Flora Saporto as a Window into Changes in the Lives of Sephardi Women in Palestine at the End of the Ottoman Era
by Margalit Shilo
Until 1870 the Sephardim were the largest Jewish group in Palestine. With the influx of the first waves of Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants, the Sephardim lost not only their primacy but also, to a great extent, their prestige and many of their characteristics. These changes also affected the lifestyle of Sephardi women. The story “Flora Saporto,” published in 1914 in Jerusalem in the Hebrew newspaper Haherut, portrays a young Sephardi woman who represents this complex process. This article describes the traditional characteristics of young Sephardi women and analyzes the new characteristics of Flora Saporto. She was educated in a school headed by Ashkenazi Zionists, acquired a Hebrew education, married for love, and admired the Ashkenazim, in whose midst she lived. A careful analysis of “Flora Saporto” reveals the pain involved in adopting a new identity in the complex reality of the end of Ottoman rule in Palestine.