Arab Israeli women are one of the most underrepresented groups of writers in Israel and the world. It’s very difficult to find such work that’s been translated into English. And so today, we spotlight the poetry of three such women.
israel in translation
The fast of Ramadan ends soon. In Israel, lights are strung up all over the cities of Jerusalem, Haifa, Akko, Jaffa, and many smaller towns and villages. It is a season of heightened charity and prayer. To celebrate the upcoming holiday, we read from the poetry of Sumaiya El-Sousy.
The story is set during the time of the 14th century great plague in Jerusalem, which killed a quarter of the city’s population. In this story, the monks who lived on the mountain, at a distance of an hour and a half outside of the city, would take turns, by drawing lots, to go into the city to help.
Appelfeld’s novel is told in two parts. Part one chronicles the dissolution of an assimilated Austrian family and the anti-semitism leading up to the war. Part two picks up “many years later, when everything was over,” and where the narrator has somehow escaped to Palestine.
In 1948 the poet Haim Gouri fought as a deputy company commander in the Palmach Negev Brigade and wrote a poem commemorating the fighters who accompanied the convoys and fell at Bab el Wad. We read from it and hear it sung on today’s episode.
This week we continue exploring Robert Alter’s translation of the Bible and sacred poetry by looking at the “Song of Songs,” which is traditionally read on the Shabbat of the intermediate days of Passover before the morning Torah reading, or on the morning of the seventh day.
Robert Alter’s historic one-man translation of the entire Hebrew Bible is like two worlds at once, the heavens and the earth, with the translation above and the commentary below. One can spend a lifetime in either of these worlds.
The poetry of Bracha Serri is intertextual, not only for its Biblical references, but for its dialogue with Yemenite culture, feminism, politics, and religion. She often adopts the first person voice of a Yemeni woman, crushed between an oppressive patriarchal background and the discriminatory nature of her everyday life.
Several of Agbaria’s poems, written in Arabic, have been translated into Hebrew, and have been well received. Among the themes found in his poetry are the extreme alienation from the self that of living as a religious and linguistic minority in Israel can produce.