On Thursday, July 20 at 5 pm Eastern Time, Professor Moshe Naor will be our guest for a Casual Conversation that focuses on the social and political nature of the State of Israel. As with Rachel Greenblatt, Ph.D., our last guest, Professor Naor was suggested for a Casual Conversation to Bruce Alpert, Chair of the Jewish Culture Group.
Here is Professor Naor’s short biography:
Moshe Naor is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Israel Studies at the University of Haifa. His main research interests focus on Israeli history; History of Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews; Jewish-Arab Relations; and War and Society. He has been a Visiting Professor of Israel Studies at UCLA and at Dartmouth College. He is the author of: Social Mobilization in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948: On the Israeli Home Front (Routledge, 2013). His book, written together with Abigail Jacobson, Oriental Neighbors: Middle Eastern Jews and Arabs in Mandatory Palestine, was published in 2016 by Brandeis University Press. The book Oriental Neighbors won the Shapiro Award of the Association for Israel Studies for the Best Book in Israel Studies. His current research is on Haifa: A Sephardi and Mizrahi History of a Mediterranean Port City from the Late Ottoman Period through the British Mandate. In this academic year (2022-2023) he is a Visiting Professor at the Jewish Studies Program at Dartmouth College.
If we seek insights on the differences that divide Israelis today, then it is important to look back to the founding of the State, and even before. Professor Naor does so masterfully with Oriental Neighbors, in which he and his co-author focus on the three (or four, if you separate out the Jews from Yemen) political or ethnic Jewish entities that populated Palestine under the British Mandate, which took over from the defeated Ottoman Empire. How the Sephardi and Oriental Jews, long in Palestine, navigated their relationships with the newly-arrived Zionist Jews from Europe and the Arabs with whom the Sephardim and the Oriental Jews had lived with for many years (centuries) before Chaim Weizmann brought modern Zionism to life and the Balfour Declaration was issued by Britain. I, for one, will be interested in how the differences Professor Naor describes in his book among Jews is reflected in the current debate on the reforms the current Government is proposing for the Supreme Court of Israel.
In preparing for this Casual Conversation, I was struck with this statement written recently (on a different topic) by Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik:
It has been noted by scholars such as the historian Yosef Hayyim Yerushalmi, and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, that while others speak of their connection to the past as “history,” Jews instead tend to speak of “memory.” The difference between the two terms is profound. History rightly records the great figures who oversaw the events that changed the world. Jewish memory insists on the debt we owe to all those who sacrificed in the past, and our obligation to remember them.
When we speak of Jews in Mandatory Palestine, therefore, we speak of ourselves, just as we speak in the Passover celebration of ourselves as having left the land of Egypt as free men and women.
Whether history or memory, what is happening now owes a great debt to what happened in the 20th century C.E. Find out what that debt is, and why it is important knowledge for our appreciation of what is going on now.
Usual rules apply: Email me at email@example.com if you want to attend, and due so by the close of business on Tuesday, July 18.