Forthcoming Publications and Readings

2016 © Stéphane Vaquero

2016 © Stéphane Vaquero – A photograph from a coming art exhibition about Berlin Jews

2017

The story “To the son of a bitch” will be published on the spring edition of “Connsequence Magazine“.

On January i will be reading my poems with the bass player Gidi Farhi on the 7th Poetic Hafla in Berlin.

Dr. Rachel Seelig talks about “Motherless Tongues: German-Hebrew Literary Exchange(De Gruyter Press) that will includes first chapter of my coming novel will publish both English and Hebrew translations!

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2016

15-17 of December – I will be reading my poems in the International Helicon Poetry Festival in Israel.

9 of December – Shemoelof & Farhi | Spoke word & Music in Berlin

The story “The Black River” was published on spring edition of “The Bombay Review“.

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​Crooked god machine

​Crooked god machine

To the spaces I didn’t pick boundaries
to the streets I did not choose a name

A hole I had selected, stood up in. — 


Rest in peace #georgemichanel

How the social protests in Israel broke down national borders

While trying to plan a new life abroad following the failure of the 2011 social protests, Regev Contes uncovers a family secret that radically alters his Israeli Jewish identity.

Israelis protesting in Tel Aviv in demand social justice, summer 2011. (Oren Ziv/Activestills)

Israelis protesting in Tel Aviv in demand social justice, summer 2011. (Oren Ziv/Activestills)

Regev Contes’ new documentary film, “Goodbye Adolf,” which recently aired on Israel’s Channel 1, is full of courage and honesty. (Warning: this article includes spoilers.

Contes, one of the leaders of the 2011 social protests, brings to the screen what we social activists felt after the failure of the protest: how it divided us, how we gave up and surrendered, how we scattered and dispersed to all corners of the globe in search of a suitable home. The film revolves around Contes, who cannot contend with the soaring housing prices in Israel and, contrary to his friends, whose parents are in no position to offer him financial assistance. In other words, Contes is part of the Ashkenazi disadvantaged class. (Full disclosure: I was interviewed for the film.)

In a moment of bitter disillusionment, Contes is resigned to using his last remaining savings from his pension fund. Contes and his wife, Shir Nosatzki, are thus forced to migrate, finding Berlin to be a convenient and suitable location. The only thing that bothers them seems to be Berlin’s Nazi past, and the fear of being a Jewish minority in Germany.

Contes’ film deconstructs the Israeli national imagination — one based on national identity, which views itself as an imagined family meant to provide citizens with food and security. The disintegration of national identity makes clear how class functions in Israel, with the rising cost of living leading to fear and anxiety. But in 2011 we did not fall into the trap of blaming each other for this situation. Instead we refused to believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told us that we should unite in fear against the Iranian nuclear threat or Hamas. In the internet age, we no longer believe the lies of the ruling class as and its right-wing neoliberal government. The 2011 protests changed our collective ethos. The Israeli public learned that the government lies, using spin and media campaigns to mask its corruption and plunder.

Solidarity from the ultimate nemesis

Contes wakes up and realizes that the country is not actually providing him with the answers he is looking for. He opens up his laptop and starts to read about options for immigration.

Tel Aviv protest for social justice, June 30, 2011 (Oren Ziv/Activestills)

Tel Aviv protest for social justice, June 30, 2011 (Oren Ziv/Activestills)

One interesting moment in the film takes place toward the end, when Contes tries to find out why he was given his middle name, Michael. Growing up, his father had told him that he had an “uncle” named Michael. It is while digging through the family archives — in order to put together the paperwork needed for a Polish or Slovak passport — that the course of Contes’ life changes. Suddenly he is re-writing his roots: he discovers that not a single person in the previous five generations before him, on both sides of his family (dating back to the first half of the 19th century) was called Michael. Only then does Contes discover the origin of the name: a Hungarian SS guard named Michael Gombkoto, who stole potatoes and gave them to his grandmother, an act that saved her life while she was in the concentration camp.

Decades later, as Contes deconstructs his national identity, he understands that his Israeli Jewish identity is not fixed and static — that it is fluid and can change. Contes is able to see how a Nazi guard, his ultimate nemesis, could also be someone with whom he could build solidarity.

