NATIV Online        

  Vol. 3  /  April 2004                      A JOURNAL OF POLITICS AND THE ARTS      


An Unconventional Attitude
Toward Israeli Literature

Yosef Oren

Executive Summary

This collection of essays consists of three sections which describe the development of Hebrew literature since the establishment of the State of Israel, and examine the relationship between the literature of the Israeli Period, the period of the renewal of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, and the heritage of the Hebrew literature throughout the generations.

In the first section, the author suggests a distinction between four literary guards: “The Generation in the Land” – the authors of the 1940s and 1950s, “The New Wave” – the authors of the 1960s, “The Disillusioned Wave” – the authors of the 1970s and “The New Voices” – the authors of the 1980s and the 1990s. All of the guards began their activity during the 20th century and are all still functioning in the early 21st century. Similarly, he suggests terminology to classify the topics in the period’s literature: Topics of the Israeli condition, the Jewish condition and the human condition, through which the writers related to the sovereignty experience, the aspiration to normalcy, the search for a new definition of self-identity and the central experiences in present-day Jewish existence: the Holocaust, the recurring wars imposed by the Arab countries on the State of Israel, the ingathering of the Jewish exile from seventy different cultures and their fusion into the Israeli culture, and more. At the conclusion of this section, the author assesses the accomplishments and shortcomings of Israeli literature during the first 50 years.

In the second section, the author examines the Hebrew author’s ambivalence towards Judaism during the years of the State’s existence: Its values, myths and cultural symbols (ideas, images and idioms). Though Hebrew fiction has been secular for 250 years, the present-day authors have inherited from their predecessors the task of completing a complicated mission: To take a stand regarding the place of Judaism and the intellectual resources inspired by Judaism throughout the generations of secular culture. The author demonstrates through the works of Yizhar Smilansky (S. Yizhar) and Meir Shalev the trend which expresses reservations regarding the integration of Judaism as a culture within Israeli secularism, with the objective being the creation of an independent  Israeli identity. Opposite the trend to sever ties with Judaism as a culture, he aligns the works of those authors who attempted to integrate the culture inspired by Judaism into the fledgling national creation, as an inspiration for Israelism: Aharon Meged, Binyamin Tammuz, Aharon Appelfeld and Dan Tzalka. The two conflicting trends represented by the authors from the two groups reflect different preferences. The former cultivate the Israeli experience in order to raise the Israeli as a nativist individual and a place-centered Jew, while the latter believe that the Jewish experience should be cultivated in order to raise the Israeli as a descendant of the culture of previous generations, a time-centered Jew.

In the third section, the author examines Israeli literature’s attitude towards Zionism as an ideology and as a national movement. The description reveals that specifically since the State’s establishment, the criticism of Zionism has gradually increased, influenced by moral distress engendered by the various stages of the establishment and reinforcement of renewed Jewish sovereignty over its homeland in Zion. S. Yizhar’s work expresses the stage of disappointment, a legitimate criticism of the weaknesses which became apparent in Zionism during its metamorphosis from theory to practice. A.B. Yehoshua’s work expresses the de-legitimization of Zionism and the aspiration to exchange its content for a different updated content, however, under the same name. Meir Shalev’s work already expresses an anti-Zionist and post-Zionist position. The position paper explains the dangers which this negative development poses to Zionism, one which has been adopted by some of the most senior Israeli authors.

An Unconventional Attitude
Toward Israeli Literature


I. Israeli Literature or The Israeli Period in the History of Hebrew Literature

Chapter 1: Definitions

Outlining the course of Hebrew literature utilizes four terms: era, period, generation and guard. The following table places the terms in the general scheme of Hebrew literature throughout the generations. The time periods are approximate and are intended simply to provide an idea of the estimated length of each period.



Length of Period



Biblical Literature

The Bible, the apocrypha and the Hidden Scrolls in Hebrew: 2,000 years ending at the start of the Common Era with the destruction of the Second Temple.




Literature of the Sages

Information on the activities of Tana’im, Amora’im, Savora’im and Ge’onim. A period of approximately 1,000 years, from the start of the Common Era until the middle of the 10th century.



Medieval Literature

A period of approximately 550 years, from the middle of the 10th century until the end of the 15th century.




Rabbinic and Hassidic Literature

A period of approximately 300 years, from the 16th century until the end of the 18th century.


Enlightenment (Haskala) Literature

A period of approximately 100 years, from the mid-18th century until the mid-19th century.

Literature Era

Renaissance (Tehiya) Literature

A period of approximately 50 years, from the mid-19th century until the beginning of the 20th century.


Immigrations (Aliyot) Literature

A period of approximately 50 years, from the beginning of the 20th century until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

The Literature
of Renewed Sovereignty

Israeli Literature

The first 50 years of the sovereign period – from 1948 onward.


1.1  Hebrew Literature

The complete continuum of Jewish literature written in the Hebrew language from the Bible until today. It is customary to divide this continuum into three eras: The era of ancient literature (in which there are two periods – Biblical literature and literature of the Sages), the intermediate era of literature (in which there are also two periods – medieval literature and rabbinic and Hassidic literature), and the era of modern literature (in which there are three periods: enlightenment, renaissance and immigrations). The recommendation of this position paper is to delineate a new, fourth, era in the history of Hebrew literature – the era of renewed sovereignty (1.2).

1.2  Modern Hebrew Literature

The title characterizes the periods belonging to the third era in the history of Hebrew literature. Conventional wisdom in the research of Hebrew literature attaches the literature written since the establishment of the State of Israel (henceforth: Israeli literature) to that period, and thus, it spans 250 years. In this position paper, a suggestion is proffered to restrict the period to just 200 years, from the mid-18th century until the mid-20th century, and on that basis to demarcate a fourth era in the history of Hebrew literature: the era of renewed sovereignty. According to this suggestion, only three periods are included in the modern era of Hebrew literature: the literature of the enlightenment – from the mid-18th century until the mid-19th century; the literature of the renaissance – from the mid-19th century until the beginning of the 20th century; and the literature of the immigrations – from the beginning of the 20th century until the establishment of the State of Israel. In research, the tendency is to accentuate the secularist characteristic which typifies the periods of this era, but this position paper recommends the addition of another distinguishing feature: the periods of this era constituted a gradual transition towards the period of renewed sovereignty which marks the beginning of the Israeli period.

1.3  The Era of Renewed Sovereignty

From the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, at which point the Jewish sovereignty in the State of Israel was renewed, a new era in the history of Hebrew literature commenced as well. Today, it is not yet possible to estimate how long this era (1.1) will last and how many periods it will encompass. Future researchers of Hebrew literature will be faced with the task of charting this era. The characteristics differentiating between the periods of the early era, the new era of Hebrew literature (1.2) and the era of renewed sovereignty will be defined later in the discussion (see chapters 4 and 6 below). Research hesitates from demarcating this period in Hebrew literature continuum for ideological and political reasons (see the paragraphs of chapter 4) and by doing so, conceals and even eliminates the significance of renewed sovereignty on the development of Hebrew literature during the years of the State’s existence.

1.4  Israeli Literature

The term connotes the first period in the era of renewed sovereignty (1.3). It is impossible to estimate at this point how long the Israeli period in this era will last. The period includes to this point, the State’s first 50 years, and researchers of Hebrew literature in the future will determine how long it will last. The unique aspects of this period will be characterized later in this analysis (chapters 3, 5 and 7).


When did the Modern Hebrew literature era begin? This is the question, which has been elucidated thus far in the research of Hebrew literature. This proposed outlining, as opposed to the above, raises the following question: When did the new era of Hebrew literature end? The answer provided here is that it ended with the establishment of the State of Israel. The most significant event in the history of the Jewish people in the modern era is the establishment of the State of Israel and its influence engendered decisive changes – both ideological (in terms of vision) and literary (in terms of topics, the character of the hero and language) – in Hebrew literature. These differences justify the demarcation of a new era in the continuum of Hebrew literature, the era of the renewed Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel and to designate the first period in this era as the “Israeli period”, in order to underscore the absolute connection between the literature of the first years of this era and events which transpired in the State during those years. The following table cites some of the reasons, which justify separating the Israeli period, the first period of the era of renewed sovereignty, from the three periods of the previous era, the era of Modern Hebrew literature:







Secular Consciousness



Language of


Consciousness of Earthly Salvation









Inverting the Pyramid






Israeli Condition

Native Israeli

Language of Life

An explanation of the ideological difference between Modern Hebrew literature and the literature of renewed sovereignty: During the three periods of Modern Hebrew literature, national literature conducted a dialogue with Judaism. It was a dialogue whose topics varied in correspondence with the exigencies of the period. During the enlightenment period, the argument between Hebrew literature and Judaism focused on literature’s demand to accept secular values (language, education, dress, behavior and occupations) and to permit their introduction into Jewish religious life in order to actualize the vision of Jewish integration in their Diaspora places of residence, until messianic salvation eventuates. During the renaissance period, Hebrew literature placed a different troublesome demand before Judaism in light of the exacerbation of the danger of anti-Semitism in Europe: to abandon waiting for messianic salvation and to sanction earthly salvation, which would be facilitated by Jewish emigration from their Diaspora lands of residence back to their homeland in Zion. In the immigrations period, the argument between literature and Judaism revolved around the demand to bring about a change in Jewish society’s obsolete structure in order to make it suitable for the realization of the renaissance undertakings in the Land of Israel, by encouraging the passage of Jews from non-productive, limited and parasitical occupations, which were the only ones feasible under the conditions of a community locked in a ghetto, to occupations which provide all means of existence necessary in a sovereign society. This process can be described figuratively as inversion of the pyramid. In the past, it was customary in the community to encourage the fortification of the top level of Jewish society’s pyramid by directing talented individuals to study halls and yeshivas in order that they become rabbis and scholars and providers of religious services for the community. This attitude placed manual laborers at the bottom of the pyramid. The demand to invert the pyramid constituted a revolutionary idea. It demanded to place that stratum of society, which produces means of existence at the top of the pyramid, and to reinforce it by directing the most talented individuals towards agriculture, manufacturing and all other occupations, which economically strengthen society.

