Book Information

Oriental Neighbors: Middle Eastern Jews and Arabs in Mandatory Palestine

Abigail Jacobson and Moshe Naor


228 pp. 6 x 9"

978-1-5126-0006-3, Paperback
978-1-5126-0005-6, Hardcover
978-1-5126-0007-0, Ebook


Best Book in Israel Studies, 2016

"When Mizrahi Jews and Arabs Dreamed of a Shared Homeland" Haaretz 03-19-17

The Jewish News of Northern California: "Differing perspectives..."

Podcast with the authors, by New Books Network

Interview by Tel Aviv Review

Oriental Neighbors: Middle Eastern Jews and Arabs in Mandatory Palestine


Abigail Jacobson, Moshe Naor

A fresh look at Jewish-Arab relations in Palestine under the British Mandate.

Focusing on Oriental Jews and their relations with their Arab neighbors in Mandatory Palestine, this book analyzes the meaning of the hybrid Arab-Jewish identity that existed among Oriental Jews, and discusses their unique role as political, social, and cultural mediators between Jews and Arabs. Integrating Mandatory Palestine and its inhabitants into the contemporary Semitic-Levantine surroundings, Oriental Neighbors illuminates broad areas of cooperation and coexistence, which coincided with conflict and friction, between Oriental and Sephardi Jews and their Arab neighbors. The book brings the Oriental Jewish community to the fore, examines its role in the Zionist nation-building process, and studies its diverse and complex links with the Arab community in Palestine.

“This valuable study highlights the unique political and cultural role played in Mandatory Palestine by Oriental Jews (or Jews of Middle Eastern descent) in relations with the country’s Arab majority. It makes a significant contribution by emphasizing the existing cultural links between these Jews and their Arab neighbors, while also stressing their overall commitment to Zionism, and the inevitable split with these neighbors that this commitment eventually produced. The book thereby adds measurably to our understanding both of these distinct communities, and adds nuance to the depiction of Zionist attitudes to the so-called 'Arab Question.'”—Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies, Columbia University

“This beautiful book works dismantles — in meaningful and productive ways — the binaries and assumptions we have become accustomed to accept as the cornerstones of the realities of the Arab Israeli conflict. Presenting a fascinating history of the relationships between Mizrahi Jews and Palestinians, primarily before the establishment of the state of Israel, it uncovers forgotten histories of friendships, dialogues and conversations, which today seem impossible. It is a must read for anyone who wishes to think differently about possible, and better, futures for Israelis, Palestinians, and the entire Middle East.”—Orit Bashkin, Professor of Modern Arab History, University of Chicago

ABIGAIL JACOBSON is the academic director of the Mediterranean Neighbors program, Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and senior lecturer in the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

MOSHE NAOR is assistant professor in the Department of Israel Studies at the University of Haifa. 

This book was published by Brandeis University Press as part of the Schusterman Series in Israel Studies.