Israelis in Berlin | l’Humanité

Screenshot 2015-03-17 09.59.34

I was interviewed for the l’Humanité (French newspaper) by Christophe Deroubaix


Screenshot 2015-02-27 11.39.45Here is what they wrote in Germany about my poetic collaboration with Karola Pasquay

An artfully elaborate recital of poetry and music

Katharina Gun Oehlert and Karola Pasquay recite works by young Jewish poets in Berlin

Katharina Gun Oehlert and Karola Pasquay are both masters of the art of inspiring listeners to contemplate and reflect. They employed this skill in their performance “bis hier bist du gekommen” (you have come thus far) for three young Jewish poets from Berlin within the framework of the Jüdische Kulturtage. The high presbytery of the Reformationskirche is softly lit, a meditative atmosphere surrounds the artists. They explore the poetic landscapes of contemporary Jewish poetry with their words and music. Gun Oehlert employs her voice with subtle sensibility to give the audience access to the strong, expressive lyrics. Mati Shemoelof’s texts are biographical sketches with political overtones that are both rebelliously accusatory and melancholic. His poem “Eine neue Art Freundschaft” (a new kind of friendship) is full of resignation and wistfulness, his “Ungeschriebenes Lied für einen ungeborenen Sohn” (unwritten song for an unborn son) is poignantly moving – “…my son, relationships run through my fingers like sand … my son, hold me tight … my son, we don’t know each other …”

The tranquillity that surrounds Gun Oehlert fascinates the listeners, and it is her subtle undertones that distinguish her recital and reveal the hidden light of the words. Closing your eyes and listening, you see the images before your inner eye. Gun Oehlert is very present – inwardly and outwardly – with her dark, clear voice, her gestures, her hands, her eyes.

Karola Pasquay’s musical flourishes adorn the lyrics with virtuosity, creating a colourful dance of sound – jubilant, wistful passages on the flute, murmuring glissandi produced by the bow. Then the cosmos of sounds brought forth by special instruments – tender, melodic, shrill, threatening. The artist improvises masterfully using singing bowls, glasses, paper, and her own voice, embedded in chords played on the piano

In their poems, the three writers explore the past, migration, finding a home and being a stranger in concise, clear poetic images. “Unterricht” (lesson) by Maya Kupermann deals with the art of letting go. “Eine Erinnerung von mir und dir zu schaffen ist genauso wie ein Haus aus einem Stein zu bauen …” (creating a memory of you and me is like building a house from one single stone). Wistfulness is also the dominant mood in her “Was Geschichte uns nicht lehrt” (what history doesn’t teach us), a memory of her late grandfather who suffered during the war in Haifa

Ronen Altman Kaydar’s poetry oscillates between history and natural science. His maritime impressions “Für einen Augenblick” (for a brief moment) and “… bis hier bist du gekommen. Unberührt blieb Unendlichkeit” (you have come thus far – infinitude remained untouched) are permeated with a distinctive lyrical magic. His poem “No name” will sum up many young Israelis’ quest for their identity: “… I talk to myself in Hebrew, without a homeland … I don’t know where I came from and where I’m going. But even being a stranger has its moment of birth.”

Silence, and then a well-deserved, long ovation


2015-02-01 11.31.18On 13.4.2015 I will be reading my poems and talking about writing poetry in Hebrew in Berlin together with Admiel Kosman, Maya Koperman and the wonderful Gadi Goldberg will moderate.If you are in Berlin, come to literaturwerkstatt. We have a lot to say

Das Neue Berlin: Hebräische Dichtung

2015-02-01 11.31.18On 13.4.2015 I will be reading my poems and talking about writing poetry in Hebrew in Berlin together with Admiel Kosman, Maya Koperman and the wonderful Gadi Goldberg will moderate.If you are in Berlin, come to literaturwerkstatt. We have a lot to say

Israelis, Iranians pay the same price for nuclear ambitions

The discussion surrounding Netanyahu’s Congress speech presumes that Iran does not have a right to nuclear weapons but that Israel does. Another way of looking at things is a nuclear-free Middle East, and an alliance between the oppressed citizens of Iran and Israel.