“Goodbye Adolf” ends with the desire to travel and emigrate, but not with the move itself. We grew up in the national imagination that outlined the beginning of our life. We didn’t have the opportunity to see the humanity in the Other. Jewish nationalism brought us up to believe that Israel can rely only on itself. But in the summer of 2011, we learned that we couldn’t rely solely on our government for real social change. Five years after the failure of the social protests, with social inequality only deepening, we are still looking for a new direction. We must forget about national borders, and instead aim to find humanity and solidarity beyond the scope of our exclusivist national family.

What would happen if our education system taught us that Israel is not the only safe refuge for Jews? That nuclear, biological and chemical weapons are not an insurance policy for us? What would happen to students who began to view their parents’ immigration to Israel as just one of several options? Do anti-Semitism and fascism pose a similar threat today as they did before World War II? Maybe this way Israel would not need to endlessly victimize itself and unite against an imagined enemy.

A real cosmopolitan model for Jewish life

Contes’ film reveals to us how German identity is far more complex than the worn out binary of friend or enemy, Nazi or Jew. Instead we see how nationalism is reconstructed around other values. In a rare moment, the SS officer’s name becomes part of the Jewish story, lodging itself into the most intimate memories of Jewish traditions. Although the parents claimed to have “forgotten” Michael’s story, Contes’s determination sheds light on the truth.

Israel is tied to the German regime. The Jewish people suffered near-extinction in countries under Germany’s control. But Israel also adopted the old model of German nationalism: one nation, one language, one land. That is why Israel seeks to get rid of the Palestinians and do away with the bi-national reality in Israel-Palestine. The fleeing of more than a million Syrian refugees and asylum seekers to Germany has created a cosmopolitan reality. Israel, on the other hand, cannot even imagine the return of millions of Palestinian refugees, who were expelled when the state was founded in 1948. Despite the ugly reality, Contes, who represents the Ashkenazi lower-middle class, is able to dig deep and find the most profound sense of humanity.

This seed that grows and connects humans to one another, one that sprouts as Contes faces his deepest crisis, shows that even the failure of the 2011 protests can teach us something that goes beyond our secure national borders. This seed leads me to recall Berlin before World War II, which served as a real cosmopolitan model for Jewish life. Perhaps today we can see a new model being built among Israelis, Palestinians and others from the Middle East, along with other immigrants, living together in Berlin.

Mati Shemoelof is a poet, editor and author who lives in Berlin. Join him on his FB page, website. And Twitter. First published on 972MAGAZINE

The Baghdad Berlin poetic musical train

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Dury De Bag, Me and Gidi Farhi

Thank you all for coming and experiencing our poetic musical journey from Baghdad to Berlin. It was the first show and because of its energies we will do more!

Thank you Gidi Farhi – our dialouge enrichen me so much!

Thank you Dury de Bagh AND Cafe De Bagh for joining our Baghdad – Berlin poetic train. We could not do it without your support and help. It was a great night for me, because poetry is window to my soul and for one moment you all were inside of me.

Here are the poems that i was reading:

A moonlight tale

“seventy kinds of different dates were in Baghdad”

my grandma told me

“and shame that we left,” she added

“over there, they didn’t put antibiotics in our food

we didn’t eat cow meat and our Kuba rice dish was filled with lamb”

and even if my way to Baghdad Has been ruined

and although I don’t speak the language

now I know that my life is a piece of a Darkened history

that sits on

a hook, a moonlight tale of my grandma.

2006

***

Words of Departure

This poem will soon collapse

As

I left the life of guaranties

To find a new life in Berlin

I speak broken English, Broken German, Broken Hebrew, Five Shekels a Euro

I disconnected my Jewish phone

I said goodbye to my mom

My books

My life’s beloved

Loved

Ones

Hebrew letters

My friends

2014

***

The jazz of Berlin

I ask fewer questions

And lose myself more in the jazz of Berlin

Flowing from the many Diasporas

At night I climb through women’s windows

In the morning I labor

And on Sabbath with holy words

I talk to myself in Hebrew, with no country

I talk to others in another tongue, with no country

I miss my father’s memorial

And recall him in every word

I don’t know where I come from or where I’m going

But even strangeness has a birthday

And I’ll wake in your arms

And between your thighs

Remembering like a child.

2014

***

Breaking Passports

Passports also break I tell you,

Passports also become worn out over the years, made by strangers, exchanged across inhuman borders

Passports also lie, that they are always new, like a biometric seal of worn out, tired, rough and diminishing skin

Passports also become refugees, when the dream’s stars do not immigrate in time from the night’s darkness

Passports are also jailed when the wall turns into a wedding, and hope remains single

Passports also struggle to pull out of the earth, which pretends being a pillow, and its heart is tough, and cold, dry-land of frozen lava

Passports also continue going to work, and not read and write the way out of the prison of thought

Passports are also saddened, when we discover that you went missing between waves of broken glass

Passports also get lost, when confronted by a prayer that does not have you in its end

“Our love has no passport,” you answer me, and write a new poem in the heart of the world. 

[Translated by Na’aman Hirschfeld. 2016]

***

And I regret that I missed a way to his heart

I don’t know why he loved to eat above the sink

without a plate, dark bread, salty cheese.

He sits, coiled on the black sofa, with an open book

inventing funny names for anyone, who enters the house.

and I’m sure he was a free spirited poet like me, despite working in a shop all his life

truth be told I have no way of knowing, discovering or talking with him.

The only way is to write…

that he wasn’t happy than I

but I remember him reading one of my early poems one day

and coming back happy to our house he told me how in the “Old age” club where he visited

his friends liked my poems.

and perhaps with my inspiration, he started to write the story of his life

of how his wealthy grandfather was thrown out of Mashad by the local Muslims in Iran

and how he immigrated to Palestine round the start of the 20 century

[Damm, why didn’t I keep this paper?]

and now I regret every moment I ignored his point of view

I could have hugged him and understood that was his story

and what is left for me? deep regret

what is left of him? one unfinished poem

and the days are getting less

while these memories grow in their nakedness.

[Translated by Dov Waterman . 2016]

*** 

 

There Was Never a Home in Poetry

“There was never a state in Eden

East and west never were

We were not expelled, nor defeated”

 

The black eyebrows sway

The coffee cup with cardamom trembles

On the train at Hermannplatz

Ubahn, U7, one stop

Non-stopping rain

And naked love, approaching in the foreignness

To be revealed

For

We exiled

And we shall recite poetry

And clear a path out of Egypt

When the stars shine

For you.

[Translated by Na’aman Hirschfeld. 2015]

Shemoelof & Farhi | Spoke word & Music

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You are all invited to a special musical Bilingual poetry show with the Spoken Word Poet and Writer Mati Shemoelof and Songs-Writer and Bass player Gidi Farhi. They met in the “Poetic Hafla” and started to jam together both words and music in different music styles. Shemoelof’s poems are both written in English and Hebrew.
You will experience further more an improvisation based on creative Voodoo Energies.
Shemoelof and Farhi both come from Jewish-Arabic Families, They create a fusion influenced by the Middle East and Europe.
You are all invited to an Experiment with Word and Tone!

“Sind Muslime die neuen Juden?” – Eine orientalische Liebesgeschichte in Kanaan Berlin

So kennt man ihn, provokative Brücken schlagend: Armin Langer, den Mitbegründer der “Salaam-Shalom”-Initiative, die ich seit zwei Jahren auch unterstütze. Armin Langer hat das Buch “Ein Jude in Neukölln” veröffentlicht, das von seinem Kampf gegen Vorurteile und Rassismus in seinem Kiez erzählt, und stellt darin tatsächlich die Frage: “Sind Muslime die neuen Juden?” In meiner Gesprächsreihe “Don’t Forget, Dance” hat er es in der “janinebeangallery” vorgestellt und seine Thesen mit dem israelischen Dichter Mati Shemoelof und dem syrischen Musiker Hassan Abdul Fadl diskutiert. Dabei kam es auch zu einem ganz wunderbaren musikalischen Brückenschlag, als Hassan Abdul Fadl zusammen mit seinem israelischen Musikerfreund Gidi Farhi vom “Berlin Oriental Ensemble” Musik machte. Alles orientalischer Friede Freude Eierkuchen? Wäre da nicht die provozierende Frage von Armin Langer im  Raum gewesen… Was gab es bei meinem Facebook-Post am 25.11. darauf gleich für erregte Kommentare…!

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