Maktoob: The Forum of Arabic–Hebrew Translators

Years of Activity: 2015 - 2017

Research Status:


Dr. Huda Abu Mokh, Dr. Ella Almagor, Marzuq Al-Halabi, Dr. Hana Amit-Kochavi, Raji Bathish, Idan Barir, Mali Baruch, Dr. Almog Behar, Dr. Yotam Benshalom, Aliza Boim, Dr. Avi Elkayam, Lea Glassman, Tomer Gardi, Rachel Halba, Ilana Hammerman, Bruria Horvitz, Dr. Mahmoud Kayyal, Dr. Yoni Mendel, Yehonatan Nadav, Yonit Naaman, Salman Natour, Michal Sela, Dr. Ariel Sheetrit, Gideon Shilo, Prof. Sasson Somekh, Salih Sawaed

The purpose of this project is to promote discussion of Arabic literature and its translation into Hebrew and to make it accessible to the Israeli reader. The project aims to overcome the the decline—and even disappearance—of relations between Jews and Arabs in our region. Furthermore, the project seeks to counteract the fact that only 2% of Jews born in Israel know enough Arabic to read literature in that language. This situation appears even worse if one considers that Israel is in the center of the Middle East, that Arabic is one of its two official languages, and that Arabic is the mother tongue of one-fifth of its citizens and the language of heritage of a large part of Israel’s Jewish inhabitants.


To achieve the project’s goal, the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute established the Forum of Arabic-Hebrew Translators. This forum brings together more than 50 of the leading translators and researchers of translation—both Jews and Arabs. The project began at 2015 and in the coming three years is to translate twelve books—four each year—written throughout the Middle East: Palestinian, Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese, and Iraqi literature. The forum’s aim is to enable the Israeli reader to become familiar with the voices, ideas, and lives that are totally absent from the literary, social, and political discourse in Israel.


The members meet once a month and discuss translation issues, including those related to the choice of words and the types of translation. The meetings also include discussions and lectures on the sociology and politics of translation. In addition, forum members are putting together the schedule of translations for the coming years. They discuss the books and texts scheduled for translation, submit them for peer review, and then divide them up among themselves for translation. All the forum’s members serve as a council of experts on translation issues, and each book that is translated as part of the forum will be vetted by the members and will be the subject of several meetings.


The Maktoob book seriesthe flagship project of the Translators’ Circle at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute – turns the spotlight on the vitality of Arabic literature by translating selected poetry and prose into Hebrew. The Translators' Circle encompasses more than fifty Arab and Jewish translators, editors, and literary scholars who by means of ongoing work uncover the possibilities of movement from one language and culture to another. The Circle’s vision is to develop a sustainable model for a delicate, long-lasting cooperation between Jews and Arabs whose purpose is reconciliation between Hebrew and Arabic. This is particularly essential given the fact that less than 0.5% of the Jews in Israel are capable of reading Arabic texts.