Exhibition – Preview
Arab-Jews? On identity and ambiguitySeptember 29, 2024 until August 24, 2025

[The day will come when] the Jew will not be ashamed to find Arab elements inside himself, and the Arab will not be ashamed to declare that he also contains Jewish aspects… (Mahmoud Darwish)

Arab-Jews? On identity and ambiguity explores the history and present of Jewish-Arab lived experiences and perceptions of the self. Starting from the long and rich periods of cultural relations and cohabitation at the so called medieval golden age of Jewish culture in Spain the exhibition historicizes the emergence of a conscious hyphenated Arab-Jewish identity during the late 19th century, with the rise of Jewish and Arab national movements, the historical context that led to these two terms being perceived as fixed and mutually exclusive, and, finally, the recent desire by a new generation of artists, writers, scholars and activists to recover and (re)invent a hyphenated Arab-Jewish identity.

As Amiel Alcalay writes in his After Jews and Arabs “for the last hundred years, the protracted conflict between Zionism and Palestinian nationalism has retroactively affected, in one way or another, most historical, cultural, political, and social discourse on Arabs and Jews in general.” This exhibition seeks to bracket this effect, to “peripheralize” the framing of Jewish-Arab relations exclusively in light of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—which has become the dominant lens through which this relationship is assessed—and to examine examples and narratives of Jewish Arab relations that transcend or explicitly challenge this ideological framework. The exhibition thus wishes to explore the history of Jewish-Arab living together, as a past that offers a sense of possibility rather than closure, to “delve into the relationship of the Jew to the Arab within him- or herself” to quote Alcalay once more, as a necessary step that could allow the imagination of a future of solidarity and radical cohabitation.

The exhibition follows two parallel and intertwining tracks. The first is a graphic historical key moment and map that will include a selection of historical artifacts and literary references and guide the visitors through significant moments in the history of Jewish-Arab relations and cohabitation. The second is a selection of contemporary artworks exploring this history and defining hyphenated Jewish-Arab identities anew. Some artists engage directly with the historical material and timeline, demonstrating the important role archival work plays in recovering, and sometimes reimagining, the possibility of hyphenated identities that do not conform to current-day imperatives.

Participating artists are among others Judith Kakon, Dana Flora Levy, Dor Zlekha Levy, Efrat Hakimi, Eli Petel, Joseph Sassoun Semah, Mona Yahia, Tamir Zadok.

Finally, the key moments will end with the recent debates around Jewish-Arab identity: from (often orientalist) narratives of conviviality among Jews from German-speaking countries in the 19th century, to the emergence of a synthetic Mizrahi identity in response to Zionist ideology and discrimination (a term which was originally used to describe Orthodox Ostjuden in Europe) to a recent resurgence in interest in the articulation of an Arab-Jewish identity by a new generation of artists, musicians, writers, scholars, and activists, who explore the history of Jew-Arabness and seek to imagine its future. As such, the exhibition itself is also a work of recovery and reimagining: unearthing a history that has been erased, and reimagining a future that goes beyond the parameters set the by the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Arab-Jews? On identity and ambiguity, tells a history of how identities are shaped by—and respond to—historical and political circumstances. It looks at the important role that Arab culture played in shaping a Jewish sense of self throughout the ages, how this role has been obscured and rejected, and, more recently, rediscovered by a new generation.

Boaz Levin (Berlin)

Anika Reichwald and Hanno Loewy (Hohenems)
Exhibition architecture and graphics
atelier stecher, Roland Stecher, Thomas Matt (Götzis)

Archive management and exhibit conservator
Raphael Einetter (Hohenems)
Angelika Purin, Judith Niederklopfer-Würtinger, Claudia Klammer (Hohenems)
Press and public relations
Birgit Sohler (Hohenems)
Martina Steiner (Hohenems)
Exhibition installation
Dietmar Pöschko (Hohenems), Dietmar Pfanner (Andelsbuch)

Media partners
Vorarlberger Nachrichten


Titelbild (Ausschnitt): Eli Petel, Hummus (2001-2003)