a conference and "ambitious meditation actions" for the public.

CONSTANTINE, ALGERIA, 1899. Fifty-seven years later, in 1956, it would be the site of a short yet crucial battle for area Jews. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
CONSTANTINE, ALGERIA, 1899. Fifty-seven years later, in 1956, it would be the site of a short yet crucial battle for area Jews.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A new exhibition exploring the history of Jewish communities in Arab countries opened to the public on Wednesday at The Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA) in Paris.

French President Emmanuel Macron attended the inaugural opening on Monday, praising the exhibition in a speech following his visit.

The exhibition, titled “Juifs d’Orient, Une histoire plurimillénaire” or “Eastern Jews, A millennial history,” is the third in a series created to explore monotheistic religions in the region. Various artifacts and installations have been curated to tell centuries-old stories of cohabitation between Jews and Muslims throughout the Levant. 

1,100 square meters are used to display archaeological remains, ancient manuscripts, liturgical objects, and more with the focus of “promoting and preserving the memory of a heritage of tremendous richness.” Works have been loaned from collections from France, England, Morocco, Israel, the United States and Spain. The exhibition will also host concerts and film screenings to “highlight the intangible heritage of the Jews of the East.”

The general curator of the exhibition is Benjamin Stora, a historian and professor at the Institute of Oriental Civilizations and Languages (INALCO) in Paris. Stora, whose family comes from Constantine, Algeria where they worked as jewelers, recognizes that “Jews left an undeniable imprint on the cultural heritage of the region, especially when it came to craftsmanship,” as reported by Arab News.

Collection of ancient Jewish artifacts allegedly found on Islamic lands. (credit: NATIONAL LIBRARY OF ISRAEL)Collection of ancient Jewish artifacts allegedly found on Islamic lands. (credit: NATIONAL LIBRARY OF ISRAEL)

On tensions between Jews and Muslims, he said: “We cannot reduce this essential question of clashes to the Palestinian issue, the colonization, or the departure of the Jews. It is also a question of preserving memories, which cannot wait for all political questions to be resolved.”

Alongside the exhibition, the IMA is planning a scientific publication and hopes that conferences will be held in an effort to expand on “these fascinating themes,” as well as “ambitious mediation actions carried out for the public, in particular among the younger generations.”

The exhibition will be held until March 13, 2022. Tickets are available here.