Shortly after Israel’s victory in the War of Independence, the Jewish state took in a mass exodus of Jews from Arab lands, first in 1949, and then again in 1956.
Jews from Arab lands, called Mizrahim, came to Israel not because
they were ardent Zionists, but because their host Arab countries,
angered by the establishment of the State of Israel, had turned against
When the Mizrahim arrived in Israel, they harbored a deep sense of
grievance towards European Zionists, which was compounded by their
settlement in Israel’s least developed neighborhoods — mostly the ones
vacated by Arabs after the war — and their paltry job options. Mizrahi
children were put in trade schools rather than on a college degree
track, which meant they ended up becoming mechanics, plumbers,
hairdressers and the like, prolonging their stay in poverty. Something,
they felt, had to change.
By the 1970s, Mizrahim made up more than half of Israel’s population,
but lacking the ability to change things from within its institutions,
then as now dominated by Ashkenazi Jews, thousands took to the
1971, a Mizrahi group called the Black Panthers, modeled on the black
movement in American, began what many today regard as the beginning of
Mizrahi civil rights.
“They decided not to play by the rules anymore,” said Sami Shalom
Chetrit, a professor at Queens College and co-director of film about the
Israeli Black Panthers,
Chetrit’s film, titled “The Black Panthers (in Israel) Speak,”
co-directed with Eli Hamo, first aired in Israel in 2002 and shed light
on a brief chapter in the country’s history that many feel has been
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