During the two later periods of the modern era of Hebrew literature, the argument with Judaism on behalf of national renaissance and Zionism was already being conducted in the national literature. Subsequent to the establishment of the State, which signaled the victory in all three of the demands addressed to Judaism, the polemic dialogue with Judaism ended and a dialogue with Zionism began. Hebrew literature conducted a graduated polemic dialogue with Zionism as well during the first 50 years of sovereignty. The dialogue began with criticism, in other words, by raising doubts about the morality of the vision because of the manner in which it was realized (in war, conquest and dispossession of Arabs from their land), and developed into skepticism regarding the feasibility of the comprehensive vision’s realization, in other words, recommendations to abandon Zionism. One can indicate the boundaries of the dialogue between Israeli literature and Zionism as the transition from a Zionist to a post-Zionist orientation.

Note: The other columns in this chart, which emphasize additional differences between the Modern Hebrew literature periods (enlightenment, renaissance and immigrations) and the Israeli period, will be explained below in the subsequent chapters of the position paper.


Chapter 2: Facts

A summary of Hebrew literature’s characteristics (1.1). These characteristics distinguish Jewish literature from world literature.

2.1  Constancy

Throughout the history of Hebrew literature, the wondrous fact that literary activity in the Hebrew language was never interrupted, is noteworthy. The creation of literary works in the Hebrew language was never interrupted even during periods when the majority of the Jewish people did not speak Hebrew, but, in day-to-day life, used other Jewish languages (Yiddish among the Ashkenazi communities and Ladino among the Sephardi communities), or the languages of the countries in which the Jews lived in the course of their stay in the Diaspora instead. The Hebrew language was accorded special status as the language of national creativity throughout the generations and under all circumstances. It was accorded the title “the holy language” – a title which delineated the rules of permissible and forbidden uses. During most of the periods it was determined that the Hebrew language may be used in order to perpetuate the religious works of the previous generations, but may not be used in mundane, secular circumstances.

2.2  Continuity

Throughout the generations of Hebrew literature’s history, a consistent relationship of continuity was extant. Each later generation interpreted, updated and expanded upon the works of its predecessors. This is the relationship of the Mishna to the Bible and of the Talmud to the Mishna. This characteristic of continuity remained extant even when, in the course of the development of Hebrew literature, the collective creations phase (which included the works of the authors of the Bible, the Mishna and Talmud) ended, and Hebrew literature entered a new phase of individual works written by people who identified themselves by name as the authors of their works. This continuity existed at this point in time in all of Hebrew literature’s manifestations: in the extensive exegetic literature, religious philosophy, Kabbalistic literature, ethical literature and all types of fiction.

2.3  Values

Throughout the generations, Hebrew literary works reflected the Jewish authors’ serious approach to writing. The effort in improving the methods of expression was expended in order to enhance the ability of the literary works to express the moral meanings that the authors intended in their literary creations. The values were primarily moral and related both to the morality of the individual’s life as well as the morality of the community’s life in each of its contexts: the national (communal) and the universal (inter-communal). At no stage in the history of Hebrew literature did the esthetics of writing supercede these values and esthetic accomplishments of a literary work never alone determined its standing within national culture.

2.4  Vision

Hebrew literature, throughout the generations, was forward-looking. The demand for values (2.3) mandated this. The reality was always perceived as a stage in the path, which strove to rise to the height of perfection, which had not yet been achieved – the vision. The vision in all of its detail was first portrayed in the words of the Biblical prophets who also articulated the central, leadership role which the Jewish nation is destined to play in the realization of that vision. The vision included two central ideas: A demand addressed to the individual to strive for moral perfection (“Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Leviticus 19:18) and a demand addressed to the collective to strive for world peace (“A nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” Isaiah 2:4). Ever since the vision was first articulated and throughout its history, Hebrew literature maintained its commitment to that vision. This commitment was manifest in the myriad forms of literary activity: In the effort to explain and interpret national and universal visions to the readers; in the effort to disseminate and endear it to them; in the mobilization to defend the vision against doubters and cynics who sought to diminish its perfection; and in a struggle against its deniers and opponents. The commitment to this vision provided Hebrew literature with intellectual depth and moral originality rendering its seriousness unique in the context of world literature.

2.5  Optimism

Hebrew literature consistently articulated its faith that words, ideas and books have the power to improve the individual and humanity and to motivate them to act individually and collectively to take action in realizing the vision (2.4) as articulated by the prophets. The sobriquet, “People of the Book”, which was accorded the Jewish people by the nations of the world throughout history, after identifying this optimism in the Bible, the only work of the Jewish people with which they became familiar, reflected the nations’ admiration of this characteristic of Hebrew literature and of the nation which believed with all its heart and all its might in that power of literature.

2.6  Uniqueness

Hebrew literature established the borders of its internal expanse to the range of thoughts and opinions which continue to maintain fidelity to its vision within the context of general culture – borders beyond which the threat of the loss of its originality and character looms. The history of Hebrew literature recounts the continuous effort of the generations to maintain the borders of this internal expanse in the face of the penetration of values (2.3) and visions (2.4) foreign to those values and visions to which the national literature decided to devote itself long ago.

2.7      Centralization

In order to maintain its uniqueness in the context of general culture, Hebrew literature employed means of acceptance and rejection both regarding literary works which were created from within and those which attempted to penetrate from without. In order to establish whether or not new literary works were worthy of acceptance or rejection, they were put to the test of continuity (2.2), values (2.3), vision (2.4) and optimism (2.5). Literary works, which did not live up to those criteria, were cast out of the borders of Hebrew literature and found redemption under the rubric of other cultures. This was the case with agnostic works and messianic works by various sects, sects that were expelled from Judaism together with their works because they threatened the uniqueness of Hebrew literature.


Chapter  3: Assumptions

Detailing the unique characteristics of Israeli literature (1.4) in the history of Hebrew literature (l.l).

3.1  The Center Assumption

The only active live and effervescent literary center of Hebrew literature exists in Israel. All Jewish writers, who compose Hebrew language literary works in any other country in the world, rely in every sense on the center in the State of Israel and on all of the components which provide the literary center with its animation and vitality: the book industry (printers, publishers and businesses which distribute and sell books), literary periodicals, book surveyors, critics, scholars and a permanent reading audience.

3.2  The Identity Assumption

The Hebrew literature written by Jewish authors in the State of Israel and abroad is the only one which perpetuates the continuum of Hebrew literature in the present generation. Writers who write their works in Hebrew, but are not Jews (a phenomenon which is gradually expanding among non-Jewish citizens of the State of Israel), express different values (2.3) and vision (2.4) and, therefore, their writing does not constitute an extension of Hebrew literature in its national sense. Their writing is part of the literature of the nation to which each of them belongs, despite the fact that their works are written in the Hebrew language and that some of them have an amazing mastery of the language which, at times, surpasses that of Jewish authors in Israel and abroad.

3.3  The Secular Assumption

Israeli literature is secular literature. It is not subordinate to religious authority and is not limited to topics permitted by religion or to the norms of religious faith. The separation between religious and secular writing, which began in Hebrew literature with the Enlightenment movement approximately 250 years ago, was fully actualized in the course of the State’s existence. The secular character of Israeli literature is apparent in every aspect of its creation: genre, theme, content, means of expression and freedom in the use of the assets of the Hebrew language.

3.4  The Openness Assumption

Due to the totally secular character of Israeli literature, it possesses conspicuous and at times even dangerous openness to the influences of world literature. In fact, throughout the existence of the State, tensions magnified between two trends which were also active in Hebrew literature in the past: The more conservative trend which demanded a significant measure of insulation from outside influences of that sort, and the more liberal trend which promulgated complete cultural openness towards other nations’ literature and hoped for reciprocal relations with them. Despite the fact that the trend towards openness won out in this argument, the rule whose validity was proven in the past is still valid, according to which only some of the influences borrowed from the outside actually become an integral part of Hebrew literature (2.6). As a result, the authorization to be influenced and to freely borrow and be influenced by outside influences undergo control processes which filter the unfamiliar, based on the Hebrew culture’s assimilative strength (2.7).

3.5  The Polemic Assumption

Over the course of the State’s existence, an old and stimulating phenomenon has perpetuated: disputes over its character. The most famous among them were: The dispute in the Land of Israel during the Second Temple period between Hillel and Shammai on stringency and leniency in Jewish law, the literary product of their time and the dispute in medieval Spain between Donash ben-Labrat and Menahem ben-Saruk regarding the integration of the Arabic poetry esthetic into Hebrew poetry. Intra-Jewish disputes regarding the character of Hebrew literature continued during all other periods as well. The phenomenon did not, of course, neglect Hebrew literature. The internal dispute regarding its character revolves around the following question: Is it desirable that the literature serves as the impetus for a national-secular culture or is it preferable that it promulgate a cosmopolitan-secular culture? Though this dispute kept up the argument which had already ignited in the modern Hebrew literature period (1.2) between the openness trend and the insular trend (3.4), a debate which peaked in 1896 in an argument which was publicized in the pages of Hashiloah between the “ze’irim”, led by Micah-Yosef Berdichefsky, and Ahad Ha’am – it was greatly exacerbated under conditions of sovereignty (4.1), after the rival political parties co-opted it. The parties in the State of Israel radicalized the literary dispute and caused it to degenerate into a cultural war within the secular community in the State of Israel, between the right which sides with Israeli literature of a secular-national nature and the left which cultivates an Israeli literature of a secular-cosmopolitan nature.

3.6  The Influence Assumption

From time immemorial, history has had an extremely powerful influence on Hebrew literature (events, personalities and ideas that developed in its course). The dispersion of the exiles and the living conditions, which the Jews experienced in each exile, are examples of one form of influence exerted by historical events on the goings-on in Hebrew literature. The intensification of anti-Semitism or its reduction are additional examples of this influence. The literary influences of general literature on Hebrew literature were also not independent, but they were always accompanied by extra-literary historical changes in the countries in which Jewish authors functioned in the course of the Diaspora. The most significant event in modern Jewish history is the renewal of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel in the mid-20th century, in other words: the establishment of the Jewish State in Zion. This is the justification to demarcate a new literary period in the continuum of Hebrew literature beginning with the establishment of the State of Israel and to name it for the historic event itself – the Israeli period (1.4) in the annals of Hebrew literature, and to signify it as the first period in a new literary era – the era of renewed sovereignty (1.3). Beginning in the mid-20th century, sovereignty influenced the development of Hebrew literature in every way. In other words: The influences of events which transpire within the State, which take place in proximity to the State, in the Middle East and the events which take place around the world but affect the State, are the most conspicuous on Israeli literature.