IAF fighter jet during an exercise (photo: IDF Spokesperson)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to the United States, which was ostensibly meant to address the danger of Iran’s nuclear program, has a hidden angle that goes unspoken in the Israeli media

The discussion surrounding Iran deals mainly with whether the Islamic Republic has nuclear capabilities. This angle does not deal with Israel itself, or with nuclear proliferation of the entire Middle East. In light of the upcoming elections, it is especially important to note the exorbitant price that Israeli citizens pay (a quarter of whom live below the poverty line) for Israel’s choice to be a nuclear power, according to foreign sources. Those same sources claim Israel has Jericho missiles, tactical delivery systems, ballistic missile submarines and nuclear-armed fighter jets, as well as hundreds of nuclear bombs that continue to be developed

Do nuclear weapons protect Israel? Is the investment worth it? These issues are never spoken about. Preventing the enemy from obtaining similar weapons is practically axiomatic in this country. According to the West, the Jews are allowed to have an unsupervised, unlimited nuclear arsenal with no environmental regulations. Think about the danger such an old nuclear reactor poses to the nearby city of Dimona. Is the reactor carcinogenic for its workers and the people who live in the area? Where does Israel bury its nuclear waste

According to the West, Israel can have nuclear weapons because of the Holocaust, but the Iranians are dangerous because their previous leaders have called for the elimination of Israel. And here? Both the Right and the Left adopt this premise

The West encourages Israel to arm itself with nuclear weapons; Germany sells us nuclear submarines; the United States sells us fighter jets. But are the Germans and the Americans aware that Israel’s arms industry, and the generals who control Israeli politics, are actually starving their citizens while they become rich? Are they even concerned by the sale such a dangerous weapon to a third world country such as Israel? Why is there no parity between Israel and Iran’s potential nuclear arsenal

The Iranian people also suffer due to their leaders’ desire for the doomsday weapon, despite the societal costs that it brings about. Two years before the Arab Spring, the Iranian people tried, unsuccessfully, to revolt against the regime. Here is what Israeli social activist Barak Cohen told the Iranian people on Facebook, with the help of a Jewish-Iranian

Netanyahu is heading to the United States in order to frighten the world over a nuclear Iran. We want to tell the Iranian people that as opposed to a prime minister who does not represent us, the people here are not in conflict with the Iranian people. We have terrible rulers who use war in order to harm our freedoms, equality and ability to live a decent life. We know that your regime is also terrible, and uses the same tools to harm your ability to live a decent life.

This is not a conflict between the Jewish people and the Iranian people. This is simply two forms of dictatorship that abuse you and us in order to continue ruling. The Jewish holiday of Purim is upon us, and there are Jews in Iran, and we want to say that with the help of God, who is one, just as in Purim our luck changed, we will defeat the dictatorship here, and you will defeat the dictatorship there. With the help of God, we will be able to visit Iran and you will be able to visit us here, and the walls will crumble!

Cohen’s message to the Iranians does not differentiate between Jews and Persians (unlike in Purim, there is no need to kill Haman). This is the same Jewish-Arab message that we sent in 2011 with our letter to the young people of the Arab World who were fighting for freedom. This message is the exact opposite of what the government is doing through its nuclear arsenal, its weapons and its societal abuse. This is the message we need to send to Washington, Iran and the Arab world. A message of social democracy that worries about its citizens, and does not invest everything it has in a doomsday weapon, which only weakens and endangers its own citizens

Mati Shemoelof is a writer. His first storybook was published by Zmora Bitan PublishersThis article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here

Readin’ my poems in Berlin

I am so excited to hear a musical adaption to my poetry

 Screenshot 2015-02-27 11.39.45

Taking a Sauna in Berlin with Michael Chabon

cc: wikipedia

cc: wikipedia


The story is that i read this wonderfull book and wrote in “Haaretz”  newspaper some small diary about readin’ it in the Suana in Berlin. Then i translated the review and sent it over to Ayelet Waldman and she promise to send it to Michael Chabon. Well enjoy it

Taking a Sauna in Berlin with Michael Chabon I pass several bridges on my way to the pool and the sauna, which are located not far from the Jewish Museum, in Berlin. There are lots of signs for the Jewish Museum and even the bus stop is named after it

