Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reflections of an Arab Jew / Ella Habiba Shohat

Ella Habiba Shohat
Bint Jbeil — I am an Arab Jew. Or, more specifically, an Iraqi Israeli woman living, writing and teaching in the U.S. Most members of my family were born and raised in Baghdad, and now live in Iraq, Israel, the U.S., England, and Holland. When my grandmother first encountered Israeli society in the '50s, she was convinced that the people who looked, spoke and ate so differently--the European Jews--were actually European Christians. Jewishness for her generation was inextricably associated with Middle Easterness. My grandmother, who still lives in Israel and still communicates largely in Arabic, had to be taught to speak of "us" as Jews and "them" as Arabs. For Middle Easterners, the operating distinction had always been "Muslim," "Jew," and "Christian," not Arab versus Jew. The assumption was that "Arabness" referred to a common shared culture and language, albeit with religious differences.
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1 comment:

  1. Elie Eiachar's autobiographical "Living with Jews" has much to say on this. He tells how (pre-Nakba)Sephardim and Must'arib Jews lived among the Arabs and all religious festivals, Jewish, Christian and Muslim were celebrated by all. Meanwhile Ashkenazim remained aloof and did not mix with other Jews.
    An article on the subject here -