“The Flying Camel: Essays on Identity by Women of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Heritage”

The Flying Camel is not a very well known book, perhaps, but it is one that everyone should read.  It is a series of essays by 18 women, most of whom now live the United States, about the experiences of non-European Jewish women in their home countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco), in Israel, in France and in the United States.  Some of the essays are personal narratives, some sociological analyses, some a combination of the two.  After reading each essay, I wanted to sit down and talk to the author.  That is not my normal reaction.

The narratives can be hair raising (I would be perhaps a little suspicious if I was not familiar with a very analogous story of a friend whose family emigrated from Tunisia), not only as to how their families were treated in their home countries, but also in Israel, and to an extent in the United States.  In each location, these women and their families were treated as “outsiders”, outsiders to Moslem culture, and outsiders to European-centered culture in Israel and the United States.

I am not going to try to describe the contents of these short pieces (the entire book is 230 pages), only to say that they are important to read not only as a description of the family histories or life histories of the authors, but also as examples of the omnipresent, invidious and often subtle effects of prejudice, in its many varieties.

If you can find The Flying Camel, please pick it up (softcover, Seal Press, 2003).  It makes no difference if you are North African or Middle Eastern, if you are Jewish, or if you are a woman.

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