Shulamith Hareven (Hebrew: שולמית הראבן; pen name, Tal Yaeri; February 14, 1930 – November 25, 2003) was a Jewish author and essayist who was born in Warsaw, Poland and later lived many years in Israel.
The Vocabulary of Peace: Life, Culture, and Politics in the Middle East (1995)
- Nationalism reinforced by fundamentalist religion equals conflict. In this region, we are drugged on man-made drama; on a perpetual high of violent politics. It will take more than a few men signing a paper to make people realize the strength of the ordinary; to feel that sanity can be exciting. Only visible, everyday change can, gradually, with great patience, make it happen.
- One essential thing did change: from now on it is not automatically Jew against Arab and Arab against Jew; it is the Jews and Arabs who support peace, and those, Jews and Arabs both, who oppose it-not one nation against another, but two bi-national coalitions. That in itself constitutes the greatest change in the Middle East, perhaps the only one that might succeed, indeed, perhaps a last chance.
"Literature in the Age of Masses"
- We write of what we know, but a large part of our local culture-not all but a large part-tends to lose its significance in transposition.
- It is probable that the time of governments' wishing to control literature is past. What we are faced with now is the frightening authority of great, terrifying masses of people who hardly ever read, who prefer television and the movies, and who carry the terrible weight of sheer huge numbers. What can we do? Essentially, what we have been doing so far: write of what we know, our places, our environment, our families. Tribal literature, if you wish. All the world understands families. A family contributes to the understanding of people as people.
- One example of our inability to cope with large numbers is our lack of comprehension of the magnitude of the Holocaust. During the Adolf Eichmann trial in Israel, it was the individual murders that registered in our memories and our senses rather than the descriptions of mass murders. For many of us who attended the trial, Eichmann had to answer for personally whipping to death a fifteen-year-old Jewish boy who stole an apple. Large numbers tend to become abstract, too abstract to identify with. No writer can write about the six million of the Holocaust; we must write about individuals, about families.
- To a certain extent, all writing is working within tradition: we use idioms, linguistic connections, and associations known to our tribe, because we cannot go outside language, and languages are tribal affairs.
- writing, real writing, has very little to do with so-called typical behavior. It must be whittled down from our familiar spheres of reference to what the person actually is and does; in good writing, no person is "typical."
- To this day our language has kept its stony, concentrated, concise character, striving for the essential. This makes Hebrew practically untranslatable; a phrase of three words in Hebrew becomes a phrase of eighteen words in French, so you can imagine what it does to poetry.
- Our history is not only the history of a people, but also the history of a language...Some parts of our tradition are widely known; others are less known because it is so difficult to translate from Hebrew. Whole theories were built upon incorrect translations from Hebrew. The commandment "Thou shalt not kill," as most translations have it, does not exist in the Bible. The original commandment is "Thou shalt not murder," which is entirely different. A whole ethos has been created in other cultures because of a fallacious translation of a commandment written originally in Hebrew.
- If people visit books as they do tourist sites, looking for the famous passages they have heard about, looking for the best-seller they were told about, just to be able to say "I was there," then we have missed the whole point of literature.
"Knowledge and Arrogance"
- a group of intellectuals can unwittingly become an arrogant anti-intellectual group if it does not give a good shake once in a while to itself and its vocabulary, from the bottom up. It can become anti-intellectual if it is no longer able to live with ambiguity and cannot bring itself to say "I have no answer," "We do not know."
- Any given discipline contains a majority of priests and a minority of prophets, and the eternal question is who prevails.
- In the Sinai of knowledge there is room for all of us, friends and enemies, opponents and admirers, all of us who populate the earth, without limitation at all, in a different ecology yet unknown to us in most other fields. Perhaps, very slowly, we shall come to know it.
- The more one shares knowledge, the more of it one has, and the more complete it becomes. Moreover, it is the sharing of knowledge that brings about greater knowledge and inspires more and better thought. Knowledge is not subject to purely commercial considerations, just as good books are not subject to the prevalent economy.
