Eliyahu (Eliahu or Elie) Eliachar (Elyachar) (1899-1981) was a Palestinian Jewish essayist who (as a witness, participant, and astute observer) lived through the Ottoman, British mandatory, and Israeli state periods.
Scion of an old Jerusalem family of distinguished rabbis and scholars (which came to Palestine from Spain in 1485), he was during the greater part of the 20th century the leading spokesman for the Sephardi and Oriental Jews in the Palestine. Born in Jerusalem, he studied medicine in Beirut, and Law in Cairo and Jerusalem; and served as an officer in the Turkish army during World War I. He was a delegate to the Zionist Congresses of 1925 and 1927, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Member of the first two Israel Knessets, President of the Jerusalem Sephardi community, co-founder of the World Sephardi Federation, editor of the Hebrew weekly Hed ha-Mizrah (“Echo of the Orient”), Honorary President of the Israel Council for Peace with the Palestinians. He was also a pioneering industrialist in the Land of Israel, and Director of Palestine Airways, Ltd., the first Jewish enterprise in civil aviation. After the 1967 War and the Israeli capture of East Jerusalem, he initiated a project for the renovation of the ancient Sephardi synagogues in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. He wrote an autobiography, entitled Lihyot im Yehudim (“Living with Jews”), Jerusalem 1980; and Lihyot im Palestinim (“Living with Palestinians”), Jerusalem 1975; second edition, enlarged, with introductions by the author A. B. Yehoshua and the historian Israel Bartal, Jerusalem 1997.
Eliachar believed that knowledge of the history and culture of Sephardi and Oriental Jews was vital for the new State of Israel. Sephardi and Oriental Jews had learned both how to live with Jews, and how to live with Arabs. He argued that failure of modern Zionism to achieve peace with the neighboring Arabs was in part due to the general exclusion of Sephardi and Oriental Jews from positions of political leadership. To his mind, the struggle to advance Sephardi and Oriental studies was in truth the struggle to create a new, free, learned Israeli, capable of living in dignity and peace in the Middle East.
In 1972 Eliachar created Misgav Yerushalayim as a research institute for the study of the Sephardi and Oriental Jewish Heritage. Misgav Yerushalayim was conceived as a joint project of the World Sephardi Federation, the Council Sephardi and Oriental Communities of Jerusalem, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Its aim was to fill in the lacuna in academic studies on the history and cultural heritage of Sephardi and Oriental Jews, to promote research on these topics and to spread the academic knowledge obtained by means of publications, conferences, seminars and lectures.
Eliachar served as a member of the Supreme Council of Defense under Ben Gurion.
On September 17, 1952, the Jerusalem Post reported that after another fruitless meeting of the Jerusalem Municipal Council, the acting mayor, Eliahu Eliachar, announced that he would postpone all future meetings indefinitely. The council was unable to form a coalition to elect the city¹s new mayor. The former mayor, Mr. Shragai of Hapoel Hamizrahi, had resigned on June 30.
An early and consistent advocate of equality for ther Palestinian citizens of Israel, Eliachar also advocated an independent Palestinian state as early as 1970.Eliyahu Elyashar coffee and tobacco importer editor of Hed Ha-Mizrah (Echo of the East), the journal of the Sephardi elite in Palestine