From Plowshares to Swords: The Sephardi-Ashkenazi Schism and the Problems of Ethnic Discourse in Israel

Unpublished, Nov 2004



I’ll tell you what shame is: they gave us houses, they gave us the dirty work; they gave us education, and they took away our self-respect. What did they bring my parents to Israel for? . . . [W]asn’t it to do your dirty work? You didn’t have Arabs then, so you needed our parents to do your cleaning and be your servants and your laborers. And policemen, too. You brought our parents to be your Arabs.[1]

Symptomatic of the Sephardi-Ashkenazi dispute, the above likewise reveals an emerging Sephardi-Mizrachi shift in discourse surrounding Jewish-Israeli ethnicity.[2] For Israel, the Ingathering of Exiles (kibbutz galuyot) was a source of weakness as it was of strength, and it is therefore hardly surprising that the ‘melting pot’ thesis underlying Zionist egalitarianism has since dissolved in place of ‘salad bowl’ pluralism.[3] Although the conventions ‘Sephardi’/’Mizrachi’ and ‘Ashkenazi’ belie a complex dialectic of historical processes, social reality in Israel has tended toward just such a dichotomy.[4] Properly speaking, Mizrachim denote the original, later Arabized Judeo-Hebraic ethnic stock in the Fertile Crescent,[5] and Sephardim, the diasporas living in the Iberian Peninsula, through the Golden Age of al-Andalus till the 1492 Expulsion.[6] Their subsequent absorption among Mizrachim in the Mediterranean and Ottoman lands,[7] despite the preservation of culturo-linguistic characteristics, later came to be interpreted in terms synonymous with Mizrachim and non-Ashkenazi Jews in general.[8] In contrast, Ashkenazim inhabited the Rhine Valley, the Slavic heartlands and Western Europe. The decline of Islamdom vis-à-vis Christian Europe was paralleled among Jews in the reversal of cultural and numerical superiority in favor of Ashkenazim. Nevertheless, though Sephardim comprised a mere tenth of the world’s 10.5 million Jews in 1900,[9] two thirds of all Sephardim compared to only 10 percent of Ashkenazim reside in Israel today. Against this backdrop, the present study attempts to analyze the fault-lines underlying the Sephardi-Ashkenazi conflict, drawing as such on the relevant historical, socioeconomic and political perspectives.


Laying the Foundations: Core and Periphery

Despite the Yishuv’s Sephardi tenor, the early Zionists who engineered the founding of Medinat Israel were predominantly Ashkenazim.[10] Having conceived of the Labor movement among other Zionist strains, the Russian and Polish Jews of the Second and Third Aliyot in particular developed a pioneering ethos reflecting their Socialist values. If the prospect of the Biblical Ingathering attracted the more traditional Sephardim, the raw secularism of Ashkenazim alienated them. As Dowty, Ben-Rafael and Sharot observe, the ‘New Jew’ and the ‘anti-Diasporism’ postulated by Ashkenazim contradicted the Sephardi ideal of Zionism as “a reinforcement of traditional Jewishness rather than a revolution against it”.[11] With greater education and resources, the European-born pioneers were able to establish a network of institutions that by 1948 had coalesced into a full-fledged infrastructure and “the basic point of reference”.[12]

