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The Emergence of Modern Hebrew Creativity in Babylon, 1735- 1950

by Lev Hakak

Publication Year: 2009

This book begins with a brief history about the Jews in Babylon (Iraq), their Hebrew creativity and the fact that this creativity was excluded from the history of Modern Hebrew literature because it was unknown to the scholars. The book focuses on the years 1735-1950 and presents the secular Hebrew poetry written in Babylon at that time, the folktales, journalistic articles, and epistles, research of Hebrew literature, a story and a play.

Published by: Purdue University Press

Series: Shofar Supplements in Jewish Studies

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p. xi-xi

Special thanks to The Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center and its Chairman of the Board, Mordechai Ben-Porat, for permission to publish the English version based on the original Hebrew version. I also thank the Center for allowing me to use their image archive. I thank Dr. Zvi Yehuda, the Research Institute Director of the Center, for his tireless support of this project. I thank the University of ...

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pp. 1-22

Sumerians, Acadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Neo-Babylonians ruled Babylonia during man’s history. Babylon was the birthplace of the Patriarch Abraham, who emigrated from Mesopotamia to the Promised Land in accordance with the command of the Lord (Genesis 12: 1-5). In 732 B.C., the children of Israel were exiled to Babylon (in this book I will use the name Babylon for Iraq, Meso-...

Part 1. Poetry

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pp. 23

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Chapter 1. Pathfinders and Explorers in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hebrew Poetry in Babylon

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pp. 25-50

Modern Hebrew poetry began at the end of the eighteenth century as European Jews began to become part of the modern world. Although the Bible includes magnificent poetry, there were periods that were almost entirely lacking in Hebrew poetry, such as the Talmudic period (70-500). Hebrew poetry later reappeared in Byzantine Palestine (sixth to eighth centuries) and in Babylon (eighth ...

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Chapter 2. Four Poets of Babylonian Origin

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pp. 51-71

Shaul Ben Abdallah Yosef (1849-1906) was born in Baghdad, and he emigrated from Babylon in 1868. He was a poet who emulated the style and themes of Spanish Hebrew poetry. His poetic style is rich, his knowledge of the Bible and of Spanish Hebrew poetry is meticulous, and his imagery is intense ...

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Chapter 3. The Twentieth Century Poets in Babylon

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pp. 73-116

Many Hebrew textbooks were ordered from Palestine to Babylon. However, some felt that there was a need for books that would stimulate young students based on their specific local Jewish culture to learn the Hebrew language. Jewish educators in Babylon authored Hebrew textbooks with contents that spoke to the heart of their students and also effectuated progress in teaching the Hebrew language....

Part 2. Folktales, Reportage, Epistles, Research of Literature, and a Story

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pp. 117

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Chapter 4. The Folktales of Rabbi Yosef Hayyim

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pp. 119-136

The folktales of Rabbi Yosef Hayyim are aimed at benefitting the listeners, to teach them something that would improve their lives and characters. These are educational, didactic stories, dominated by their moralistic message. The characters and plot are illustrations to a message. The tale is only a sweet wrapper for a plot with a bitter pill ...

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Chapter 5. Rabbi Shelomo Bekhor Hutsin(Rashbah): The Words of an Enlightened Jew

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pp. 137-152

Rabbi Shelomo Bekhor Hutsin (Rashbah, 1843-1892) was one of the disciples of Rabbi Abdallah Somekh (1813-1904) in Baghdad. Rabbi Abdallah Somekh was one of the key religious figures of his time (Hakak, Iggerot; and Hakak, “Sh-lomo”). He did not find personal fulfillment in business. Rather, he had spiritual and intellectual aspirations. As a result, he selected a small number of students ...

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Chapter 6. An Epistle as a Literary Work: Rabbi Ya’acov Hayyim’s Letter to Farha Sason

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pp. 153-156

Until the advent of modern technology, Jews corresponded long distance through Hebrew letter writing. Despite living in different countries, Hebrew remained the common written language for Jews rather than their respective mother tongue. For example, Rashbah, who could not speak Polish, could correspond in Hebrew with a Jew in Warsaw who could not speak Arabic. Epistles provide examples of ...

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Chapter 7. Shaul Abdullah Yosef: A Scholar of Medieval Hebrew Poetry

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pp. 157-162

Shaul Yosef felt that he understood the Arabic way of life similar to Medieval Hebrew poets who lived among Arabs and were familiar with their poets, their poetry, their style, motifs, their “ornamental speech,” metaphorical language, conventional images, and phrases. Shaul Yosef ’s colleagues often behaved arrogantly toward him ...

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Chapter 8. Rabbi Saliman Mani: Hebron,Gaza, and the Demons

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pp. 163-167

His short story, “The Valley of the Demons” (Ha-Tsevi, 1885, No. 31-34) is a didactic story (about two thousand words) written in the first person. The narrator informs readers that since his youth he was a skeptic—he vacillated in his belief about demons. He could not substantiate their existence, yet he did not reject their existence. A Dervish rekindled his belief in demonic existence. He ...

Part 3. Hebrew Periodicals in Babylon

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pp. 169

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Chapter 9. Ha-Dover: The First Hebrew Journal in Babylon

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pp. 171-173

The efforts and difficulties in establishing and maintaining a Hebrew periodical in Iraq are not surprising when we observe how Hebrew journals struggled economically (including in prosperous times) in order to survive, even in places where there was a large Jewish population ...

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Chapter 10. Yeshurun: “The Newspaper is the Heart of the People”

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pp. 175-188

Between 1909 and 1948, eight Jewish newspapers circulated in Iraq. Yeshurun (the poetic biblical name for Israel, Jeshurun) was one of these newspapers. Pub-lished in 1921, it was the only newspaper that included a Hebrew section. The publication of this periodical was part of the Zionist activity that flourished in Iraq from 1918 until 1935. Some of their activities included fund raising, estab-...

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Chapter 11. Shemesh: An Anthology of Poems and Compositions from the Students of the Shammash School

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pp. 189-205

Shemesh was a school newspaper that was published in Baghdad from 1930-1933. This publication reflected the Hebrew culture of its time by reporting on field activities, Hebrew libraries, Hebrew education, lectures, teachers, and achievements in each field. My purpose in introducing this publication is to add another element that portrays Hebrew society in Babylon by presenting the liter-...

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Chapter 12. Derekh He-Haluts: The Journal of the Movement Counselors

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pp. 207-224

After the 1941 pogrom against the Jews of Iraq, they realized that assimilation, participation in Iraqi nationalism, communism, and donations to Israel would not resolve their problems. However, an exodus to Palestine would bring resolution. The Zionist movement was legal in Iraq during the 1920s. The movement continued underground in the 1930s and reorganized between 1940 ...

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pp. 225-226

Hebrew creativity is an essential part of Jewish culture. It is important that we recognize Hebrew creativity wherever it took place. It is important to determine the information, the description, and the aesthetic evaluation of secular Hebrew creativity, including places where we mistakenly thought that Hebrew creativity did not exist, as was the case in Babylon ...


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pp. 227-232

Index of Authors

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pp. 233-236


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pp. 237-246


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pp. 247-258

E-ISBN-13: 9781612490120
E-ISBN-10: 1612490123
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557535146
Print-ISBN-10: 1557535140

Page Count: 247
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Shofar Supplements in Jewish Studies