SOAS University of London

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

Hebrew Literature from the Arab World (PG)

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

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  • recognise core literary works by Jewish Arab writers and of non-Jewish (Christian, Moslem and Druze) Arab writers in Hebrew
  • show familiarity with a wide selection of novels, short stories and poetry by Israeli writers
  • recognise and discuss the core themes recurring in this literature
  • recognise elements in this literature which derive from Arabic literature, culture and identity
  • comment on the different cultural alliances and identities of the authors whose works will form part of this module
  • describe the historical and political conditions that brought about the flourishing of this literature
  • describe the reception of this literature in Israel and beyond
  • engage critically and analytically with a literary Hebrew text in translation
  • write a research paper on the themes of language, place and identity in literature
  • refer to current research in comparative literature and literature of migration/diaspora


This module will be taught over 20 weeks with a 1-hour lecture and a 1-hour seminar per week.

Scope and syllabus

In this module we will look closely at literary works in Hebrew, written and published in the State of Israel in the past thirty years, that derive from and belong to the Arab world and culture.

The first term will be devoted to short stories, novels and poems written by Jewish writers who immigrated to Israel from Arab lands, or those born in Israel to immigrant parents. We will discuss their choice to write in Hebrew, and their debt to their Arabic literary heritage.

We will trace the major themes in these works:

  • Immigrant life in Israel
  • Tensions between Ashkenazi and Mizrahim
  • Childhood memories from their city of origin
  • The Israeli-Palestinian conflict
  • The possible power of literature to promote social and political changes

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 naqba and the conflict in general
  • Language
  • Place and homeland

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination (60%); one 3,500 word essay to be submitted on the last day of term 2 (40%).

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)

Selected poetry by:

  • Perez-Dror Banai, Almog Behar, Erez Biton, Haviv Pedaya, Ronny Somech.
  • Anton Shammas, Arabesque (1988)
  • Sayed Kashua, Exposure (2011)
  • 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) and short stories from Haaretz
  • Poems by Naim Ariadi from Back to the village (1991)

Literary criticism by Rachel Feldhay Brenner, Ariel Sheetrit, Reuven Snir, and others.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules