May 23, 2019

Where Do Mizrahi Jews Fit Into Holocaust Remembrance?

“One evening as a child in Petach Tikvah, I was in my room listening to the Iraqi Jewish singer Salima Mourad when a siren pierced the air. I rose from my bed and stood in silence.

The siren marked the start of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. I was trying hard to think of all those who died in the Holocaust as the loud memorial siren drowned out the Arabic music. I was trying to force myself to feel the pain that my own people, the Jewish people, had endured.

Then the siren stopped. Salima continued singing in Arabic: “My body has become emaciated, my soul has melted and my bones are showing.”

It happens every year on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

As a Mizrahi Israeli, I have always had a complicated relationship with the Holocaust.

Growing up in Israel, I learned about the horrific mass murder of one-third of the Jewish people. Hearing stories from Holocaust survivors, and from my friends whose grandparents survived, was always hard. Each year during Yom Hashoah, the shops in Israel close early, they show Holocaust movies on television and a siren commands the attention of all Israelis, compelling us to stop for a minute of silence and remember what happened to us.”

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