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David Semah

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David was born in Baghdad in 1933. He was known as one of the students who were very interested in Arabic literature, especially poetry. During his study at the secondary school in Baghdad, David wrote a poetry compilation that he wished to publish. Unfortunately, the bad situation of the Jews in Iraq, after declaring Israel as a state in 1948, prevented him from accomplishing his wish. In 1950, he moved with his family to Israel, bringing with him the diwan of the Iraqi poet al-Jawahiri, which he received as an appreciable gift from his teacher at the school.

After his arrival to Israel, David continued to compose poetry according to the classical style. He published his poems in several magazines, and participated in several conferences on poetry. In addition, he made a great effort to make a contact between Arab and Hebrew writers. In 1954 he established, together with his two friends Sasson Somekh and Shimon Balas, the “Forum of the Supporters of the Arabic Literature” in Tel-Aviv. In 1959, he accomplished his former wish and published his diwan under the title When the Spring Comes (hatta yaji’ al-rabi’). It was the only diwan that he published. David Zemah attended the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to complete his studies at the Department of Arabic Language and Literature. Then, in the mid of the sixties, he was sent by the University of Haifa to continue his studies at Oxford University in England. There, he wrote a Ph.D. dissertation on the Four Disciplines of the Arab Literary Critics: Abbas Mahmud al-Aqqad, Muhammad Hussayn Haykal, Taha Hussein, and Muhammad Mandur. After his return to Israel, he was appointed a professor at the Department of Arabic Language and Literature. He published his dissertation and wrote several papers on the literature of the Egyptian writer Tawfiq al-Hakim. Then, he turned to study the classical Arabic literature, and he accomplished more than forty studies in Hebrew, Arabic, and English in this field; most of them were about the old Arabic rhythm and rhyme.

During the last two years of his life, while suffering from cancer, he devoted most of his time to write a book in Hebrew on Love in the Arabic Literature, and also to edit the manuscript The Garden of Hearts and the Tour of the Lover and the Beloved (rawdat al-qulub wa-nuzhat al-muhibb wa-l-mahbub) which was written by Abd al-Rahman b. Nasr al-Shayzari (7th century / 12th century). Unfortunately, he died before accomplishing these two projects. The manuscript was eventually completed thanks to the efforts of Prof. George Kanazi, from the Department of Arabic Language and Literature in

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