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Pressing Forward

The concept of unity is more relevant than ever — and it is being demonstrated continuously on the ground in Israel.
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About six months ago, JIMENA began mapping out themes for upcoming issues of Distinctions: A Sephardi and Mizrahi Journal. From the outset, we knew we wanted one edition of the journal to focus exclusively on Israel. In mid-summer, we landed on a theme for Fall 2023: “Unity for Israel,” an ideal that represents JIMENA’s vision of a tolerant Israel that rejoices in our commonalities rather than fixates on our differences.

We assembled an impressive and diverse lineup of talent to contribute to the issue — almost all residing in Israel. We accepted their submissions throughout September, which now seems like a world ago. Soon after Hamas waged war in Israel, in our grief, JIMENA began to rethink our plan. Would articles focusing on “Unity for Israel” appear flat or insensitive in light of this new reality? Should we scrap the whole issue and start over?

JIMENA reached out to the authors for guidance, offering them an opportunity to change or add to what they had submitted prior to the war. Some did; some did not. A common theme, however, emerged from their responses. The concept of unity was not only more relevant than ever, it was being demonstrated every hour and every minute on the ground in Israel. We decided to push forward and publish, with two articles — those by Ophir Toubul and Gila Green — featuring additional content written after the war broke out.

“I knew that Israeli society had reached a point where only an external threat would succeed in reminding us of everything we have in common,” Toubul writes in his addendum. “Indeed, so sad to say that is exactly what happened. When you look at the mobilization of the Israeli people in the days after the brutal attack by Hamas, you realize that this nation is really like a family.”

What has struck me — as I read through our exhibit of Sephardi and Mizrahi poems dating from the Middle Ages to modern times — is that very little has changed. Our dreams of peace and freedom, our yearning and love for Zion, and by extension the resilience of our people, are never-ending.