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The Great Rift

By       Message Uri Avnery     Permalink
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Reprinted from Gush Shalom

Immigrants Arriving at Israel's Haifa Port
Immigrants Arriving at Israel's Haifa Port
(Image by The Jewish Agency for Israel)
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THE State of Israel was still young, when two famous comedians produced a short act:

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Two Arabs stand on the seashore and curse a boat carrying new Jewish immigrants.

Next, two of the new immigrants stand on the seashore and curse a boat carrying new immigrants from Poland.

Next, two immigrants from Poland stand on the seashore and curse a boat carrying new immigrants from Germany.

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Next, two immigrants from Germany stand on the seashore and curse a boat carrying new immigrants from North Africa.

And so on...

Perhaps this is the story of all immigration countries, like the US, Australia, Canada et al. But in Israel, with a nationalist ideology which includes all Jews (and excludes all others) this is a bit odd.

THE NEW Jewish community (called the Yishuv) in what was then Turkish Palestine was founded mainly by immigrants from Russia.

Before that, there was a small Jewish community consisting of ultra-Orthodox Jews from Eastern Europe and another small community of Sephardic Jews. These were descendants of Jews evicted from Spain (Sepharad in Hebrew) in the early 15th century. Many of them were quite rich, since they owned the only valuable property in the country: land.

It was the Russian immigration before World War I that shaped the Yishuv for generations. A large part of Poland belonged at that time to Russia, and was included in the Russian immigration wave. One of these, a young man called David Green, changed his name to Ben-Gurion.

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In the 1920s, a wave of Jews from the newly independent and anti-Semitic Poland filled the ranks of the Yishuv.

When my family came from Germany to Palestine in 1933 it was this Russian-Polish community they found here. The "Germans" were treated with contempt by the old-timers, who called them Jeckes -- no one knows for sure where that came from -- and were routinely cheated.

This was quite a reversal of roles: in Germany it was the local Jews who treated the less-civilized immigrants from Poland and Russia -- "Ost-Juden" -- with contempt.

ALL THIS did not concern us, the children of that era. We did not want to be immigrants, and not German, Poles or Russians. We belonged to a new nation coming into being in this country. We spoke Hebrew, a very vivid language woken from the dead. We wanted to be farmers, pioneers.

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Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the (more...)
 

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