- there is nothing in the world as morally binding as belonging to a minority.
- It is a familiar sight: an intellectual so sure of his thesis or model that he pesters the powers that be to put it into practice. Accountability, however, will always fall on the person who acted on the theory, not the person who invented it. We confer upon the intellectual-by definition-the full and complete freedom to create a theory and to build an abstract model without any responsibility for the results, and this is indeed one of the most difficult problems to be pondered on in the humanities.
- Intellectuals usually analyze change, sometimes they are lucky enough to foretell it, and occasionally they are instrumental in causing change. In the usual situation the intellectual becomes a kind of ornament to a revolution, if it likes to pride itself on its intellectuals.
- The greatest danger to any discipline is the creation of a static model that keeps the same vocabulary for any length of time. In such a case, the intellectual becomes an ex-intellectual in no time.
- in most universities neither law nor mathematics is taught among the humanities. This is a pity, because it would benefit the so-called human spirit to move a little horizontally, not just perpendicularly, so that people could learn a few intellectual languages in addition to those they know.
- The question we must answer is whether it is possible to raise a generation on nothing but traumas that were caused by others, exclusively on a sense of perpetual destruction and deterministic hatred, or whether there are some other things about Judaism, not necessarily related to victimization, that define us both as a people and as individuals. Does being a Jew only mean being a victim, defined by the actions of others? Or does it also mean being a people that established an elaborate judicial system, created a language to be proud of, built a state and established a social order (not only fought for their existence!), and developed demands and expectations for perfecting the world and the individual, expressed in various phenomena throughout history, that no other people did? In other words, are we willing to accept Jean-Paul Sartre's definition of Judaism, "anti-semitism makes Jews" (that is, he even denies us the right of self-definition)? Or are there also things about us that have nothing whatsoever to do with the acts and attitudes of others?
- In the short run, the identity of victim does, indeed, pay off. Sholem Aleichem recognized this in his story "Lucky Me, I Am an Orphan." Anyone who is a victim and nothing but a victim-in the sense of "deserving" compensation and forgiveness for everything-usually milks this position for all it is worth, through the end of the generation that witnessed the tragedy. In the longer run, the perpetuation of the victim identity causes complete severance from reality, utter dependence on the past and the past alone, and distortions of all proportions and emphases to the point of warping the personality.
- a time comes when it is no longer possible to use this victimhood as an excuse for everything. As every educator knows, it creates a great residue of cynicism, if only because of the obvious gap between what children are taught by rote and what they see with their own eyes. If I am a victim--and not just any victim but an eternal victim-then I am excused from many things: from having pride in what I am, for example; from exploring and studying my real identity; from looking in the mirror; from a sober look at my surroundings to see what is in it and what is not; and from any possibility of empathy for another. Semantic clichés, whose truth no one questions, arise and are parroted, such as "the whole world is against us," when in reality we have both enemies and friends, and the majority of nations and people take no interest in us at all. Or "all the Arabs want to throw us into the sea," with no realistic discernment of our actual, diverse relations with each Arab country separately.
- If I am the sole and eternal victim, then I create around and within myself and raise my children to an inability to see anyone who is not me. If I and only I occupy the throne of the victim, then no stranger can occupy it. This blindness reaches proportions that distort reality. I am not talking only about right-wing Jewish settlers, professional blind men who never see the residents of the West Bank...If I am the sole and eternal victim, then of course I refuse to accept any information that is liable to ruin my self-image. My receptors simply do pick it up. I have no need of it; I already have a map, with one marker it only: I am a victim, and everyone is against me. I refuse to hear not only about the Arabs, but also about myself. I break the mirror. At the base of this attitude is a dangerous thing: it is as if all of Zionism, if the fact of our living in Israel, is dependent on our not knowing and not wanting to know. Those who hold this attitude do not see the Israeli who gets up in the morning, goes to work, pays taxes, waters plants, raises his children, and does reserve army duty. Rather, they see the eternal victim, alone in the world, who sits upright on his throne with his eyes closed, smothering all other peoples (especially Arabs), and is always, always right, right with the blind, cold righteousness of the victim above whose head flutters the banner, "Vengeance is mine!" How many of us, today, see ourselves in this picture?
- If we insist on absolute justice, the reckoning of lives will never end. All we can talk about is beneficial justice, beneficial for both sides-that is, a territorial compromise and the continuation of the conflict at the negotiating table.
- If my only identity is that of the victim, the world's deterministic and doomed victim, I may (or so it seems) commit any atrocity, including exiling Arabs from their homes (excuse me, dear hawks, "relocating" them) and taking possession of their land, because I am the victim and they are not; because this is the only way I define myself and my identity-forever. But if I also define myself as the son, or daughter, of a people with a splendid four-thousand-year history of responsibility, of conscience, of repairing and improving, of appealing for social order and justice, of a legal system nearly unparalleled in the world, and of the protection of these traditions; if I have indeed learned and internalized all these, so that they define my identity; then even if often in history I have been the victim of others, I will never oppress those weaker than myself and never abuse my power to exile them (excuse me, dear hawks, "bus them out"). I will not have to define my uniqueness in terms of the past alone.
- Day by day, hour by hour we create Hebrew, Israeli culture, and we take it for granted-not because we wonder whether or not it is "justified," but because this is our existential circumstance. Every day children are born here whose right it is to live, and in peace. Is not all this reality?
- there is nothing to do but to fix and fix and repair and repair all the time, every day, all our lives.
- Where, then, in the final analysis, does our identity and our uniqueness lie? Certainly not in our being victims; there have been and are victims, including whole peoples who were wiped out without a trace and not compassionately. We have existed as a people for a very long time, and during this time we have indeed amassed a difficult and tortuous history, and very often we were victims. But our uniqueness lies not in what others do to us, but in ourselves alone, in our selfhood, our character, and our culture. It lies in our reality, which is, perhaps, different from that of others. How is it different? In our "who," in our "how." Not what was done to us, but who we are. The uniqueness of a Jew is not in his being a victim. It is in his being a Jew, a proud son of a people at least four thousand years old, who built a humane present and ask for an attainable future. Not a future of messianic proportions, but one of human dimensions.
- under no circumstances are we to forget our tragedies. But whoever bases our identity on them and them alone, distorts the greatness of this people and keeps from its sons not only pride, but sanity itself.
- We are living in an age of peacemaking. Not peace through love. Peace through accord.
- If we leave aside Israeli self-pity and examine the facts, we'll see that it is Israel, not its neighbors, that, to date, has broken all of the made through various intermediaries since the Yom Kippur War in 1973; that it is the Arab states, not Israel, who greatly need guarantees that Israel will keep its agreements. Not out of love or hate, but for reasons of “stateness”; to abide by matters that have been agreed upon.
- That is precisely what agreements are for: so that hatred won't become war.
- It seems that the right to hate-so well understood in these parts-is a right not granted the Arabs. We may hate them. In parliamentary elections we may grant legitimacy to individuals and movements that talk of deporting the Arabs, if not worse; but they may not hate us. Even if their houses and property are laid bare to any who would break down their doors. Even if any sadist and sicko can kick their shackled sons.
- The so-called Arab-Israeli conflict-that is, the problem of the territories and their population-is one of the last remaining conflicts, and one of the most superfluous. It can be resolved. Not by love: by accord.
- Anyone who wants to maintain the current situation, the so-called status quo, lays the groundwork for the next war. In fact, the term "status quo" is only part of the phrase "status quo ante bellum": the situation as it was before the war. There are no static situations in the world, least of all in the roiling Middle East. Anyone who thinks it is possible to arrive at peace through continued force-without accords, without rules, avoiding the determination of new and secure borders-misleads people. Anyone who thinks the policy of "nary an inch" will bring about an accord is a deceiver. No one will come to talk to him seriously.
"The Vocabulary of Peace"
- in an era when patriarchal, hierarchical, patronizing attitudes have lost their importance, when we do not accept the patronage of one culture over another, when women are no longer treated as inferior beings, and when children have their legal rights, management and cooperation are prevailing over war. The horizontal society of equals rather than one of perpendicular hierarchical groups, a society that creates worldwide networks, is the society of peace. Minorities struggling for recognition have taught us that assertiveness is good, while aggression is dangerous; that empowerment is good, while the abuse of power can be catastrophic; that discrimination is not to be tolerated. We now describe situations rather than groups at fault. All these constitute a modern dictionary of terms unknown to our grandparents.
- cultural change that enables people to think in terms of cooperation, rather than enmity and strife, is the conceptual change from the language and state of mind of a closed agrarian society, the forerunner of the nation-state, to that of an open technological one.
- Francis Fukuyama wrote about the end of history-and he may have had in mind the end of historical narrative consisting of war and conquest, victors and victims, the kind of history that has been dictated by the patriarchal hierarchical society and that seldom took into account ordinary life, creation, culture at all levels, literature, ideas, everything that happened between wars. But the end of history means the beginning of ecology, both in the broad sense and in the primary sense of the word, which comes from the Greek oikos, meaning "home." In the present era we concentrate on the home and its environment, in networks and partnerships and cooperation, for the benefit of all. The moment people realize that war is not only cruelty, brutality, and the complete failure of human common sense, but also the most antiecological act possible, we are on the way to the most beneficial and the sanest possible peace. Our semantics already enable us to take this road. Politics would be well advised to follow.
- After Auschwitz, absolute justice has no meaning; the Nuremberg trials did not bring a single murdered child back to life. We do not expect absolute justice today, perhaps not an absolute anything. The preferred term now is "beneficial justice," one that would do most reasonable good to all parties concerned. Conflict management has taught us that presenting each other with lists of grievances will not bring about any justice at all, and that it is the feasible, rather than the absolute, to which we should aspire. The astute listener will of course understand that the moment we use terms like "cooperation" and "conflict management" we have given up the old or neo-Marxist vocabulary of power struggle as the sole human motivation. Thus do linguistic changes, new semantic habits, usher in a different era.
- Today, we can discern from the vocabulary the underlying ideology of a text or a speech. No self-respecting liberal would freely use the terms "enemy," or "annihilate," or "avenge," which no fundamentalist can do without.
- With the waning of the patriarchal society, we have also freed ourselves from the tyranny of the past and do not feel obliged to prefer that tense over our present, here and now. In Hebrew, writing in the present tense was considered bad form only half a century ago; now it is prevalent, almost as a kind of protest language. But other languages have undergone the same process: the present, previously used mostly in slang and street parlance, is now completely legitimate in literature, and not by accident. We are important; the here and now is important; we need no more obey blindly the supremacy of the past.
Twilight and Other Stories (1992)
translated from Hebrew by Miriam Arad
- We would lie numb, waiting for the night's Operation Cauldron to end, the leaden silence to return, the hollow grief.
- Two acquaintances meeting in the street would warm one another's hands with a shy smile.
- you could always tell a man's calling by his dress.
- I held on to the parapet and breathed hard. A fierce desire had come and gone and left me reeling.
- Perhaps he did not know about that land at all, though it was so near, right beyond the wall, only a password between the twilight and it. Most people do not know.
translated from Hebrew by David Weber
- A profound weariness was reflected in his eyes, a sorrow intermittently replenished; he was like a boxer's old punching bag, still suffering blow after blow, still returning to the hand that struck it.
- They were born without, and I was quibbling over a housecoat.
- The smell of monstrous pity remained in the empty room.
"Two Hours on the Road"
Translated into English by Hillel Halkin
- Together with her, we feel how stuffy the car is, how the world is boxing her in.
- Ido's mother is the only person with whom Ada can really laugh out loud, the way you can laugh with someone who has known you since childhood.
- Midway in life, as at its outset, you do not trust your body not to fail or disappoint you.
- She feels sad that the light has gone; she thinks of darkness as one of those bad times that only being old enough can get you through, with a measure of resignation.
- Ido chatters gaily as a sparrow.
- Shmaryahu's blue eyes seem frozen to him, focused on some other world.
- Reality seems to have broken up into little particles that she can't fit together again.
- From now on there will always be a great self-consciousness between us, as between people who have gone too far.
- the two of them, really, what an idea.
Interview (December 1985)
in We Are All Close: Conversations with Israeli Writers by Haim Chertok (1989)
- My feeling is that at our present stage of Judaism, knowledge and creation within the culture have come to replace ceremony, just as ceremony and prayer, in their time, came to replace the sacrifices.
- Hebrew, you know, is truly untranslatable.
- I write about Israeli experience, and that experience, being so intense and concentrated, is probably a good background for distilling human experience anywhere.
- Israeli society has always been very practical, very goal-oriented. A certain kind of egotism, self-centeredness goes with this a lack of empathy. The first of the new settlers who came here came voluntarily, like yourself. People tend to forget the difference between this and the postwar, more practical aliya. In order to start again in this land, the idealists wanted to forget, to obliterate their past. But when you amputate your past, you pay a price. Part of that is the failure of empathy. When the massive Eastern aliya occurred in the early 1950s, I was among the few who realized what was happening. I was then serving in the army with special responsibility for a number of transitory immigrant camps. These forced immigrants from Arab countries wanted to stick to their former customs at a time when Israel was committed to our version of the melting-pot theory, which was prevalent as well in the 1950s in America and recognized only by very few as the failure that it was.
- Jerusalem-which sometimes feels like the frontline of an ongoing war
- There has been an intensification of tunnel vision, of efforts by fundamentalists to impose rigid constraints on us all, mostly the status quo has been maintained. Nevertheless, the pressure to conform to religious norms is simply unbearable and has led increasingly to acts of violence, the result of which is to divide us each against the other.
- (HC: How do you account for this burgeoning of religious fanaticism among us Jews?) SH: Funny you should ask. I addressed myself to this dilemma in an article in a recent issue of The Jerusalem Quarterly. In brief, there are four interrelated ways in which our whole culture has gone off the rails before our very eyes: (one) in the subordination of the rule of law to the way of faith; (two) in the misguided perception of our times as "The End of Days," thereby validating excess as acceptable Jewish behavior; (three) in conferring excessive authority on rabbinic figures; and (four) in the abolition of a sense of sin-which is contrary to the spirit of the Bible. I consider all of these to be deviations from Judaism.
- Do you know, in the month before the Jewish Terror Groups were arrested and indicted, I printed an article, "Messiah or Knesset [Parliament]," that predicted the existence of such organizations? Shulamit Aloni read it aloud at the Knesset. "If a writer could predict this," she asked, "why couldn't the authorities?" Anyway, such is the present dilemma in this country-Messiah or Knesset? The Knesset does not-cannot-prevent the coming of the Messiah, if and when this were to come to pass, but the messianic principle now rampant in some Israeli circles absolutely negates the Knesset: that is to say, the law, democracy, and ultimately our statehood. In this I consider myself a follower of the Sages who have taught that even the divine voice does not take precedence over the ruling of a duly-appointed high court. The supremacy of the law is surely one of the greatest tenets of Judaism.
- We cannot live for long with the present state of schizophrenia: with democracy on one side of the Green Line and military law on the other; with citizens' rights on one side and no citizens or rights on the other; with one law on one side, a different law on the other. The effect is a breakdown of norms leading inevitably to brutalization. Young people will sooner or later show the effects of this.
- The radical, right-wing parties-Tehiya and Kahane-America's "gift" to us.
