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History of Israel

By mrrdawg Feb 24, 2013 1334 Words
1. What are the main arguments of Lissak’s article?

In his article “The Demographic-Social Revolution in Israel in the 1950s: The Absorption of the Great Aliyah,” Moshe Lissak elaborates on the struggles faced by the new Jewish immigrants who arrived to the state of Israel from Europe (such as holocaust survivors) and other Muslim countries, such as Yemen, Iraq, and Morocco. Lissak ensures to highlight three critical arguments, or reasons, which prove the absorption process during the 1950s to be a great accomplishment, however consisting of a great amount of pain and sacrifice. Although not a significant area of focus in his article, Lissak presents the factors that drove the Jews from their country of origin to the “target country,” the state of Israel. Although anti-Semitic views were demolished after the process of emancipation, many Jews still faced various prejudicial actions, serving as a main factor for the abandonment of their country of origin. Other driving forces included the location of the Jews within their country of origin, their economic status, and the significance of Israel and the Zionist movement to them. The non-Israeli Jews who considered immigration viewed the state of Israel as a place of safety, unification, new beginning, hope, and brighter future. Furthermore, Lissak emphasizes on Israel’s forceful attitude at the time, expecting migrated citizens to accumulate into an anticipated form of behavior and lifestyle. Many of the new immigrants that came from Yemen and Iraq were religious and traditional Jews who did not understand why they were obligated to give up their old culture and traditions. This new assimilation, or adjustment, to an Israeli required changes in occupational roles and professions, social and political beliefs, and extreme devotement to the state of Israel. However, multiple barriers slowed down the integration process of the new immigrants. Such barriers included the economic status of the migrants as well as the Israeli market economy, the veterans’ acceptance and perception of the newcomers, and the negative stereotypes about them which highly affected their status in society. The newcomers not only struggled to assimilate into a new culture and lifestyle, but also had to deal with the stereotypical hardships along the way. The “melting pot” policy was attempted to be imposed on Israeli society, hoping to transform the new immigrants into Israeli figures. Nevertheless, this policy can only be successfully applied to a society consisting of homogenous cultural, social, and political views.

2. Do you find correlation between the film Salah Shabati and the article of Lissak?

I was able to confidently establish a connection between Lissak’s article about the absorption process and the 1964 comedy film Salah Shabati. In the film, directed by Ephraim Kishon, the concept of immigration and resettlement is exceptionally highlighted. Salah Shabati plays the role of a Mizrahi Jew who arrives to Israel and faces the struggles and expectations exerted upon the new immigrants by Israeli society. A specific topic that Lissak elaborates on discusses about the employment of the new immigrants. Lissak explains that Israel and its Zionist leaders developed a specific type of lifestyle and behavior into which every Israeli must accumulate to. In the film, there is a scene where each newcomer presents his previous occupation and is assigned a new profession which he must master while living in the Ma’abara. Although various citizens claimed to be doctors, engineers, or even dentists, every citizen was directed to work in forestry, as it was the proper job and lifestyle for the typical Israeli citizen. Other than a change of lifestyle, newcomers were also expected to develop certain political views. As Lissak explains, in order for a society to impose the “melting pot” policy, all of the people within a society must share common political, social, and cultural beliefs. This is another example which is seen in the film Salah Shabati. As Salah and his family face an economic crisis, unable to support the children with food and a suitable home, Salah encounters various political parties who attempt to influence his political views by offering him better living conditions and luxurious opportunities. Lastly, another important point which Lissak emphasizes is the influence of the veteran Israelis on the development and assimilation of the newcomers. Because these veterans were already ideologically and socially established within Israeli society, including generations even since the First Aliyah, they had much more leverage over the newcomers. The veterans were already considered as “Hebrew men” and started developing various disrespectful and stigmatizing views about the new groups of immigrants whose behaviors and beliefs were still dependent on their previous culture and traditions. In the film, these stereotypes are not only seen between the veterans and the migrants (i.e. the Kibbutz members and the Jews living in the Ma’abara), but also among the migrants themselves, referring to one another by Mizrahi or Ashkenazi, depending on their country of origin. As Lissak further interprets this issue, he explains that these stereotypes were mainly used to distinguish between distinct communities and groups, as well as personalities, societal statuses, and religious and cultural dedication to the state of Israel.

3. Do you think the way in which the state of Israel chose regarding the immigration absorption at the beginning of the 1950s was the right way or did it have to choose a different approach?

Personally, I do not think Israel’s approach regarding the mass migration and integration process was ethical or necessary. Nevertheless, Ben-Gurion had very strong arguments regarding his unique approach in establishing the state of Israel. Ben-Gurion believed that the security of the Jewish citizens shall be prioritized. He believed that the only way this could be done was by developing a homogenous and secured population, where all views and beliefs, whether religious, cultural, social, or ideological, must be the same. That is also the main reason why Ben-Gurion took care of the Arab situation and the Altalena affair after the 1948 War the way he did. Overall, Ben-Gurion highly supported the concept of “Mamlachtiyut,” believing that loyalty to and unity of the state is extremely important. As a result, Ben-Gurion and various Zionist leaders believed that in order to establish a secure and loyal state, every citizen must assimilate into what they believed was the proper behavior and lifestyle of an Israeli. Nevertheless, Ben-Gurion did not consider the self-attachment the new migrants had to their previous culture. These were mostly Mizrahi migrants, from Iraq and Yemen, who were very religious and the Jewish tradition was a major part of their lives. These newcomers did not understand why they were expected to accumulate into a different culture and lifestyle. Although modernity may have been different among various types of migrating groups, I believe that a forceful change upon them was not the right approach. The treatment given to the newcomers was unfair, as they were forced to give up values such as professions and traditional music, which they had been devoted to their whole lives. However, this forceful change was all a part of “Mamlachtiyut,” and Ben-Gurion believed that his project of establishing the state of Israel would only succeed if everyone shared a common ideology. I tremendously respect Ben-Gurion’s actions to establish a secure and loyal state, though the approach which he took was unfair to the newcomers. Many of the new immigrants were traumatized by the rapid change, as they experienced stereotypical accusations and a discomforting lifestyle which many were not prepared for. After the immigration in the 90s, and especially today, the view about the 1950s absorption process has changed. New immigrants were allowed to become Israeli citizens without giving up their traditions and customs, initial culture, social behavior, and political and ideological beliefs. Although the attitude towards and expectations from the new immigrants in the 1950s seems unfair, the integration project was an overall accomplishment and we cannot assure that Israel would be where it is at today (socially, politically, and culturally) if other actions were taken instead.

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