The Jewish-Iraqi theatre–Ur Ensemble: Majnūn Laylā as interweaving performance cultures

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In 1955, Iraqi Jewish immigrant artists founded Ur Ensemble (Lahakat Ur in Hebrew) and produced in Arabic the Majnūn Laylā (The Madman of Layla) by the Egyptian poet and playwright Aḥmad Shawqī. The Israeli Establishment subsidized and supported the Ensemble and intended the play for Palestinian spectators in Israel. It is a puzzling fact, because the policy of the Zionist melting pot required Middle Eastern Jews to move away from Arab culture and adopt a western orientation. I argue that the Israeli establishment perceived the Ur Ensemble as a propagandistic vehicle in order to display the state’s favourable attitude towards the Arab minority for the international community. However, in practice, the theatrical event created an Arab-Jewish dialogue based on a shared Arab culture contrary to the establishment's political intentions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-404
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Modern Jewish Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2 Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by The Open University of Israel's Research Fund [grant number 508777]. Thanks to Dr. Ofir Maman who gave me the archive materials of the Ur Ensemble and encouraged me to investigate this unknown group.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, © 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

RAMBI publications

  • Shawqi, Ahmad -- 1868-1932 -- Majnūn Laylá
  • Ur Ensemble
  • Theater -- Political aspects -- Israel -- History -- 20th century
  • Jews, Iraqi -- Israel
  • Palestinian Arabs -- Israel
  • Jewish-Arab relations -- Israel -- History -- 1948-
  • Israel -- History -- 1948-1956


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