Who is a "real" Sephardi? In which direction is SHAS leading
the Mizrahim of Israel? Are Meron Benvenisti's arguments
worthy of discussion?

Click again on the icon below

Sephardim Unite!

and after reading what Meron Benvenisti, former
deputy mayor of Jerusalem and author (see the
bibliogaphy below) has to say:

Send your feedback and questions to:

You may also wish to read what Shahar Ilan has to say in his Op-Ed in
Haaretz. If so, click here.

The Sephardim Today

Read David Shasha's newest essay which examines the Shas phenomenon
and how it impacts Sephardic culture and identity. www.ivri-nasawi.org/shasha.html.

Here is a brief exchange in response to Benvenisti's essay:

He walked to shul and then went for a drive to the beach.  And you want me to dignify this?  If you really need Meron for the cause turn to page 57 of Sacred Landscape.If it took him 50 years to write that page, perhaps he needs 25 more to figure out the intricacies and depth of the classical Sephardic religious heritage.  He certainly has no clue now.  The key point I am trying to inculcate is that one must be a part of the practicing community in order to clearly maintain the progressivist position.  One who does not remain a committed Jew (in terms that would be consistent with the classical tradition) will never be able to legitimately say the things that Meron and others say.

David Shasha

Dear Mr.Shasha,

Your response to Mr. Benvenisti's is laden with references to "authenticity" and "tradition." Concepts that are wholly unsound and almost indefinable. Why must Benvenisti conform to your definition of Judaism before he can maintain a progressivist position? With all due respect, this is just another attempt by someone of a more "orthodox" persuasion to enforce their religious worldview on Jews of various denominations.

In Israel the "orthodox" enjoy unprecedented authority over religious affairs. This hegemony necessitates defining Jewish identity for all Jews. Their goal, however, is not spiritual but rather political. As one prominent scholar reminds us "An individual - or a society- does not have a single, exclusive, permanent and unalterable identity that perpetuates itself without internal differentiations. The assertion that a society has an exclusive single identity is not a description of its nature; it is a political move aimed at taking control of the society and dominating it in crushing fashion in the name of this alleged identity, something that has already happened in Iran and Sudan and is threatening to happen in other Arab countries." Each individual can, and in fact must, determine and define his identities based upon his own preferences, beliefs and circumstances. Neither Suissa or Yishai can define my Jewish identity for me. Any attempt to do so is purely political.

Ari Ariel
New York
* The quote above is from Aziz Al-Azmeh, Islams and Modernities (Verso:
London, 1996, pg. 54

Abbreviated Bibliography

Sacred Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948, by Meron Benvenisti. Berkeley: University of California, 2000, 376 pp., $35.00 cloth.

click here to read a review

City of Stone: the Hidden History of Jerusalem, by Meron Benvenisti. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996, 274 pp., $24.95 cloth.

click here to read a review

Intimate Enemies: Jews and Arabs in a Shared Land, by Meron Benvenisti. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995. xiii + 236 pages. Index to p. 260. $24.95 cloth.

click here to read a review

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