Post 271: Examining literature of Naguib Mahfouz, Egyptian Nobel Prize Winner- by first examining his translator, Sami Michael, translator of Arabic to Hebrew. Hopefully, I will achieve the dual purpose of Arabic studies in Israel – establishing good relations – 2016 English Events at Beit Avi Chai-For the first in the series call on Sunday January 3rd. Sefer Shmot (Exodus): The Birth of an Individual and a Nation Dr. Aviva Zornberg, Noted author and lecturer Drawing on Midrashic and Hassidic sources, as well as on psychoanalytic thought, we will discuss the birth of a singular individual and a nation. Moses and Israel emerge in a profound exodus from the traumas of exile, especially from the exile that the Midrash calls the Exile of the Word. Moses, child of two mothers and two cultures, weighed down by a speech impediment, mirrors the developmental struggles of his people. He is selected for greatness ‘for the sake of Israel.’ We will follow the arc of the symbiotic relationship between Moses and Israel through the book of Exodus. Introduction and Parshat Va’eira Wednesday, 6.1 / 7:30pm Parshat Bo– Economics in the Bible – series of talks by Professor Robert Aumann – Sweet Spicy Chicken Lo Mein with Konjak Noodles, Pareve Konjak Noodles with spicy tofu and Peanut Sauce

I have decided to set a goal for myself- to read Naquib Maufouz, in Hebrew, with the aide of an English translation.

The book I chose is about the elite of Cairo, “Cairo Stories, and in English, “Palace Walk”. Perhaps there will be comparisons to be be drawn between the Muslims and the Jewish communities of  Cairo as reflected in The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: A Jewish Family’s Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World (P.S.) Paperback – July 1, 2008 by Lucette Lagnado (Author). That’s for my next post.

Whenever I read a book in translation, I turn to the translator. The pre-eminent Arabic to English translator is in this case  Denys Johnson-Davies (Arabic: دنيس جونسون ديڤيز).

As an eminent Arabic-to-Englishliterary translator he has translated, inter alia, several works by Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz. I just purchased, in Hebrew Mauouz’s Part 1 Cairo Bayit. However, Johnson-Davies did not translate the Trilogy, Cairo Stories. My translator is William Maynard Hutchins and Olive E. Kenny.

Sami Michael is the translator to Hebrew.  His biography is amazing. I have learned that Michael is an Israeli leftist leader.

Sami Michael (Hebrew: סמי מיכאל‎, Arabic: سامي ميخائيل‎; born August 15, 1926) is an Israeli author. Since 2001, Michael has been the President of The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). Already we start to get a picture.

Michael was among the first in Israel to call for the creation of an independent Palestinian state to exist alongside Israel. In his novels, Michael writes about the aspirations and struggles of both Jews and Arabs. This new approach in modern Hebrew literature was controversial and has been widely discussed in universities and in the media. Michael was awarded the EMET Prize in 2007.

Michael defines himself not as a Zionist, but as an Israeli in order to make room for the inclusion of all citizens in Israel.

Sami Michael was the firstborn of a large, secular, Jewish family in Baghdad. Michael grew up and was educated in a mixed neighborhood of Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Baghdad, where his father was a merchant. Michael completed his education in the Jewish educational system of Baghdad, in Shamash School, receiving his high school diploma in 1945.

At the age of 15, two years after the outbreak of World War II, he joined and soon became a leader of a leftist (Communist) underground group acting against the oppressive regime in Iraq, fighting for human rights and democratic values. Michael later wrote about this period of his life in his novel A Handful of Fog. Shortly after, aged 17, he began writing articles for the Iraqi press. His political activities led to a warrant being issued for his arrest in 1948, Michael was forced to flee and went to Iran. The Iraqi court sentenced him to death in absentia. In Iran, he joined the communist party, Tuda, and continued to work for democracy in Iraq. Unable to return to Iraq, Michael came to Israel in 1949.

Michael arrived in Israel alone, his family remaining in Iraq, joining him later (1951). In the early fifties the majority of Iraqi Jewry left Iraq, forced to relinquish their Iraqi citizenship. Michael, on the other hand, today still holds Iraqi citizenship, as he did not officially give it up.