Chapter 4: Thesis

Enumerating the forces which shape sovereignty in the State of Israel and explain its special character. Those forces influence Israeli literature’s content and trends.

4.1   Sovereignty

The establishment of the State of Israel is the most significant event in Jewish history in the modern era (3.6), and, as such, its influence upon Hebrew literature has been significant as well. Since the establishment of the State, Hebrew literature is being once again written under conditions which have been non-existent since the destruction of the Second Temple – conditions of political sovereignty. The conditions of sovereignty have rendered obsolete a complete array of topics which Hebrew authors wrote about in the past, all of which dealing with Jewish existence under conditions of exile and national dispersal in many countries. The sovereignty experience redirected the writing to aspects of existence in conditions of political freedom and the reconvergence of the exiles in the homeland (see below – 6.1 – Topics of the Israeli Condition), and encouraged the abandonment of the language of study, the language of the literary sources throughout the generations, and the adoption of the colloquial, living language in the Land of Israel, as the written language (8.7).

4.2  Normalcy

Sovereignty was perceived first and foremost as an aspiration for normalcy. In the period of national renaissance, the extended Jewish existence in exile conditions was, justifiably, represented as contradicting the nature of a healthy, normal nation. The modern national ideology, Zionism, expressed the longing of the Jewish people in the modern era to regain the normal way of life which had been denied them beginning 2,000 years before upon their exile from Zion. Beyond the consensus that the restoration of normalcy was only possible through the renewal of sovereignty in the Land of Israel, a consensus which distinguished the Zionist movement from all other movements which functioned among Jews contemporaneously (autonomists, Bundists and socialists), the disagreements proliferated within the Zionist movement regarding the definition of the normalcy which would be engendered in the Jewish State. One definition: To develop an existence similar to the existence of other sovereign nations and thereby be like them. An additional definition: To shape life antithetical to life in exile but to establish a unique national-Jewish sovereignty (3.5). Wittingly or unwittingly, in the course of the existence of the State, literature expressed the aspiration towards normalcy – in its various definitions – as the exclusive interpretation of political sovereignty. Therefore, Israeli literature can be read as literature, which takes pains to shape the concept of normalcy for the continued existence of the Jewish people.

4.3  Religion

For the first time in Jewish history since the destruction of the Second Temple, sovereignty enabled the complete manifestation of Jewish identity through the fulfillment of a religious lifestyle without disturbances and harassment. However, the secular trend which intensified since the enlightenment movement, the substantive contradiction between the Zionist-earthly salvation and the religious-messianic salvation, and the great attraction of the socialist idea for the members of the various immigrations, contributed to the almost total disconnection of literature from the Jewish religion throughout the existence of the State. Furthermore, sovereignty was perceived by the authors of the old guard, the “Generation Born in the Land” (5.1), as an opportunity to delineate a new definition of identity without religion (4.4). Hebrew literature is, at this point, indubitably secular literature (3.3). The activity of a few religious authors, especially since the 1970s, does not negate the validity of this assertion. The emphasis that this is the situation at this point relates to the increase in the number of authors whose religious outlook is an important basis of their writing, their attempts to converge in certain journals (Maboa and Zehut which closed and Dimui which is still published), in order to influence the rejuvenation of faith – related values in modern Hebrew literature and the softening of the stance which rejects these values, extant among various secular authors.

4.4  Identity

The renewed sovereignty accelerated the resolution of the identity question. This question was, in fact, first placed on the national agenda in the Hebrew enlightenment movement’s efforts to dissociate the religious aspect from the national aspect in the definition of modern Jewish self-identity, however, a separation of that sort was dangerous under exile conditions as it accelerated assimilation and conversion. Sovereignty provided the sense that the State could serve as a sufficiently powerful support for the determination of an identity based only on the national element. And, indeed, after 200 years of delaying the resolution of the issue, suggestions were raised which attempted to define Jewish identity based on sovereignty. Three definitions developed and each was manifest in Israeli literature: Canaanism (establishment of a new national-political entity in the Middle East region), Sabraism (the separation of native-born Jews from Jews of the Diaspora and the definition of the State as the State of the Jewish people limited to those residing within it) and Israelism (a secular, democratic State of all of its inhabitants rather than a State of the Jewish people which integrates within it citizens who are not Jewish as well and guarantees them all of the personal freedoms and civil rights granted to Jewish citizens). In the course of the State’s existence, Hebrew literature has continuously struggled with the question of identity and the question will apparently continue to occupy us for many more years to come.

4.5   Immigration

The aspiration for normalcy with its two contradictory definitions (4.2) confronted the immigration movement in dimensions unparalleled in other countries. The use of the terms “ascent” and “descent” deemed the direction of immigration as positive when it was from the countries of the Jewish Diaspora to Israel and as negative when it was from Israel to other countries. Immigration to Israel enhanced the sense of sovereignty (4.1) but also delayed the stabilization of normalcy (4.2). Each Jewish community, which immigrated to Israel, arrived with the heritage of its exile (see below 7.3). The proliferation of communities, which gathered in the State quickly, transformed it into an encounter of different Diaspora heritages, a meeting so fraught with tension that no unifying recommendation could possibly have succeeded, neither the idea of statehood nor the idea of assimilation into Israelism. Hebrew literature throughout the State’s existence has reflected the conflicts in all walks of life which developed due to the immigration process, between Jews of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, while at the same time, assumed that those conflicts were destined to disappear within a generation or two.

4.6  Holocaust

The Jewish Holocaust in the Second World War influenced Israeli literature in two contradictory manners. On the one hand, it stimulated and accelerated the striving for normalcy (4.2), but on the other hand, it delayed the disengagement from the most traumatic memory in modern Jewish history. Many Holocaust survivors immigrated to the State and began rehabilitating their lives. They, themselves, attempted to downplay the terrors of the exile which they brought with them when they immigrated to Israel, and the native Israelis expected them to do just that as they perceived the Holocaust as an extreme example of Jewish existence in the Diaspora, an existence which they strove to put behind them. The assimilation of the Holocaust was so slow because it contradicted the yearning for normal sovereignty to such a great extent. The minimal treatment which the images of Holocaust survivors and the events of the Holocaust itself received, attested to the recoil from the subject in the early stages of Israeli literature, just as the expansion of the writing about the Holocaust and its survivors over the years, attests to the acceptance of the presence of the historical event – which above all symbolizes the weakness of existence under conditions of exile – within the fabric of sovereign life. The emphasis on Jewish helplessness in the Holocaust, which was manifest in the expression “like sheep to slaughter”, and the attempt to counter that by emphasizing the ghetto uprising, exemplify both the difficulty to assimilate the event and the attempt to deal with the burden the Holocaust placed on the existence of Israeli sovereignty in its early stages.

4.7  Wars

Wars, which were imposed upon the State by its Arab neighbors, clouded the sense of sovereignty and the longing for normalcy. Though all of the wars ended with the State succeeding to maintain its sovereignty, each one of them, in its early stages, aroused the sense that sovereignty had not fundamentally altered Jewish fate. The influence of the wars on Israeli literature was decisive. In variable intervals after the end of each war, literary works were written about each of the wars in which the emotional and conceptual reaction to its experiences and results were expressed. Under the influence of the wars, the political composition grew, consolidated and thrived (see below 7.2), and in the positions expressed therein, the changes vis-à-vis the Arab-Israeli conflict among the authors in the State of Israel can be discerned. Under the influence of the results of each war, the death of soldiers, the wars produced an additional literary theme – bereavement, which continuously draws the analogy between the ancient trial of the binding, which Abraham successfully passed when he bound Isaac, and the trial of parents today who send their sons to the front in order to defend the sovereignty of the State.

Chapter 5: Historical Development

But first three comments:

  1. The description of the historical development of Israeli literature will be accomplished through the narrative genre which, in the course of the State’s existence, became the leading genre in Hebrew literature and the genre most influential on its readers. The outstanding growth of the narrative form renders it appropriate to represent Israeli literature more than the other genres (poetry, plays and essays) because all of the phenomena characterizing literature throughout the existence of the State are conspicuously concentrated within it.

  2. The history of Israeli literature can be most reliably described through a cross-section of the guards, which is a linear and therefore, consistent cross-section. Thematic, conceptual, stylistic and poetic cross-sections, which would enable description of the development of literature, do not serve our objective well, because they do not develop in a linear, but rather in a spiral fashion, rising and falling with no fixed regularity.

  3. There have been four literary guards, to this point, in the history of Israeli literature (1.4). It is true that the writings of the authors of the later immigrations (Avraham Shlonsky, Leah Goldberg, Natan Alterman in poetry, and S.Y. Agnon and Haim Hazaz and others in prose) continued into the first decades of the State’s existence, but only the authors belonging to the four guards detailed below completely coincide with the years of the State’s existence and are totally influenced by its experience.

