What Schusterman Scholars are Reading, Watching and Listening to Right Now
- Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel by Matti Friedman.
Immediately after its founding, hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab and Islamic lands immigrated to Israel. They faced difficulties from an Ashkenazi dominated establishment, who disparaged their heritage and traditions. Yet, a select number of Mizrahi Jews found work in a new Israeli intelligence unit dedicated to the Arab World. These spies embedded themselves in their native lands to assist the new state and eventually inspired the creation of the Mossad, Israel's fabled foreign intelligence unit.
- The Art of Leaving, by Ayelet Tsabari.
Ayelet Tsabari wanders the globe in search of herself, searching for meaning in the Far East and Latin American. She explores her multiple selves, as a fatherless daughter, a former soldier, and a Yemenite-Israeli woman. She finds a home of sorts in Vancouver, and learns to express herself in a different language and culture far away from her childhood experiences. Her memoir is a meditation on contemporary Israeliness, an identity formed by her time outside of the country just as much as her time within its borders.
Muck, by Dror Dror Burstein. Translated from the Hebrew by Gabriel Levin.
Jeremiah is a hipster poet, feuding with critics and colleagues in contemporary Jerusalem. But he's soon troubled by prophecies of doom and destruction of his native city, and that his fitness crazed friend Mattaniah, secretly of royal blood, will soon take the throne. In this reimagining of the biblical book of Jeremiah, Dror Burstein skewers contemporary Israeli society in a hilariously upsetting read in which the king resides in the Holy Land Complex and exiles of Judah flee via the Jerusalem Light Rail. All that's left is a lonely prophet to mourn for what remains.
February 2019First-year Schusterman Doctoral Fellow Shirah Malka Cohen is reading the recently published Kafka's Last Trial: The Case of a Literary Legacy, by Benjamin Balint. The book, Shira tells us, traces the legal battle over Kafka's archive: "Last year, the National Library of Israel won its case and acquired the full archive. The trial became a fascinating example of how the distinction between national identity and the right of possession is far from obvious. Kafka's Last Trial makes me think about how categories are created and what roles they play in context of literature. Why do we have categories of national literature, and what exactly should be included in them? This is a particularly fascinating question when it comes to Jewish literature. Where are the borders of Jewish literature? Whom do we include? There have been endless debates as to Kafka's place in literature, and Benjamin Balint's new book explores this issue in great detail."
This month, Alex Kaye, our new Stoll Assistant Professor of Israel Studies shares what he is focusing on right now. "I have become very interested in the use of dance and dance studies as a way into understanding modern Israel. The documentary Mr. Gaga is a dazzling exploration of Ohad Neharin, the artistic director of the Batsheva Dance Company, whose artistic innovations have inspired dancers worldwide. I like to show some of his piece Minus 16 to my students to introduce questions about the relationship between Jewish folk culture and contemporary Israeli culture. The best recent book relating to dance and Israel is Hannah Kosstrin's Honest Bodies: Revolutionary Modernism in the Dances of Anna Sokolow. Sokolow is a key figure in modern dance in Israel. It is gorgeously written; even for non-experts in the field like me, Kosstrin's language conjures up the dancers as if they are moving in front of my eyes. It is also a historical and theoretical masterpiece, demonstrating through Sokolow's life the cultural exchanges between Israel and other parts of the world, and the relationship between visual arts and political commitments such as communism and labor rights."
We are excited to introduce this brand new feature in the Schusterman Center Newsletter! In this inaugural installment, our associate director Shayna Weiss recommends: Shababnikim is both slang for young male yeshiva students who wander around aimlessly instead of learning Torah and it is the title of one of the biggest shows on Israeli television in 2018. The aptly named series follows the adventures of four twenty-something friends in Jerusalem, who should be studying but instead get in all sorts of hijinks in an Entourage-style ensemble comedy. The show is part of a larger trend highlighting Haredim on the silver screen, and it demonstrates that ultra-Orthodox Jews are funny and complicated, not simply dour religious zealots isolated from the rest of Israeli society. Shababnikim tackles issues of faith, class, dating, and masculinity in a hilariously entertaining manner. The second season is currently in production.