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Exploring Israeli literature in English translation. Host Marcela Sulak takes you through Israel’s literary countryside, cityscapes, psychological terrain, and the lives of the people who create it.

Exploring Israeli literature in English translation. Host Marcela Sulak takes you through Israel’s literary countryside, cityscapes, psychological terrain, and the lives of the people who create it.
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Exploring Israeli literature in English translation. Host Marcela Sulak takes you through Israel’s literary countryside, cityscapes, psychological terrain, and the lives of the people who create it.




Welcoming in the Ushpizin: Poems for Sukkot

We’re currently in the days of Sukkot, in which Jews everywhere dwell (or at least take their meals) in a temporary structure called a Sukkah to commemorate the forty years of wandering in the desert, and also because Sukkot is an agricultural festival as well, and in ancient times people lived in temporary shelters as they harvested. One of the customs of Sukkot is inviting guests for meals into the Sukkah, close friends or needy strangers, as well as the supernatural —“Ushpizin” is...


Poems for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (Rerun)

In honor of the Jewish new year - Rosh Hashanah - and the upcoming day of atonement - Yom Kippur - host Marcela reads poems on these themes by some of Israel's most exciting poets. She reads "Origin of the World" by the controversial and provocative young poet Noam Partom, which begins like this: "I hereby close the gates between my legs till further notice For an unlimited period, due to maintenance. No bearers of first fruit will come No pilgrims will make pilgrimage No prayers made...


Amichai Chasson's “Rami Levy in Talpiot”

We are now in the days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which will take place next week. This week, Marcela reads from Amichai Chasson, whose poem America gives a portrait of the everyday reference that Yom Kippur serves in everyday life. The poem, as its title suggests, also illustrates the relationship between Israel and the United States. It is translated by Vivian Eden. Like many international poets encountering America, Chasson has written his Walt Whitman in the...


Etgar Keret's “Ladder”

Rosh Hashanah begins on Sunday night—it is the beginning of the Jewish new year. And to usher it in, we read an excerpt from Etgar Keret’s short story, “Ladder,” published in his brand-new English language collection, “Fly Already.” Text: Fly Already, by Etgar Keret, translated by Sondra Silverston, et. al. Riverhead Books, Sept. 2019.


Frayed Light

Yesterday, Yonatan Berg’s first poetry collection appeared in Joanna Chen’s English translation, Frayed Light, published by the Wesleyan Poetry Series. The poems in this collection gather all of these experiences—religion, settlements and the Palestinian neighbors they displace or live next to, military service—into heartfelt narrative poems. Berg was born in 1981 in Jerusalem to a religious family and grew up in Psagot, a settlement in the West Bank. After serving in the military, Berg...


“My Essay on Stereotypes”

Israeli elections are just one day shy of a week away, and now might be a good opportunity to examine the use of stereotypes to shut down important conversations that we might have, as we elect the people who will represent us. Today, Marcela reads a lyrical essay from a graduate student in poetry at Bar-Ilan’s Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing. Her name is Hiba Ghannan, and this piece will appear in her thesis entitled “Leftovers.” Text: “My Essay on Stereotypes” by...


Etgar Keret's “Fly Already”

Yesterday something wonderful happened—Etgar Keret’s newest short story collection, Fly Already, appeared in the world, in English, translated by a ridiculously talented cast of translators. This collection contains all the charm, the absurdities, the intelligence and surreal sense of Keret’s previous collections, but this time, most of the stories are somewhat longer. Today, Marcela reads the shortest piece in the book, and the final story, Evolution of a Breakup. Text: Fly Already, by...


Buses and Shoes

Today Marcela reads a story containing the writer Yossel Birstein’s two great loves: Buses and Shoes. Birstein was born in Poland in 1920. Having moved to Melbourne, Australia and later to Israel, he changed languages, continents, countries, towns, as well as professions, more than once or twice. Not many people work both as a shepherd and a national archivist in their lives. He wrote most of his life in Yiddish and began to write Hebrew later. “He didn't call himself a writer, but rather...


A Fairy Tale by Leah Goldberg

On this week's episode, Marcela excerpts from a fairy tale written by Leah Goldberg. She was a prolific Hebrew-language poet, author, playwright, literary translator, and comparative literary researcher. Her writings are considered classics of Israeli literature. Text: The Rose Garden (a Fairy Tale) by Leah Goldberg. Translated by Leanne Raday.


The Writings of Naji Daher

Naji Daher, a writer, poet, and playwright, was born in Nazareth and lives there. He works as a creative writing teacher and writes literature reviews. He has published more than fifty books, including six novels. Daher's works have been translated into Hebrew, English and other languages. He is the winner of the 2000 Prime Minister Prize. Text: “Nightly Lament” by Naji Daher. Translated from the Arabic by Peter Clark and published in The Short Story Project.