5.1  “The Generation in the Land” Guard

That is the name which the authors of the 1940s and the 1950s chose for themselves in the first literary anthology in which most of them were included (1958). They borrowed the name from a line from Tchernichovsky’s poem “I Believe”, in which he prophesied that a new, native generation would arise in the Land of Israel: “A generation in the Land is indeed alive.” Additional names were ascribed to the guard: “The Palmach Generation”, “The 1948 Generation” and “The War of Independence Generation”. From the large group of writers who expressed their War of Independence experiences and in doing so, expended their talents, the definitive authors of that guard remained. In prose: Yizhar Smilansky (S. Yizhar), Moshe Shamir, Mordecai Tabib, David Shahar, Natan Shaham, Aharon Meged, Hanoch Bartov, Shlomo Nitzan, Yehudit Hendel, Yonat and Alexander Sened, Yigal Mozenson, Binyamin Tammuz, Naomi Frankel, Aharon Amir, Ida Zurit, David Shaham and others. In poetry: Amir Gilboa, Zerubavel Gilad, Haim Guri, A. Hillel, Binyamin Galai, Yitzhak Shalev, Abba Kovner, Yehiel Mar, Ozer Rabin, Tuvia Ribner, T. Carmi, Avner Trainin, Shlomo Tanai, Natan Yonatan, Sandou David and others. In drama: Nissim Aloni, Yigal Mozenson, Moshe Shamir, Binyamin Galai, Natan Shaham, Aharon Meged and others. The central experience of “The Generation in the Land” authors was their experience in the War of Independence. For most, realism was the preferred writing style. Some were caught up in the Canaanite outlook which they later abandoned in favor of the Sabraist-Nativist point of view. This guard, that opened the Israeli period in the history of Hebrew literature with great momentum, was responsible for its innovative breakthroughs (in terms of genres, themes, poetic and ideas), and despite the denials of this fact, all of the subsequent guards benefited from the guard’s sweeping dissociation from everything that was conventional in Hebrew literature until that point. Several reasons effected the incommensurate appreciation of this guard: The different reservations regarding their breakthrough expressed by the veteran literary critics: Dov Sadan, Ariel Ukmani, B.Y. Michli, Shalom Kramer, S.Y. Penueli, David Canaan, and others (Baruch Kurzweil’s sweeping opposition to the guard’s authors’ writings was especially influential), the small number of critics among the members of the guard (A.B. Yaffe, Mordecai Shalev) and their almost total absence from the literature departments in academia. Even the courageous admission of “The Generation in the Land” authors of their mistakes committed during the storm and the upheaval at the beginning of their path (such as their submission to socialist realism and their impulsiveness in placing Zionism in quotation marks in their writings about the War of Independence) did not engender until now, a renewed and balanced appreciation of the guard.

5.2  “The New Wave” Guard

Aharon Meged was the first to call the authors of the guard by this name, however, the name was reinforced by Gershon Shaked, one of the most significant critics of this guard, in his attempt to summarize the 1960s’ authors guard for the first time. An additional name which was used to refer to that guard’s authors was “The State Generation” which was employed by additional critics who emerged from within the guard (Dan Meron, Gavriel Moked and others), who utilized their influential standing in academia and literary journals to pave the way for the guard to assume its senior position in Israeli literature. The activity of the guard’s authors concentrated primarily on two genres: prose and poetry. The guard’s outstanding storytellers are: Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, Amalia Kahana-Carmon, Aharon Appelfeld, Yehoshua Kenaz, Shulamit Har-even, Yitzhak Or-paz, Yoram Kaniuk, Dan Tzalka, Pinhas Sadeh, Rahel Eitan, Yeshayahu Koren, Ehud ben-Ezer, Dan Shavit, Sammy Michael and others. The guard’s poets are: Yehuda Amihai, Moshe Dor, Moshe ben-Shaul, Aryeh Sivan, Eldad Eldan, David Avidan, Dan Pagis, Natan Zach, Dalia Rabikovitch, Yisrael Pinkas, Asher Reich, Yona Wallach, Meir Wiesaltier, Yair Hurvitz, Eitan Eitan, Yehiel Hazak, Yisrael Har, Itamar Yaoz-Kest, Ya’akov Besser, Israel Eliraz and others. In both genres, a poetic, conceptual and thematic effort was expended to unite Israeli literature with changes, which transpired in Western literature. In prose, avant-garde writing styles (symbolic, allegoric, absurdist and ironic) were preferred over the realistic style. Topics dealing with the human condition (6.3) were preferred over topics dealing with the Israeli condition (6.1). The individualist character, the anti-hero, was tailored for these topics, one which, in its weakness, expresses existential fear, skepticism regarding the chance to improve one’s personal condition and pessimism regarding the general condition of human existence. In poetry, the lyric poem dominated the existential experiences. A major transformation transpired in the esthetics of poetry: the rhythm was preferred over meter, internal rhyme over closing rhyme, metaphor over simple imagery, expressionistic phrasing over impressionistic expression and everyday, mundane subject matter over delicate, inaccessible materials available only to the few. In drama, Yosef bar-Yosef, Yosef Mundy and Hanoch Levin were the stars. Western Europe’s existential philosophy had an influence on this guard’s writers, but the major influence was domestic – the events during Israel’s second decade: the Sinai War, the Lavon affair and the sense that the veteran leadership of Ben-Gurion’s generation was delaying the transfer of responsibility to the younger leadership of Moshe Dayan and Yigal Allon. Their activity as a guard was especially conspicuous between the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, when they reacted to the changes which transpired in the country during that period with symbolic and allegorical writing containing social-democratic political philosophies which most of them shared. This guard’s authors primarily internalized nativist and Canaanite philosophies (4.4) and viewed themselves as shapers of the secular Israeli identity (4.4). Most possessed a political orientation more radically left wing than the Labor movement consensus at that time. Their written language aspired to be more conversational and communicative. They compensated for the common, colloquial level of the written language, by means of figurative expression.

5.3  “The Disillusioned Wave” Guard

Researchers of Israeli literature tend to overlook the existence of this guard and usually ascribe the authors of the 1970s to the previous guard – “The State Generation”. Only during the last century’s final decade, with the advent of “The New Voices” guard (5.4), twenty years after the Yom Kippur War, the Yom Kippur War’s substantial influence on all aspects of life in the country, including the development of literature, were reassessed. This guard coalesced in the course of the 1970s, influenced by the results of the Yom Kippur War, which was uniformly characterized as a war which engendered an “earthquake”. It accelerated revolutionary political and sociological processes in Israeli society, including the appearance of extra-parliamentary movements, the accumulation of massive power by the media and the transfer of the power locus from the military and party elite to the academic and the economic elite. A wave of disillusionment swept Israeli society and the new literary guard expressed this disillusionment through indecisive characters undergoing decadent experiences, descending into situations of self-degradation and neglect influenced by a deterministic attitude towards life. I first originated the name of this guard, in essays in which I discussed works which reacted to the Yom Kippur War and a decade after the war, were compiled in my book, Disillusionment in Israeli Prose (1983). The storytellers who heralded the advent of this guard were Ya’akov Shabtai and Yitzhak ben-Ner. Both had already begun their publishing careers previously. That is the reason why many researchers tend to attribute these writers to the “State Generation” (5.2). Additional storytellers belonging to this guard are: Haim Be’er, Ruth Almog, Eli Amir, Yisrael Hameiri, Ya’akov Buchan, David Shitz, Aryeh Semo, Avraham Haffner, Yitzhak Laor, David Grossman, Meir Shalev and others. Most conspicuous of all was the guard’s collective treatment of topics relating to the Israeli condition (6.1) and its spiritual reaction to the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War: The demand to conduct a thorough housecleaning and get rid of all of the visionary-messianic rubbish which accumulated between the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War. The demands for a sober view and to furl the messianic banners which prevent a realistic examination of the possibilities extant for the State to resolve its conflict with the Arab countries were expressed either as a direct reaction – satirical or ironic – to the Israelis’ eagerness to brandish prophetic flags or an indirect reaction with storylines expressing sober, realistic attitudes towards life. In poetry, the development of urban poetry (Maya Begerano, Yosef Sharon, Roni Somek, Amir Or, Alon Alteres and others), homosexual poetry (Yotam Reuveni, Hezi Laskly, Ilan Sheinfeld and others) and modern religious poetry (Hava Pinhas-Cohen, Meron Isaacson, Admiel Kosman and others) were conspicuous. In the field of drama, the development of the local-documentary play (Yehoshua Sobol, Hillel Mittelpunkt, Shmuel Haspari and others) was noteworthy.

5.4  “The New Voices” Guard

In the second half of the 1980s and throughout the 1990s, a fourth literary guard in Israeli literature began to consolidate. The reference is to writers in their 1930s and 1940s whose writing moved away from subjects relating to the Israeli condition (6.1) and began dealing with subjects relating to the human condition (6.3). In this guard, the massive presence of women and the utilization of biographical materials are noteworthy. The influence of cinema, television, comics and clips – the dominant forces in the visual-kinetic culture on most of the writers in this guard is apparent. Their writing was influenced by the post-modernist outlook, which raises doubts regarding eternal philosophical verities and unchallenged literary norms. Among many of them, the effort to write fantasy prose or to integrate fantastic elements into story lines which are fundamentally realistic, in which they combine extra-literary materials from the media or daily life is apparent. Similarly, they move the plot from concrete to virtual reality. The language used is colloquial and replete with figurative phrases. I suggested the guard’s name in essays about the guard’s authors’ first books, which were compiled in my book, New Voices in Israeli Prose (1997), in which I attempted to note their affiliation with the previous guards, a decade after the appearance of their first books. This guard’s writers are: Dan Benaya-Seri, Savyon Liebrecht, Yitzhak bar-Yosef, Itamar Levi, Gavriella Avigur-Rotem, Leah Eini, Hana bat-Shahar, Orly Kastel-Blum, Yehudit Katzir, Yuval Shimoni, Ronit Matalon, Dorit Abosh, Albert Suissa, Mira Magen, Gidi Nevo, Hagai Linik, Yael Hedaya, Zeruya Shalev, Alona Kimchi, Etgar Keret, Dorit Raninian and others.


Chapter 6: Thematic Development

There are three thematic areas in which Israeli literature is active. There are very few authors who have remained constant throughout their writing careers to the topics of one of the three thematic areas. Most authors moved their writing from the topics of one thematic area to another influenced by events that transpired in the country and personal changes in their lives and outlooks.

6.1  The Israeli Condition

This phrase characterizes those works which deal blatantly or by implication, with the essence of Israeli life and the unique human distress which life in Israel in conditions of political sovereignty engenders. This is the area of local topics: The Arab-Israel conflict, the wars, the political parties (right or left) and the competition between them, the forms of government in Israel nationally and communally, the ethnic schism and additional internal Israeli conflicts – between religious and secular, native Israelis and immigrants, Jews and minorities, residents of the country’s center and the residents of kibbutzim and development towns on the periphery, and more. This thematic field was regenerated with the establishment of the State and provided the Hebrew author with an additional option. Previously, throughout the exile, only two thematic options were available to the Hebrew author: the Jewish condition (6.2) and the human condition (6.3). The works of two guards’ authors at the start of their careers were almost totally devoted to the topics of the Israeli condition. The authors of “The Generation in the Land” (5.1) united as a guard around the central experience of their generation – the War of Independence, and most of their works during the first decade of Israeli literature were written about it. A similar phenomenon was repeated in the third guard – “The Disillusioned Wave” authors’ writings (5.3) who, under the influence of the Yom Kippur War, reacted almost exclusively to it in their writings, for an entire decade.

