"The voice of Jews from Arab countries and Iran must be heard within the education system, in the media, in the arts, and in the country’s official institutions, as it needs to be heard in the internationally arena as well, in order to mend the historical injustice, and to ensure financial reparations."
President Reuven Rivlin addressed a ceremony at his residence marking the first Day of the Expulsion and Deportation of Jews from Arab Lands and Iran (30 November 2014):
"We have come together today to make amends for an historical injustice, against a million Jews, immigrants from Arab countries and Iran, whose stories were pushed to the margins of the Zionist narrative. Indeed, this comes too late, on too small a scale, and no longer has an impact on the public consciousness. And yet still, it is important to seek the correction, which should not be underestimated.
This is the nature of healing consciousness, it has the power to dissolve the residue, change the future, and establish a new consciousness, which will illuminate the past with the light of historic justice. Throughout the years, refugees from the Arab communities felt that the establishment itself, was pushing them into a corner. The establishment itself blurred the trace of their tracks from the pages of official history. As if the immigrants from the Arab countries did not march proudly along the routes of ‘the pillar of fire and smoke’, of the history of our people.
Jews in Arab countries were born Zionists of Zion. There was no need to promote the idea within their communities or convince them of the importance of returning the people to its land, the establishment of the state or building the country. They did not dare to conceive the ‘Uganda’ plan, after all, Uganda, was for them exile, not salvation. The love of Zion was and remains in their blood. They fed on it along with their mother’s milk, from the verses of prayer, and the stories of their fathers.
Even before the announcement of the establishment of the state, and especially following, Jews in Arab countries and Iran, found themselves imprisoned in their own countries, subjected to restrictions and harassment, exposed without protection, to massacres and looting – from riots in Tripoli to Eden. Many were expelled. Others couldn’t face the harassment, and were forced to leave their countries, leaving behind entire lifetimes, memories, their parents’ tombs, a language, culture and property.
For years, their voices weren’t heard, and their loss wasn’t expressed. The horrific tragedies that happened to our people caught most of the attention. Many immigrants were sent far away from the positions of power, to face the challenges of the periphery, in Dimona, Beit She’an and Hatzor Haglilit. They were required to develop cities out of nothing, to process the parched desert soil, and to deal, on a daily basis with protecting the borders of the State of Israel.
It was not malice that led to their exclusion from the front-lines of the leadership of the young state, but exclusion did cause frustration and rightful pain. Their voices were muted, but the words were in their mouths all along, even if they were said in Hebrew with a Persian or Arabic accent, which in Israel, were thought of as enemy languages and viewed as a source of shame. It took time, too long a time, until the tales of the Jewish immigrants from Arab countries and Iran made it into conciseness of the Israeli public. And today we are fortunate to hear their story in a loud, proud and eloquent voice, from the mouths of their sons and daughters.
This voice, this story, must be heard within the education system, in the media, in the arts, and in the country’s official institutions, as it needs to be heard in the internationally arena as well, in order to mend the historical injustice, and to ensure financial reparations.
Even today, Tehran and Haled, Baghdad, Sana’a and Tripoli, are still places prohibited to Israeli Jews, and cultural treasures and property left there have been vandalized and looted, more than once by the hateful regimes. This day, for the expulsion and exile from the Arab countries and Iran, is an opportunity to do an historical justice. With a refreshed and considered viewpoint, which does not ignore the problems of the past. But more than that, this day asks us to remember and embrace in our hearts the cultural treasures created in these Jewish communities from the Arab countries and Iran, and get to know the important part they played, in creating the joint future woven here today, as part of the history of the State of Israel."