2: Text excerpt from Ehud Ben-Ezer’s “The Arab in Hebrew Fiction,” 1999, and photograph by Ya'acov Ben-Dov, 1912.
When the early Eastern European Jewish pioneers arrived in Palestine, they often identified with, emulated, and romanticized the local Arabs, particularly the Bedouin, perceiving them as an authentic bridge to the days of Abraham. (Some even imagined that the Bedouin were the descendants of ancient Jews who had gradually become “Arabized” over the centuries.) In this excerpt, Israeli writer and scholar Ehud Ben-Ezer describes this paradoxical relationship.
The accompanying photograph, taken by Israeli photographer and filmmaker Ya’acov Ben-Dov, who immigrated to Palestine in 1907, provides a visual representation of this desire to emulate the local Arabs. It is an image of Jews in Migdal, Palestine, 1912, wearing keffiyehs, the traditional Arab headdress.
Suggested Activity: Invite students to look at the photograph first, and ask them—without giving them any context—what they think is going on in the image. Who are the people? Where are they? What is their story?
Then explain that the people in the photograph are Jewish immigrants from Europe in 1907 Palestine. Have students consider the excerpt from “The Arab in Fiction,” and ask them: why would anyone want to emulate their “enemy”? Does this paradox resonate with anything you have seen or experienced in your own life or in the media? In what ways do this quote and image shed light on “Nomad and Viper,” and the relationships between the kibbutzniks and the Bedouin in that story?
Sources: Ehud Ben-Ezer, ed., Sleepwalkers and Other Stories: The Arab in Hebrew Fiction (New York: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998), 4.
Ya'acov Ben-Dov. 1912, black and white photograph, “Second Aliyah workers eating lunch in the fields of Migdal." Available from: Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Second_aliyah_Pioneers_in_Migdal_1912_in_kuffiyeh.jpg (accessed August 15, 2019).