- I much prefer this cold peace to a hot war. But let me tell you about the atmosphere in Egypt in May '82. That was a real honeymoon. Everything was open, even euphoric. We had already given back Sinai, and every Egyptian in the street would stop to tell us that Israel was an honorable nation, one that kept its word. Practically all of our friends were making definite plans to visit Israel for congresses, lectures, or simply for private purposes. There was a joint exhibition of women painters-Egyptian and Israeli-at the biggest hotel in Cairo. Once they knew we were Israelis, waiters and shopkeepers refused to accept our tips. "You are family now," they would say. And you know the level of poverty in Egypt where a teacher earns $40 a month. In May of '82, Egypt was a ball! (HC: And then?) SH: And then Israel invaded Lebanon, and everything, everyone stopped-horrified.
- We must never make the mistake of confusing a criminal act with a national policy.
- (HC: What is your feeling about the current role of women in Israeli society?) SH: For myself, I have always done just what I wanted. I do have a sense that in Israel this is really less of a problem than in the United States. After all, in periods of emergency our women have always carried a heavy responsibility and functioned in most capacities in what still is, in some ways, a pioneer country. That makes it very hard to deny us appropriate roles. Moreover, it springs right from the Jewish family tradition of women serving as breadwinners while their husbands study. I know that Israeli society is famous for being rather macho. But my experience is that any woman who has something to say is listened to.
- (HC: I know that in recent weeks you have stayed with friends of yours at the Jhabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, and that you've described what you've witnessed in Yediot Ahronot. I realize the difficulty of summing up your impressions in brief, but would you try?) SH: In a phrase, we have been badly over-reacting. Look, we have been harassing and humiliating the Arabs for twenty years. Sooner or later, this uprising had to come. Anyone who thinks it was P.L.O.-inspired is out of his mind. In fact, the P.L.O. is trying to catch a free ride on what is happening and for the most part is finding itself impotent. Instead of applying the techniques of conflict-resolution to solve the problem, we have tried to bulldoze it out of existence: Violence, however, will achieve nothing because the Palestinians really are not "out to get us," and in any case are unable to do so. They are fighting for their identity. As a girl student in Gaza told me, "Please understand that in order to co-exist with you, first we must exist."
- You know, I am not a pacifist...I fought in the War of Independence, and I have covered several wars, including Yom Kippur on the Golan Heights, as a correspondent. But both in the Lebanese War and in these past months of overkill in our reaction to the uprising, we seem to have lost our ability to differentiate between the necessary use of force and plain aggression. For everyone's sake, I hope we regain a proper perspective very soon.
Quotes about Shulamith Hareven
- One of the best-known and most highly respected Israeli writers
- Haim Chertok We Are All Close: Conversations with Israeli Writers (1989)
- Ultimately, Hareven's greatest impact was on Hebrew itself. A linguistic patriot, she was the first - and for 12 years, the only - woman in the Hebrew Language Academy, where she contested "sexist" neologisms foisted on the 3,000-year-old language.
- Shimon Peres described the stories as "both timeless and timely".
- Quoted in The Guardian obituary (2004)
- The Israeli novelist Shulamith Hareven, born in Europe, has described herself as more Levantine-by disposition and sympathies-than Ashkenazic Israeli: "Authentic Levantism means the third eye and the sixth sense. It is the keen sensitivity to "how," the knowledge that "how" is always more important than "what;" therefore every true artist is a kind of Levantine. It means a perpetual reading between the lines, both in human relations and in political pronouncements—an art no Israeli political leader has yet succeeded in acquiring....Levantism... is the tacit knowledge that different nations live at different ages, and that age is culture, and that some nations are still adolescent, among them, quite often, Israel. And it is the bitter experience that knows that everything-every revolution, every ideology-has its human price, and there is always someone to pay it. It is the discerning eye, the precise diagnosis, that sees the latent narcissist in every ideologue. It is the joke at his expense, and the forgiveness"...Hareven ends her essay, "I am a Levantine because I see war as the total failure of common sense, an execrable last resort. And because I am a Levantine, all fundamentalists on all sides, from Khomeini to Kahane, will always want to destroy me and all Levantines like me, here and in the neighboring countries."
- Adrienne Rich "Jewish Days and Nights" in Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon, eds., Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (2003) and A Human Eye: Essays on Art in Society, 1997-2008 (2009)