Almog Behar’s Arabic-Infused Hebrew Poetry Isn’t Like Other Mizrahi Writers’

Arabic is never far from the pen of the Israeli poet Almog Behar, who regularly throws expressions from the language of his ancestors into his Hebrew verses. In his new collection of poems, whose title translates as “Rub Salt into Love,” he writes, “And now I start translating myself into Arabic/ Where no one can see/ Tossing and turning from one language to the other.” Meir Buzaglo writes in his review:

Behar grew up in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya, though his family hails from across a wide swath of the Jewish Diaspora, including Iraq, Turkey, and Germany. Alongside Hebrew, some of his relatives are fluent in Arabic, while others speak German. The poet describes his translation between the closely related Semitic tongues as seeking harmony, or at least mutual understanding, between them and their culturally opposed speakers.

Almog Behar is often thought of as a Mizraḥi poet, yet his work is distinct from the most visible expression of contemporary Mizraḥi poetry, the so-called “Ars Poetica” school (an allusion not only to Horace’s classic Art of Poetry but also to the colloquial derogatory term for Mizraḥi youth, “arsim,” which the movement sought to reclaim). Ars Poetica is an identitarian movement that calls for greater Mizraḥi representation in the contemporary Israeli poetry scene. In this way, it both critiques the system while also accepting its basic contours. Behar, on the other hand, is creating new Hebrew poetry that includes, as part of its reconfiguration, Mizraḥi poetry and Sephardi piyyut.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of Behar’s poetry is the way it reflects a life devoted to reading. . . . Behar is a scholar who has the privilege of teaching and studying literature at Tel Aviv University. Rub Salt into Love includes a playful “self-interview,” with the following question-answer sequence: “Does your writing come from wounds?/ I write because reading has wounded me.”

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Arabic, Hebrew poetry, Israeli literature, Mizrahim

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy