Bene Menashe Negotiations of Migration and Citizenship
Dr. Yulia Egorova
University of Durham
Wednesday, 28 Oct, 3:15-5 PM
SOAS Main Building,Ground Floor
Room 52 (to the left of the elevators)
Abstract: The Bene Menashe stem from a number of Christian groups of the Indo-Burmese borderland, some of whom back in the 1950s declared their descent from the Lost Tribes of Israel. In 2005 the Bene Menashe became recognized as people of Israelite descent by the then Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, and in 2011 were allowed by Israeli government to continue their migration through conversion. The paper will use the example of the Bene Menashe migration to cast analytical light on different ways in which race and religion co-constitute each other in processes of transnational migration. To do so, I will focus on one specific aspect of the Bene Menashe migration – the way the community has to construct and enact their religious affiliation to be able to become Israeli citizens and to be considered part of the Jewish people by their ‘hosts’. The paper argues that in the case of the Bene Menashe race and religion co-produce each other in ways that reinforce racialized understandings of Judaism and Jewishness, and will suggest that what accounts for this phenomenon is that the opportunities that the Bene Menashe immigrants had in defining their religiosity in Israel were limited by the conditions of their migration, which developed against the backdrop of multiple colonial contexts. In the end, I will reflect on the situation of other ‘emerging’ Jewish communities in India who are in the process of organizing their migration to Israel.
About the speaker: Dr. Yulia Egorova is Reader in Anthropology and Director, Centre for the Study of Jewish Culture, Society and Politics at the University of Durham. Her research interests include Anthropology of Jewish communities, the social aspects of science and biotechnology, and the relationship between science and religion. She recently completed an AHRC-funded project devoted to the Indian Jewish community of the Bene Ephraim of Andhra Pradesh, and a cluster of studies exploring the socio-cultural implications of population genetics with particular reference to South Asia. She is presently developing a new project on Jewish-Muslim relations in the UK.
Goldscheider, Calvin. Israeli Society in the Twenty-First Century. Immigration, Inequality, and Religious Conflict, Schusterman Series in Israel Studies. Lebanon, NH: Brandeis University Press (imprint of University Press of New England), 2015.
This volume illuminates changes in Israeli society over the past generation. Goldscheider identifies three key social changes that have led to the transformation of Israeli society in the twenty-first century: the massive immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union, the economic shift to a high-tech economy, and the growth of socioeconomic inequalities inside Israel. To deepen his analysis of these developments, Goldscheider focuses on ethnicity, religion, and gender, including the growth of ethnic pluralism in Israel, the strengthening of the Ultra-Orthodox community, the changing nature of religious Zionism and secularism, shifts in family patterns, and new issues and challenges between Palestinians and Arab Israelis given the stalemate in the peace process and the expansions of Jewish settlements.
Combining demography and social structural analysis, the author draws on the most recent data available from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics and other sources to offer scholars and students an innovative guide to thinking about the Israel of the future.
This book will be of interest to scholars and students of contemporary Israel, the Middle East, sociology, demography and economic development, as well as policy specialists in these fields. It will serve as a textbook for courses in Israeli history and in the modern Middle East.
Table of Contents
• List of Tables and Figure
• Nation-Building, Population, and Development
• Ethnic Diversity Jewish and Arab Populations of Israel
• Immigration, Nation-Building, and Ethnic-Group Formation
• Arab Israelis Demography, Dependency, and Distinctiveness
• Urbanization, Residential Integration, and Communities
• Religiosity, Religious Institutions, and Israeli Culture
• Inequality and Changing Gender Roles
• Education, Stratification, and Inequality
• Inequality and Mortality Decline
• Family Formation and Generational Continuities
• Emergent Israeli Society Nation-Building, Inequalities, and Continuities
• Appendix: Data Sources and Reliability
Since the time of their arrival beginning around 2005, there remain approximately 46,000 African asylum seekers in Israel. The following paper reviews the foundations and implications of Israel’s political discourse in reference to the presence of this community. I situate the treatment of the asylum seekers in their relationship to the Jewish State, Zionist ideology, international refugee law, and Israel’s human rights community. I argue: 1) that the discourse surrounding the asylum seekers reflects larger changes within the ethos of the Jewish State and models of Israeli personhood; 2) that notions of “security” and “threat” in relation to the asylum seekers take on new meanings shaped by Israel’s ongoing demographic concerns; and 3) that the political response to the African asylum seekers sheds light on irreconcilable goals of the Zionist nation-building project seeking to both maintain a Jewish majority and liberate world Jewry from life segregated and isolated in the Diaspora.
Yacobi, Haim. Israel and Africa. A Genealogy of Moral Geography, Routledge Studies in Middle Eastern Geography. New York: Routledge, 2015.
Through a genealogical investigation of the relationships between Israel and Africa, this book sheds light on the processes of nationalism, development and modernization, exploring Africa’s role as an instrument in the constant re-shaping of Zionism. Through looking at “Israel in Africa” as well as “Africa in Israel”, it provides insightful analysis on the demarcation of Israel’s ethnic boundaries and identity formation as well as proposing the different practices, from architectural influences to the arms trade, that have formed the geopolitical concept of “Africa”. It is through these practices that Israel reproduces its internal racial and ethnic boundaries and spaces, contributing to its geographical imagination as detached not solely from the Middle East but also from its African connections.
This book would be of interest to students and scholars of Middle East and Jewish Studies, as well as Post-colonial Studies, Geography and Architectural History.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Family Album
Part One: Israel in Africa
Chapter 1: Africa’s Decade
Chapter 2: The Architecture of Foreign Policy
Part Two: Africa in Israel
Chapter 3: Consuming, Reading, Imagining
Chapter 4: North Africa in Israel
Chapter 5: The Racialization of Space
Part Three: Israel in Africa II
Chapter 6: Back to Africa
Haim Yacobi is a Senior Lecturer, Department of Politics and Government, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel.
Raviv, Yael. Falafel Nation. Cuisine and the Making of National Identity in Israel, Studies of Jews in Society. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015.
When people discuss food in Israel, their debates ask politically charged questions: Who has the right to falafel? Whose hummus is better? But Yael Raviv’s Falafel Nation moves beyond the simply territorial to divulge the role food plays in the Jewish nation. She ponders the power struggles, moral dilemmas, and religious and ideological affiliations of the different ethnic groups that make up the “Jewish State” and how they relate to the gastronomy of the region. How do we interpret the recent upsurge in the Israeli culinary scene—the transition from ideological asceticism to the current deluge of fine restaurants, gourmet stores, and related publications and media?
Focusing on the period between the 1905 immigration wave and the Six-Day War in 1967, Raviv explores foodways from the field, factory, market, and kitchen to the table. She incorporates the role of women, ethnic groups, and different generations into the story of Zionism and offers new assertions from a secular-foodie perspective on the relationship between Jewish religion and Jewish nationalism. A study of the changes in food practices and in attitudes toward food and cooking, Falafel Nation explains how the change in the relationship between Israelis and their food mirrors the search for a definition of modern Jewish nationalism.
Yael Raviv is the director of the Umami food and art festival in New York City. She has a PhD in performance studies from New York University and is an adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at NYU. Her work has appeared in Women and Performance, Gastronomica, and elsewhere.
“Black Musics, African Lives, and the National Imagination in Modern Israel,” explores the forms and functions of African and Afro-diasporic musics amidst heated public debate around ethnic identity and national membership. Focusing on musical-political activity among Ethiopian Israeli citizens, Sudanese and Eritrean refugees, and West African labor migrants in Tel Aviv, I examine how diverse types of musicking, from nightclub DJing and live performance to church services and protest concerts, voice African and Afro-descendent claims to civic status in a fractured urban environment. Grounded in ethnographic participant observation, the dissertation analyzes musical and political activity through the lens of “interpretive modes” that shape contemporary Israel’s national consciousness, and which influence African and Afro-descendant experiences within Israeli society. These include “Israeliyut,” or the valorization of so-called native Israeli cultural forms and histories; “Africani,” an emerging set of aesthetic and social values that integrates African and Afro-descendent subjectivities into existing frameworks of Israeli identity; and “glocali,” or the effort to reconcile local Israeli experience with aspects of globalization.
Tracing “blackness” as an ideological and aesthetic category through five decades of public discourse and popular culture, I examine the disruptions to this category precipitated by Israel’s 21st century encounter with African populations. I find that the dynamics of debate over African presence influence an array of mass-cultural processes, including post-Zionism, conceptions of ethnic “otherness,” and the splintering of Israel’s left into increasingly narrow interest groups. Contributing to the literature on continuity and change within urban-dwelling African diasporas, this dissertation is the first monograph exploring dramatic transformations of Israel’s highly consolidated national culture through in-depth ethnography with migrant groups.
