“What does it mean to be authentic?” asked a younger Israeli poet of Iraqi heritage, Almog Behar:
To write poems about Erez Bitton
And hope that one day I’ll run down Dizengoff, shouting
Ana min Baghdad, ana min Baghdad [I am from Baghdad, I am from Baghdad]
— “Homer of Lod: The Indespensibility of Erez Bitton,” Matti Friedman, Jewish Review of Books Spring 2017
What do you mean to be authentic?
To run along Dizengoff Street, shouing: “Ana min al-Maghrib. Ana min al-Maghrib.” [“I am from the Atlas Mountains”] — Erez Biton. “Summary of a Conversation” (2009) IN You Who Crossed My Path (2015 Hebrew-English collection)
In 2013, Israeli poet Adi Keissar founded Ars Poetica; seeking a way to express herself, she explains in a 2017 interview, she launched a movement promoting Mizrachi culture in Israel. (See 2015 Forward opinion, 2018 Jerusalem Post story; 2018 poetry translation post; and/or visit Ars Poetica Facebook page.)
Poet Erez Biton (also spelled: Bitton), won The Israel Prize in Literature in 2015. He was the first Mizrachi winner in the history of the prize, which was first awarded in 1953.
In 2016, Biton headed a committee that produced a number of recommendations for increasing content about Mizrachi Jews in Israeli school curricula (NIF story; Ynet story). Recommendations include teaching the poetry of Keissar, Roy Hasan, and others.
“Hebrew Poetry: Idiosyncratic Resources,” posted in January 2019, included some notes on Medieval Hebrew and Africana poetry as well as a link to a set of resource pages. Since then, that Poetry Resources page has been expanded and now includes Mizrachi poets Shimon Adaf, Maya Bejerano, and Ronny Someck, as well as those mentioned/linked above. Some of the resources cited are in print, but many are also available on-line and free-of-charge.
On a related topic:
- Adaf wrote this paper on “authentic discourse.”
- Student case study of Keissar’s “I am the Mizrachi.”
- Comments from Biton and Hasan in “Poeticizing Mizrahi Inequality in Israel,“
…Also related to “authentic” topic in Jewish poetry, although neither Israeli nor written in Hebrew: Sephardic Jew Vanessa Hidary’s The Last Kaiser Roll in the Bodega.