Lital Levy, "Poetic Trespass: Writing Between Hebrew and Arabic in Israel/Palestine" (Princeton UP, 2014)


Since the beginning of the 20th century, Jewish settlement in Palestine and the revival of Hebrew as a national language have profoundly impacted the relationship between Arabic and Hebrew. In a highly contentious political environment, the two languages have been identified with opposing national movements - Hebrew associated with Jews and Arabic with Palestinians. Lital Levy's book destabilizes this categorization. Highlighting the space between these two languages, Levy asks not what it means to be Israeli or Palestinian, but rather how crossing the bridge between the two remakes Israeli and Palestinian cultures. Focusing on the work of Middle Eastern Jews writing in Arabic and various kinds of Hebrews, and Palestinians writing in Hebrew, Poetic Trespass: Writing Between Hebrew and Arabic in Israel/Palestine (Princeton University Press, 2014) reveals a literary world in which Arabic and Hebrew have a symbiotic relationship. Through her analysis of prose, poetry, film, and visual art by Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel, Levy shows us how writers bring Arabic and Hebrew into conversation with one another in illuminating, and often subversive, ways. These writers use the language of the "other" to question "othering" and insist that literature interrogate simplistic identity classifications. Jews writing in Arabic or mizrahi registers of Hebrew cannot but challenge a nationalist project that depends, in part, on the nationalization of Hebrew. Likewise, Palestinians writing in Hebrew use the power of language to disrupt Zionism, which excludes them as non-Jews, from within. Bring the work of several generations of authors to light, Poetic Trespass call on readers to use the power of literature to question our own assumptions and to rethink the static categories of Arab and Jew.

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