Inside the sauna, I calmly read the novel by Michael Chabon, “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union”. I finished the twenty minutes of swimming, and I went inside ninety degrees of burning sauna. I am an exiled Jew in frozen Berlin, reading about the life of another exiled Jew – an American in a frozen exile who writes about what happened when Israel was defeated in the War of ’48. Like an addict I cannot stop reading the incessant pursuit of small details in his monumental work that I completely forget that I am walking naked in the Sauna. Women, like the men, are wandering around naked with bare bodies, and towels are only a recommendation. It’s incredibly hot in the sauna, starkly contrasting both the literary world I’m immersed in and the city outside the sauna, in which temperatures drop below zero

Lying down and relaxing, my thoughts curl and swivel away to the ceiling like fogging steam. I go back to Chabon because in his literary kingdom he has solved the problem of Israel’s existence. He cleaned the possibility of Zionism off the table and immediately took Jews “from exile to exile,” placing them in the ultimate remote community of American life –icy, snowy-white-Diaspora– Alaska

Landesman, the main character of Chabon’s book, a Raymond Chandler type of a detective, is searching for information that would unsolve a mystery of a murder mystery. It’s frozen in Alaska while the sauna is boiling. Even my lungs hold some of the heat of the sauna. And it is not that I have not been to the sauna before, but it is more than that; soon the outdoor temperature will drop below zero and I am warming up inside a heart-warming book that tells the story of Jewish reality which explains our zeitgeist to us

Chabon’s exile is nostalgic, but also an invention that allows it to be regarded as science fiction and fantasy. It is also a brilliant invention, a work of science-fiction and fantasy that connects Yiddish influences with American crime fiction while conducting a deep and serious discussion of Jews national identity. He writes about the Jewish exile with unprecedented creativity and innovation. He is faithful to the stories of the Yiddish Jews, but also to the gangster culture of America, as it was absorbed and reflected in literature, cinema and comics

And how hard it is to talk about exile, when the current Israeli winds are uttering this term as if it were an obscenity at worst, or simply erasing it, at best; Today, when Israel is turning away from peace, how hard it is to talk about exile.
Nevertheless is it possible to describe Jewish exiled culture without Chabon’s comical writing about Yiddish speaking Jews creating a permanent haven in Alaska following the collapse of the Zionist enterprise? And why a successful author like Chabon wrote about a world without an Israeli existence? Maybe, like a substantial part of American Jewry, he is fed up with the appropriation and sanctimonious appropriation of omnipotent and just Zionism that claims to be responsible for all the future, past and present of the Jewish world. Actually Chabon uses his humorous, mocking, graceful writing in order to turn at the Zionist intersection to a completely different direction. I think that he goes to Herzl’s political Zionism, but it is much more than Herzl. In his writing Jewish nationalism is about culture not militarism; about territory not nation; hybrid and Multi Cultural memory not forgetfulness

This time, I go into a softer sauna, surrounded again by naked men and women. I try to talk the same way that I do outside into the warm air, but I really can’t do it. My German girlfriend told me to relax and warned me from moving in large middle-eastern movements with my hands. I agreed to her kind request. Because I was already a little bit dizzy. Maybe some restraint would keep me from fainting inside the sauna – while revealing the foreign Diaspora that has been exposed in my nakedness

Thanks, Tuvia Aram, Lialin R.S., Na’aman Hirschfeld, Avi Berg and more friends who helped me with the translation

Shemoelof first collection of stories “Remnants of the Cursed Book” was published by Kineret Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir, the leading publishing company in Israel, where he has recently signed a publishing contract. The book was edited by Professor Yigal Schwartz and Tamar Bialik

Israel Has an Amazing Literary Diaspora

Across Europe and on both American coasts, Israeli expat writers are revolutionizing Hebrew literature while—or perhaps because—they are separated from the country where their language is spoken ,Beth Kissileff , The Tower Magazine


The last jew of Bagdad

Pic: Kfir Harbi

Pic: Kfir Harbi

One of my stories was published on Laghoo magazine


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