Dr Z

Joseph Zernik, DMD, PhD PO Box 526, La Verne, CA 91750; fax: 801 998-0917; email: jz12345@earthlink.net

Digitally signed by Joseph H Zernik DN: cn=Joseph H Zernik, o, ou, email=jz12345@eart hlink.net, c=US Location: La Verne, California Date: 2009.12.30 16:24:03 -08'00'

Hebron Stories by Yitzhaq Shami (1988-1949),
Edited by Moshe Lazar and Joseph Zernik, with Introduction by Arnold Band, 2000.

Nouvelles d'Hebron by Yitzhaq Shami (1888-1949)
Edited by Joseph Zernik. with Introduction by Arnold Band Labor et Fides, Geneve, Switzerland, 2006

Copied below is the epilogue from the French edition.

Hebron - end of 19th century

Yitzhaq Shami (1888-1949) Yitzhaq Shami, born in Hebron and a native Arabic speaker, was an early Modern Hebrew writer and an early Middle Eastern Enlightenment figure. He studied in Hebron under one of the prominent rabbinical authorities of his generation, Rabbi Medini a teacher of law, ethics, and Kabala. However, in his teens Shami was caught by the ideals of the Enlightenment, and by seventeen he left the religious academy and joined a secular teachers seminary in Jerusalem, committing himself to the revival of the Hebrew language. In his youth Shami was deeply impacted by the writing of Jirji Zaidan (1861-1914) leader of the Arab Awakening (Nahdah). Shami advocated Zaidan’s call for unity of the Moslem world and for unity of

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Religion and Enlightenment. But Zaidan’s most important contribution, according to Shami, was the call for examination of the historic variations in the relationships between Islam and the State. A century later, these calls still need to be heeded.

Shamis position regarding organized religion both Jewish and Moslem - was complex and multi-faceted. His first story, The Barren Wife, published while he was still in his teens, decried the treatment of Jewish women by Halachic law. Protest of the treatment of women in both Moslem and Jewish traditional communities was a recurring theme in his works. But Kabalistic and Sufi motives appeared in Shamis writing and personal correspondence throughout his life.

The pilgrimage from the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron to the Tomb of Moses in the Judean desert near Jericho provides the backdrop for Vengeance of the Fathers. Abraham and Moses are the two central prophets of the Jewish religion, and the revelations to Ibrahim Khalil Allah (Gods Beloved) and Musa Kalim Allah (Gods Interlocutor) are likewise central in the Quran forming the basis for the revelation to the Prophet Muhammad. These two holy tombs, with Jerusalem-al-Quds in between, also formed the axis of Moslem devotion in Palestine.

The revelation to Moses is the theme of the Sufi hymn included Vengeance of the Fathers. And the manifestations revealed to Abraham are associated with the vengeful, jealous Almighty alluded in the novellas title and ending. Therefore, this novella and Shami’s work as a whole artfully preserved voices and images of Moslem and Jewish way of life and local religious rites in Ottoman Palestine long since vanished with the advent of Modern times. But Shamis writing showed no nostalgia he was a self proclaimed anti-Orientalist, coining the Hebrew term for Orientalists in 1912.

Instead, Shami’s stories sounded a doomsday prophecy and opposition to zealous veneration of holy tombs and holy sites, foretold the violence and bloodshed that soon enveloped his homeland, and called for social justice. In all of these Shami echoed biblical prophets from neighboring towns in Judea, like Amos and Micah.

Implied in the title of Vengeance of the Fathers was also a macabre variation on the Blessing of the Fathers one of the oldest and most central blessings in the Jewish prayer book. Rather than a source of blessing, the Patriarch Abraham through religious zealotry could become a source of perpetual violence and bloodshed to his descendents and followers Christians, Moslems, and Jews.

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Vengeance of the Fathers was signed in Hebron, when Shami and his family lived outside the Jewish quarter, in a house leased from a local Effendi who, with his family, were also close friends. Shami was concomitantly teaching in a Jewish school and in a Moslem school, while also serving as Secretary of the local Jewish community. In the 1920s he was among the founders of an Arab-Jewish friendship association in Hebron in an attempt to dissipate the growing tension. Shami’s position left him outside the mainstream of either Israeli or Palestinian literature. After leaving Hebron for Tiberias in 1928 he lamented I feel that the Arabs are missing here, and expressed the impossible position of his writing Sometimes I think that during this period, full of violence and atrocities between us and our neighbors, it may not be appropriate to show interest in them [the Arabs].... Indeed, Shami’s writing, recently recognized by the Palestinian Academic Society as an important part of Palestinian literature, belongs to the long tradition of Arab literature, where in Shami’s words the desert winds blow from between the lines. Joint efforts are under way in recent years to introduce Shami’s work to a new generation of young readers in Palestine and Israel as part of their common cultural landscape. At a time of growing peace prospects, let Shami’s work, emanating from Hevron al-Khalil, become the source of the blessing of Ibrahim Avraham.

Joseph Zernik February 2005 On Behalf of the Literary Estate of Yitzhaq Shami

Epilogue by Joseph Zernik for Nouvelles dHebron by Yitzhaq Shami, Labor et Fides, Geneve, Switzerland, 2006.