5: Comic, Asaf Hanuka's "Jew + Arab = Mizrahi," ca. 2010-2012.

5: Comic, Asaf Hanuka's "Jew + Arab = Mizrahi," ca. 2010-2012.

Beginning in 2010, the comic strips created by Israeli artist Asaf Hanuka have been appearing in the Tel Aviv daily Calcalist. Described by Haaretz as "The Man Who Churns Israeli Anxiety Into Comic Art," his comics probe into his own identity as a Mizrahi Jew of Iraqi heritage and issues in Israeli society at large. The same 2016 article in Haaretz presented this quotation from him, alluding to a life experience comparable to the situation in Behar's story: "My secret identity was an Arab, or Mizrahi... I grew up in a house in which my mother spoke Arabic to her mother but never to her children. The entire issue of our origins was vague; it wasn’t clear to me where my family had come from. I think my mother, who came from Iraq when she was four, preferred that we, my sister, brother and I, would grow up in a neutral environment with no reference to Ashkenazi or Sephardi origins, so that we would simply be Israelis."

In this comic, he presents a simple equation of what is a Mizrahi Jew — or how the world, or Israeli society, sees such a person. The bottom image is a self-portrait of the artist. (Note that the bottom caption reads in Hebrew, "Mizrahi," but is somewhat imprecisely translated underneath as "Sephardi." Though these identities often intersect — with many Arab Jews ultimately descending from Jews who were exiled from Spain — they are not the same.)

Suggested activity: Discuss the comic with students: what are the characteristics of his "Arab" and his "Jew"? Are the representations unexpected or stereotypical? What kind of Jew does the "Jew" seem to be, and why has Hanuka drawn him thus? And seeing as these characters add up to a portrait of himself, the "Mizrahi," what does he seem to be saying about how he himself, and Mizrahim generally, are seen by society? How might this "equation" relate to the way the narrator of Behar's story is perceived when he begins expressing his Arab-ness through his speech?

Consider asking each student to create an "equation" of their own identity. These may be done strictly in words, or with pictures added. First they should choose which identity of theirs they may wish to be the final product of the equation. Then they can consider: which elements, divided or multiplied by each other, added or subtracted, culiminate in that identity, whether in their own view or in the perceptions of others.

Source: Asaf Hanuka, "Arab + Jew = Mizrahi," comic, in Josh Lambert, "Tel Aviv's Comics Knock-out" (Tablet: June 18, 2012), <http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/102688/tel-avivs-comics-knock-out#>, accessed April 10, 2018.