For all its rhetoric, the Zionist elite failed to implement an inclusive model for the Integration of Exiles (mizug galuyot), forcing the ‘backward’ and ‘primitive’ Sephardim into a Eurocentric Procrustean bed instead. In reality, the “spirit of the Levant” inherent in Sephardim troubled European sensibilities.[13] Zionism’s aim as articulated by Max Nordau was to “extend the borders of Europe to the Euphrates . . . [and] sweep Eretz Israel clean from . . . all traces of the Eastern soul”.[14] Insofar as shaping a nascent Israeli identity, the Ashkenazi-dominated establishment defined itself in normative terms even as Sephardim became ‘ethnic’ minorities.[15] Oddly, in no other instance had such ethnic constructs and its associated connotations been mapped other than Modern Israel. The psychological effects attendant upon ‘de-Levantinization’ and imposed ‘Ashkenization’ were such that, barring certain ‘charming’ cultural expressions, Sephardim virtually internalized their own anomie.[16] Only in religion were Sephardim allowed autonomy, though differences were less doctrinal than cultural. Official textbooks rarely acknowledged Sephardi-Mizrachi contributions to the nation-building project: indeed, Yemeni Jews who by Ashkenazi induction fronted the ‘conquest of labor’ were “relegated to the sidelines of both Jewish-Israeli society and the Zionist historical narrative” after they had failed to displace the Arabs.[17] Later, in distinguishing between chalutzim (pioneering ‘trailblazers’), olim (ideologically-motivated ‘pilgrims’) and mehagrim (unwilling refugees), S. N. Eisenstadt would further contribute an ideological spin to the cultural hierarchism already collectively fostered by early Israeli sociologists.[18]

Ironically, while European Jewry languished in their Shtetlach amid intense persecution,[19] Middle Eastern Jewry attained emancipation and even political representation in countries like Morocco and Iraq. Still, their wider experience as subjects under Muslim rule rather than citizens may explain their acquiescence under Ashkenazi rule,[20] a diktat that often evoked the racism Ashkenazim themselves suffered in Europe. On a different note, the criticism often leveled at Sephardim’s supposed hawkishness belies the Ashkenazi origins of such reactionary and later, militant movements as ultra-Orthodoxy, Gush Emunim and Kach.[21]

In the 1950-60s, the huge influx of Middle Eastern Jews as a consequence of growing Arab antagonism altered the Zionist state’s “complexion”.[22] Nonetheless, following the destruction of European Jewry, the “demographic potential” of these ‘other’ Jews had become imperative.[23] To the Ashkenazi elite, Sephardim arriving from the Maghreb, Iraq, Yemen and other Islamic countries then experiencing upheaval looked no different from each other and from the Arab adversary. Yet, stark differences abounded between them – Moroccans tended toward indigence and religiosity while Iraqis were largely secular and bourgeois.[24] Nevertheless, they were refugees, regarded with disdain, even disgust, and disinfected on arrival.

The creation of the Sabra prototype through education, Hebrew, universal military service and the media however only allowed for acculturation – not assimilation – and of the Sephardi middle-class at best.[25] For the dispossessed majority, the socio-ethnic pariah that – if we are to believe Dahan-Kalev – Ashkenazim had invented as their “own private Other” became a self-fulfilling prophecy.[26] As the next section illustrates, the institutionalization of an ethnic-based “multilayered citizenship framework” led to severe socioeconomic problems.[27]


The Socioeconomic Dimension

Sephardim’s socioeconomic inferiority is often ascribed to their Arab/Middle Eastern way of life: limited formal education, semi-skilled occupations, large families etc. Yet this approach has been repeatedly challenged by longitudinal evidence pointing to structural discrimination: replication among Sabras.[28] The de-proletarianization of the Ashkenazi core, Smooha asserts, was facilitated by “the channeling of Oriental newcomers to the lower rungs of society”.[29] The manifest result was the creation of a ‘second Israel’. Indeed, even new Ashkenazi immigrants benefited from connections (protektzia) linked to earlier settlers.[30] Thus, as Goldscheider correctly observes, “[e]thnicity in Israel is not simply the reflection of closeness to cultural roots . . . [but] the lack of socioeconomic equalization among groups”.[31]

Although earlier Sephardi immigrants inherited Arab residences evacuated in 1948, later waves were largely quartered in Development Towns (DTs), cheap government housing straddling both Israel’s spatial (Galilee and the Negev) and symbolic periphery.[32] If it complemented pioneering-Labor ideology, ‘peopling the frontier’ also satisfied multiple imperatives: housing of immigrants, population dispersal, frontier security and territorial consolidation, inter alia.[33] But unlike Ashkenazim, these “reluctant pioneers” lacked ideological preparation or enthusiasm for the most part,[34] and in the final analysis, ecological differentiation not only stymied integration,[35] but it would appear, reinforced ethnicity.[36]

