SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Hebrew Literature from the Arab World

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Final Year
Taught in:
Term 2

The course is devoted to Hebrew literature, in translation, published in Israel, but written by authors for whom Hebrew is not their first or only language, but rather Arabic. The first term will be devoted literature written by Jewish writers who immigrated to Israel from Arab lands. We will discuss their choice to write in Hebrew, and their debt to the Arabic literary heritage.

We will trace the major themes in these works:

  • Immigrant life in Israel
  • Tensions between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim
  • Childhood memories from their country of origin
  • The Israeli-Palestinian conflict

In the second term we will look at the works of Palestinian citizens of Israel who choose to write in Hebrew. We will discuss their intended readership and the social and political choices involved in writing in the language of the dominant culture. We will look again at the rich Arabic culture and literary references underlying these works, and at central themes such as:

  • Identity
  • The Nakba
  • Language
  • Place and homeland

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate the ability to: 

  • Recognise and critically discuss works by Jewish Arab writer and non-Jewish (Christian, Moslem and Druze) Arab writers of Hebrew literature.
  • Write a critical response to a literary work of fiction or poetry.
  • Identify and comment on the main themes recurring in this literature.
  • Demonstrate the elements in this literary corpus which belongs to and derives from Arabic literature, culture and identity.
  • Sense the different cultural alliances and identities of the authors whose works will be studied.
  • Situate Hebrew literary works from Israel in context.
  • Acquire the tools and methods to write critically about literary works.


This course will be taught over 20 weeks with weekly 1-hour lectures and 1-hour seminars.

Scope and syllabus

This is a literature course for students taking a Hebrew degree, supplementing their language acquisition with literature and culture of the region.

Method of assessment

  • One 2,500-word Essay (40%)
  • One 2-hour Exam (60%)

Suggested reading

  • Eli Amir, Scapegoat (1987);  Farewell Baghdad (1998)
  • Sami Michael, Trumpet in the wadi (2003); Pigeons at Trafalgar Square (2005)
  • Boaz Gaon, The return to Haifa (play) (2008)
  • Sason Somekh, Baghdad yesterday: the making of an Arab Jew (2007)
  • Shimon Ballas, Ourcast (2007)
  • Haim Beer, Feathers (2004)
  • Sami Berdugo, short stories from the collection Black girl (1999)
  • Dorit Rabinyan, Persian brides (1998)
  • Short stories by Amnon Shamosh from Marrano mountain (1992)
  • Short stories by Albert Suissa.
  • Short stories by Haim Sabato from Allepo tales (2006)
  • Anton Shammas, Arabesque (1988)
  • Sayed Kashua, Exposure (2011); selected episodes from Arab Labour
  • Short stories by Raid Baidas, published by Zeek.
  • Short stories by Ala Khalikhal from My secret relationship with Carlo Bruni (2012)
  • Ayman Siksak, To Jaffa (2010)
  • Literary criticism by Rachel Feldhay Brenner, Ariel Sheetrit, Reuven Snir, and others.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules