And It Is Not A Quotation, It Is a Burning Sign On My Neck

תמונהThe time has come to say the oppression isn’t finished

The land is not Middle-Eastern

The fury compels to write an illiterate poem

Black in the midst of white tunnels

Words torn apart in some unknown prison

Stand united and revolt the language

We stood up

In the ruins of the racist words that surrounded us

In transit-camps that weren’t vowelized or dotted

We are the slaves of Homer and the maids of Bialik[1]

We Call Mizrahit[2] against and over, a type of a

T h i r d option for poetry

[1] Bialik was one of the pioneers of modern Hebrew poets and came to be recognized as Israel’s national poet.

[2] Mizrahit – Sepharadic or Mizrahi Jews are Jews of Middle-Eastern descent whose families in most cases immigrated to Israel from Arab countries. They form about half of the Israeli Jewish population. The painful reality this anthology deals with is the division within Israeli society between Ashkenazi Jews (of Eastern European descent) and Mizrahis.

This reality often goes unnoticed by outside observers, who naturally focus on the more violent aspects of Israeli political reality and the division Jew/non-Jew which the Israeli state draws. In fact, in the mainstream of Israeli discourse there has long been a systematic avoidance/denial of this division, maintaining – as is perhaps “demanded” by the core of Zionist ideology and its ongoing nation-building project – that the Jews are a distinct people and that Israeli Jews have a unified ethnicity and a shared history. Indeed, the mere notion of an Arab Jew, as some Mizrahis identify today themselves, is close to unthinkable in most mainstream media and consciousness. But the divide is not painful simply because it is denied. There is a history of political, economic and cultural oppression of Mizrahis and, as relatively recent scholarship establishes clearly, much of these elements are present to this day.