Aharoni is the Founder and World President of IFLAC: The International Forum for the Literature and Culture of Peace.
Aharoni was born in Cairo, in a Jewish family of French nationality. She attended the Alvernia English School for Girls, a convent school in the neighborhood of Zamalek, where she was taught English literature by Irish Franciscan nuns. "At the age of 10 I was going to be a writer," she stated during an interview with The Jerusalem Post.
In 1949, her father, an export-import merchant, had his work permit revoked, and the Egyptian authorities confiscated the money he had transferred to a Swiss bank. The family moved to France, and Aharoni moved to Israel soon after, at the age of 16.
Aharoni received her BA in history, sociology and English literature from the University of Haifa and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1964, she received her M. Phil. Degree on the literature of Henry Fielding from the University of London (Birkbeck College) and was awarded her Ph.D. on Saul Bellow's Introspective Fiction at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1975.
Aharoni has taught literature at the University of Haifa and sociology and conflict resolution at the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) in Haifa. She has been a guest lecturer and visiting professor at several universities, including the University of Pennsylvania.
She is the Founder and World President of IFLAC: The International Forum for the Literature and Culture of Peace, as well as the President of the Second World Congress of the Jews from Egypt (WCJE), held in 2006. In 2012, she was awarded the Israeli President's Award for Volunteerism, for promoting peace initiatives between Jews and Arabs. In 2015, she was elected Honorary Citizen of Haifa (Yakir Haifa). As the first woman, she was invited to speak in the Mahmood Mosque in Kababir, Haifa (2012).
Aharoni was married to Haim Aharoni for 55 years until he died in 2006. He was a professor at the Faculty of Chemical Engineering at Technion. They had two children, Ariel and Talia. Talia died from breast cancer in 2011.
Aharoni lives in Haifa, Israel.
The term "Second Exodus" refers to the forced migration of the Jews from Arab countries after the State of Israel was founded in 1948. Out of the estimated 850,000 Jews that were displaced, the majority found refuge in Israel, while 650,000 Palestinians fled or were ousted from Israel. This displacement of Jews has been overlooked in the various efforts for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, Aharoni writes in her research paper The Forced Migration of Jews from Arab Countries and Peace, and also in an Ynetnews article called What about Jewish Nakba? She argues that these two tragedies and their commonalities could have a conciliatory effect on both sides which could be beneficial to the promotion of peace.
In their joint article titled Possibilities of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Resolution Based On Mutual Recognition Of National Aspirations, Aharoni and her husband, Haim Aharoni, write that the settlement of Palestinian refugees in Israel should be very limited, and that refugees, if "returned" to the place that has become part of Israel, would find themselves in a place foreign to them:
"Processes that take place in a society are rarely reversible processes; repair of wrongs and compensation on suffering cannot usually be accomplished by a return to the previous situation but by the creation of a new situation that is beneficial while appropriate to the new conditions."
The stories of some of those who were forced to leave Egypt are collected in The Golden Age of the Jews from Egypt – Uprooting and Revival in Israel (2013), edited by Aharoni.The migration of the Jews from Egypt forms the backdrop in many of Aharoni's books. The Second Exodus (1983) is a historical novel that describes in literary form this forced exile.
The semi-autobiographical From The Nile to The Jordan (1994) also deals with the uprooting of the Jewish communities in Egypt, as seen through the eyes of a young couple in love.
The biography Not In Vain: An Extraordinary Life (1998) relates how German nurse Thea Wolf (1907–2005), Head Nurse at the Jewish Hospital in Alexandria during World War II, and her colleagues, aided by Egyptian officials, helped rescue Jewish refugees from Europe.
In the children's book Peace Flower: A Space Adventure (1995), two children travel into the future to find the Peace Flower and bring it safely to Earth.
Aharoni's poems can be broadly divided into three categories: Peace, Love and Women. Often they overlap, and peace, abolishment of war, equality for women, and the power of women for peace are prominent in her poems.
At 13, just after WW2, Aharoni together with an Arab student co-edited a school magazine, called Rainbow, at Alvernia, with the motto: Abolish wars forever. British Peace Poet Wilfred Owen became an inspiration for her own work as a Peace Poet. He made her see "the absurdity of war."
Aharoni began writing poetry on the theme of war and peace during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War (Yom Kippur War). "In most of Aharoni's first published poems on the theme of war and peace, her Egyptian origins linger discreetly in the background," Joel Beinin writes in The Dispersion of Egyptian Jewry, in which he examines the diversity of Egyptian Jewish identities in Egypt and in the diaspora. "The Egyptian-Israeli negotiations and interim Sinai disengagement agreements following the 1973 war apparently encouraged her to advance beyond general calls for peace to articulate more specifically what peace meant to Aharoni through recollections of her previous life in Egypt."
Some of these early peace poems are concerned with the struggle for the survival of Israel, as seen in To an Egyptian Soldier (written during the Yom Kippur War), where Aharoni tells him that "you will always have your Nile... but if we lose there's only the sea." The source of this "passionate attachment to her new homeland" is her recollection of what it was to be "an 'outsider', unwanted and not belonging" in Egypt, Len Goldzweig (lecturer in the Dept. of English at Haifa University) writes in the Preface of Aharoni's Poems from Israel (1992).
She recalls this sense of alienation in Arab Israeli Student on T.V., where the student ponders on where he belongs: Do I feel like an Israeli Arab? Or like an Arab Israeli? "I remember my own rootless wound in Egypt land – and I hurt your dangling hurt, my Semitic cousin in pain."
Aharoni believes that poems are suitable vehicles for building bridges of trust and respect for each other's culture and humanity. As we have become more mobile, the most profound difference between us is our culture, and not the territory. Peace poems have the ability to present the stories of both sides in a conflict, "in all its reality, pain, hope and yearning for peace."
Examples of this two-sided view are found in the poems This Cursed War and Remember Me Every Time the Moon Rises Over the Sphinx, inspired by letters found on fallen Israeli and Egyptian soldiers during the Yom Kippur War.
"The only way to bridge the cultural differences between human beings is through knowledge of each other," Aharoni told Birute Regine during an interview for Regine's book Iron Butterflies: Women Transforming Themselves and the World, in which Aharoni is one the Iron Butterflies. In her poem A Bridge of Peace, Aharoni extends a bridge to the women of Palestine: "My Arab sister, let us build a sturdy bridge from your olive world to mine, from my orange world to yours... we do not want to make each other afraid under our vines and under our fig trees."
Aharoni's latest poetry collection is Rare Flower (2012), spanning five decades and dedicated to the memory of her departed husband and daughter.
Several of Aharoni's poems are put to music and released on three CDs: A Green Week, To Haim – To Life (Love Poems) and Rare Flowers.
In the Preface of Poems from Israel mentioned above, Goldzweig describes the language of Aharoni's poems as unpretentious. "She doesn't hide behind words," and this creates a "ruthless honesty." He also comments on her irregular use of rhyme and stanza form. "This too, is a form of nakedness, because so much bad poetry is hidden behind strong galloping rhythms and chiming rhymes."
Prof. Rebecca Oxford (Alabama A&M University), in her book The Language of Peace – Communicating to Create Harmony, analyzes the use of the "image of peace as a cross-cultural bridge" in Aharoni's A Bridge of Peace. In this poem, Oxford writes, the "assonance and imagery" of the words "olive world" and "orange world" bring the two women, one Israeli and one Palestinian, together and show that they have much in common. A "bridge of Jasmine understanding" can banish the fear, allowing each woman to sit with her baby "under her vine and under her fig tree."
Aharoni herself, in an interview with the Sketchbook literary journal, confirmed that she prefers open form poems as they give room for more depth and intimacy.
Aharoni is the Founder of IFLAC: The International Forum for the Literature and Culture of Peace. Established in 1999, its goal is to build "bridges of understanding and peace through culture, literature and communication." IFLAC Directors and Peace Ambassadors are appointed in some 20 countries.
Aharoni served as the President of the Second World Congress of the Jews from Egypt at Haifa University in 2006, assembling 350 researchers and writers. The congress was followed by a WCJE Symposium in cooperation with Haifa University in 2007, and another one at Bar Ilan University in 2008. The proceedings of the congress are published in History and Culture of the Jews of Egypt in Modern Times (Keness Hafakot, Tel Aviv, 2008), in English, French and Hebrew.From the Pyramids to Mount Carmel. Eked, Tel Aviv, 1979.
Shin Shalom: New Poems (a bilingual edition, Hebrew and English). Eked, Tel Aviv, 1985.
Metal et Violettes (poems in French). Caractères, Paris, 1987.
Poems from Israel. Berger Press Publications, Haifa, 1992 (first edition 1972).
In the Curve of My Palm. Yaron Golam, Tel Aviv, 1996.
In My Carmel Woods. Micha Lachman, Haifa, 1999.
You and I Can Change the World. Micha Lachman, Haifa, 2004.
Women: Creating A World Beyond War and Violence (mixed poetry and prose). Micha Lachman, Haifa, 2005.
The Pomegranate: Love and Peace Poems. 1st Library Books, Indiana, USA, 2007.
Rare Flower: Life, Love and Peace Poems (the Hebrew edition is called Perah Nadir). Dignity Press, Oregon, USA, 2012.
Harimon: Love and Peace Poems (Hebrew). Hadarim, Israel, 2014.
The Second Exodus. Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, 1983.
To Alexandria, Jerusalem and Freedom. Pennsylvania, 1984. (Published also in a Hebrew edition 1985, and an Arabic edition 1986, Mahmoud Abassi, Shfaram, Galilee, Israel.)
From the Nile to the Jordan (also available in French: Du Nil Au Jourdan). Micha Lachman, Haifa, 1999.
Bringing Hearts Together: A Novel About the Jews from Egypt (in Hebrew only, titled: Kiruv Levavot). Gvanim, Tel Aviv, 2011.
The Golden Age of the Jews from Egypt – Uprooting and Revival in Israel (in Hebrew and partly in French). Aharoni, A. ed. World Congress of the Jews from Egypt, 2013.
Not in Vain: An Extraordinary Life. Ladybug Press, California, USA, 1998.
Thea Wolf – la femme en blanc de l'hôpital d'Alexandrie. Editions Le Manuscrit / Manuscrit.com, 2014.
Peace Flower: A Space Adventure. Yaron Golan, Tel Aviv and Micha Lachman, Haifa, 1995.
Saul Bellow: A Mosaic. Aharoni, A. ed. and Cronin G., Goldman, L., Peter Lang, New York, 1992.
Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow's Inner Voice (Hebrew). Pardes Publishing House, Haifa, 2007.
Ada Aharoni's Homepage