Oriental Jews

   Originally, the term was used to refer to the Jews from Spain expelled from the Iberian Peninsula during the Inquisition, but currently, the term is used when referring to all Jews of non-Western European descent. Israel's non-Ashkenazi Jews are referred to as "Edot Hamizrach" (eastern, or Oriental, communities), Sephardim, or Oriental Jews. The term Sephardim (derived from the Hebrew name for Spain) is often used to refer to all Jews whose origin is in the Arab world and Muslim lands, although it properly refers to the Jews of Spain and the Iberian Peninsula and the communities they established in areas to which they immigrated after their expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula.
   Iberian Jews hold the strong traditional beliefs of the Sephardim, and often their educational and living standards are lower than the Ashkenazi Jews. Prior to the wave of immigration from the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the 1990s, they constituted a growing majority of Israel's population. The Iberian Jews generally spoke Ladino, a Judeo-Spanish language originally written in medieval Hebrew letters and later in Latin letters (much as the Ashkenazi Jews spoke Yiddish), whereas those of the Middle Eastern communities did not.
   Most of the Oriental Jews' immigration came after Israel's independence from the eastern Arab states (such as Iraq) and from Iran, where the Jews had resided for more than 2,000 years and often had substantial centers of learning. The community is diverse and pluralistic, although a collective "Oriental" identity appears to be emerging. The prominence of the "ethnic issue" in Israeli politics (sometimes referred to as the "ethnic demon") was increased by the election of the Moroccan-born Amir Peretz as the leader of the Israel Labor Party in the fall of 2005.
   See also Second Israel.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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