Migration scholars are increasingly interested in the integration experiences and identity dilemmas of the 1.5 immigrant generation. This article examines the activities of Fishka, an association of young Russian Israelis living in Tel-Aviv and vicinity, who immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union as older children or adolescents. Our empirical analysis draws upon the concepts of social and cultural capital in immigration and explores how the hybrid forms of cultural production emerge at the intersection between various tiers of Russian culture and Israeli realities that surround them. The article explores the acts of cultural translation of various activities and genres from Russian to Hebrew and vice versa. By introducing these hybrid forms of cultural capital to their native peers, the 1.5-ers take pride in their heritage, elevate the prestige of Russian culture in Israel and ultimately reinforce their feelings of belonging to the new country. Our findings highlight ethnic hierarchies (imported from the country of origin or created in Israel) that shape the practices of distinction and boundary building among young Russian Israelis.
The Israeli State recently announced that it may begin to use genetic tests to determine whether potential immigrants are Jewish or not. This development would demand a rethinking of Israeli law on the issue of the definition of Jewishness. In this article, we discuss the historical and legal context of secular and religious definitions of Jewishness and rights to immigration in the State of Israel. We give a brief overview of different ways in which genes have been regarded as Jewish, and we discuss the relationship between this new use of genetics and the society with which it is co-produced. In conclusion, we raise several questions about future potential impacts of Jewish genetics on Israeli law and society.
Contemporary studies on return migration express a growing interest in the cultural and social dimensions of its economic development. In this article we aim to extend this interest by focusing on economic values returning migrants bring back with them to their countries of origin, captured in what we call the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’. The article is based on in-depth ethnographic fieldwork with Sub-Saharan African labor migrants both in Israel and after their return to their country of origin. Utilizing a Weberian perspective on the connection between values and economic action, we illustrate that even though African migrants work in menial jobs in Israel and very few acquire professional training, they come to utilize Israel as an informal space for the enhancement of a ‘spirit of entrepreneurship’. This spirit contains three valuative transformations: a transformation concerning time (including a valuing of the future over the present); a transformation concerning individual action (replacing the primacy of community with a focus on individual flourishing)-Sahara; and a transformation in social relations (extending trust beyond friends and family to economic partners). These transformations are in line with economic values underlying a capitalist economic system. The expression of these value orientations acts as an important factor through which African countries have become increasingly interlinked and influenced by neoliberal culture. Yet, as the testimonies of African labor migrants reveal, local social structures reside side by side with this imported spirit of entrepreneurship. This hybridity may lead to increased opportunities, but also to feelings of estrangement and frustration.
The present study focuses on differential modes of economic incorporation and economic success of highly skilled immigrants in Israel. Data were obtained from the 2009–2011 Labor Force and Income Surveys. The analysis pertains to recent immigrants aged 25–64 years who attained academic education prior to migration. Three major geo-cultural groups of immigrants are compared with Israeli-born. The groups are as follows: Europe and the Americas, the Former Soviet Union, and Asia and Africa. The multivariate analysis (conducted separately for men and women) reveals significant differences across geo-cultural groups in labour-market performance (i.e. economic participation) and in economic outcomes (i.e. attainment of professional occupation, occupational status, and earnings). An ethnic hierarchy is observed with Israeli-born at the top, followed by immigrants from Europe and the Americas; the groups of immigrants from the Former Soviet Union and from Asia or Africa are placed at the bottom of the hierarchy. Although all high-skilled immigrants are disadvantaged when compared with Israeli-born, all tend to improve their labour-market status with the passage of time in the country. However, only immigrants from Europe and the Americas are able to reach economic assimilation with high-skilled Israeli-born. Asian–African immigrants and immigrants from the Former Soviet Union are less successful in converting skills into economic success; they remain economically disadvantaged even after 20 years of residence. The impact of geo-cultural origin on differential ability of immigrants to transmit credentials from one country to another is discussed.
The conference is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Please email ISCP@yu.eduwith your name, affiliation, and contact information.
Constitutional Conflicts and the Judicial Role in Comparative Perspective
This conference will explore the Israeli Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on complex and challenging questions facing open and multi-cultural societies everywhere. Because these issues are salient in, but by no means peculiar to, Israel, a comparative perspective will enrich our understanding of how such issues are, and might be, dealt with in other democratic societies.
Panels will address the general question of the value and challenges of comparative legal study, differing conceptions of the role of the judiciary and doctrines of justiciability, and substantive areas of current controversy, including the role of the courts in overseeing national security and intelligence gathering; immigration, asylum, and treatment and status of refugees; and religion in the modern nation-state.
