A Play


Amer Hlehel

Publisher The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and Dar Layla publishing and translation
Language Hebrew
Year of Publication 2023
Series Maktoob

Taha, by Amer Hlehel, is a one-person show portraying the life of the Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali. The play was staged in Arabic for the first time in May 2014 in Haifa, and since then has met with great success in Israel and abroad, garnering, inter alia, the award for the best play from Asia at the prestigious Edinburgh International Festival. The play recounts the events of Taha’s life, from his childhood, through his journey as a refugee from the village of Saffuriya in the the Galilee to Lebanon in 1948, until his adulthood and later life in Nazareth—al-Nasreh. His story is presented through snapshots of his life—the experiences of his childhood and adolescence, his loves and suffering—and also through the key to his coping with the vicissitudes of his life: his love for poetry and his becoming a poet both sensitive and powerful, unique and special.

Taha Muhammad Ali (1931–2011) was born in the Palestinian village Saffuriya in the Galilee. His family was uprooted from their land to Lebanon during the 1948 war. Upon returning to Israel, the family was not allowed to return to the destroyed village, on whose lands were built, inter alia, Kibbutz Hasolelim and Moshav Tzipori. From that time on the family lived in Nazareth, in the al-Safafra neighborhood, so named for the displaced persons of Saffuriya, and the young Taha helped support the family by opening a souvenir shop in the city’s market. He wrote poems, just for himself at first, and later garnered the courage to read them at poetry events that he organized in his shop. It wasn’t until 1983, when he was 52, that the first collection of his poems was published in Arabic, and from that time until his death another five collections appeared. Two of these collections have been translated thus far into Hebrew: Poems, translated by Anton Shammas (Andalus, 2006), and The Dove That Left on the Winter Train, translated by Ehud Horowitz (Keshev Poetry, 2021).

Translation: Guy Elhanan

Editing and translation: Amer Hlehel

Copyediting: Amira Binyamini Nevo  

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