16 December 2004

The Jews in Israel

About a month ago on the WTM boards, someone asked for book recommendations for older elementary children on the Palestininan-Israeli conflict. I gave her a few suggestions, but I didn't really have anything good. I've decided that I need to find juvenille non-fiction books that I can find to see if there is anything good written on that level about the conflict. Since I have lived in Arab Jerusalem and studied Arabic, I sympathize with the Palestinians.

However, the main point is that because of that question, I found some interesting things about the Jews currently living in Israel. There are about 13.5 million Jews in the world. 10 million are Ashkenazi (Eastern European) and 3.5 are lumped together as Sephardic Jews. This includes Jews from North Africa, the Middle East, and various parts of Asia. However, in Israel, there are more Sephardic Jews than Ashkenazi. There are approximately 3 million Sephardic Jews and 2 million Ashkenazi Jews.

This is very interesting since most Zionists were European Jews, and Sephardic Jews were generally not persecuted to the extent that European Jews were. True, Jews in Muslim and Asian countries were often discriminated against, but that is a far cry from the outright persecution that was going on in Europe for many hundreds of years.

It leaves me to wonder how necessary the State of Israel really was. Many Jews don't want to live in Israel because it can be a dangerous place to live. The Ashkenani Jews were greatly persecuted, yet only 20 percent live in Israel. The Sephardic Jews were generally treated decently in their countries, yet the creation of Israel resulted in many of them fleeing their home countries for Israel and the West.


  1. Amira, I recently read my boys _Snow in Jerusalem_ when we studied the diaspora for year 2 of SOTW. The story (set in modern Israel) is a little predictable and cheesy, but I think it is one of the few juv books about Pal-Is conflict written for grammar stage.

  2. "Habibi" by Shihab-Nye is quite good although it is aimed at teen readers. It's about a young American girl who goes to live in Israel. Her father is a Palestinian. She has to deal with the Arab-Israeli issues when she is befriended by a young Jewish boy her age.

  3. I've read _Habibi_ and enjoyed it very much too. Thanks!