Tuesday, April 2, 2024




Sami Michael, a 97-year-old Israeli author and activist who was born in Iraq, passes away.

Sami Michael, a 97-year-old passes away

Sami Michael, a 97-year-old Israeli author and activist who was born in Iraq, passes away.

Sami Michael, an Iraqi-Israeli writer who won awards and was renowned for his moving essays about marginalized groups and the difficulties Arab Jews experience, passed away on Monday. He was ninety-seven.

His personas, many of whom were Jews who spoke Arabic like he did, provided insight into the unique sufferings and difficulties encountered by Mizrahi Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, in addition to his intimate interactions with Israelis and Palestinians living in the mixed city of Haifa.

Senior literature scholar at Israel's Bar Ilan University Itamar Drori observed, "His characters bridged the divide between Jews and Arabs."

Michael frequently felt more connected to Arab culture in Israel since he was a native Arabic speaker and had grown up surrounded by the vibrant Arab environment in Baghdad, Drori added. This was particularly true given that Israel's Jewish leadership, which was heavily inspired by Europe, discriminated against Mizrahi Jews.

Michael supported marginalized groups and was critical of Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

Up until last September, he presided over the Association for Civil Rights in Israel for more than 20 years. The organization released a statement saying, "He expressed his pain and rage toward the injustices in Israel, demanded where justice must be served and instilled in us a spirit of hope for change."

Born in 1926 in a rich mixed area of Baghdad, Michael was involved in the Communist Party during his youth.

He fled to Iran in 1948 due to an arrest notice issued by Iraqi authorities, and he arrived in Israel in 1949 to work as a journalist for the Communist newspaper in the northern city of Haifa, which was published in Arabic. He quit the periodical and the Communist Party in 1955 after becoming dissatisfied with certain of its ideologies in order to take a job as a hydrologist with the Israel Hydrologic Authority.

Michael had a nearly two-decade break from writing before releasing his first Hebrew novel, "All Men are Equal— But Some are More," in 1974. The book described the difficulties Mizrahi Jews faced as they adapted to life in Israel. Following Israel's 1948 declaration of independence, newly arrived Mizrahi Jews were subjected to severe discrimination from the European leaders of the nation and forced to reside in shantytown transit camps.

Along with plays, essays, and cultural critique, he authored over 20 novels and children's books. A few of his books have also been made into films. In addition to receiving numerous literary honors in Israel, such as the Prime Minister's Prize for Hebrew Literature twice, he was the recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Award for children's literature.

Michael said in 2018 that the primary function of culture is to "shine a bright light over ignorance, injustice, and corruption" in an interview with Israel's Haaretz newspaper. He continued by saying that he felt compelled to fight against Israeli policies that are driving the nation "into an abyss," remembering the days in his youth when poets and authors in Iraq refused to oppose unfair government decrees.

"Signing petitions was not enough; without real action from intellectuals and culture consumers, society as a whole will suffer greatly," he stated.

According to Haaretz, Michael is survived by his two first-married children as well as his second wife, writer Rachel Yona Michael.

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