The Israeli Supreme Court Project at Cardozo
This conference marks the launch of the Israeli Supreme Court Project at Cardozo Law (ISCP). Intended to both inform and engage constitutional scholars, lawyers, and judges in democracies around the world, the ISCP is a center of study and discussion of the decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court, one of the great judicial bodies of the world and a court at the forefront of dealing with issues at the core of what it means to be a democratic society.
The central undertaking of the ISCP is the translation into English and dissemination of key opinions of the Israeli Supreme Court. In this, the Project is continuing, and will expand on, two decades of work and over 200 translations by the Friends of the Library of the Supreme Court of Israel. Translated opinions, other relevant material about the Court, and more information about the ISCP can all be found on the Project’s website, VERSA, at versa.cardozo.yu.edu.
This conference, as well as the other work of the ISCP, are made possible by essential support from the David Berg Foundation, which is gratefully acknowledged.
2:30-3 p.m. Registration and Coffee3-3:15 p.m. Welcoming Remarks
This panel will consider the value and challenges of comparative legal study. Why should scholars and judges in one country care what their counterparts elsewhere are up to? Is it ever possible for outsiders to understand the details, cultural meanings, and historical underpinnings of a foreign legal system? What are the settings, issues, or circumstances that make for a successful comparative work?
8:30-9 a.m. Registration and Coffee 9-10:30 a.m. The Role of the Judiciary in Comparative Perspective
The Israeli Supreme Court hears over 10,000 cases a year, has a large mandatory docket, for many of its most important cases is the court of first instance rather than a court of appeal, and has only limited threshold “justiciability” doctrines (such as standing requirements or the bar on political questions). In these features it is utterly different from its U.S. counterpart. This panel will consider such structural characteristics, then turn to their broader implications regarding the role of the judiciary in governance and in society, including the question of whether a Supreme Court leads or follows civil society, whether it is an educational institution, and the sources of its legitimacy.
10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Judicial Oversight of National Security and Intelligence Gathering
Effective national security and intelligence gathering are generally understood to depend on secrecy, dispatch, and subterfuge. These characteristics would seem to leave little room for judicial oversight, which assumes transparency, forthrightness, and deliberate pacing. On the other hand, there is a very real danger of abuse without some sort of oversight and legal restraint. This panel will consider how national security issues differ (if at all) from other issues that come before the courts and what exactly the judicial role should be in overseeing national security agencies.
12:30-1:30 p.m. Lunch (Lunch will be provided for all attendees.)
1:30-3 p.m. Immigration, Asylum, and the Treatment and Status of Refugees
Of the Israeli Supreme Court’s recent decisions, one of the most important, divided, and divisive have concerned the detention of asylum seekers. Issues surrounding immigration and citizenship are hugely important, and hugely contested, in Israel and elsewhere. This panel will examine the ISC’s decisions in this area and consider what lessons can be drawn, positive or negative, for Israel and for the rest of the world.
3:15-4:45 p.m. Religion in the Modern Nation-State
Israel’s Basic Laws designate it as “both Jewish and democratic.” The Supreme Court, and many commentators, have struggled to reconcile these two fundamental commitments. Is it possible to construct a constitutional identity that privileges Jewish culture, history, and religion while remaining essentially democratic? The answer to that question has ramifications for religious liberties in many settings as well as minority rights in general.
‘We Know Better Than You What is Good for You’ –
Israel and Its Emigrants in the Early Years of the State
Following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, masses of Jewish immigrants and refugees flooded into the country, and their absorption became a formidable challenge for the young Jewish state. But during the same years tens of thousands of Jews also left the country, some returning to their countries of origin and others heading to new destinations. Who were these people and why did they leave? How did Israeli government and society react to the troubling phenomenon of Jewish out-migration? Based on new archival material, the lecture will shed light on a little-known yet significant chapter in Israel’s history, which has not lost its relevance even today.
Dr. Ori Yehudai is currently a Schusterman-Taub Postdoctoral Fellow at the Taub Center for Israel Studies at NYU. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned societies, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and the Israel Institute in Washington, DC, among other sources. Ori’s dissertation on Jewish emigration from Palestine and Israel between 1945 and 1960 was commended for the Fraenkel Prize in contemporary history. He is currently writing a book based on his dissertation.
The mass Jewish migration from Eastern Europe (1881–1914) was one of the seminal events in the life of the Jewish people in modern times. During this period, more than 2.5 million Jews migrated to countries across the sea. Two Jewish centers emerged as a result of the mass emigration from Eastern Europe: the State of Israel and North America. Despite the similar reasons for the development of the Jewish collectives in the United States and Israel, two completely different historiographies have emerged over the years. This article investigates how the Zionist narrative, which saw Jewish immigration to Palestine from 1881–1914 as an exceptional case in the history of Jewish migration, was constructed. try and understand the attitude of Zionist historiography towards the first aliyot to Palestine and why it ignored the large Jewish migration from Eastern Europe to the United States.