Michael settled in an Arab quarter of Haifa, Wadi Nisnas. He was invited to work for a newspaper by Emil Habibi. Michael was the only Jew on the editorial board of Al Ittihad and Al Jadid (Arabic language newspapers of the communist party), where he worked as an editor for four years. At the same time, he had a weekly column in which he wrote stories and articles under the pseudonym “Samir Mared“. His stories, while written in the spirit of “socialist realism”, were laced with irony and humor. In 1955, disillusioned with the policies of the USSR, he terminated his affiliation with the communist party, and concluded his work on both papers: “I left the party but not the ideals of socialism.”

Michael worked as a hydrologist in the north of Israel (for 25 years). He completed his hydrology studies at the British Institute (London) and went on to studyPsychology and Arabic Literature at the University of Haifa.

Image result for photo Sami Michael israeli
Image result for photo Sami Michael israeli
Image result for photo Sami Michael israeli

At the age of 45 Michael embarked upon the project of mastering the Hebrew language. In 1974 he published his first novel, in Hebrew, All Men are Equal – But Some are More, about the lives of immigrants in transit camps in Israel in the 1950s. The title of the novel – Shavim ve-Shavim Yoter – became a well-known phrase depicting the struggles for equality of Jews from Arab countries. This book opened the door for profound discussion about the socio-economic gaps in Israel and also about the situation of the Arabs in Israel.

Sami Michael has published 11 novels and 3 non-fiction books focusing on cultural, political and social affairs in Israel, 3 plays and a children’s book. Most of Michael’s books were published by Am Oved publishers. Michael left Am Oved in 2007 and moved to Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir publishers after receiving a very attractive offer, granting him a fixed monthly salary. His first book that published with them was Aida. Michael has also written numerous articles and essays. His writings and his social and political activities have made him a household name in Israel. Michael has never been an author of the establishment, which meant that he did not enjoy promotional or financial assistance.

Two cities feature in many of Michael’s novels. Victoria, Storm among the Palms, A Handful of Fog and Aida, are set in his home town Baghdad, and Refuge,A Trumpet in the Wadi, Water Kissing Water, and Nabila are set in Haifa, his adopted city. Michael wrote about his departure from Iraq and arrival in Haifa when he wrote of his first day in Haifa, Israel:

“Each kilometer that the airplane gulped, took me further into a one way tunnel. The flight was a difficult separation from a pained love. When I opened my eyes, I imagined that I was looking at a Fata Morgana, which was stranger than anything I had ever known… I loved Haifa then, and about half a century later, I am faithful to this love. But at the beginning of my first day in Israel there were no designated moments for love set aside.”

In 1982, he left Haifa for 10 years, moving to the rural, northern Galilee town of Ma’alot, on the hillside overlooking a valley. It is here that he wrote the nove lBrown Devils about rock hyraxes that frequently stole the fruits of his well-tended garden. In 1992 Michael he returned to Haifa.

Sami Michael’s Way – “The man is the crown of creation” (literary way) – is a route in the Wadi Nisnas, an Arab quarter of Haifa, named after Michael in 2002. Literary extracts from his novels are written along the walls of the route, both in Hebrew and in Arabic. Michael dedicated three novels to Wadi Nisnas including: A Trumpet in the Wadi.

In 2008, Michael was appointed as an honorary member of the Arabic Language Academy in Israel.

In 1987 the Israeli High Court of Justice appointed Michael as arbitrator to decide on a matter of education and multiculturalism. The subject was widely covered in the press, and his decision was a precedent in Israel which still stands.

Michael is the chairperson of the Aachi Council– a council of Iraqi artists in Israel. He was a member of staff of the Jewish Quarterly in London.

In 1998, Michael hosted a 13-part series on the Educational Television channel on World Literature, where he engaged writers, researchers and scholars in discussion about their favorite literary masterpieces.

A number of documentaries films and programs on Michael have been made. Michael is a nominee for the Nobel Prize for Literature.


Michael’s mother tongue is Arabic. It took him roughly 15 years to make the move from writing in Arabic to Hebrew. By sheer persistence and strong will, lacking any formal training, he managed to gain a complete mastery of his new language. He learned from listening and obsessive reading. He defines this ‘move’ as a miracle:

“It sometimes happens to me while writing, that I seek a word; mischievous as it is it appears in English, it appears in Arabic, but refuses to come in Hebrew. To some extent I made up my Hebrew. Unquestionably, the influence of Arabic is dominant, my syntax is almostArabic.” –Sami Michael, Unbounded Ideas
“When Victoria came out in Cairo, in the preface it was written that ‘this is an Arabic novel written in Hebrew’. I took it as a compliment.”

He wrote his first novel in Arabic, which won a prize awarded by the Communistic Party. On leaving the party, he ceded publication of the book. Throwing the handwritten copy away, Unbounded Ideas.

“In his study, amongst books in Hebrew, Arabic and English – novels, poetry, politics, history and science – lies on the table a student’s folder and inside it neatly arranged pages of his next novel – all handwritten in exemplary fashion on white paper; rows of sentences in perfectly straight lines, that later he will cross out again and again until he decides that this is it, it can be typed. Not by himself. ‘At my age you want me to write on a computer? I belong to the generation that does not press buttons, but rather turn them,’ he explains, ‘I could not do otherwise. I need the contact of the pen where the words flow from the hand on to the page.'” [2]

Michael has fixed hours for writing: twice a day – morning and afternoon. While writing, he disconnects from everything. He does not have a telephone in his study, where he writes. He insists on finishing the novel in the same room in which he started it. He started to write Victoria in his garden shed in Ma’alot, and when he sold the house and moved back to Haifa, he had not completed his book, he asked the buyer to allow him to continue living there until he finished writing Victoria – paying full rent of course.

During his writing he does not show it, not even a chapter to anyone. Nor does he consult with anyone. “A good writer in known not only in by good writing but also in his ability to throw away without mercy, to erase and to leave a pure text.” “At the end of the process – approximately three years from the beginning of a book, it will be typed. He does not show his unfinished handwriting, not even to his editor. Here is the place where stubbornness and the joy of creating join to become one determined decision, with the last word left to Michael at all times.

He mostly discards the whole novel and begins writing again. He wrote the novel Water Kissing Water over 20 years, and the version that was finally published was the eighth version. During this time he had other novels published, including: Unbounded Ideas.

He declares that he writes from the gut, without planning out the novel. He likes to surprise himself, although he adds: At the Heart of literature is the plot. When there is no plot, in my opinion, it is not literature but rather another academic exercise.”

His books are bestsellers, and his readers are from diverse social strata. His style has been nurtured by both the treasures of the Hebrew language and the wealth of the Arab language. Many would say that Michael generated the revolution of pluralism in Israeli literature in that his protagonists are always “the other”, mainly focusing on Arabs, women, refugees and immigrants. Michael says “life experience has given me a whole gallery of characters.” Michael:

“My childhood was soaked in the wisdom of women. I was amazed by the richness of their imagination. I remember with wonder how a woman, at the age of 90, toothless would become pretty when playing a princess waiting for her prince.”

His novels explore a wide range of interlocking relationships – social, ethnic and political – between Jews and Arabs, Moslems and Christians, nationalists and communists and Iraq and Israel, at times comparable to the multiple political identities within Michael himself. “It is as if, sometimes, I feel I am two persons. One is an Arab Iraqi, the other an Israeli Jew.”

Michael’s writing is characterized by its humor, painful irony, empathy and tolerance. His style is clean, direct, and bare of symbols, yet with an outstanding expressiveness. Each story exudes authenticity and personal involvement.His writing, rich in imagery. With a scathing realism, he exposes the weaknesses and virtue of the human being, but always with a jealous regard for his honor, freedom and compassion.

In his books he describes the Jewish-Arab conflict of its deep national, psychological and social aspects. The longing for social justice, equality between peoples, communities and gender are a central motif in Michael’s writing that smashes stereotypes and prejudices. Michael was the first Hebrew author to make the Arab the protagonist in his stories and his referring to him neither with arrogance nor idealization. His style of writing milks both the treasures of the Hebrew language and the wealth of the Arab language. In all his writing the sanctity of life is uppermost.

Michael’s books have been translated into many languages and used as text books at universities and schools in Israel and abroad.

I understand that he and Mahfouz shared political ideology.

 Davies, referred to as “the leading Arabic-English translator of our time” by the late Edward Said, has translated more than twenty-five volumes of short stories, novels, plays, and poetry, and was the first to translate the work of Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz. He is also interested in Islamic studies and is co-translator of three volumes of Prophetic Hadith. He has also written a number of children’s books adapted from traditional Arabic sources, including a collection of his own short stories, Fate of a Prisoner, which was published in 1999.

Born in 1922 in Vancouver, Canada to English parentage, Davies spent his childhood in Sudan, Egypt, Uganda, and Kenya, and then was sent to England at age 12. Davies studied Oriental languages at Cambridge, and has lectured translation and English literature at several universities across the Arab World. In 2006, he published his memoirs. In 2007, he was awarded the Sheikh Zayed Book Award “Culture Personality of the Year”, a valued at about $300,000.

Davies lives between Marrakesh and Cairo.

Wednesdays at Beit Avi Chai- Parshat Hashavua call 02-621-5900 to reserve three days before the event. For the first in the series call on Sunday January 3rd.

Sefer Shmot (Exodus): The Birth of an Individual and a Nation

Dr. Aviva Zornberg, Noted author and lecturer

Drawing on Midrashic and Hassidic sources, as well as on psychoanalytic thought, we will discuss the birth of a singular individual and a nation. Moses and Israel emerge in a profound exodus from the traumas of exile, especially from the exile that the Midrash calls the Exile of the Word. Moses, child of two mothers and two cultures, weighed down by a speech impediment, mirrors the developmental struggles of his people. He is selected for greatness ‘for the sake of Israel.’ We will follow the arc of the symbiotic relationship between Moses and Israel through the book of Exodus.

  1. Introduction and Parshat Va’eira

Wednesday, 6.1 / 7:30pm

  1. Parshat Bo

Wednesday, 13.1 / 7:30pm

  1. Parshat Beshalach

Wednesday, 20.1 / 7:30pm

  1. Parshat Yitro

Wednesday, 27.1 / 7:30pm

  1. Parshat Mishpatim

Wednesday, 3.2 / 7:30pm

  1. Parshat Terumah

Wednesday, 10.2 / 7:30pm

  1. Parshat Tetzaveh

Wednesday, 17.2 / 7:30pm

  1. Parshat Vayakhel

Wednesday, 2.3 / 7:30pm

The program will take place in English. Entrance is free, subject to availability.

Tickets may be reserved in advance at the Beit Avi Chai box office 3 days before the event. 12.1.16 ב בשבט שלישי 20:00לעמוד הסדרה

Economics in the Talmud

Image result for photo robert aumann economist nobel prize winner
Image result for photo robert aumann economist nobel prize winner
Image result for photo robert aumann economist nobel prize winner
Image result for photo robert aumann economist nobel prize winner

We will examine an array of passages in the Talmud that use ideas from modern economic theory, centuries before these ideas were formulated by other thinkers. These include the role of incentives, the law of supply and demand, and group decision making.

Economics in the Talmud


ט בשבט


לעמוד הסדרה


Game Theory

Economics in the Talmud

A man dies, leaving an estate that is insufficient to cover his obligations to his three widows. In three different cases, the Talmud prescribes divisions that look mysterious on their face, but presage game theoretic ideas from the second half of the twentieth century.

Economics in the Talmud


טז בשבט


לעמוד הסדרה


Moral Hazard

Economics in the Talmud

A town has nine butchers selling kosher meat, and one selling non-kosher meat. If a stranger buys from one, but forgets which one, then the doubt renders the meat forbidden; but if he found it on the street, he may eat it. We will discuss this ruling — which occurs well over a dozen times in the Talmud in various contexts – in light of the modern economic concept of “moral hazard”, which lies at the heart of the insurance business

Prof. Yisrael (Robert John) Aumann, Prof. Emeritus at the Hebrew University and Researcher at the Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality. Recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics.

