Mizrahi Perspectives, Jewish Perspectives

Years of Activity: 2015 - 2017

Research Status:


Dr. Menashe Anzi, Dr. Eliezer Baumgarten, Dr. Almog Behar, Dr. Amir Benbaji, Dr. Yohai Ben-Gedalya, Dr. Guy Bracha, Dr. Hillel Cohen, Semadar Cohen, Dr. Doron Danino, Keren Dotan, Dr. Shelly Elkayam, Hadar Feldman, Dr. Noah Gerber, Re’ee Hagai, Eran Hakim, Ido Harari, Dr. Hanan Harif, Dr. Yali Hashash, Tirza Kalman, Dr. Malka Katz, Tamir Krakson, Dr. Nissim Leon, Dr. Aviad Moreno, Dr. Amos Noy, Eli Osehrov, Dr. Haya Sasportas, Dr. Hadass Shabbat-Nadir, Lilach Turjeman, Avi-Ram Zoref

The group titled “Mizrahi Perspectives, Jewish Perspectives” is the continuation of the group titled The Jews of the East, Orientalism, and Modern Awareness at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. The group is reexamining questions regarding the Jews of the East, in historical and contemporary contexts that go beyond the traditional disciplinary and conceptual distinctions between the historical treatment of Jewish communities of the East and the ethnographic and sociological treatment of Mizrahim in Israel. The group is exploring the disjuncture that these distinctions created between the Mizrahi present and its past. First and foremost, this framework has enabled a continuing and fruitful exchange of ideas between young scholars who present the historical emphases typical of the Ben Zvi Institute and the contemporary emphases typical of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. This encounter has also created a framework in which the discussion of Mizrahi perspectives of various kinds makes it possible to shed a critical light on some of the underpinnings of the secularization thesis, taken broadly, and to reexamine the dichotomies on which it rests—religious–secular, West–East, national–religious—through the historiography that it generates and through the widespread practices that derive from it and perpetuate it.

The group is focusing on an analysis of various aspects of the critique of secularization through such basic concepts as “traditionalism” and “messianism,” with the aim of examining how they may offer alternatives to the binariness underlying the secular order. Meanwhile, the group provides a single framework for examining diverse historical phenomena—from the sixteenth-century philosophy of Safed to contemporary Mizrahi poetry, both philosophy that developed in the East and that which emerged in the West—and exploring the conceptual lines that connect them, in an attempt to propose a broad critique of Western consciousness and contemporary Israeli consciousness within it. The group held a comprehensive conference in October 2015 devoted to the perspectives arising from the participants’ shared work, and it is continuing to hold both periodic meetings and symposia.