Let Hlehel Go

It’s less than a month until the Beirut39 festival, and the attendance of one of the 39 “up-and-coming Arab writers” remains unconfirmed.

According to the Israeli paper Ha’aretz, “Adalah, The Legal Center for Minority Rights in Israel, petitioned the High Court Thursday…so writer Ala Hlehel may travel to Beirut and attend [the Beirut39] literary festival.”

Why can’t Hlehel go? Because, of course, Lebanon is an “enemy.” From Ha’aretz:

“It is absolutely forbidden, according to Section 5 of the Extension of Validity of Emergency Regulations Law, whose broad powers have been in force since independence, for residents and citizens to leave Israel for any country designated by law as an enemy state, including Lebanon.”

Right after Hlehel was chosen for the prize, Adalah apparently approached the interior and prime ministers, but received no response. They don’t have much time left; the literary festival opens April 15.

Hlehel, meanwhile, remains strong in his desire to attend. The press release from Adalah quotes him as saying:

For me, Beirut is an integral part of my cultural and creative past, present and future. As a member of the Arab nation, it’s my right to be part of its cultural and creative circles.

According to Ha’aretz, Hlehel’s work has not been translated into Hebrew. The Adalah release seems to assert otherwise:

Mr. Hlehel is highly regarded in literary circles in Israel, as well as in the Arab world. He has received many prizes and awards, including the “Al-Qattan” Palestinian Culture and Education Association award, which he won three times (2000, 2003, 2005), and the best screenplay award in “Adam Flint” competition in the Tel Aviv International Students Films Festival in 2004. He was also one of the four finalists in a prestigious literary competition of the Swiss firm, Rolex, in 2006. A short play that he wrote, “The Absolutely Dedicated Soldier”, ran in “Tzavta” theatre in Tel Aviv. …

In any case, a number of his stories have been translated into English. Several are available online (see below).

More about Hlehel: