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Crossroads & Connections: Shakespeare at Jaffa Gate

By The National Library of Israel

Published Apr 26, 2023


Trilingual Poster, Jerusalem, 1919

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In November 1919, residents of Jerusalem were offered a theatrical bonanza. The Egyptian theater company of Abd al-Aziz al-Jahili had just arrived in the city. During their five-night run, the company performed Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello, as well as Charlotte, a play based on the life of the French assassin, Charlotte Corday, and Hamdan al-Andalusi. This poster announcing the performances was written in Arabic, English, and Hebrew in order to attract the widest possible audience.

The choice of venue reflected similar aspirations. Qahwat al-Ma‘aref, a cafe located in the city’s commercial hub right outside Jaffa Gate, was Jerusalem’s main public performance space. Constructed only a few years earlier, this new town center symbolized the modern, non-sectarian, and middle-class aspirations of late Ottoman Jerusalem. Despite the fact that the troupe’s repertoire was performed in colloquial Egyptian Arabic, the poster reflects the designer’s familiarity with the new Hebrew culture of the Land of Israel. Ram ve Yael, as the story of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers is translated, evokes the biblical names used in an important 1878 Hebrew version. This subtle allusion is all the more striking as the designer muddled the name of the English original, printing “Romes and Juliette” instead of “Romeo and Juliet.”


Trilingual theater poster, Jerusalem, 1919. V 2697 09.

Photography by Ardon Bar-Hama.


Click here to return to the full Crossroads & Connections: Collections of the National Library of Israel digital exhibition on Kolture.


Founded in Jerusalem in 1892, the National Library of Israel (NLI) serves as Israel's preeminent research library


Click here to visit the exhibition resource page to learn more and to browse accompanying lesson plans, webinars, and videos, about the treasures in this exhibition.

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