As the focus of chalutziut shifted from rural agricultural settlements to such centralized spheres as the military, younger Ashkenazi pioneers gradually returned to urban centers, leaving the DTs increasingly Sephardi in composition.[37] Outmigration of Sephardi youth frustrated by the lack of opportunities further exacerbated socioeconomic conditions prevalent in DTs,[38] at least until the partial rehabilitation of Begin’s ‘Project Renewal’. Generally, Ashkenazim had “bigger [private] houses and smaller families” while Sephardim had “smaller [public] houses and larger families”.[39]

Ethnic segregation and the resultant paucity of quality education and facilities generated a “differential effect on mobility”.[40] Academic participation, not to mention achievement fell so low that in the 1960s, Sephardim only made up 17.7 percent of high school students when they represented 55 percent of the 14-17 years-old age cohort.[41] The government’s solution, the creation of ‘schools for children in need of special care’ effectively lowered Sephardi children’s achievement expectations.[42] Later, the confluence of secondary-level vocational schools and psychometric streaming tests were such that Sephardim became overrepresented in vocational schools and Ashkenazim in academia. In broad terms, native-born Ashkenazim received three more years of schooling than did Sephardim.[43] For those who made it to university in 1986, Sephardim only constituted 27.1 percent, 16.5 percent and 12.4 percent at the first, second and doctoral degree levels respectively.[44] Granted, education has improved in absolute terms for all ethnic groups including Arabs; unfortunately, this has also raised the standards in employment prospects.

In the early years, Sephardi immigrants depended heavily on jobs in agriculture, construction and industry, the last of which (textiles) became the prime mover in the subsequent development of DTs. In 1988, 40 percent of foreign-born Ashkenazim held jobs in professional, managerial and technical positions compared to 20 percent of Sephardim.[45] The obverse is also true: the lower the skill and qualification, the higher the proportion of Sephardim.[46] By 1995, 54 percent of second-generation Sephardim held blue-collar jobs as opposed to only 28 percent of Ashkenazim, while the figures for white-collar jobs were 46 percent and 72 percent respectively.[47] As Swirski has argued, the arrival of Sephardi labor boosted the custodial welfare apparatus controlled by Ashkenazim, in line with evolving modes of production.[48] On the flipside, though on the decline, self-employment offered Sephardim an alternate source of mobility by circumventing traditional education-oriented channels.[49]

Sephardim’s average income was 65 percent that of Ashkenazim in 1957 and 80 percent in 1979; by 1994, it soared to 112.5 percent, but only temporarily because of Soviet immigration.[50] Still, contrary to most indicators, income distribution appears to suggest convergence, some of which factors possibly include smaller Sephardi families and converging consumption patterns.[51] Unemployment on the other hand, as of 1993, was 13.2 percent and 4.9 percent among native-born Sephardim and Ashkenazim respectively.[52] Worse, just six years prior in 1987, DTs produced a whopping 40 percent of Israel’s unemployed while housing only 17 percent of the population.[53]

Be that as it may, the large number of guest workers from Asia, Eastern Europe, and before 2000, the Occupied/Administered Territories has afforded Sephardim improved mobility, albeit in absolute terms.[54] Were it not for the ‘Sephardi revolt’ of the Begin era, such developments, however small, would most certainly have remained the exception rather than the norm.


