Israeli schools to teach about fate of North African Jews in the Holocaust

Education Minister Peretz insists history of Jewish people living in Muslim countries during World War II be included in curriculum

A Nazi trooper on a street in Tunis on January 9, 1943. (AP)
A Nazi trooper on a street in Tunis on January 9, 1943. (AP)

Israel will include study of the persecution of North African Jewry under the Nazis as part of mandatory history curriculum in high schools.

Study of the Holocaust as a historical subject was removed from the mandatory section of the national matriculation exam four years ago by then-education minister Shai Piron, though teachers were allowed to assign the Holocaust as a research project. Academics and history teachers publicly criticized the move.

Former education minister Naftali Bennett reinstated the subject on the bagrut matriculation exam shortly before he was fired from his position in early June by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu’s current pick for education minister, Rafi Peretz, decided to include in the curriculum the experience of Jews of North African, or Mizrahi, heritage during the Holocaust.

Education Minister Rafi Peretz, speaks to supporters during an election campaign event in Ramat Gan, on August 12, 2019. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

The material will be studied in the 12th grade, the Ynet news site reported.

“For years, the story of Jews living in Muslim countries under the Nazi occupation has been absent from our discourse,” Peretz said in a statement. “The painful stories of thousands of Jews who were sent to concentration camps and forced to participate in the death marches.”

Anti-Semitic legislation was imposed on the 415,000 Jews of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia following the establishment of the Vichy regime in France, according to the national Holocaust museum Yad Vashem, and thousands of Libyan Jews were taken to concentration camps.

Baghdad’s pro-German government didn’t prevent attacks on the Iraqi Jewish community, though the Farhud pogroms in the city have not been universally recognized as part of the Holocaust.

Earlier this year Yad Vashem changed two of its key prayers for Holocaust Remembrance Day — the Yizkor prayer and El Maleh Rahamim — to include Jewish victims from North Africa.

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