As an undergraduate in the U.S., Sheera Talpaz studied Comparative Literature, focusing on Modern Hebrew poetry. She then decided to compare the literary experience of both Israeli and Palestinian poets as part of her graduate work. Knowing that she couldn’t work in translation, learning Arabic was her next step.
Sheera joined the Spring 2012 Intensive Arabic Semester (IAS) program, seeking a foundation for an enriched literary experience before applying for her PhD, and realized at the end she had achieved much more!
While on the program, Sheera spent a large portion of her time getting to know Afnan Mawassi, a woman from the Israeli-Arab city Baqa Al-Gharbiyye, who also has a passion for poetry and literature. Together, they read, translated, and discussed the works of both Arab and American poets. Through language, their friendship strengthened as they learned more about each other’s culture. According to Sheera, “it felt like an instant yet lifelong connection.”
She learned not only the Arabic language, but also about people from a different culture: who they are and what they care about. Together Sheera and Afnan discussed politics, social issues, and life in general. “It felt open from the outset,” says Sheera “and the warmth of our conversations piqued my interests further.”
“The IAS program helped me develop relationships with people in the Arab community as well as with the professors, who continue to be a great resource.” says Sheera, “Whatever it is you are looking for—culture, poetry, language, politics—there are always extra things that this program can offer if you take the initiative.”
Sheera hopes to bring people together through literature, specifically Israelis and Palestinians, and there is no doubt that she will accomplish this.