Agi Mishol: I am a member
of the advisory board of the Helicon literary
journal, which conducts writing workshops for
Israelis who write in Hebrew or in Arabic. The
workshops meet for six intensive weekends, once
a month over half a year. Eighteen Jewish and
Arab writers share rooms, and in effect they
study, eat and sleep together for two days every
month during this period. The activities are
varied and include reciprocal translation, during
which one's familiarity with the other writers
-- on a personal and a cultural level -- deepens.
I can testify that it is an extremely moving
experience to see the way participants build
connections to each other.
At the end of these workshops, Helicon publishes an edition featuring the work of the participants, launched at a festive public reading in Tel Aviv.
Big concepts like peace and humanism begin from below, in small daily details, in people’s private lives. Politics usually functions in the opposite direction.
Ghassan Zaqtan: On the personal level, there is always contact between Palestinian and Israeli poets. One needs to be personally motivated to look for poets from the other side. This is the best possible means of communication within the circumstances. I have read several Israeli poets and was interested in poets such as Natan Zach, Yehuda Amichai and Roni Somek. One has to keep in mind, also, that there are many Palestinian poets who carry Israeli citizenship who write deep and very important poetry.