The Jerusalem International Writers Fest was held mid-May, just two weeks before the Palestine Festival of Literature was staged all across historic Palestine. At the Jerusalem festival, there was no apparent recognition of Arabic literature, despite the city’s large (~34%) Arab population. How can that be? asks blogger “Arablit”: Your Middle East

At the opening ceremony of the Jerusalem International Writers Festival, author Dror Mishani decried this lack:

More and more, Hebrew literature is being created from itself, within itself, contrary to the way that it has been created over the centuries – with too little dialogue with foreign literatures – and even turning its back to languages and literatures around and inside it.

Artists have received a castrating message to the effect that anyone who identifies as a subject or a muse of a work is liable to block its publication: Haaretz

In a ruling handed down last month, the Supreme Court rejected a writer’s appeal of a district court decision, which included a ban against the publication and distribution of his novel. In effect, the court ordered that the book be shelved, after it had already been published, printed and even sold in hundreds of copies.

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At age sixteen, I wanted nothing more than to leave my home in Utica, New York for some place, any place that would offer freedom and adventure. My parents, liberal, strongly Zionist Jews, were more than protective; the line between mothering and smothering, had become intolerable. Finally they agreed to send me to Israel to study Judaism and Hebrew with our rabbi’s perfectly well behaved and obedient daughter Miriam. I was sixteen-years-old and it was the summer of 1982.

Other than the blue-and-white tin Jewish National Fund sedakah box my family kept in the kitchen and the money we gave to plant trees in Israel, all I knew was that after the Holocaust, the Jews found a land without a people for a people without a land and made the desert bloom. In retrospect, the sedakah box and the tree planting were a very smart way to create Jewish attachment to Israel. We saw the box every day in the kitchen and were reminded that Israel and our fate were the same. Planting trees was also brilliant, reinforcing the idea that Palestine was a barren land before the Jews arrived.

On February 6, Israel’s “Law for the Protection of Literature and Authors in Israel” went into effect, having been passed by the Knesset last July 31. The title alone should puzzle and worry freedom-loving people. Other than protect the freedom of expression, how does a government “protect literature” in a society where consumers have no restrictions on what they read? Why do Israeli authors need protection that is specifically different from that of other citizens and professionals? Why does the government of Israel, which ranks among the top 5 countries in the world for titles published per capita, need to “fix” a literary situation that is… pretty good as it is? Does any free society, especially that of the People of the Book, need a law to promote literature and protect authors? Or must we protect ourselves from the “protection” of cultural elites? What problem did this law supposedly correct?

‘The Almond Tree’ offers much optimism in spite of the violence, mayhem and melee and speaks to each of its readers through its lucid narrative and easy to follow plot and storyline, says Monica Arora in this review for Kitaab.

almond_tree_cvrThe bewitching debut novel ‘The Almond Tree’ of the Jewish American author Michelle Cohen Corasanti, a Jewish American is a busy story. Buzzing as it is with its dozen odd characters, mostly members of Ahmed’s family, his friends and mentors, who is the narrator of this saga, this is a heart wrenching account of misery, resilience, hope and the indefatigable human spirit and family bonding. Right from the first chapter when an innocent young child loses her life to the cruelty of landmines in terror stricken Israel, the reader gets a taste of the intensity and grimness of this sordid account woven around the intricacies of the decades-old Israel-Palestine conflict.