Political Awakening

The so-called ‘Sephardi revolt’ was a logical and even expected consequence of three decades of (Labor) Ashkenazi paternalism. Before, given the stigma of separatism attached to ethnic parties, Sephardim had suffered their ‘forty years’ in the political wilderness between the first two Knessets and the appearance in 1981 of Abu-Hatzeira’s Moroccan-majority Tami party.[55] The initial unrest in Haifa’s Wadi Salib quarter in 1959 gradually evolved into the organized disaffection of the 1970s symbolized by the ‘Black Panthers’. Rather than full-fledged revolution, such movements merely demanded equality and acceptance, the more absent after Golda Meir called recent Soviet immigrants “the real Jews” and offered them Volvo-villa packages.[56] The government responded with low-level recognition of Sephardi heritage aside from token co-optation of potential Sephardi leaders into existing Ashkenazi parties. Indeed, the Ministry of Police was the highest typical post for a Sephardi politician then.[57]

The electoral upheaval of 1977 consequently placed the Ashkenazi-Right (Likud) in power for the first time. A perceptible shift in voting patterns had in fact been documented as early as 1965 with rising unemployment provoked by the mitun policy and the introduction of Palestinian competition into the labor market after 1967.[58] The Pyrrhic victory of 1973, subsequent three-digit inflation and the gradual decline of Sephardi dependence on state instruments precipitated Labor’s downfall.[59] The second-generation Sephardim representing the pro-Likud majority were better educated, electorally savvy, politically assertive and above all, recognized institutional discrimination for what it was.[60] In the interim, municipal politics had become a means of accessing the national decision-making apparatus, as reflected in the increase of Sephardi mayors. Having itself suffered under the Ashkenazi-Left, Likud provided a fitting platform from which to assail the ruling regime. Further, as is evident from his image among Sephardim – “Most of us are Begin. He’s our father” – Begin’s personality and appeal cannot be ignored with regards to Likud’s success.[61]

Reinforced with high birth rates, ethnicity became a potent tool in mobilizing the Sephardi vote. Yet, if Likud’s neo-traditionalism facilitated “ideological rapprochement” with Sephardim,[62] Roumani contends that this was more an anti-Labor statement than a pro-Likud “vote of confidence”.[63] Concurrently, Sephardi representation in the Knesset jumped from 10 percent in 1973 to 40 percent by 1992.[64] Elsewhere, Sephardim came to occupy top positions for the first time: Local-born Yitzhak Navon was sworn in as president in 1978; Moroccan-born David Levy became deputy prime minister in 1981; and Yisrael Kessar, a Yemeni, was elected general secretary of the Histadrut in 1984, to cite but three examples.

Although Sephardi-ethnic consciousness came to the fore with Likud, it remained in essence a political resource.[65] In 1984, the Shas party – an offshoot of the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox Agudat Yisrael – won four seats in the Knesset.[66] Unmistakably Sephardi, it was yet cautious enough to eschew ethnicity for a legitimate platform, religion. Shas’ political standing increased in subsequent elections and today represents the largest religious list and “the only successful Mizrachi political party in the history of Israel”.[67] The universal appeal of Shas’ slogan, ‘Lehachzir Atara le’Yoshna’ (‘Restoring the Crown of Judaism to its Past Glory’) is reflected in its Ashkenazi-Haredi, especially Lithuanian membership.[68] Nevertheless, that the majority of its supporters are non-Haredi traditionalists testifies to the wide appeal of Shas’ pragmatic and ethno-religious if Zionist discourse.[69] More significantly, its immense socio-educational network, El Ha’Maayan (‘To the Wellspring’) and the revival of Sephardi tradition through its various programs have, among other things, allowed Shas to win over the marginalized majority in Israel.[70]



The foregoing analysis threatens to corroborate Israel’s alleged ‘apartheid’ without even venturing into anti-Palestinian discrimination. Given the ongoing evidence and its long-term implications, the assumption that Sephardi-Ashkenazi rifts are “temporary . . . and expected to disappear in future generations” requires careful reassessment.[71] Cohesive in theory, interethnic marriages – presently about 20 percent – conceal their own divisive dynamic demonstrable in variable offspring loyalties,[72] and as noted earlier, cultural convergence among Sabras merely exposes structural discrimination.[73]

Conversely, a Sephardi-dominant leadership (currently under an Ashkenazi premier) hardly proves the institutionalization of a Sephardi-Mizrachi counter-narrative, and what is more, Shas’ overly religious approach has attracted criticism for failing to adequately prepare Sephardim for modern society.[74] Israel faces an existential problem if it requires external tensions to unite Jews “on the same side of a deep chasm”.[75] Until ethnic consciousness subsumes its discordances, specifically, until Ashkenazim acknowledge Sephardim as Jews and as equals, the very raison d’être of a Jewish state/State for Jews will remain in question.



[1] Mizrachi Jew(s) in Bet Shemesh, Amos Oz, In the Land of Israel (Trans. Maurie Goldberg-Bartura), UK: Chatto & Windus – The Hogarth Press (Hebrew edition: Am Oved Publishers), 1983, p. 36.

[2] ‘Ethnicity’ is perhaps better rendered in the ‘communal’ sense, a set of sociological-historical developments common to a particular community as opposed to the anthropological ethnos, since all Jews share a common origin.

[3] Yaakov Kop & Robert E. Litan. Sticking Together: The Israeli Experiment in Pluralism. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2002, p. 9.

[4] Indeed, a similar dichotomy (in addition to the growing Sabra/Israeli-born category) perpetuates itself with the Central Bureau of Statistics, albeit in the broader geocultural terms ‘European-American’ and ‘Asian-African’, or ‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’; Apparent in this essay’s typology, I regard this dichotomy as a necessary theoretical assumption, not a research question per se.

[5] As opposed to the loaded ‘Oriental’, ‘Eastern Mediterranean Jew’ appears to be a more geographically and culturally sensitive translation of the Hebrew ‘Mizrachi’.

[6] Although Sepharad and Ashkenaz appear in the Biblical context as geographical, if vague, designates, they have become traditional referents for Spain and Germany, respectively. See Paloma Díaz-Mas. Sephardim: The Jews from Spain (Trans. George K. Zucker). US: University of Chicago Press, 1992, pp. 7-9, and Daniel J. Elazar. The Other Jews: The Sephardim Today. US: Basic Books, 1989, pp. 14-17.

[7] To be sure, a smaller number of Sephardim migrated to Western Europe, the Balkans and the Americas, a fact that does not render the Sephardi-Ashkenazi taxonomy any more relevant.

[8] Díaz-Mas and Allouche have suggested other plausible theories. According to Díaz-Mas, the dichotomy emerged when, having established a separate rabbinate alongside that of the indigenous Sephardim in Palestine, the Ashkenazim adopted the practice of grouping all non-Ashkenazi issues under the Sephardi rabbinate, Sephardim: The Jews from Spain. p. 8; Allouche, on the other hand points to the 16th century Shulchan Aruch authored by Rabbi Yosef Caro. Since the Shulchan was a Sephardi product intended for a Sephardi audience, Rabbi Moses b. Israel Isserles undertook the writing of a supplementary gloss, Ha’Mappa, adapted to Polish and German Jewry and as a result effected the split, Jeremy Allouche. ‘The Oriental Communities in Israel, 1948-2003: The Social and Cultural Creation of an Ethnic Political Group.’ Paper presented for Diploma of Graduate Studies in International Relations, Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, 2003, available at:<; p. 13.

[9] Cited in Donna Rosenthal. The Israelis: Ordinary People in an Extraordinary Land. New York: Free Press, 2003, p. 119.

[10] In the Yishuv’s context, indigenous Sephardim were most often Spanish Jews, not Mizrachim; Of the Declaration’s 37 signatories, only two were non-Europeans: one Yemeni, the other Israeli-born; Interestingly, according to Elazar’s claim, both Theodore Herzl and Max Nordau were not of Ashkenazi but Sephardi extraction; See The Other Jews. p. 27.

[11] Alan Dowty. The Jewish State: A Century Later. US: University of California Press, 1998, p. 145; Eliezer Ben-Rafael & Stephen Sharot. Ethnicity, Religion and Class in Israeli Society. UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991, p. 222.

[12] Dowty. The Jewish State. p. 157; On this point, it is noteworthy that even prominent Zionist leader Chaim Arlosoroff once called the Histadrut – a major pillar of the abovesaid infrastructure – a ‘settlement aristocracy’, see Gershon Shafir & Yoav Peled. Being Israeli: The Dynamics of Multiple Citizenship. UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002, p. 44.

[13] Ben-Gurion’s words, “We are in duty bound to fight against the spirit of the Levant. . .” was intended to precede the resocialization of the large number of Middle Eastern immigrants during the 1960s, Maurice M. Roumani. ‘Labor’s Expectation and Israeli Reality: Ethnic Voting as a Means toward Political and Social Change,’ in Bernard Reich & Gershon R. Kieval, eds. Israel Faces the Future. US: Praeger, 1986, p. 63.

[14] Yosef Gorny. ‘The “Melting Pot” in Zionist Thought.’ Israel Studies 6.3 (1999), p. 59.

[15] Ben-Rafael & Sharot. Ethnicity, Religion and Class in Israeli Society. p. 222.

[16] Omar Kamil. ‘The Synagogue as Civil Society, or How We Can Understand the Shas Party.’ Mediterranean Quarterly 12.3 (2001), p. 133; Judith T. Shuval. ‘The Structure and Dilemmas of Israeli Pluralism,’ in Baruch Kimmerling, ed. The Israeli State and Society: Boundaries and Frontiers. US: State University of New York Press, 1989, p. 223; such cultural expressions included cuisine, folklore, music, dance (the Moroccan Mimouna, the Iranian Ruz-e bagh and the Kurdish Seranna are illustrative) and the like.

[17] Yoav Peled. ‘Inter-Jewish Challenges to Israeli Identity.’ Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics, and Culture 8.4 (2002), p. 12; The so-called ‘conquest of (Hebrew) labor’ or ‘conquest of land’ was an initiative on the part of the Ashkenazi chalutzim to ‘Judaize’ the agricultural labor base, namely, replacing Palestinian Arab workers with Yemeni Jews. The logic behind this lay in the belief that, like Arabs, Yemenis were disposed to working under hard conditions for little pay, but better still, they were fellow Jews. This was also a retaliation against the tendency of Jewish ‘plantation colonialists’ of the First Aliya to employ cheaper Arab labor rather than their fellow Jews.

[18] Shafir & Peled. Being Israeli. p. 76; On this point, Swirski adds that “Israeli social scientists thus provided the ideological apparatus of domination with the aura of scientific respectability,” Shlomo Swirski. Israel: The Oriental Majority (Trans. Barbara Swirski). UK: Zed Books, 1989, p. 27.

[19] Unlike their co-ethnics in Western Europe, East European Jewry did not fully (as is commonly believed) ride the crest of economic modernization and capitalism that characterized the turn of the century.

[20] Daniel J. Elazar. ‘Israel’s Compound Polity,’ in Ernest Krausz & David Glanz, eds. Politics and Society in Israel, vol. III, Studies of Israeli Society. US: Transaction Books, 1985, pp. 70-1.

[21] As a brief study of the past fifty years will indicate, Ashkenazim tend to be disproportionately represented in both extremes of the political continuum, doves as well as hawks, compared to Sephardim.

[22] Rosenthal. The Israelis. p. 119.

[23] Shafir & Peled. Being Israeli. p. 77.

[24] Ibid, pp. 78-9; In reality, the lopsided religious-socioeconomic profile of Moroccan Jewry (the largest Sephardi ethnic group in Israel) belies the fact that secular and wealthier Moroccan Jews among other Sephardim tended to migrate to western countries rather than to Israel.

