Guerrilla Tarbut (Hebrew: גרילה תרבות, "Cultural Guerrilla") is an activist group of Israeli poets. Founded in 2007, the group aims to promote social and political causes through poetry, both in Hebrew and in Arabic, performed by its members during demonstrations against social injustice.
Guerrilla Tarbut's activities take a form which is somewhere between a demonstration, and a poetry reading using a megaphone.
The poets involved with Guerrilla Tarbut's activities read of their works during demonstrations. Sometimes singer-songwriters will attend also, and perform live during the activities in various musical styles. Although independent by nature, many of the group's activities are sponsored by Israeli poetry magazines, and coordinated with Israeli non-governmental organizations, including B'Tselem, New Israel Fund, and the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow Coalition. Participants include poets and musicians of various ages and artistic styles, Jews and Arabs alike.
Guerrilla Tarbut's poets have also published three collections of their poems. The first collection, named Aduma (Hebrew: אדומה, "Red"), was published 1 May 2007 and concerned with workers' rights. The second collection, Latzet! (Hebrew: לצאת, "Out Now!"), was published on January 2009 as a response to the Gaza War. The third, Poetry Dismantles A Wall (Hebrew: שירה מפרקת חומה) was published on 25 March and was a bilingual collection of Arabic and Hebrew poetry against the Israeli West Bank barrier .
Poets who have taken part in Guerrilla Tarbut's events include: Eran Tzelgov, Aharon Shabtai, Yudit Shahar, Roy "Chicky" Arad, Mati Shemoelof, Ronny Someck, Yuval Ben-Ami, Joshua Simon, Maya Bejerano, Almog Behar, Bo'az Yaniv, Ronnie Hirsch and others.
The group doesn't subscribe to a particular political manifesto, nor is it associated with any political party or movement. Similarly, the participating poets employ various poetical styles.
Critical commentary and response
The group's activities draw significant attention in the Israeli mainstream media, and in literary circles. Yitzhak Laor, prominent leftist poet and publicist, argued that poetry cannot bring about change, and "teaching literature in the periphery is more important than reading poetry in front of a factory". Elsewhere, Mr. Laor hinted that Guerilla Tarbut's activity "has emptied the term Guerrilla of al meaning". Some poets object to the mixture of poetry and political activism, claiming that this mixture is "narcissistic", and self-serving for the poets themselves.
The group members, on the other hand, point out that less than a week after the poetic demonstration in the Akerstein factory in Yeruham, the hard-liner local executive was fired and some of the workers' demands were accepted. Similarly, following the demonstration in the coffee-shop in Tel Aviv, the waitresses' demands were fully granted. Each and every event gained valuable publicity for the corresponding campaign. Moreover, as one of the striking Akerstein's employees put it: "[Guerrilla Tarbut's visit] is empowering us in our struggle, it raises our spirits."