A City of Many Faces: Architecture, Literature & Memory of My Diverse Hometown of Haifa


Friday, March 23, 2018, 12:00pm to 2:00pm


CMES, Rm 102, 38 Kirkland St, Cambridge, MA 02138

The CMES Israeli Law, Literature and Society Seminar Series presents

Nili GoldNili Gold
Professor of Modern Hebrew Literature, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania

The city of Haifa’s structure is tied to political and socio-economic factors, as well as to the mountainous topography and geographical location. Nowhere else is the connection between the various forces that determine Haifa’s architecture more evident than in “Talpiyot”. Walking there, one experiences a journey into the depths of the history of the quarter, the city, and perhaps even the entire country.  The architect Moshe Gerstel, one of the heroes in the story of Haifa, left his stylistic fingerprints in this area, where traditional Arab houses and modernist buildings stand side by side with structures that combine both styles. Here, Gerstel began to weave his local architectural dream alongside his human vision with Hajj Tahir Karaman, one of the leaders of the city’s Arab community. A stone’s throw away from there is the formerly Muslim neighborhood with the Christian name “Wadi Salib” which touches The Street of Steps. That street’s name became the title of the first Israeli urban novel, by Yehudit Hendel. In The Street of Steps, the author renders Haifa’s mountainous terrain the flesh and blood of its residents, weaving the fates of the rich and poor with the characteristics of the landscape.

Nili Gold’s study of Hebrew and Israeli literature and culture combines psychoanalytic, biographical, and historical approaches. Her later work is informed by diasporic studies and deals with questions of multilingualism and immigration. Her most recent work expands to encompass various aspects of urban studies. Gold’s first book, Lo Kabrosh: Gilgule Imagim Ve-tavniyot Be-shirat Yehuda Amichai (Not Like a Cypress: Transformations of Images and Structures in the Poetry of Yehuda Amichai [Schocken, 1994]), won the Award for the Best First Book in Hebrew Literature from the Ministry of Science and Culture of the State of Israel. Her second book, entitled Yehuda Amichai: The Making of Israel's National Poet (UPNE 2008), won the 2007 Lucius Littauer Foundation Publishing Award and the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) publication grant for 2008. Her third book, Haifa: City of Steps (UPNE), which appeared in the fall of 2017, creates a uniquely hybridic genre of city-writing. It stands at the nexus of literature, architecture, urban planning and history, as well as public and personal memory. Hebrew editions of the last two books are forthcoming in the next year. Gold has alsopublished numerous articles in American, European and Israeli academic journals on essential questions in Hebrew literature as well as on a wide range of Modern and Postmodern Hebrew and Israeli authors. Her articles have been published in Criticism & Interpretation; Hebrew Studies; Jewish Studies Quarterly; Mikan (BGU); and Prooftexts; among others. 

Co-sponsors: Center for Jewish Studies, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Contact: Liz Flanagan