Israel’s education ministry feels it must protect the purity of Israeli youth by preventing it from reading some of the finest Israeli erotic poetry in the classroom. The result is a furious and hilarious rejoinder by some of Israel’s finest poets:
An Education Ministry decision to bar a Kfar Sava school from teaching sexually explicit poetry by Israeli writer Yona Wallach shows that Israel is becoming a mini-Iran, Israeli author Yoram Kaniuk said over the weekend.
After receiving complaints from parents of students in Edna Resh’s literature class at Rabin High School in Kfar Sava, Shlomo Hertzig, the ministry’s supervisor of literature education, ordered the school and Resh to stop teaching Wallach’s sexually explicit poems, Yedioth Ahronoth reported last week.
The title of the poem alone is delightfully subversive in Hebrew: Atah haverah sheli (“You are my girlfriend”). Note that the pronoun is masculine, which makes the speaker gay. The economy of the Hebrew is impossible to translate into English. You can see why government bureaucrats cringe. We can’t have any of this nonsense in our classroom says Likud minister, homophobe and prude, Gideon Saar.
Let’s start the ball rolling with Yoram Kaniuk, who calls an Ayatollah an Ayatollah:
“We are gradually becoming a mini-Iran,” said Kaniuk. “Everyone talks about the threat of Iran’s bombs and missiles, but they forget that the worst thing is this lousy religion, which is flourishing nowadays. They’re taking over our lives. It’s terrible what they’ve done to the Jewish religion. Yona Wallach is a terrific poet.”
But the prize for funniest rejoinder to this priggishness goes to Meir Wieseltier:
“Maybe [Hertzig] thinks there’s no need to teach poems, just to teach how to raise the flag during roll call,” said Wieseltier. “The flag is raised during roll call with a rope, not a poem.”