Those were the days of Youth and Love (in Arabic and English)
by: Shmuel Moreh (Association of Jewish Academics from Iraq, Jerusalem (1998)
Reviewed by Meer Basri
Professor Shmuel Moreh, the eminent member of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, published in Arabic, a book of autobiography, followed by a selection of his poems in Arabic and English.
Sami Muallem, as was his name before he emigrated to Israel, was born in Baghdad to an accountant father and a school teacher mother. He studied at the Saadum Exemplary school, the Frank Iny and Shamash schools. He started to write poetry and essays in Arabic, and memorised many poems by the famous poets of the century and those of the new 'Mahjar' trend in the USA.
He speaks of the change of the popular attitude to Jews after the death of King Faisal in 1933 who promoted harmony and understanding among the sects and factions of the Iraqi people, and the ascent of his son Ghazi who preached Arab union and radical policies.
Moreh was also a good sportsman at school. A Moslem friend who went to visit him at home said: 'He is sportive and writer, forgetting himself in Tel-Aviv' (sic). Finally, in 1950, he with his family decided to forget their Iraqi nationality and go to Israel in the mass exodus. Before leaving he took his writings and poems to the censor at the Ministry of the Interior. The censor who happened to be a good fellow, signed his papers. But at the airport, the customs official who checked his belongings, said to him, 'Jew, what are you going to do with these Arabic papers in Israel?' You will be a soldier and fight us.' And he tore the papers and threw them. Shmuel silently collected his torn papers from the ground and took them with him to his new country.
Arriving at the Lydda airport, he with the others was sprinkled with disinfectants and taken summarily in lorries to "Shaar Ha-Aliyah" (Immigration post). He spent some time in the "Ma-abarah" and worked as a bricklayer. But eventually he was able to enter the Hebrew University where he studied Arabic literature. He was finally sent to the Oriental and African School University of London, and obtained his Ph.D. in 1965 - Returning to Jerusalem he was appointed lecturer in the Hebrew University becoming in the course of time a full professor. He published several books in Arabic, English and Hebrew on literary, critical and bibliographical subjects.
Shmuel Moreh's Arabic poems composed in Baghdad denotes a lonely spirit, mournful and unsure of his future. In Israel his poetry flows with love, life and charming dreams. A specimen English poem by Moreh:
Power to acquire,
To have an empire.
Is to strike the weak,
When he turns his left cheek.
The pigeon's wing is still unmended... (1964)
THE TREE OF HATRED
The thorn tree, pale and sharp,
In the wild blazing desert,
Sending its roots to the bottom,
Of a dark deepless pit.
Black water, skulls and bones,
Nourish it in obscure darkness,
All the ten plagues of Moses,
Cannot uproot its stubborn cling....(1964)
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