Sunday, October 05, 2008

An interview with Ada Aharoni from Israel

1. Both poets and politicians have WORDS as their main tool. Does this mean that they are similar? In what way do they use words?

Poets and Politicians are quite different. Politicians use words to convince you to vote for them, as they need a seat, and therefore they often use words in such a way that are not truly what they really think or feel.

Poets use words to express themselves and their innermost thoughts, words for
them mirror their souls and their deepest feelings. They have no claim on their
readers, unlike the politians who want their votes.
Poets just sincerely hope their words will be read, understood and appreciated.

2. It seems that you believe in poetry with a message, not poetry for art's sake? Is that so and why?

I appreciate poetry for art's sake too. However, I think that the world today is in great need of the consciousness, wisdom, and love of the poets. T.S. Eliot was right when he said that "Poets are the consciousness of the world!" And with all the violence and wars we have on our planet today, we badly need the consciousness and the love of the poets to repair our world and soothe ailing humankind. It is not that I prefer poems with a message, what I would like to see is that more poets become "conscious caretakers", and that they would write beautiful and fascinating poems that move us to be better people and more involved in the mending of our ailing blue planet - before it blows up in flames.

3. Unfortunately children suffer a lot because of war. I'm thinking of your poetry and of novels written by Khaled Hosseini and Deborah Ellis (re. children in Afghanistan). How do you react to such a statement?

I have read both of Khaled Hosseini's novels all through the night, as I could not lay them down. This is exactly the kind of writing and subjects I would like to see poets dealing with. It is not only the children that are suffering in wars, it is the whole of humankind. Poets should make it their business to throw out the whole concept and practice of wars from our lives and our dictionaries.

4. When did your interest in poetry, especially in peace poetry, start? In brief, what is IFLAC and what is your current role in this organisation?

I wrote poetry (in English), since I was ten years old. I grew up in a French speaking family in Egypt, and went to an English school, and poetry was a way to speak to myself and take hold of my thoughts and feelings. One of the poets who had a great influence on my writing was the British peace poet Wilfred Owen, whose poetry we studied at school. Through his moving poetry, he made me see the absurdity of war, and as he put it: "The pity of war!" Under his influence, I became a devoted peace poet, when Alexandria was bombed every night and when we had to rush in fear to the shelters during World War II. When Egypt banished its Jewish community in 1949, and I and my family became penniless immigrants, I joined a kibbutz in Israel, and thought that now at last we could live in peace, but five cruel wars were imposed on us, and the violence continues to this day. I have therefore dedicated my life to the pursuit of peace through the creation of Bridges of Culture. I founded and am the President of IFLAC: The International Forum for the Culture of Peace till 2009, and since we have had many impressive activities, and have established a daily Peace Culture Newsletter, and five very successful PEACE CULTURE Congresses. The sixth one will be in March in Haifa, and you are all invited to particpate. Information about it will be soon posted on

5. Do you think poets can arrive where politicians did not venture regarding peace? How?

Unfortunately our fates are still in the hands of the politicians. However, what we do at IFLAC is to pave the road for the leaders to follow. We are realistic and know that we cannot impose the peace we would like so much to see, but by being a platform that expresses what the majority of the people of the world crave for - peace and freedom from violence, destruction and wars - we can influence the politicians that wars cannot resolve conflicts. We can create a peace culture that can make it easier for politicians on both sides of conflicts, like the Israelis and the Palestinians, to reach an agreement that would be acceptable by both sides.

6. How important is for you to have contacts with other poets all over the world? Have you ever held contacts with poets such as Nazim Hikmet or Sam Hamill?

It is very important for me to have contacts with poets from around the world and to exchange my thoughts and views with them. I have travelled around the world twice, and met hundreds of excellent poets (not the two you mention). I am also a member of several poetry organizations, including the WCP, Senator Teresinka Pereira's IWA, VOICES, The Israeli Association of writers and poets, etc...

7. Describe in brief: a. Ada Aharoni as a person; b. the city you live in?

As I describe myself in one of my poems, I am the "Woman of No Time." I live every minute to the full, as if it were the last one, I am involved with many projects in addition to the running of IFLAC, and the preparation of the our next International Conference in Haifa. This year I started a PEACE STORY COURSE, and we are preparing a major PEACE STORY FESTIVAL in May 2009, I have recently published 4 additional books, two in English and one in Hebrew and one in French, And all that in addition to my lecturing, writing, and an intense family life, etc., etc.,

Haifa is a beautiful city by the Mediterranean Sea, on green Mount Carmel. It is in many ways like San Francisco, as it has a large Bay. The fantastic thing about Haifa is that it is the City of Love and Peace. We have 17 denominations, including Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Moslems, Christians, Druze and Bahai (elsewhere they all fight each other), but in Haifa, and its suburbs like Nesher, we all live in peace and harmony, and we all prosper together. IFLAC has contributed to the wonderful atmosphere in Haifa, and to the building of Bridges of peace culture among the various ethnic denominations in our beautiful and beloved city of Haifa, that can be a model for all the Middle East and the whole world.
(Patrick Sammut, September, 2008)

Poetry by Ada Aharoni:

Abdul's Children

Will not know more

Than Abdul does,

for Abdul's children

Are not taught more

Than Abdul was.

Benevolent Ladies -

Stuff your ears

With cocktail parties

Your noses with caviar,

With Champagne your eyes -

Then no more sighs,

You will not hear

Nor smell nor see

Their illiterateCries.

A Bridge of Peace

"They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,and none shall make them afraid." (Micah, 4, 4)

My Arab sister,

Let us build a sturdy bridge

From your olive world to mine,

From my orange world to yours,

Above the boiling pain

Of acid rain prejudice -

And hold human hands high

Full of free stars

Of twinkling peace.

I do not want to be your oppressor

You do not want to be my oppressor,

Or your jailer

Or my jailer,

We do not want to make each other afraid

Under our vines

And under our fig trees

Blossoming on a silvered horizon

Above the bruising and the bleeding

Of Poison gases and scuds.

So, my Arab sister,

Let us build a bridge of

Jasmine understanding

Where each shall sit with her baby

Under her vine and under her fig tree -

And none shall make them afraid


Prof. Ada AharoniIFLAC & WCJE President18 Amos Street, apt 77Nesher 36000

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