The Arab Ashkenazi: Rethinking Jewish migration from Europe to the Eastern Mediterranean

The Arab Ashkenazi: Rethinking Jewish migration from Europe to the Eastern Mediterranean

Tuesday, 13 June 2023 - 2:00pm to 4:30pm
Investcorp Lecture Theatre, St Antony's College
Dr Yair Wallach (SOAS)
James Sunderland, Daniel Amir, Eirik Kvindesland (University of Oxford)
MEC Seminar

It is commonplace that modern Jewish presence in the Middle East was composed of two kinds of populations: On the one hand, well integrated local communities of Arab, Sephardic or Mizrahi Jews, with long history in the region; on the other hand, recently arrived Ashkenazi Jews, who migrated from Central and Eastern Europe to Palestine in large numbers as part of the Zionist movement, and whose colonising mission put them in direct antagonism to the local Arab society. This dichotomous categorisation – which is widely accepted in both the Zionist and anti-Zionist historiography – is what Dr Yair Wallach’s new research seeks to dismantle.

Ashkenazi communities existed in the Eastern Mediterranean since the Middle Ages. The wave of migration in the 19th century propelled Ashkenazim not only towards Palestine but also to Egypt, Beirut, Istanbul, and other locales. There is ample evidence of Ashkenazi integration and acculturation – through the adoption of Arabic language, clothing and food; taking part in local politics, trade and crime; in military service or in mixed marriages, and more.

In this lecture, Dr Yair Wallach will chart the contours of Ashkenazi integration in the region and its constraints; and will discuss the reversal and erasure of Ashkenazi integration in the interwar period, in Palestine and in Egypt.

The talk will take place as part of the one-day international conference ‘The Interwar Middle East: Between the Transnational and the Marginal 1918-1945’.

Those attending are warmly invited to stay after Dr Wallach’s talk for the conference’s final panel and roundtable discussion.

For further information please contact the conference organisers at:

This event is only open to members of the University.