[25] Ben-Rafael & Sharot. Ethnicity, Religion and Class in Israeli Society. p. 28; Tova Benski. ‘Ethnic Convergence Processes under Conditions of Persisting Socioeconomic-Decreasing Cultural Differences: The Case of Israeli Society,’ in Elazar Leshem & Judith T. Shuval, eds. Immigration to Israel: Sociological Perspectives, vol. VIII, Studies of Israeli Society. US: Transaction Publishers, 1998, p. 360, 377.

[26] Henriette Dahan-Kalev. ‘The “Other” in Zionism: The Case of the Mizrachim.’ Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics, and Culture 8.1 (2001), p. 90.

[27] Shafir & Peled, Being Israeli. p. 72.

[28] Lev Luis Grinberg. ‘From Periphery to the Core: Sources of Ethnic Political Leadership,’ in Oren Yiftachel & Avinoam Meir, eds. Ethnic Frontiers and Peripheries: Landscapes of Development and Inequality in Israel. US: Westview Press, 1998, p. 212-3; Erik Cohen. ‘Ethnicity and Legitimation in Contemporary Israel,’ in Ernest Krausz & David Glanz, eds. Politics and Society in Israel, vol. III, Studies of Israeli Society. US: Transaction Books, 1985, p. 321; Benski. ‘Ethnic Convergence Processes.’ p. 358.

[29] Cited in Dowty. The Jewish State. p. 147.

[30] As a side note, Sephardi immigration in the 1950-60s also coincided with German financial reparations made almost exclusively to families of the six million Ashkenazim annihilated in the Holocaust; see Elazar. The Other Jews. pp. 56-7.

[31] Calvin Goldscheider. Israel’s Changing Society: Population, Ethnicity, & Development (2nd ed.). US: Westview Press, 2002, pp. 213-4.

[32] Moshavim (economically- as opposed to Kibbutzim’s ideologically-motivated agricultural collectives) also constituted an important early source of housing and employment for Sephardi immigrants and in fact, even these were segregated from Ashkenazi-populated Kibbutzim. Yet, poor supply-side economics and the attraction of urban life soon compelled the government to look for an alternative – Development Towns. For ethnic profiles of both Moshavim and Development Towns, see Goldscheider. Israel’s Changing Society. pp. 118-26.

[33] Amiram Gonen. ‘Who to the Frontier? Changing Policies in the Peopling of Israel’s Frontier,’ in Oren Yiftachel & Avinoam Meir, eds. Ethnic Frontiers and Peripheries: Landscapes of Development and Inequality in Israel. US: Westview Press, 1998, pp. 142-3.

[34] Term borrowed from A. Weingrod, cited in Ibid, p. 151.

[35] Ibid, p. 155.

[36] Goldscheider, Israel’s Changing Society. p. 257.

[37] Gonen. ‘Who to the Frontier?’ p. 159.

[38] Goldscheider. Israel’s Changing Society. p. 122.

[39] Roumani. ‘Labor’s Expectation and Israeli Reality.’ p. 62; The Ashkenazi Haredim constitute the glaring exception, typified by large families (i.e. number of children) and semi-destitute living conditions.

[40] Ben-Rafael & Sharot. Ethnicity, Religion and Class in Israeli Society. p. 34; In fact, children of early Sephardi immigrants were at one time coddled by the Ashkenazi establishment into leaving school after seventh grade in the belief that redemption could be arrived at through labor; see Elazar. The Other Jews. p. 187.

[41] Swirski. Israel: The Oriental Majority. p. 25

[42] Ibid, pp. 25-6.

[43] That is, nine years for Sephardim and twelve years for Ashkenazim, accurate as of 1991. In other words, the chances of Sephardim receiving the high school bagrut were also lower; Don Peretz & Gideon Doron. The Government and Politics of Israel (3rd ed.). US: Westview Press, 1997, p. 51

[44] Swirski. Israel: The Oriental Majority. p. 26.

[45] Shafir & Peled. Being Israeli. p. 82.