English. Entrance is free, subject to availability. Tickets may be reserved in advance at the BEIT AVI CHAI box office three days before event (see above)

Sweet Spicy Chicken Lo Mein with Konjak

November 29 2015

5 Carb Sweet Spicy Chicken Lo Mein with Skinny Dip NoodlesServes 4

2 bags 0 Calorie Skinny Dip Angel Hair Noodles konjak
2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken
1/2 cup sliced green onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 minced small red Asian chile pepper (optional)

1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
4 teaspoons hoisin sauce (Asian aisle)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
1 teaspoon sambal oelek chile paste (Asian aisle)

Rinse and drain noodles and add to bowl. Toss to coat with sauce and let sit 5 minutes. Heat sesame oil in a non – stick skillet over medium heat. Add ginger, chile pepper and garlic. Cook 1 minute, then add noodles and toss to coat. Add chicken and green onion. Cook 5 minutes or until hot and serve.

Nutrition Per Serving

The Perfect Noodles for Dieters: Shiritaki Noodles with Veggies. Tofu and Peanut Sauce

Photo of he original dish without tofu


Above Sweet Spicy Chicken Lo Mein with Konjak Noodles Below  Pareve Konjak Noodles with spicy tofu and Peanut Sauce. Second dish has less noodles and more vegetables and proteinIMG_20160327_160524


You can see by checking the nutrition content that the noodles contain very little fat, sodium, or carbs, and are mostly fiber. They have little taste on their own, but absorb the flavor of whatever sauce is used on them. Several places I checked mentioned the odor of the noodles, but I didn’t find it that strong, kind of like a mild fish sauce smell. When you open the package you rinse the noodles, and then cook them about 3 minutes, and the smell completely disappears.

Shiritaki Noodles with Veggies. Tofu and Peanut Sauce
(Makes 6 servings, recipe created by Kalyn adjusted for diabetics by savyatseventy)

1/3 cup canola oil

8 oz  package Shiritaki Noodles (Use House Foods Brand  or in Israel 2 packages of 280 gr, konjac noodles
1/2 red pepper, seeds cut out and cut in slivers

500 grams of sliced baked tofu cut in cubes.(or use a small amount of hotsauce

1 cup snow peas, cut in diagonal slices, or 1 cup green beans or sliced eggplant, sliced cauliflower  diced celery

500 grams of thinly sliced dry tofu baked in oil and spirachi hot sauce, then diced.

1 cup chopped fine spring onions

Sauce Ingredients:
1/4 cup soy sauce- I omitted an used a teaspoon of brown miso
1/4 cup natural peanut butter (check the label to make sure it does not contain added sugar)
1 1/2 tsp. dark sesame oil
1 tsp. Asian Chile Garlic Sauce-I added spirachi sauce.

coarsely chopped peanuts for topping

chopped fresh cilantro (optional, I add  to my dish as not everyone loves cilantro) Procedure

Drain noodles and rinse. Boil up a pot of water and cook noodles 3 minutes.

Drain noodles, rinse with cold water, and let them drain in colander.

Put noodles on cutting board and cut through several times to make them 3-4 inches long.  Cut up red pepper and snow peas  or your vegetable selection and chop peanuts.

 Put peanut butter in glass measuring cup and heat in microwave about 2 minutes, or until very soft. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, and Chile Garlic Sauce and whisk together until well combined. I used water, ginger juice and sesame oil to thin. my homemade peanut butter.

 Using a wok, stir fry the diced vegetables starting with eggplant and cauliflower. After vegetables are still slightly hard, add in noodles; combine veggies and sauce. Cover for another minute. Divide between 6 serving plates and sprinkle with peanuts and chopped cilantro if using. Serve at room temperature. This is a perfect dish to serve the next day or to take with you on a picnic



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