A square in Haifa was named on Sunday after the author and social activist Emile Habibi (1921-1996), one of the most important of Israel’s writers in Arabic and a 1992 Israel Prize laureate.
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Among his books that were translated into English are “The secret life of Saeed the Pessoptimist” and “Saraya, the ogre’s daughter.”
Habibi was a founder of the New Communist List (Rakach), which he represented as an MK for 19 years. He also founded and served as editor-in-chief of the party’s newspaper, Al-Ittihad.
Habibi, who died in 1996, was buried in Haifa. On his gravestone the words “I stayed in Haifa” were inscribed.
The square was dedicated in the presence of Haifa’s mayor, Yona Yahav, and writers and other cultural figures. Among them were Asaf Ron, director of Beit Hagefen, the city’s veteran Jewish-Arab cultural center; Prof. Mahmoud Ghanayem, head of the Arabic Language Academy of Israel, Prof. Nissim Calderon of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Hebrew Literature Department, Ragia Zaatara secretary of the Communist Party in Haifa; his daughter, Johaina Habibi Kandalaft; musician Habib Shehadehand others, who played works that set Habibi’s words to music.
Writer Mahmoud Shukair, Yehoshua Sobol and Mahmoud Nafa, actor Mohammed Bakri and musician Alaa Azzam took part in the ceremony, unveiling the plaque dedicating the square to Habibi.
The square is located in the Wadi Nisnas neighborhood, on the corner of Allenby and En Dor streets. The initiative to name a square after Habibi was promoted by a group of Israeli and Palestinian writers, led by the director of Habibi’s literary estate, the poet Siham Daoud.
The square’s dedication is one of the events of the Arab Cultural Festival now underway, hosted by Beit Hagefen. Beit Hagefen is launching three new exhibits during the festival and hosting a conference on Palestinian art, as well as special projects for children and teens.