Has Berlin-born poet Natan Zach lost it? Israel's iconic poet has a history of making shocking statements. But Zach’s most controversial moment may have been in July 2010, when, in an interview on Army Radio, he made a comparison between European and Middle Eastern Jews, saying: “The one lot comes from the highest culture there is – Western European culture — and the other lot comes from the caves.” Now the 'cavemen' have responded with a petition calling for Zach's works to be dropped from the schools curriculum. Haaretz reports:
Poet Natan Zach's comments last week on the Channel 10 television
show "Hamakor" ("The Source" ) have resulted in a petition accusing him
The petition, which has been uploaded to the Web,
calls upon Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar to take immediate measures
against the 80-year-old Israel Prize laureate.
The petition specifically calls for Sa'ar to remove
Zach's works from the educational curriculum, to revoke his appointments
at every academic institutions where he is employed and to add content
addressing the history and culture of Jews with roots in the Middle East
to the curriculum.
In an interview conducted with Zach about a week
ago, the poet described his impressions of Israeli television, saying
that "the Jews from the Oriental communities will get the blacks and the
Ashkenazis [European Jews] will get the bastards."
The poet went on to say "The idea of taking people
who have nothing in common arose. The one lot comes from the highest
culture there is - Western European culture - and the other lot comes
from the caves."
The petition states: "It is inconceivable that
students, certainly the Mizrahim [Jews of Middle Eastern descent], will
be asked to memorize poems by the man who scorns their culture and
publicly defines it as an inferior culture... It is the obligation of
the Ministry of Education to make it clear to him and to the entire
public that it will not permit such despicable opinions to be sheltered
under its wing."
While those who initiated the petition have remained
anonymous, so far over 500 people have signed the petition, among them
many prominent cultural figures, including writer Yossi Sukari, artist
Shula Keshet, poet Mati Shmuelof, artist Shay Pardo, musician Ravid
Kahalani and cultural researcher Sivan Shtang.
Responding to Zach's remarks, Sukari says the poet's
view that Western culture is superior to Mizrahi culture is based on
the parameters of the sole culture in which he is submerged.
"Even if we allow this relativist outlook and accept
that it is possible to create a hierarchy among cultures and find
specific differences whereby one culture is superior to another, the
preferential treatment of one ethnic group and the diminution of another
still amount to racism," argues Sukari.
Furthermore, he says, "With regard to the fact that
we came from 'the caves,' I would like to say that to my great regret,
the only person actually in a cave is Natan Zach himself - where it's so
dark it's impossible to see even the shadows."
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