6.2  The Jewish Condition

The literary flow in this channel is much less rich than in its two counterparts. The writing on topics of the Jewish condition examines life in Israel on the backdrop of the life of the Jewish people in the past and the present. The historical novel belongs to this area, both those which attempt to illuminate a chapter in the life of the Jewish people in the past and those which employ the past in order to draw an analogy to Jewish life today. Works about the Holocaust (4.6), works which integrate the subject of Jewish self-identity (4.4) in modern times under conditions of sovereignty, and works which explore ties and relations between residing in Israeli Jews and Diaspora Jews world-wide belong to this area. Various writers occasionally turned their writing to topics relating to the Jewish condition such as: Moshe Shamir, Aharon Meged, Binyamin Tammuz, Dan Tzalka, Ya’akov Buchan and others, however, only Aharon Appelfeld’s writing remains consistently involved in this thematic channel attesting to the potential latent in its topics for the continued development of Israeli literature.

6.3  The Human Condition

The topics of the human condition run the gamut of human problems: father-son relations, family problems, disease and death, male-female relations, the feminine condition, love and separation, hatred and jealousy, desire and lust, youth and old age, beauty and ugliness, success and failure, etc. The topics of this thematic stream are universal and understood by readers the world over. Readers in other countries readily accept works of Israeli literature, which are written on these topics,, after translation. The authors of two of the guards concentrated on topics of this sort at the start of their careers: “The New Wave” authors (5.2), whose writings on the topics relating to the human condition underscored their isolation from the realistic style and from topics relating to the Israeli condition which exemplified the writings of “The Generation in the Land” authors (5.1); and “The New Voices” authors (5.4), who in their almost absolute turn towards the human condition topics, manifested their isolation from the authors of the previous guards who all began dealing with topics relating to the Israeli condition after the Yom Kippur War.


Chapter 7: Trends in Israeli Prose

Special thematic orientations developed in Israeli literature in the course of the State’s existence. A literary trend can be characterized as a situation in which an aspiration to achieve some objective through their works becomes obvious in a considerable number of writers, whether the objective is to further an idea or any other cause – poetic, political, social or commercial.

7.1  The Ideological Trend

All of the works which struggle to right the wrongs in Israeli society belong to this trend: to ameliorate the condition and status of women (for example, Amalia Kahana-Carmon’s works); to alter the attitude towards downtrodden groups in society like – those helpless from birth, elderly who are at the mercy of others, those discriminated against and exploited by the powerful and others (for example, the works of Yehoshua Kenaz); works which fight for values which, in the opinion of the writers, are likely to make society more humanistic, equal, democratic and moral (for example, the works of S. Yizhar); works which openly express various ideologies – Aharon Amir – the Canaanite ideology; S. Yizhar – the Sabraic ideology; Moshe Shamir, Aharon Meged and Natan Shoham – the Zionist ideology and Meir Shalev – the post-Zionist ideology.

7.2  The Political Trend

Works which take sides in the political disputes between the parties and advocate either an all-encompassing philosophy of some political orientation or the adoption of one component of that approach, belong to this trend. The political works are not mobilized directly for one of the parties, but always towards a general orientation (either of the political right or the political left). None expresses support for any political orientation in so many words, but it is always there in the guise of a family plot or social story line. The tensions between the polarities in family or society in plots of that sort exemplify political disagreements. The political trends in these works can only be revealed through the implementation of a system of allegoric interpretation. The authors who sustained this trend in a series of works were: S. Yizhar, Yoram Kaniuk, Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, Yitzhak ben-Ner, David Grossman and Meir Shalev.

7.3  The Ethnic Trend

This trend includes works which tell of life in Jewish communities that completely ceased to exist with the establishment of the State of Israel or in the course of its existence. In these works, the writers do not suffice with an ethnographic approach (documenting customs, culture and life-values of the defunct community) but they introduce a cultural approach: To provide the community’s decrepit culture – decrepit because even its descendants have difficulty preserving its cultural attributes in the Israeli pressure cooker – an independent and influential presence in the crystallization of Israel’s culture from all of the cultures which assembled in the State of Israel during the immigration process (4.5). Two reasons explain the appearance of the ethnic trend exclusively in the works of Israeli writers from Oriental communities: A. Until the Yom Kippur War, the lives of Ashkenazic Jewish communities from Europe were identified as Diaspora life worth replacing with normal, native life which was exemplified in literature in the image of the Sabra, an image which was cultivated by Ashkenazic Israeli authors. B. Even after the Yom Kippur War, Israeli authors of Ashkenazic backgrounds felt no need to ethnographically or culturally revive the Ashkenazic communal life, which was obliterated in the Holocaust, because its values dominated and monopolized the developing culture in the State of Israel anyway. The arousal of the ethnic trend in the works of Oriental Israeli writers after the Yom Kippur War can be explained in the shattering of the native ideal, which until the war was represented by the native Israeli. As long as that ideal was at its peak, the possibility to express ethnic aspirations of any sort was nonexistent. The storytellers whose work is influenced by this trend are: Sammy Michael, Shimon Balas, Eli Amir, Amnon Shamosh, Shelomo Avayou, Yitzhak Gormezano-Goren, Dan Benaya-Seri, Ronit Malaton, Dorit Rabinian and others. The presence of this trend in poetry is similarly impressive: Shalom Katav, Aharon Almog, Yoav Hayek, Erez Biton, Moshe Sartel, Balfour Hakak, Herzl Hakak and others.

7.4  The Trivial Trend

This is a commercial trend which is manifest in works which seek to be sold in large numbers of copies with maximal circulation by lowering all possible standards in creating literature: Unique characters, unfamiliar sites, non-routine problems, styles which do not correspond with realism in its most simplistic form and language which is not conversational and unambiguous. The trivial composition is written formulaically (the romantic story, the detective story, the adventure story, the mystery, etc.). In order to facilitate achievement of its commercial objectives, it attempts to be reader-friendly by channeling its contents to the mundane, average, simple, understandable, middling and familiar. Therefore, it does not pose any special problems in the reading and it does not place any challenge or struggle before the reader. The reader can race through the text, which is readable, easily absorbed, entertaining and pleasurable, and does not exhaust him with deep emotions and new and original ideas. The trivial novels of Ram Oren and Irit Linor were especially well-publicized and had astounding circulation relative to the standard circulation of Israeli literature, however, while these are considered non-canonic literature, there is a trivial tendency at various levels in the writings of many writers who have pretenses of being considered writers of canonic literature. The three previous trends, about whose canonic qualities there is no doubt, are in great competition with the trivial trend, which is clearly non-canonic. This competition can be characterized as a competition, which is now taking place in Israeli literature between quality literature (masterpieces) and popular literature (bestsellers).


Chapter 8: Conclusions

What are the achievements of Hebrew literature over the course of the State’s existence and what role has literature played in the life of the State? Where is Israeli literature heading? What should its attitude be towards Hebrew literature from previous eras?

8.1  Strength and Status

Literature has succeeded in the course of the State’s existence to establish itself as a leading art form. It is equipped with the complete support system which facilitates the writing, publication and reading of the literature. In the course of 50 years, it has grown to the point where it has overcome the provincialist tendencies which were dominant in the nascent Israeli society to prefer translated literature over original literature and to overcome a more common phenomenon in an immigrant society: The longstanding preference of literature from the immigrant’s land or origin over literature in the Land to which he immigrated. In content and quality, Israeli literature is capable of satisfying readers’ demands and has a responding to the reader’s every preference or need. Concurrently, Israeli literature became an influential and fascinating literary focal point for readers throughout the Jewish Diaspora. During the years of the State’s existence, Israeli literature has achieved an honorable reputation in the world as well, and for years now, it is considered one of the most significant and vibrant centers of modern literature. This fact is manifest in the two-way translation enterprise: The books of Israeli authors are eagerly translated into many languages throughout the world and authors from other countries seek to have their books translated into Hebrew in the State of Israel.

8.2   Involvement

Hebrew literature has, throughout the State’s existence, served the role of representing all aspects of Israeli reality. It reflects all of the significant events which occurred in the life of the State, the problems which arose, the perplexities which troubled its citizens, and the fears and nightmares which influenced life therein. This was literature involved in the life of the period and it expressed the primary influences on Israeli and Jewish lives throughout the State’s existence: sovereignty (4.1), immigration (4.5), the Holocaust (4.6) and wars (4.7).

8.3  Activism

Israeli literature did not avoid taking stands regarding the reality, which it reflected. It criticized, took satirical swipes, stung with irony and exposed its mistakes, errors and failures, the malfeasance of personalities, the elite and simple people in their confrontation with the challenges afforded them by history with the renewal of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. In many of the works of Israeli literature, one can find explicit solutions or general directions leading to solutions for these challenges. This was an activist literature, which attempted to the best of its ability to influence the lives in the present and on the development of the nation’s history in the future.

8.4  Visionary Decrepitude

In the course of the State’s existence, the moral-visionary enthusiasm which had always burned in Hebrew literature faded. The deterioration of values (2.3), the diminution of vision (2.4) and the subversion of optimism (2.5) are the conspicuous signs of the negative process. The visionary enthusiasm was still extremely powerful in the State’s first decade but it gradually diminished as years passed. An additional process, which transpired in Israeli literature, is manifest in the increasing abandonment of the national vision and Jewish values and their replacement with a cosmopolitan vision whose values are universal. The damage caused by this exchange primarily affected two historical characteristics of Hebrew literature: uniqueness (2.6) and centralization (2.7). Anyone familiar with the history of Hebrew literature ought to be concerned that sovereignty encouraged writers in this generation to primarily express the immediate experiences of the Jew as a place-centered Jew, while the hope of the generations was that the renewal of sovereignty would greatly encourage the expression of the Jew as a time-centered Jew, having a portent and vision for the entire course of history.

8.5  Circumventing the Great Questions

Modern Hebrew literature (1.2) bequeathed to Israeli literature open questions regarding fundamental issues, which were portentous for the continued national existence. For example: Clarifying the relationship between the national aspect and the religious aspect in Jewish self-identity in the modern age; establishing the common national denominator between Jews who believe in various levels of secularism and live accordingly; defining the connection between the Jewish State and the Jewish Diaspora around the world and the significance of the modern national renaissance movement, Zionism, on the lives of the Jewish people in Israel and abroad, after the establishment of the State. Israeli literature circumvented the profound and fundamental clarification of these significant questions and systematically avoided a serious confrontation with their complexity.

8.6  Upsetting Balances

Culture is wary of the damages of extremism. Under the influence of sovereignty, the various balances, which had been traditionally maintained throughout the generations, were increasingly upset in Israeli literature. The most serious balance upset was the balance between the trend towards openness and the trend towards insularity (3.4). It is possible that this balance can never again be identical to that which existed throughout most of the past periods of Hebrew literature, but there is no doubt that it must be determined in conjunction with a dual consideration: The needs of the modern Jew today and the continuity of the Jewish people’s unique culture within world culture. An additional balance which was violated was the balance between the moral-visionary content in writing (the “what” of the work) and the esthetic importance of the writing (the “how” of the work). Extreme admiration of the esthetic aspect of writing has always exemplified literature at this dangerous stage, in which it performs experiments with the esthetics of writing because its reservoir of ideas has been exhausted. This admiration attests to conceptual confusion more than to any real burst of esthetic creativity. A third balance whose violation is dangerous in literature, is the balance between the maintenance of the linguistic legacy of literary writing and the removal of all limitations on manners of literary linguistic expression (8.7).

8.7  Written Language

The test of sovereignty was manifest in Israeli literature in changes, which were made in the written literary language. The desire to draw a parallel between political freedom and freedom from the “holy tongue” in the perception of Diaspora life is conspicuous in the Israeli author. The eagerness to coordinate the written language and the spoken language of the vital Israeli public stems from this. The problem is that the Israeli public’s spoken language has been drawn to the dregs of world language, that which is spread by mass media culture and devoid of all national uniqueness (the television screen, the movie screen and the computer screen). The controversy over the written language in Israeli literature has long not been between plain, spoken Hebrew and fancy literary Hebrew, but this is a controversy between proper Hebrew and Hebrew which is nothing more than an imitation of the vulgar world language: meager, uncivilized and contaminated. A written language of that sort is incapable of projecting much beyond existence, and therefore, it weakens the influence of literature relative to other art forms in Israeli culture. Furthermore, since this written language drains Israeli literature of its cultural qualities (from the literary sources and from earlier layers of the Hebrew language), it reduces its ability to reliably represent sovereignty itself, as sovereignty seeked to cultivate a nativist, original culture, which would have the ability to compete and serve as a replacement for the literary culture written up until that point. A language, which is too dry or empty, just underscores the superiority of the earlier literary culture.



II. Israeli Literature and its Judaic Heritage 

Through the history of the Jewish people, the perception of a Judaic Heritage, crystallized only in recent generations, since the beginning of the Haskala, the Hebrew enlightenment movement about 250 years ago in European Jewish communities. This perception arose in order to respond to the distress of the steadily increasing numbers of secular Jews. The Jewish identity crisis has since not only divided religious and secular Jews, but also, then for the first time, caused a rift in Hebrew literature. Before the rift, which began with the enlightenment movement, there was no distinction between secular and religious works within Hebrew literature. Those authors who through the generations composed religious and faith-oriented works also wrote works, which conveyed secular experiences and thoughts. The works of medieval Jewish authors underscores this fact. Rabbis and other people of profound faith wrote bold secular poetry, books of entertainment, witty rhymes and philosophical literature, in which they dealt with secular subjects examined in works of secular philosophies as well. At the same time, they wrote commentaries on the holy books (the Bible, Mishna and Talmud), books of Jewish Law, Midrash, moral compositions and sacred poetry.

It was only in the second half of the 18th century when Hebrew literature separated into literature which expresses secular emotions and thoughts and literature which expresses values of religious faith. Whether Rabbi Moshe Haim Luzzato is considered the facilitator of this rift, thereby advancing the rift by a few decades or if Moses Mendelson and Naftali Herz Weisel are placed at the head and the rift, delaying it by a few decades, it is clear that these personalities who today are characterized as religious according to any criterion, initiated the division of Hebrew literature into two streams. And since then, over the course of 250 years, the religious-faith stream has been separated from the secular-artistic stream. And, indeed, when speaking today of the New Hebrew literature, the modern era in the history of Hebrew literature, religious literature is no longer included; only those secular-artistic works written over the last 250 years are considered.

The schism between sacred and secular literature engendered artificial limitations in the cultural openness and tolerance among the two Jewish factions created in modern times. A secular Jew does not peruse religious literature so as not to create an unenlightened self-perception, and a religious Jew does not peruse Modern Hebrew literature so as not to be suspected by those around him as a heretic or as one with tendencies beyond the confines of religion. The identification of Modern Hebrew literature as artistic-secular and fictional literature should not cause us to neglect the fact that it was written by Jews, in the language of Jews and primarily for Jews. Therefore, it would be appropriate that religious Jews, too, not turn their backs on it, but rather, read it for their pleasure and to broaden their horizons. By the same token, religious literature, which was written by Jews throughout the generations, was written in the language of Jews for Jews to read. And, therefore, it is appropriate that secular Jews, too, should not turn their backs on it, but rather read it for their pleasure and to broaden their horizons.

The Rift and its Consequences

The rupture in the nation is progressively expanding because neither faction reads the literature favored by the other and is therefore unfamiliar with its experiences and opinions. Religious Jews distance themselves from the shelves of Modern Hebrew literature because their rabbis allow them to own and read religious books exclusively. But we ought not castigate them if the secular, with no authority forbidding them to read religious books, also refrain from reading Judaism-inspired works composed over the generations, reflecting its vision and values, simply because prophets, Tana’im, Amora’im, Savora’im, Ge’onim and rabbis wrote them. Indeed, the situation is so illogical that the non-Jewish reader freely and unabashedly approaches Hebrew book shelves, selecting the Bible, the Midrash and books of mysticism, peruses the works of Maimonides and our other medieval philosophers and discovers in them the foundations of his Christian culture, and only the Jew based on his identity and feelings distances himself from this hidden treasure, without which his culture is disconnected from its roots and suffices with what has accumulated on the shelves of “Modern Hebrew literature”. Why must he relinquish most of Hebrew literature through the generations, filled with daring and animated Judaism and which expresses the experiences, the values and the philosophy of his people, merely because the leaders, educators and intellectuals over the last few generations have inculcated an emotional recoil from it within him? This emotional recoil is responsible not only for the ambivalent attitude of the secular Jew towards his national culture, but also to the weakening of the feeling of national identity within him, after totally distancing himself from the religious bookshelves, which contain the works that expressed that feeling throughout most of the history of Hebrew literature.

It is, of course, impossible to turn back the clock and anticipate the annulment of the rift in the unity of the Jewish people and in its national culture and literature as well, which transpired 250 years ago. Any present-day discussions about the status of national culture must begin with the fact that secularism has not diminished over the generations but rather has spread and proliferated. Nevertheless, the path of the secular Jew has never been easy and even today, is no bed of roses. Of all of the distressing problems which arise in the life of a country in which there is no separation of church and state, the most troublesome – after having opted not to fulfill the commandments and not to accept the authority of the arbiters of Jewish law – is the spiritual problem. The question facing every secular Jew is: Must the price which he pays for choosing a secular lifestyle necessarily be total ignorance of his rich national literature’s spiritual assets which through most of its history was religiously inspired? For a brief period in the 1940s and 1950s, during which the sabra exemplar dominated the nascent State of Israel, many secularists believed that the realization of the vision of establishing a native society totally purified of any traces of Diaspora influence justified paying that price. Furthermore, they then promulgated the idea that in order to be Hebrew Israelis, purified of the Diaspora influence, an estrangement from the previous generations’ Judaism-inspired, almost exclusively religious literature should be encouraged.

As we know, Sabraism was unsuccessful in surviving beyond the State’s first two decades, among other reasons, because of its disgrace in this glorification of ignorance, after it became clear that Israeli culture was incapable of proffering a sufficiently rich alternative to the assets of Jewish culture and after it became clear that the little which was so painstakingly produced and compiled was, for the most part, unoriginal and an imitation – sometimes successful and sometimes totally failed – of works which were displayed and published by artists in the European and American cultural centers. Both the secular artist and his audience recovered from the delusion that a worthy culture could be created here, without the rich layers of Jewish culture throughout the generations. After wrestling with the contradiction between secular values and lifestyle and the religious content and messages of central sections of Hebrew literature throughout the generations, they reached a solution – Judaic Heritage. The solution was based on two assumptions. First: It is the secular Jew’s privilege and the obligation to read, analyze and explore religious literature – the national Judaism-inspired literature written throughout the generations – as the basis of his culture. Second: It is the secular Jew’s privilege and the obligation to investigate and consider religious literature not as a compendium of faith, requiring him to maintain a religious way of life, but rather as a cultural asset which would influence the secular values in his life – personal, social, communal and national.

Two Damage Prototypes

This logical solution, which enables a secular Jew to overcome the seemingly insoluble contradiction in his life, has, to our great chagrin, not gained much currency in the 30 years which have passed since the collapse of Sabraist ideology. The education system has not adopted it as a policy in training teachers and has not based the school humanities curriculum upon it. The Jewish people, including those who reside in Zion, is paying a heavy price for the continued procrastination in adopting so simple a solution, capable of limiting the damage caused by the 250 year-old Jewish identity crisis. Any additional delay will increase the price tag and extend the repayment period. Naturally, this hesitation was manifest in Israeli literature, the literature written since the establishment of the State. The first 50 years of the Israeli period in Hebrew literature can be summed up as a period in which the hostile approach to Judaism – that which ridicules its values, myths and language symbols (metaphors, images and phrases) through which its ideas and visions were expressed – dominated. The hostile approach towards a Judaic Heritage achieved dominant status in Israeli literature not because of its artistic literary accomplishments and not because of its conceptual originality, but because of the preparatory work towards its acceptance which was executed by two damage prototypes, which continue to influence our literary world today.

First damage prototype – the historical legacy which was bequeathed to Israeli literature by Modern Hebrew literature’s three periods (enlightenment, renaissance, immigrations) which conducted a progressively bitter debate with Judaism. The debate between the enlightenment and Judaism was over recognition of the legitimacy of secularism itself. The enlightenment movement demanded that religion recognize that there are two domains in the life of a Jew, the religious domain which obligates him in his “tent”, his home, and the secular domain which obligates him when he emerges from his “tent”. Y.L. Gordon characterized the objective of the enlightenment in his poem “Awaken My People” in the following manner: “Be a man when you emerge and a Jew in your tent.” After the first stronghold of religion’s resistance was conquered, the focus in renaissance literature was over the debate with Judaism regarding a new demand: religious recognition of the legitimacy of earthly salvation. In other words, rather than wait for messianic redemption which requires acceptance of the continued existence of the Jewish people in exile until the advent of the Messiah, renaissance literature demanded religious recognition of initiated national activity which would lead to the Diaspora’s demise. After the renaissance movement conquered that bastion of religious resistance as well, the immigrations literature transferred the debate with Judaism to a new plane: recognition of the need to invert the pyramid through a social revolution which would strengthen the stratum which toils in agriculture and industry and the stratum which is involved in creating new sources of income and means of existence while at the same time reducing the parasitical elite – those who engage in mediation and provide services – despite their important contribution to society, they merely deplete and recycle the limited existing sources of income and means of existence. This legacy encouraged the abuse of Judaism to continue at every opportunity with the establishment of the State.

The second damage prototype – a fashionable, dictatorial norm, which anointed academia as the arbiter of literary criticism and research. This culminated in an extreme, sterile esthetic approach, which separated perusing the text from any historical context. This approach developed in our academia from the spell cast upon a generation of young lecturers during the 1960s by the ideas of the English New-Criticism and new approaches to textual analysis which received the name, “The Study of Literature”. They inculcated into generations of students contempt for research and criticism not only from the esthetic perspective (genre expressions, coordinating structure and content, phenomena in written language and language tactics) but also from a moral-ethical, conceptual-visionary perspective. Even though there transpired in academia an accelerated disillusionment with The Study of Literature’s narrow-minded reading of the text in the final decade of the 20th century, under the influence of new – semiotic and post-modernistic – approaches, a disillusionment which permitted the examination of a text in its historical-social-conceptual context, in academia they still appreciate a writer’s inventive antics with form more than the vision he expressed in the text. Under these circumstances, works are better appreciated and publicized due to a bit of esthetic freshness even if the writer expressed conceptually banal or even poisonous ideas.

Had literary criticism and research only played their roles independent of ever-changing academic fashions, they would have discovered that the expressions of hostility against a Judaic Heritage did not produce great visionary literature but rather inadequate literature conveying shallow thoughts by means of provocative rhetoric. This forum is inadequate to cite examples of all of the works in which authors expressed reservations regarding the approach which displays willingness to adopt a Judaic Heritage, or even demanded to abandon it and cut off all ties with it. Therefore, we will suffice with two artists whose works are chronologically distant enough to prove that the hostile tendency towards the integration of a Judaic Heritage into Israeli secularism is almost as strong in today’s literature as it was with the establishment of the State. The two authors are S. Yizhar and Meir Shalev.

Abandonment of Patriarchal Attribution

In his most significant work, the comprehensive novel, The Days of Ziklag (1958), S. Yizhar summarized the hostile attitude of the Sabras towards Jewish culture. Regarding this subject (and this is not the case regarding other subjects), it is possible to quote the words of the story’s characters without identifying them because together they represent the collective hero – the 1948 generation of warriors. And these are the words which S. Yizhar places in the mouths of the novel’s heroes:

If there is anything substantial within us – it is precisely the opposite of what they asked of example: Love of the Jewish people! Ah, yes. Come for a moment and let’s discuss it. The Jewish people! What Jewish people? Love of the Jewish people? Who loves them? Aren’t we fleeing as if scalded from anything Jewish, and that is our glory and pride. Know explicitly, once and for all, we become sick from anything that even has the slightest trace of it. From Jewish history lessons, with all of the troubles, until the Jewish foods and groan, anything which has a Diaspora accent, Diaspora customs and Yiddish in general – we explicitly wash our hands of any attachment at all, not only to those things which have a trace of religion or tradition, anything that is characterized as “Jewish sentiment”, including cantillation, fish dishes and funeral ceremonies, the whole mix is untouchable due to rancid fat – but also to anyone who comes to demand anything due to his heritage or respect for his feelings from the “Second Immigration” until the “history of the Hagana” (p. 375).

A different Sabra among those who fought at Ziklag expressed his declaration of disconnection through the resolute statement that he and his comrades who were born in Israel were “lads with no patriarchal attribution. They had only paternal attribution. All that preceded their father’s immigration – darkness, until the days of King David”. (p. 556) The fighters on the northern Negev hill, which they identify as Biblical Ziklag are, indeed, very proud of their identity which ties them to a fighting image like King David, who was a Sabra like them and found himself during most of the years of his kingdom at odds with the religious establishment of his era, but not before they emphasize that they feel no connection or belonging to all of the generations of the Jewish people who lived between King David’s time and their own, the exile generations. Another one of the Ziklag warriors exposes his generation’s attitude to the Jewish library:

Incidentally, have you ever heard about Father’s trunk...The box, large and heavy, covered and plated with copper and sitting on the porch in which there is a load of large, heavy books, the legacy of our fathers...crowded parchments, wise and forgotten, silent...they will never be perused again. We just don’t have the heart to throw them out. And also there is this spark in Father’s heart of hearts which flashes: Perhaps one day will come and one of my descendants, perhaps his heart will be spurred to rekindle the coal which has waned or to drink from the locked waterhole. (p. 876)

Approximately 30 years after the publication of The Days of Ziklag, an heir was located who opened the abandoned trunk on the porch and looked through the large, heavy books of the patriarchal legacy. But, woe unto us, his goal was not to rekindle the waning coal, but rather to extinguish it altogether. Like S. Yitzhar, this heir, too, had the dexterity and ability to manipulate the language and produce an amazing result, but in contrast to S. Yizhar who explicitly expressed his philosophy regarding his desire as a Sabra to separate himself from Judaism both as a religion and as a culture in his wonderful Hebrew, the heir utilized his outstanding mastery over the Hebrew language to systematically shatter the Jewish people’s myths. Regarding the contradiction between his awesome Hebrew and his poisonous thoughts manifest in the widely-circulated books of this heir, we can apply the appropriate lines of Rabbi Yehuda Halevi in his poem “Your Words in Passing Myrrh”, in which he responded to the efforts of a friend to dissuade him from immigrating to Zion: “Your words are mixed with passing myrrh, words which bees attack from within” and they are like the Greek wise-saying, “They have no fruit but flowers.” Rabbi Yehuda Halevi knew that there are those authors for whom the flavors of their awesome Hebrew would not produce the Zionist fruit as one might expect from a Hebrew writer. Meir Shalev views this phenomenon of spiritual-conceptual sterility as a source of pride.

The Myth of Land Ownership

In four consecutive novels, published by Meir Shalev to this point, he devised story lines which transpire in the course of the years of Zionist achievement in the Land of Israel, but took care to base each of the plots on a central myth in Jewish culture’s book of books. Meir Shalev’s treatment of the most sacred myths of the national culture is identical in each: After he refutes their likelihood by means of drawing parallels with current events, he empties them of their original meaning and defiles their sanctity by stating that they are false stories. Meir Shalev’s objective in dealing with the myths in this manner is current, a fact which becomes clear from an examination of his novels – which are political novels written in allegorical code, and they, therefore, can be characterized as political allegories.

Only at first glance does A Russian Novel (1988) deal with the disappointment of the second immigration’s members and the village founders from the results of their pioneer actions, disappointment which they express through Mirkin’s instructions to Baruch, his slow-witted grandson, to uproot the orchard and to designate the land to serve as a cemetery. The meaning of this instruction becomes clear to the reader from the words of Pines, the homeroom teacher, who explained to his students the essence of the Zionist revolution:

Here, the Diaspora dead came to be buried in the earth of our land – but we, children, we immigrated to the Land of Israel in order to live here and not to die here. They believed that burial in the Land of Israel would purify their sins and bring them closer to paradise. But we don’t believe in underground rolling and atonement for sins. Atonement for our sins is working the land and not digging graves (p. 210).

In these words, Pines underscored the difference between Messianic redemption which commands Jews to wait in the Diaspora for its advent, to Zionist redemption which encourages them to initiate the return to the homeland and in that way, through their initiative, end the Diaspora. When Mirkin and his friends established the village and planted the orchard, they attempted to facilitate a Jewish revolution. They wanted to transform the land to which, until that point, Jews had only arrived at to be buried, into a place to which Jews would return in order to live. The instruction to uproot the orchard and to return Israel’s earth to the status which it held in the life of the Jewish people before Zionism – as a national burial ground – is, therefore, a manifestation of the failure of the Zionist revolution.

Meir Shalev bases this message regarding the failure of Zionist pioneer effort, on the shattering of myths in the Bible which speak of God’s promise to the nation’s patriarchs to designate the Land of Israel for them and their descendants. Shalev characterizes this promise as a false myth, to which Zionism clings in order to claim that a special connection exists between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel and that the Jewish people have special, unchallenged ownership rights to Israel. Shalev attempts to undermine the myth of the promise of the Land of Israel to the People of Israel by comparing the land to a woman. Only Adam found virgin land over which he had exclusivity. All later owners, including the Jews, had temporary ownership only. The land belongs only to whoever possesses it at any given point, and no one who possessed it at any point in the past can claim that he has exclusive, eternal rights to it – not even one whose ancient texts contain mythical and, therefore, unfounded stories according to which God promised eternal ownership over the Land of Israel to the nation’s patriarchs on different occasions. The failure of the pioneer-Zionist enterprise which Mirkin and his friends established in Eretz Israel proves that it is impossible to acquire ownership over the land through stories about promises from the days of the patriarchs. And as a result, it is impossible to rely on mythical biblical stories in the dispute over the land between the Arabs and us, because they are not historical documents on which a claim of ownership can be based.