The Poetry of Gali-Dana Singer

Gali-Dana Singer is a bilingual poet, translator, an artist and photographer, born in St. Petersburg, who immigrated to Israel in 1988. To Think: A River, her first book of poems in Hebrew, in translation from the original Russian, appeared in 2000. The most recent of three volumes written in Hebrew, Translucent, was published in 2017. She’s published seven collections in Russian. In a 2003 interview with Lisa Katz, Singer notes: I always emphasize that I haven't switched from Russian to...


Postcard from Pressburg-Bratislava: Remembering Tuvia Ruebner

On Monday, the literary world lost one of its bright lights with the passing of Tuvia Ruebner. He was 95 years old, and passed in his home on Kibbutz Merhavia, where he had lived since arrival from Nazi occupied Bratislava as a teenager in 1942. He loved his home on the kibbutz so much that he even refusing Lea Goldberg’s invitation to move to Jerusalem and work with her at the Hebrew University. Born in 1924 as Kurt Erich in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, Ruebner grew up in a German-speaking...


On Childhood: The Writings of Israel Bar Kohav

Israel Bar Kohav was born in Israel, the grandchild of Russian immigrants who were among the founders of the city of Tel Aviv. His ancestors took part in what is known as the Second Aliyah, an influential, ideological wave of immigration that took place between 1904 and 1914. Bar Kohav himself grew up in Givatayim and Ramat Gan, in the greater Tel Aviv area, and his poem refer to these areas. One of the most predominant themes in his work is childhood. He’s written about this period in...


The Poetry of Lali Tsipi Michaeli

Lali Tsipi Michaeli’s work attempts to capture, not just the mind at work, but also the spirit, the soul, as it becomes aware of itself as an entity both anchored in, and apart from, the body. Likewise, the body is often viewed as a physical object, one of many that occupy the world. Lali Tsipi Michaeli was born in the Georgian republic and immigrated to Israel with her parents at the age of seven. She studied comparative literature at Bar-Ilan University, and returned to Georgia in the...


Adi Assis's Poetry of Social Critique and Personal Pain

The poetry of Adi Assis injects us with the distress that consumes his days and nights. His laments madden us as we find ourselves rare witness to circumstances usually hidden from view, and even more profoundly, to the hidden reaches of the poet's heart. Podcast on Anat Levin’s poetry Text: Various poems by Adi Assis from Poetry International Rotterdam


“My Flesh Speaks of God”

It’s July—school and university are out for the summer; it’s hot. This month is often a strange mix of the ecstatic and the supremely boring. It’s a month that does not usually receive much praise or fanfare. It’s the perfect month to focus on poetry—that intensifier that makes the joy more joyful and the pain more painful, and the days just a little more delightfully strange and ripe. Kicking off this month of poems will be Haya Esther, a woman born into an ultra orthodox household in...


The Poetry of Ayat Abou Shmeiss

Ayat Abou Shmeiss is an Arab-speaker who writes in Hebrew in part because she was educated in that language, and in French, at a Christian school in Jaffa, and has been writing since she was a teen. In her second book, her subjects include an examination of her life as the mother of one child, and as a student at the Open University, where she is now finishing a degree in political science. The poet has a clear grasp of her position. “I’m this and that” she said. Text: “My Identity Has...


“The Life:” The Biography of Flavius Josephus

We continue what we began in last week's episode, discussing the historian Flavius Josephus, focusing on his biography, “The Life.” In terms of his future career and authorship, Flavius Josephus could not have arrived in this world at a better time or place. In the year 37—four years after Jesus was crucified—Josephus was born in Jerusalem as Yosef bar Mattathyahu in Aramaic or ben mattathias in Hebrew, the son of a priestly family on both sides. His mother could trace her ancestry to the...


Josephus’s “Jewish Antiquities”

To mark the completion of the Shavuot holiday, this week Marcela reads from Josephus’s account of the giving of the Torah, in his volume “Jewish Antiquities.” Text: This edition of Josephus’s works was translated from the Greek original by William Whiston (1667-1752).


The Poetry of Arab Israeli Women

Arab Israeli women are one of the most underrepresented groups of writers in Israel and the world. It’s very difficult to find such work that's been translated into English. And so today, we spotlight the poetry of three such women. I’m using Nathalie Handal’s anthology “The Poetry of Arab Women.” Text: “The Path of Affection” by Laila Allush, translated by Abdelwahab M Elmessiri. “I Love in White Ink” by Siham Da’oud, translated by Helen Knox and Smadar Lavie. “Interlaced Lines for the...