The Jewish underground movement in the Soviet Union in the second half of the 1960s produced literature that became a part of the counterculture of Soviet dissent. For the first time in decades, Russian Jews identified, to a significant degree, as people of the galut (Jewish Diaspora). The battle for the return to Israel and the new Jewish renaissance in the intellectual sphere of the unofficial led to the emergence of new topographical concepts, which were inspired primarily by the Jewish cultural tradition. In fact, the exodus texts written in the 1960s–1980s represented a new, late Soviet shaping of Zionist prose. They relate to the symbol of the Promised Land as a fundamental projection of aspirations. Late Soviet Zionist texts share the traditional Jewish vision of Israel as an imagined topos of the original homeland that is both retrospective (with reference to the biblical promise of the land and the seizure of Canaan) and prospective (return and redemption). The Exodus story contained in Sefer Shemot becomes a leading poetic, philosophical and at times religiously charged metaphor of liberation and reunification. The re-strengthened collective memory of tradition required biblical symbols to be imbued with new semiotic power.
This paper will show that the historical dimension of the events dealt with in the literature often has strong mystical and mythological traits and displays messianic-apocalyptic hopes of salvation. However, alternative literary space and time models represented in the aliyah literature hereby betray their rootedness in the teleology of the communist regime. The powerful Israel utopia reflects both the eschatological time of the Soviet empire and its phantasms of paradise on earth. Late Soviet Zionism and totalitarian discourse are shown to be two space-time utopias.
This article examines Israel’s decision to launch the 1956 campaign against Egypt. While the current literature tends to argue that, in 1956, the campaign was a response by Israel to security threats, it is suggested here that, if so, these threats certainly did not predetermine any specific response. Israel could, for example, have responded by adopting a defensive posture. In reality, domestic factors were just as influential as external ones. The most important of these was the severe economic crisis caused by mass immigration to Israel during 1948–1951. This crisis in turn led to the creation in 1953–1956 of a war coalition whose three components—David Ben-Gurion (Prime Minister and Minister of Defence), MAPAI’s party bosses and the army—had different interests but shared the idea of a war against Israel’s Arab neighbours as a way in which each could advance its preferred aims.
Halperin, Liora R. Babel in Zion. Jews, Nationalism, and Language Diversity in Palestine, 1920-1948. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014.
The promotion and vernacularization of Hebrew, traditionally a language of Jewish liturgy and study, was a central accomplishment of the Zionist movement in Palestine in the years following World War I. Viewing twentieth-century history through the lens of language, author Liora Halperin questions the accepted scholarly narrative of a Zionist move away from multilingualism, demonstrating how Jews in Palestine remained connected linguistically by both preference and necessity to a world outside the boundaries of the pro-Hebrew community even as it promoted Hebrew and achieved that language’s dominance. The story of language encounters in Jewish Palestine is a fascinating tale of shifting power relationships, both locally and globally. Halperin’s absorbing study explores how a young national community was compelled to modify the dictates of Hebrew exclusivity as it negotiated its relationships with its Jewish population, Palestinian Arabs, the British, and others outside the margins of the national project and ultimately came to terms with the limitations of its hegemony in an interconnected world.
Table of Contents
Note on transliteration and translation
Introduction: Babel in Zion
Languages of Leisure in the Home, the Coffeehouse, and the Cinema
Peddlers, Traders, and the Languages of Commerce
Clerks, Translators, and the Languages of Bureaucracy
Zion in Babel: The Yishuv in Its Arabic-Speaking Context
Hebrew Education between East and West: Foreign-Language Instruction in Zionist Schools
This article focuses primarily on countries that had been, prior to 1914, among the most favored destinations for East European Jewish migrants: chiefly the United States, Canada, Palestine, Brazil and Argentina. In the inter-war years, these ceased to be the only ports of final entry for Jewish migrants. However, despite restrictive migration regimes and unfavorable economic conditions, traditional receiver countries continued to absorb the largest share of such migrants (the U. S. and Palestine, between them, accounting for over 800,000). Jewish migration to countries other than the United States peaked around 1933; was just about equal to the U. S.-bound migrant stream by 1938; and fell off in 1939–1940. The Jewish case raises several theoretical and methodological issues, including the definition of migrant motivation as well as the framing of immigration policy as products of mixed factors – both political and economic.a