Sarah Katz
Don't fit the mould - MAKE the mould.

Remembering our Middle Eastern Origins

Former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, a politician of Coptic Egyptian background, has suggested that the State of Israel can peacefully integrate into the surrounding region by becoming an Arab country, as the majority of Jews now living in Israel have immigrated there from Arab countries anyway.[1] While a noteworthy proposal, one must consider the loaded meaning of ‘Arab’ here. If Israel were to become an Arab country but still boast a majority of Jews, then the country would remain a Jewish State and differ from its neighbors in terms of religion, the major religion of the latter being Islam.

Nevertheless, this disassociation of cultural ethnicity from religion is yet another indication of the feasibility of an Arab Jew-an identity that, due to contemporary Middle East politics, many have deemed impossible. Being a Jew of mixed heritage myself, I consider both my Ukrainian half and my North African half as equally ‘Jewish’. However, I tend to associate myself more with the North African half when it comes to my personal Jewish identity. After all, Jews have only migrated to Europe but we originated in the Middle East. We have always shared a culture with the surrounding region, if not a religion. It is for this reason that I can see why some people (yes, even Israeli Jews) view current Ashkenazi dominance in Israeli politics–such as the ultra-orthodox haredim who escape even military service–as a sore spot in the country’s identity today.

We must not conflate politics with cultural identity. So no, we will not become an Arab nation but notwithstanding, we are a Semitic people of the Levant and have just as much historic claim to the region as any of its current inhabitants. Therefore, we must take back our country as Israelite Jews, a Middle Eastern people who share so much rich culture and history with our Arab, Persian, Turkish, Christian and Muslim neighbors.

[1] Honigman, Gerald A. “Syria: Fears and Facts Get in the Way of Sympathy – Op-Eds – Israel National News.” Israel National News. Arutz Sheva, 17 Dec. 2012. Web. 02 May 2013.

About the Author
Sarah Katz is a UC Berkeley alumna, cyber security engineer, and author.