Ashkenazi Jews in Israel – Wikipedia

Posted By on October 22, 2023

In Israel, the term Ashkenazi is now used in a manner unrelated to its original meaning, often applied to all Jews who settled in Europe[citation needed] and sometimes including those whose ethnic background is actually Sephardic. Jews of any non-Ashkenazi background, including Mizrahi, Yemenite, Kurdish and others who have no connection with the Iberian Peninsula, have similarly come to be lumped together as Sephardic. Jews of mixed background are increasingly common, partly because of intermarriage between Ashkenazi and Sephardi/Mizrahi, and partly because many do not see such historic markers as relevant to their life experiences as Jews.[4]

The Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel is an honored leadership role given to a respected Ashkenazi rabbi. The Chief Rabbi may make determinations regarding matters of halakha that affect the public and this position also has political overtones. Some religiously affiliated Ashkenazi Jews in Israel may be more likely to support certain religious interests in Israel, including certain political parties. These political parties result from the fact that a portion of the Israeli electorate votes for Jewish religious parties; although the electoral map changes from one election to another, there are generally several small parties associated with the interests of religious Ashkenazi Jews. The role of religious parties, including small religious parties that play important roles as coalition members, results in turn from Israel's composition as a complex society in which competing social, economic, and religious interests stand for election to the Knesset, a unicameral legislature with 120 seats.[5]

In 2018, 31.8% of Israeli Jews self-identified as Ashkenazi, in addition to 12.4% being immigrants from the former USSR, a majority of whom self-identify as Ashkenazi.[6] They have played a prominent role in the economy, media, and politics of Israel since its founding. During the first decades of Israel as a state, strong cultural conflict occurred between Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews (mainly east European Ashkenazim). The roots of this conflict, which still exists to a much smaller extent in present-day Israeli society, are chiefly attributed to the concept of the "melting pot".[7] That is to say, all Jewish immigrants who arrived in Israel were strongly encouraged to "melt down" their own particular exilic identities within the general social "pot" in order to become Israeli.[8]

The majority of Ashkenazim in Israel today tend to vote for left-wing and centrist parties, favoring especially Blue and White (political alliance) and Yesh Atid, while other Jewish subdivisions such as Mizrahi Jews in Israel tend to favor more right-wing parties such as Likud, with the distinction sharpening since 1980.[9] Ashkenazi prominence on the left has historically been associated with socialist ideals that had emerged in Central Europe and the kibbutz and Labor Zionist movements; while Mizrahim, as they rose in society and they developed their political ideals, often rejected ideologies they associated with an "Ashkenazi elite." Instead, from the 1970s, Mizrahim began to flood into the ranks of Likud in response to Menachem Begin enthusiastically making overtures to the community, despite not being Mizrahi himself.[10] Although these tensions were initially based on economic rivalries, the distinction remained strong even as Mizrahim increasingly moved up the socioeconomic ladder around 1990, entering the middle class, and the disparity between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim diminished (but did not completely disappear), with Mizrahi political expression becoming increasingly linked to the Likud and Shas parties; Shas was founded as a party to represent Mizrahim while Likud, the largest right-wing party, in Israel became increasingly influenced by Mizrahi political articulation, with the Mizrahi middle class' political coming-of-age held by political science commentators to be embodied by the rise of Mizrahi Likud politicians such as Moshe Kahlon[11] and Miri Regev.[12] The Ashkenazi vote has, aside from electorally limited majority-Ashkenazi ultra-religious parties such as Habayit Hayehudi and UTJ, long been associated with secularism and social liberalism and Ashkenazi Israelis are overall less devout, more socially liberal, and have more favorable opinions towards improving relations with Arab peoples, and greater opposition to settlements in the West Bank, than Israelis of Sephardic and Mizrahi extraction.[13] Today, the most influential party among Ashkenazi Israelis appears to be Blue and White (political alliance).[9]

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Ashkenazi Jews in Israel - Wikipedia

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