In the sixteenth century, Safed in northern Palestine was the site of a significant revival of Jewish culture. The town attracted many exceptional figures from Spain, North Africa and Eastern Europe who manifestly reshaped many aspects of the Jewish world. Nevertheless, Safed and this moment are absent from Zionist discourse, and from modern European Jewish discourse in general. In fact, the notion of “Jewish modernity” is based on the denial of all aspects of the Safedian revival that has been considered as stagnant and as part of oriental culture.
Contrary to that, I suggest to view Safed as a beginning of modernity, and accordingly also as a starting point for an alternative history of Palestine. In my recent book, I propose to view historical Safed and Zionism as two different models of Jewish life and settlement in Palestine/the Land of Israel. Each of these approaches refers to a different historical period: Zionism to the biblical past, Safed to the period after the destruction of the Second Temple, and the period of the establishment of Rabbinic post-destruction Judaism. In my talk, I will briefly present the main aspects of the historical “Safedian revival” focusing on its notion of exile. I will not present Safed as an alternative, but will examine the way in which both its contexts and leading concepts may contribute towards an alternative history and presence which is binational and regional.
Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin teaches at the department of Jewish history, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He is a founding member of the Collegium of EUME, and was a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (2003/04). Among his publications are: The Censor, the Editor and the Text: Catholic Censorship and Hebrew Literature in the Sixteenth Century (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007); Exil et Souverainete (Paris: La fabrique, 2007); Exile and Binationalism: From Gershom Scholem and Hannah Arendt to Edward Said and Mahmoud Darwish (Carl Heinrich Becker Lecture 2011, Berlin 2012). His recent book in Hebrew is entitled “Mishnaic Consciousness, Biblical Consciousness: Safed and Zionist Culture” (Hebrew, Van Leer Institute and Ha-Kibbutz Ha-Meuchad, 2022). He is completing now a manuscript entitled Jewish History as a Counter-History. In the academic year 2022/23, Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin is a Senior Associated EUME Fellow.
Muhammad Jabali is a Palestinian artist, writer, illustrator, DJ and cultural activist currently living in Berlin. His recent book publication is“The Entrapment” of the Place: A Critical Study of Fine Arts in Israel (Arabic, MADAR The Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies, March 2022). His last illustrated short story was published in The Future: A Structure That Hides Wonders (Majd Kayyal & Dalia Taha, June 2021). While in Berlin, he was involved in the *foundationClass study program at Weißensee School of Art and Design. In the last two years, he held artist talks at HEAD Geneva School for Art and Design (October, 2020), MESA Middle East Studies Association (October, 2020), FHNW Academy for Art and Design, Basel (September, 2019), among others. His poetry, illustrated articles, short stories and essays were published and translated in Arabic, Hebrew, English, German, Spanish and Czech. But mostly, Muhammad Jabali is part of the AL.Berlin collective for Contemporary Music & The Arts.