Jew-on-Jew Racism or Cultural Autonomy?
Anshey Shlomenu! There has been a mild buzz lately about just how attractive the settlements are to low-income Israelis. Looking for land on the cheap, haredim are especially attracted to life in the West Bank. Yet, one particular settlement, Emmanuel has such a low public image that no one really wants to move there. A while back, the press heard that a local Haredi school had started to segregate Ashkenazi and Sephardi/Mizrahi students, arguing that each community cared deeply about preserving their unique Hebrew accents and minhagim, and that educating Sephardi students to pray and learn in loshn-koydesh (Ashkenazi Hebrew) contradicted centuries of cultural autonomy and constituted nothing more than a zealous defense of traditional Ashkenazi custom . Call it a radical critique of Zionist culture or blunt Racism, I’m torn.
Nathan Jeffay writes in The Jewish Chronicle
Happily, the days are long gone when Israel’s ruling secular-Ashkenazi elite imposed its ways on everybody else, stripping Sephardi and Oriental immigrants of their traditions. Today, almost every public figure makes a point of visiting the Moroccan community during Mimouna, its spring festival. And, in November for the first time, there was an official state reception to mark the Sigd festival of Ethiopian Jews, a newly declared national holiday.
Many in the education ministry, the law and the media regard the Charedim who are pushing for segregation in schools as, at best, dinosaurs or, at worst, racists. But these strictly Orthodox rabbis and others quite reasonably argue that, if their distinctive Hebrew pronunciations are compromised, a valuable part of their heritage is in danger of being lost. Just because many of us in Israel are happy with our hybrid pronunciation called Modern Hebrew, that does not give us the right to impose it on others.