[46] Swirski. Israel: The Oriental Majority. p. 13.

[47] Shafir & Peled. Being Israeli. pp. 82-3.

[48] Swirski. Israel: The Oriental Majority. p. 17.

[49] Goldscheider. Israel’s Changing Society. p. 150.

[50] Dowty. The Jewish State. p. 147.

[51] Ben-Rafael & Sharot. Ethnicity, Religion and Class in Israeli Society. p. 32; Goldscheider. Israel’s Changing Society. p. 152; Dowty. The Jewish State. p. 147; Shafir & Peled, however, paint a different picture. According to them, while a native-born Sephardi earned 79 percent of an Ashkenazi’s income in 1975, s/he earned only 69 percent by 1995. More significantly, while a native-born Sephardi graduate earned as much as his Ashkenazi counterpart in 1975, s/he earned only 78 percent by 1995, Being Israeli. p. 83-4.

[52] Shafir & Peled. Being Israeli. p. 83.

[53] Ibid, p. 81.

[54] Kop & Litan. Sticking Together. p. 34.

[55] The First and Second Knessets (1949, 1951) yielded a total of five and three seats (out of 120) respectively; Tami won three seats in 1981, but merged with Likud by 1988’s elections.

[56] Cited in Allouche. ‘The Oriental Communities in Israel.’ p. 38.

[57] Peretz & Doron. The Government and Politics of Israel. p. 54.

[58] Shafir & Peled. Being Israeli. p. 89; No doubt Palestinian labor created competition especially at the lower rungs, but as indicated earlier, it also allowed for upward social mobility among Sephardim.

[59] In 1984 however, inflation under Likud actually soared to 445 percent; see Renee Taft. ‘Ethnic Divisions in Israel,’ in Bernard Reich & Gershon R. Kieval, eds. Israel Faces the Future. US: Praeger, 1986, p. 83.

[60] It should be recalled that despite the Sephardi majority, in 1981’s elections at least, more than 50 percent of Iraqis and Kurds and a full third of Yemenis retained their votes for Labor; In any case, Etzioni argues that ethnicity was only incidental while age-group and political orientation played larger roles in determining the ballots, ibid. loc. cit.

[61] Amos Oz. In the Land of Israel. p. 47.

[62] Cohen. ‘Ethnicity and Legitimation.’ p. 331.

[63] Roumani. ‘Labor’s Expectation and Israeli Reality.’ p. 72.

[64] Dowty. The Jewish State. p. 153.

[65] Hanna Herzog, in Asher Arian. Politics in Israel: The Second Generation. US: Chatham House Publishers, 1985, p. 144.

[66] Shas is abbreviated for Sephardim Shomrei Torah, Sephardi Torah Guardians.

[67] Shafir & Peled. Being Israeli. p. 93.

[68] The Lithuanian/Litvak community under Rabbi Eliezer Shach defected from Agudat Yisrael not long after Shas’ creation in 1983.

[69] For instance, rather than preaching ideology, Shas (under spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and party leader Aryeh Deri) focuses on day-to-day bread-and-butter issues including employment, educational opportunities, social benefits and so on, Shuval. ‘The Structure and Dilemmas of Israeli Pluralism.’ p. 225.

[70] Similar socio-educational networks and civil societies are not uncommon in neighboring Arab countries, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hezbollah for example, though these also tend to manifest rather dissimilar political temperaments to that of Shas.

[71] Goldscheider. Israel’s Changing Society. p. 25.

[72] Ibid, p. 206-8.

[73] See ibid, p. 151.

[74] Chetrit, Sami Shalom. ‘Ha’Mizrachim Ha’Chadashim: Ha’Siach Ha’Mizrachi Ha’Chadash ve’Tnu’at Ha’Keshet Ha’Demokratit Ha’Mizrachit.’ available at: <; p. 9 (Hebrew); see also Shafir & Peled, Being Israeli. P. 95.

[75] Dowty. The Jewish State. p. 150.


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