Between The Salon And The Dream

Miri Ben-Simhon

“Toward a Poem”, by Miri Ben-Simhon, from “Interested, not Interested” (Tel Aviv: HaKibbutz HaMeuhad, 1983), pp. 7-9.

Translated by Mati Shemoelof


I want to write now

But am too anxious to write now,

And that’s all that occurs to me right now.

Meanwhile, in addition to my anxiety is a shameful sense of non-creativity,

That is thus well aware of the banality of what’s written above.

Which brings me immediately to an improvised thought

About my feeling of pity last night

And the beautiful body of my first companion, and the other things

That seem good to me at the moment to dwell upon

And which well serve my desires to escape authentic feeling

That refuse for now to be captured in the clasp of my thought,

Preferring to wallow freely in my gall bladder,

But my gall bladder – an expression taken from my grandmother’s jargon,

Who if she were to see me now would certainly say in a thick Moroccan accent,

‘Miriam, you are in a black humor’, with a penultimate, rhythmic emphasis, in a knowing tone,

Although according to life’s experiences that repeat themselves, and

obviously include

The total schematic of human feelings of joy, sadness, insult and ‘black


Rather than from a deep understanding of the complex of associative flutterings Emerging from one another, that rise up against one another,

That jerk about and split apart

Knocking drunkenly

Upon the gates of a cultural institution whose residents control their facial expressions

Whose self-control is locked iron doors

I try to clarify within myself

Other images for my situation

That will be colorless and tasteless like the bile

That will fit internal criteria aspiring to exclusiveness

That will filter out such sooty emotional elements

And will truly place my inner torment

In a place of honor, above my grandmother’s good pots

That emit the smell of couscous

And hot vapor and periodic worry for the regularity of the family’s bowels.

That will set me above the pauses of honor that my grandmother treats like horses

I would give an example of these pauses in time if I could put them into my poem,

Why not, pauses for taking time of the sort that set the world straight about your

great importance,

Pauses that work well on the curiosity of the listener who stands


Unoccupied with other wishes for the things yet to come,

The sort that give greater than expected significance to your words

And turn them into a kind of precious commodity for which people stand in line

With a tin container

To receive for free.

My grandmother, she has a natural sense, free of modern psychological jargon, for others

And the bubble of air within her sensory water level

The laws of physics along with children’s giggling, floating soap bubbles of my childhood

Free of threatening numbers

And somewhat complimentary to the sensory capacity to determine milimetric precision

With only the naked eye.

But I am too anxious to write now

I want onions and garlic now,

Weaving flowers on my grandmother’s walking stick

What does she have in the parlor

What do I have in the dream.

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The Band’s Visit: Ethnicity and Stereotypes in The Israeli Cinema


The Band's Visit

Submitted to the conference:

Israel 2008: Sixty Years after 1948: Are the Narratives Converging?

New York University, May 19-21, 2008.

By: Mati Shemoelof, Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Hebrew Literature, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel


The Band’s Visit tells the story of a police musical band from Alexandria, as it arrives from Egypt to Israel, following an invitation to participate in the opening ceremonies of an Arab cultural center in the city of Petach-Tikvah (Hebrew for “Gate of Hope”). A receptionist at Tel-Aviv’s new central bus station mistakenly directs the group to Beith-HaTikvah (“The House of Hope”, in Hebrew), a fictional peripheral development-town in southern Israel. The plot focuses on the supposedly random encounter between the Egyptian-Arab band and the inhabitants of the town, who are Mizrahi (Hebrew for ‘Eastern’ or ‘Oriental’), descendants of the Arab-Jews.

The film can be perceived of as being realistic or surrealistic. While aware of the ‘Genre’ complexity, I choose to discuss its socio-political aspects, and my argument refers to the ethno-national division it portrays. I claim that Arab and Mizrahi characters in the film signify purified and hybrid categories. They do not represent “The Mizrahi” or “The Arab” sociologically, rather re-posits them on the screen, in a way described by Spivak as a passage between representation and re-presentation (Spivak, 2004).

Bruno Latour’s We Have Never Been Modern (1993) contains two main principles – Hybridization and Purification – which serve as sort of a code in Modernism. Following Latour, the model proposed by Shenhav (2005:82) enables a new, dynamic discourse, denouncing the customary essentialist, binary use of the terms ‘East’ and ‘West’, and regarding them as simultaneously hybridized and purified categories. Shenhav has implemented Latour’s model when researching the Zionist discourse on religion, and pointed out to a simultaneous hybridization and purification processes:

“Through simultaneous processes of hybridization and purification, Nationalism forms the religious as a signifier of the non-Modern (The Mizrahi, the political right, the other or the Orient), and the secular as a signifier of the Modern (the modern ‘Us’ or the West). This double signification enables Zionist nationalism to speak in two voices at the same time: the religious/primordial voice and the secular/modern voice. The first hybridizes old with new; it legitimizes, for the rest of the world, the national-Zionist project, for it creates an impression of continuity with a religious past (hybridization). The modern voice is directed both ways – to the external world as well as inside society. It seeks to modernize Zionism by turning its back on the past (purification (and distinguishing the new Jew from the old Jew, the productive Jew from the unproductive (religious) Jew” (Shenhav, 2005: 82, self translation emphasis added).

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