Friday, May 30, 2008

Hamlet vs. Lear in Gaza and Sderot

The BBC has put two bright young women in touch for a public exchange of letters. One is from Sderot, Israel, the other from Gaza. Fascinating (though not surprising) to see how each uses references to English and American literature to claim moral superiority over the other. They do care about impressing each other in this way - claiming recognition.

In her second letter, Anav Silverman from Sderot writes a long screed about politics and history. At the end she adds:
Outside the conflict, I was wondering what English books you like reading? This year, Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, is one of my favourites. I can't decide if Heathcliff is truly a villain!
Best wishes and keep well,
Mona Yousef responds:
Heathcliff is a victim of his tyrannical society, but when he is in power, he becomes a victimiser himself. Do you notice, the victim always becomes the bully when he has control?

And her letter ends:
My favourite English novel is Heart of Darkness for Joseph Conrad. Don't you think, colonialism in all ages has the same ideology?
Do you like Shakespeare? Hamlet is one of my favourites. Every time I read it I discover that he has a new problem.

In the third round of letters, Anav responds:
Dear Mona,
I read your second letter with interest, noting that your comparison of Heathcliff with Israel is inaccurate and does not reflect the complete reality of the conflict.

And later:
I like Shakespeare too. King Lear is my favourite play. I love how Shakespeare explores the meaning of morality and truth through characters like King Lear.
It is now exam season at my university so I've been quite busy studying. I have an exam next Sunday on Milton's Paradise Lost. I only hope to pass!

Mona's last letter ends:

I would like to know after our three letters, what we have in common to share.
We have opposite ideologies and sometimes contradicting versions of the same history, yet one land to fight on. Again and again we forget that we are human beings. . . . Since this will be the last letter, I would like to say that this exchange with you has been one of the most interesting experiences of my life.
I hope you did well in the Milton exam.

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