The hope of salman masalha: Re-territorializing hebrew

Yael Dekel, Eran Tzelgov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Israeli poetry can be depicted as a triangle composed of three elements: territory (the State of Israel); language (Hebrew); and identity (Jewish). In his Hebrew collection of poetry Eḥad Mikan (in place, 2004), Salman Masalha—a bilingual author publishing in both Arabic and Hebrew—challenges this interrelation of territory, language and identity. The debate between the literary scholars Hannan Hever and Reuven Snir explore the central expressions of this challenge. For it points, on the one hand, to the subversive potential of such work towards the Israeli canon while, on the other hand, to its connection to Arabic literature. Writing in the language of the other often invokes the seminal essay by Deleuze and Guattay Kafka: Toward Minor Literature (1986). In that context, it was assumed that Hebrew works by Arab authors de-territorialize the Hebrew language, detaching it from its natural users. In the present essay, however, we point to the ways in which Masalha’s Hebrew poetry in fact re-territorializes the Hebrew language; that is, it turns Hebrew from the language of the Jewish people to the language of the region, to the language of “Someone from Here” (as the Hebrew title of the book implies). We will present close readings of the poems, as well as of the para-textual features of the collection, in order to demonstrate how Masalha’s work not only comments on his identity as an Arab living in Israel, but on the identity of Hebrew poetry as well. Our reading therefore perceives Masalha’s collection as a milestone in the evolution of Hebrew poetry; while in 1948 Hebrew poetry was transformed into Israeli poetry, in the 21st century, it is being transformed into poetry “written from here.”.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
JournalCLCWeb - Comparative Literature and Culture
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020


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