Rachel Shabi was born in Israel to Jewish Iraqi parents. When she was a child her family emigrated to the United Kingdom in 1974. Their leaving reversed the spiritual trek of the Jewish Diaspora, around the world whose members wistfully repeat at the Passover tables, "Next year in Jerusalem." Years later, in fact, Shabi went back to visit and to live for an extended period, but her attitude toward her former homeland is conflicted by the longstanding discrimination suffered by Arab Jews in Israel.
Shortly after its creation, Israel accepted close to one million Jews from Arab lands-from Yemen, Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey. Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) Jews now make up around 50% of Israel's population. Yet Ashkenazi Jews have traditionally disparaged the Mizrahi as "backward" and have systematically limited their opportunities in the classroom and the workplace.
"There is a class split," writes Shabi, "that runs on ethnic lines."
She traces the history of how the Jewish Disapora lived alongside Muslims and Christians for centuries, and how the dream of Jewish solidarity within Israel in the mid-20th century was fractured by ethnic discrimination as pernicious as racism in the United States, Great Britain, and other parts of the world. Shabi combines scholarly research with intimate oral history to shed light on ethnic injustice, and her personal story and passion make We Look Like the Enemy a stunning, unforgettable book.
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