Born in Baghdad, Prof. Sasson Somekh was a prominent expert on Arabic literature, and a notable author and activist. He passed away this week. By Raanan Shemesh Forshner Prof. Sasson Somekh, one of Israel’s most prominent experts on Arabic literature and a lifelong proponent of peace, passed away this week in Tel Aviv. A winner of the Israel Prize, Somekh was a notable poet, author, translator, and activist. [tmwinpost] Born in Baghdad in 1933 to an educated, secular family, Somekh developed an interest in Arabic culture at an early age, publishing Arabic poetry as a pupil. At age 17, he was…Read More...
For children in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, summer vacation means dodging rubber bullets and watching their fathers and brothers arrested and humiliated every day. By Yuval Abraham At the entrance to Issawiya in East Jerusalem, eight children are laughing as they chase one another in circles. I take out a camera and a few of them begin to gather around me. The oldest of the group is 13 years old, and tells me that they are playing “Jews and Arabs.” Do you know it? She asks. There are two teams: the Jews shoot at the Arabs and the Arabs throw rocks.…Read More... | 8 Comments
Mizrahi academics and activists demand Israel's High Court strike down the Jewish Nation-State Law, saying it erases their cultural legacy and perpetuates injustices against both them and Palestinian citizens of Israel. Over 50 prominent Israeli Jews of Mizrahi origin filed a petition to the High Court of Justice on Tuesday demanding it strike down the Jewish Nation-State Law, saying it discriminates against both Palestinian citizens and Jewish Mizrahi citizens of Israel. [tmwinpost] According to the petition, the law, which demotes Arabic from an official language to one with “special status,” is “anti-Jewish” for excluding the history and culture of Jews from Arab and…Read More... | 31 Comments
Jewish food has always been a way to demonstrate how Jewish immigrants and refugees mixed and integrated into different societies. So how did it all of a sudden become 'Israeli?' By Rafram Chaddad Tablet Magazine released last week a list of "the most Jewish foods," in which editors Gabriella Gershenson and Alana Newhouse invite “us," the Jewish readers, to contemplate the question of which foods contain “the deepest Jewish significance — the ones that, through the history of our people… have been most profoundly inspired by… the contingencies of the Jewish experience.” [tmwinpost] This moment calls our attention to the enduring…Read More... | 5 Comments
The Israeli government's attempts, via the nation-state bill, to erase the Arabic language from this country not only threatens Palestinians, it also undermines Mizrahi identity. But their attempt is doomed to fail. By Netta Amar-Shiff When my grandmother, Sa'ida, came to Israel, she worked at Kfar Hadasim Youth Village as a house mother, and needed to undergo a quick process of Hebraization so as to communicate with hundreds of new immigrant children. Although they had much in common, there remained a gulf between them, the most prominent of which was their mother tongues. Hebrew served as a bridge for both the children…Read More... | 44 Comments
Aleppo, your stories will come back to my ears, like a child who sits on his grandmother's knees. By Mati Shemoelof Aleppo, I, Matityaho Ibn Shifra, your old daughter, a grandson of your Arab-Jews, mourn the erasure of your city of poetry, Aleppo, how did they forget to save your libraries? Aleppo, was it not fireworks that lit the skies of the Arab spring? Or were the night stars shining all night long? Aleppo, tell me who is the devil that drops explosive barrels upon your residents, and thinks that in this way — they will write his name in…Read More... | 2 Comments
The severed ties between Arab-Jewish culture and the wider history and culture of Judaism and the Arab world are being repaired by a groundbreaking new university degree in Israel. By Hadas Shabat-Nadir and Almog Behar In the 1950s, Professor Shlomo Dov Goitein suggested establishing a chair of Arab-Jewish culture at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. But what place does Arabic-Jewish culture have at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem? What does a school for Jewish studies have to do with Arab-Jewish tradition? Or with a course on Arabic literature, classical Arabic from the pre-Islamic period, the Quran and the Caliphate, and the…Read More... | 15 Comments
Even when they had reached the borders of the Promised Land, after 40 years in the desert, all the Children of Israel wanted was to go back to Egypt. In Erez Biton's poem, the immigrant from Algeria and his son fail to build a home in Israel. Independence Day is also the tale of the rift in our identity, created by immigrating here. By Mati Shemoelof "And the children of Israel said unto them: ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, when we did eat bread…Read More...
Before the advent of Zionism and Arab nationalism, Jews and Palestinians lived in peace in the holy land. Menachem Klein's new book maps out an oft-forgotten history of Israel/Palestine, and offers some guidance on how we may go back to that time. By Noam Rotem Menachem Klein's book, Lives in Common: Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Hebron, is a depressing one. Originally released in English, the book — which is being published in Hebrew — paints a picture of a shared life between Palestinians and Jews at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th…Read More... | 26 Comments
Five years after Mizrahi Israelis offered their solidarity to the young men and women of the Arab Spring, it is time to say it loud and clear: real peace will come once we recognize the deep cultural and religious ties between Jews and Muslims of the region. By Almog Behar Five years ago in April of 2011, in the wake of the events of the Arab Spring, a group of Jewish descendants from Muslim and Arab countries, second and third generation Mizrahim in Israel, published an open letter of the women and men of the Middle East and North Africa,…Read More... | 18 Comments
Weighted down by historical, religious and linguistic inaccuracies, Egyptian television series 'The Jewish Quarter’ nevertheless tells an intriguing story of the political, social and religious changes that have transformed Egypt — in 1948 and in 2015. An Egyptian Ramadan television series called “The Jewish Quarter”* has attracted quite a bit of international media attention for its sympathetic portrayal of Jewish Egyptians during the years immediately following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, up until 1954. Set in Cairo, the ongoing multi-episode drama takes its name from one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, where Jews, Muslims and Christians…Read More... | 7 Comments
A controversial new television show gives us a glimpse into Jewish-Muslim relations before Israel's establishment, as well as a better understanding of those Jews who left Arab countries only to become Israel's Mizrahim. By Nadia Naser-Najjab A recent controversy over a new Egyptian television series has served to highlight one of the central tensions at the heart of Zionist thought. This controversy has arisen in relation to "Haret al-Yahud" ("The Jewish Quarter"), a love story which depicts a romantic relationship between a male Egyptian-Muslim army officer (Iyad Nassar) and a female Egyptian-Jewish character (Mena Shalaby). The series, which is being broadcast…Read More... | 1 Comment
Two Nakba-themed events were organized by groups you'd least expect, suggesting that the legacy of the Palestinian catastrophe has ventured beyond Palestinian and leftist circles. By Eitan Bronstein Aparicio and Dr. Eléonore Merza Bronstein Until a few years ago, inside Israel Nakba Day was marked primarily on Independence Day. It was a family and community tradition among internally displaced Palestinians going back to the days of the military government. After the Oslo Accords it developed into large, popular political demonstrations. Three years ago, Tel Aviv University students started holding a memorial ceremony on Nakba Day itself, May 15. The event…Read More... | 12 Comments
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