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04.11.2018, Jamal Tuschick

Reconnecting the Middle East in Berlin - Mati Shemoelof and Hila Amit Abas, the initiators of this event, are two Arab-Jews who were born in Israel but moved to Berlin. They write in Hebrew, which is the language they grew up with, but not necessarily their mother-tongue or the native language of their parents. As Jews from Arab and African origins they were required to leave their “Arab” parts of their heritage behind in order to be part of the Israeli melting pot. More than 100 years ago in the Middle East, Jews and Arabs and other ethnic/religious groups lived in a fruitful dialogue and were mentally, culturally, spiritually and physically connected. After the disappearance of the Ottoman Empire, the two World Wars and the consequential rise of Jewish and Arab nationalism, Jews and Arabs became disconnected. We lost our dialogue. In the event “Reconnecting the Middle East in Berlin” we will not only revive this lost dialogue through literature, music and performance. We will also talk about this loss, what was lost for our families, the tales that will stop with the generation of our grandparents. Writers from all over the Middle East and Asia, both, Israelis emigrating from Islamic countries, Iran and North Africa, and Arab Immigrants from the same countries will sit and read their works of poetry and fiction together. Berlin gives us, Jews and Arabs, a rare moment for a lost encounter that can no longer happen in the countries of our origin. Living together in exile in Europe, we will transcend and rise above our national identities and hope to create a new typography of words to redefine our mutual existence. Performers: Mariam Rasheed (Egypt), Abdulkadir Musa (Kurdistan), Mati Shemoelof (Syria, Iran and Iraq), Hila Amit Abas (Syria and Iran), Zehava Khalfa (Libiya), Hassan Abul Fadl (Syria) + Mevan Younes (Kurish) - (Buzuqi) as Part of the Berliner Oriental ensemble.

Dip the bread and eat

Zehava Khalfa


My mother piles spices on a plate as slowly as in a bottle of colorful soil: bright red pepper, crushed garlic on the bottom, turmeric in the middle with coarse salt like her hands, slowly a cone of colors was formed, a clown laughing sadly, my mother piling spices like her feelings of frustration, bitterness and love. She mixed them well with water and cook on low heat with halved potatoes. My mother concocted life. And we children eat, crushing the love arrows, the bitterness of garlic, and the frustration of the words in that red stew. Dip the bread and eat. This is how we grew up living a whole life, halved.


אִִּמּ עוֹרֶֶמֶת תַבְלִיִנִים ַעַל ַצַלַַּחַתלְַאַט כְּמֹוֹ בְּבַקְבּּוּק עָָפָר צִבְעוִֹנִי:

פִּלְֵּפּ אֲדֹםֹ בּוֵֹהֵק ,שּׂוּם מָעּוּך בְּתַחְִּתִּי ,וְכֻּרכּּוּם בְּאֶמְַצַע לְַיַד הַמֶַּלַח הַַּס כְּמֹוֹ יָדֶיָהָ.

ַאַט ַאַט נוַֹצַר קוֹנּוּס צִבְעוִֹנִי ,לֵיָצָן צוֵֹחֵק בְּעֶֶצֶב .

אִִּמּ עוֹרֶֶמֶת תַבְלִיִנִים כְּמֹוֹ ֶאֶת רִגְשוֹתֶיָהָ:

תִּסְכּּוּל מְרִירּוּת וְהָאַהֲָבָה .

מְעַרבֶֶּבֶת טֹוֹב ִעִם מִַיִם וּמְבַשֶֶׂלֶת ַעַל אֵׁשׁ קְטַָּנּ ִעִם תַּפּוֵּחֵי אֲדָָמָה חֲצוּיִיִם וְרֶֶסֶק אֲדָמֹוֹת מִקֻפְַסַת שִׂימוִּרִים .

אִִּמּ רוֹקַַחַת ַחַיִים.

וְאָנּוּ הַיְלִָדִים אוֹכְִלִים ,מוֹעֲִכִים ֶאֶת חִיֵצֵּי הָאַהֲָבָה בִּמְרִירּוּת הַשּּׁוּם ,ֶאֶת תִסְכּּוּל הַמִיִלִים בָּרוֶֹטֶב הָאָדֹוֹם הָאָדֹוֹם הֶַּזֶּ .

טוֹבְִלִים ֶאֶת ַהַלֶֶּחֶם וּבוֹלְִעִים .

ָּכּ ָּדַלְנּוּ ַחַיִים שְׁלִֵמִים ,חֲצוִּיִים.

Zehava Khalfa, mother of two, was born in Alma, in northern Israel. She studied genetics and Middle East politics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and graduated with M.A and M.Sc. She is currently writing her doctoral thesis at the University of Potsdam in the field of Judaism and Religious Studies on the subject of settlement policy during the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Since the end of 2015 she has been involved in the German Red Cross’s aid, for accompaniment and translation of Arabic into German. Her poems have been published in the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz and in the magazines: Mikan Ve’elakh, Poem, Kefel, Motiv and in the Hebrew Library Berlin. Her poems were read in 2015 as part of Daham event’s “The solidarity with the Syrian people”.

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