1: Short story excerpt, Almog Behar's "Ana min al-yahud," 2005, Hebrew with English translation.
Prior to this excerpt, the narrator in Behar’s story has for a while been speaking in the Iraqi Arabic-tinged accent of his immigrant grandfather, with its "glottal ‘ayyin" and "glottal Iraqi quf" and the tsaddi that sounds like an "s" – non-standard pronunciations of modern Israeli Hebrew letters, which the narrator was not raised using. In this passage, the deceased grandfather begins to speak to the narrator, wondering “why is this history of mine mixed up with yours.”
Suggested activity: Tease apart this dense passage with students. The grandfather calls himself “the generation of the desert.” This term has been used to refer to the generation of Israelis that immigrated from Arab countries in the middle of the twentieth century. The term can be pejorative, implying that the immigrants had nothing to contribute to society, and were stuck in their diasporic past. Why would the grandfather use this term here to describe himself? What other meanings might the desert take on here? The grandfather also talks of making sacrifices for the narrator’s generation and about a painful past. What kind of struggle do you think he is alluding to? How does he seem to feel about the narrator’s new accent? How does he feel about the narrator having “arisen to renew” him?
For a more creative activity, ask each student to imagine what a departed ancestor of their own, whether a grandparent or someone from further back, might say to them about the way they speak, or about the language or dialect they use. Ask each student to create a monologue in the voice of their ancestor, reflecting on the similarities and differences between the ancestor's speech and the student's. Perhaps the differences between their speech might connect to the differences between their lives and personal histories. The student may write down this monologue, or speak it impromptu to the class. Share these monologues and then discuss: are there any common threads between the various monologues that students have constructed, and between their monologues and the grandfather's in the story?