The Myth of the Inheritance Struggle

This is not the only myth which Shalev shatters in his writing which justifies the well-known verse from the book of Isaiah, “Your destroyers and obliterators will emerge from within.” The novel, Esau (1991) describes the extended struggle between two brothers over the family bakery. In 1948, the struggle over the bakery ended with the following outcome: Ya’akov got it all (the bakery and the woman) while his brother was dispossessed from everything and was forced to go into exile from his family’s property. This story is an obvious parable: In 1948, the struggle over the Land of Israel ended with the dispossession of Arabs from it, but the struggle between the brothers did not end with that. The novel deals with the anticipated beginning of the second round of the struggle over the inheritance which would remedy the 1948 injustice to the rejected brother. The brother who called himself “Esau” already has the support of the women (who consistently represent the Land of Israel’s earth in Shalev’s novels). Leah, Ya’akov’s wife, supports his desire to renew the struggle over the “bakery” after living in exile – the Palestinian Diaspora – for 40 years and dreamed there of baking bread. Ya’akov’s daughter, Romy the redhead (the traditional color of the Left), also exhibits support for her dispossessed uncle and encourages him to actualize his rights to the inheritance. After Meir Shalev negated Ya’akov’s historical right to the land which was promised to the nation’s patriarch in A Russian Novel, what remained was to confront Esau in the present round with Ya’akov’s laughable, unfit heir whom he managed to father after raping Leah – Michael – (the underground nickname of Yitzhak Shamir, who served as Prime Minister when the novel was published), and that fact points to the resolution which will eventuate at the end of the second round in the brothers’ struggle over the inheritance.

Shalev was not content with the crude political allegory, which he wove in this book, but rather decided to rely on the biblical stories which described how the disputes over inheritance of the land between pairs of brothers concluded during the patriarchal period. The inheritance dispute between the first pair of brothers, Isaac and Ishmael, ended, as we know, in the following way: Abraham gave “all that he had to Isaac. And to the sons of the concubines, whom Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts and sent them away from his son” and they settled in “the east country”. The struggle over the inheritance between the next pair of brothers, Ya’akov and Esau, ended in a similar way. Esau was forced to “go from before his brother Ya’akov because the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together, for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.” Esau wandered from “the land in which his father had sojourned, in the land of Canaan” and settled on “Mount Se’ir, Esau is Edom”. The biblical resolution of an inheritance struggle between brothers is clear: When two brothers have inheritance rights over a patriarchal estate, it is not divided but rather one gets it all and the other must relinquish his rights to it. The winner remains to live in the land and bequeaths it to his heirs, while the son who loses, leaves the land and seeks an alternative residence for himself and his sons. According to the biblical stories regarding our forefathers, the division of an estate between two brothers is not considered an appropriate solution. Both cannot exist comfortably with the division of the estate and the material distress will serve as a source of unending dispute between them. The upshot of the stories is that it is preferable to maintain the estate in its entirety in the hands of one of the heirs and to force the other heirs to find themselves an alternative residence. The population transfer solution in the case of an unresolved bloody dispute, which is also being proffered as the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, is considered acceptable, logical and moral in the Bible, not because it is the ideal solution but because it is capable of resolving unresolved disputes and saving lives on both sides.

Meir Shalev, of course, rejects that solution which was standard in our forefathers’ days in preventing disputes between brothers over an estate, as a solution to the hundred years struggle over the land between Jews and Palestinians at present. That political philosophy is completely legitimate and is certainly equipped with enough reasons to substantiate it. It was illegitimate to mention the mythical biblical stories in the novel’s story line just to portray them as fake and to base the negation of the transfer solution – which some consider to be a moral and practical solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict – on that portrayal. Had Meir Shalev desired to express his opposition to the transfer remedy to the present conflict between us and the Arabs, even though it was accepted in the times of the forefathers, he should have found a way to sound his reasons as part of the novel’s plot or independent of it, but there was no need to brutally trample the truth of these Book of Genesis stories. A respectful attitude towards a Judaic Heritage should have deterred him from doing so.

The Myth of the Successful Courtship

The hypothesis raised in the novel Esau regarding the manner in which the struggle between brothers over the inheritance is resolved, received extensive treatment in Shalev’s third novel, As a Few Days (1994). The novel’s plot exposits at great length and in an elaborate manner, why Zeide will not get the woman and will not produce descendants who will continue the family dynasty, but rather will live a life of celibacy in the company of the village’s crows. The childless Ya’akov Sheinfeld provides the explanation: “People named Ya’akov never have an easy time with love.” (p. 112) Sheinfeld’s explanation is based on the devoted love story between Ya’akov and Rahel, who, as we remember, worked twice seven years in order to win her, and only because of the depth of his love, the years passed quickly and were “in his eyes as a few days”. Ya’akov Sheinfeld’s own story proves in an even more definitive manner, the rule which he articulated, that all Ya’akovs have a hard time with love. He courted Yehudit for nine years (she was Zeide’s mother, who thinks that due to the calf “Rahel” whom she is raising, she is parallel to Rahel in the biblical love story), but ultimately he does not win her but loses to his competitor, Rabinowitz, the enormously powerful “man of the furrows”.

Once again, Meir Shalev defiled a story taken from the lives of the fathers of our nation, which was canonized and became a myth due to the proof that there is a reward for devoted, uncompromising love. Basing the plot of the novel, which tells of the competition between Sheinfeld and Rabinowitz for Yehudit’s heart, on the exemplary love of Ya’akov for Rahel, unnecessarily shatters a central myth in our national culture. Unlike that legend about the prototypical Ya’akov, Gluberman, the animal trader, explains to Zeide that in reality, “man plans and God laughs” (p. 57). And that, indeed, is what actually happened to Ya’akov Sheinfeld. He, the “tent-dweller”, representing our forefather Ya’akov’s descendants, is not the one who wins Yehudit – “Rahel” – but rather, it was Rabinowitz, the “man of the furrows”, who represents the Palestinian, who also had a claim on the woman (the land on which the State of Israel was established). In this way, the injustice, which was described in the novel Esau, is ameliorated in the second round of the struggle over the inheritance.

Shalev advises Zeide (which means grandfather in Yiddish), who is destined to continue the Ya’akov destiny after Sheinfeld, not to believe the biblical love story which guarantees the woman to the devoted suitor in return for his insistent courtship. He was stamped in his childhood and marked with the “eternal image” of his mother. After seeing her naked, his fate was sealed. He will never be able to have his mother and produce children with her to continue the dynasty after him, and no other woman will ever be able to replace her. Therefore, as it is told in a rabbinical midrash, Zeide will forever remain the mythical “Grandfather Israel” – a Jew who wanders the earth and there longs for his “Yehudit”, the state of which he dreamed, and succeeded in its establishment and even maintained for a brief period, until the more worthy “man of the furrows” who was not afflicted by the curse of Ya’akov’s fate, took it over.

The Myth of the Emergence from Slavery to Freedom

In his fourth novel, In His House in the Wilderness (1998), Shalev shatters the symbolism which the Bible attributes to the desert in the story of the Jewish people’s emergence from slavery to freedom. The years of wandering in the desert, in which the Torah revelation took place at the foot of Mount Sinai, are remembered longingly in the wonderful verse of the prophet Jeremiah, “I remember in thy favor the devotion of thy youth...when thou didst go after me in a wilderness in a land that was not sown”. (Jer. 2:2) And, indeed, in the verses of consolation, the prophet describes the renewal of the covenant of the nation with God after the destruction with the words “found grace in the wilderness”. (31:1) God assumes the image of a lover searching the desert for his bride and redeems her once again from enslavement. He does not find an old and sinful nation in the desert, but rather a nation, which has been cleansed from its sin and has been retransformed into a virgin worthy of God’s eternal love. Shalev imputes this myth because the desert represents a period of perfect relations between the Jewish people and their God who are rewarded with special Divine Providence over the nation and the fulfillment of all of his promises to them, including the promise regarding the Land of Israel.

Shalev chose to portray the desert in the plot of his novel, not in the metaphorical sense ascribed to it by the prophet Jeremiah, as a period of perfection in the relations between a nation and its God as it emerged from slavery to freedom, but rather as a geographic-concrete concept which denotes a desolate and remote region whose conditions do not enable human existence and life. The name of the book relies on the story of the death of Yoav ben-Zeruya, a well-known security expert who assisted King David in the establishment of a spacious kingdom and was killed by the order of King Solomon, a king associated in historical memory with peace and hatred of militarism – the diametric opposite of his father whose life was a series of military conquests. After being killed in the Tabernacle, though he held on to the horns of the altar, Kings I (2:34) relates that Yoav was buried in “his home in the desert”. Thus the desert was transformed for Meir Shalev from a symbol of love and renewal between the Jewish people and their God to a concrete place symbolizing death and destruction fit only for burial.

In the story line of In His House in the Wilderness, Shalev established for himself a political-actual goal: To portray the rebirth of the Jewish people in their homeland in the Zionist era as a failure. And he does this by switching the heroic association engraved in the national memory regarding the central story of the emergence from Egypt and trek through the desert towards the homeland with the cynical association implicit in the peripheral story of the death and burial of Yoav ben-Zeruya. The novel tells about Raphael Mayer, the last descendant of a dynasty, who decided to wait for his death in a hiding place in the desert, which is depicted in the plot as a burial ground for families who have exhausted their vitality and must descend from history’s stage. In order to substantiate the justice of Raphael’s conclusions about his “family”, the Jewish people, the novel’s plot expands on the story of the “family” and the events which it experienced in the Zionist era of its history. These events were already recounted in Shalev’s earlier novels and, therefore, it is justified to integrate that which was recounted earlier in order to complete the family history until its final descendant concluded that he would be the last in the dynasty.

According to the novel, Esau, the “family” peacefully resided in Jerusalem for 15 generations and would have been able to continue existing in a poor and parasitical life for many more generations. However, the penetration of a Gentile element into their blood, after Avraham Levi married Sarah, the convert daughter of a Pravo-Slavic pilgrim who immigrated from Russia to Jerusalem with a group of pilgrims dragging along a huge bell from his homeland in order to install it at the top of one of the city’s churches, paved the way for the Zionist course in the “family’s” history. As we remember, Sarah, the convert, stole the Patriarch’s carriage, loaded her husband and two children upon it, and took the “family” out of the city walls to the village. The revolution begins, therefore, with the emergence from Jerusalem – which represents the lazy, passive waiting for the religious-messianic salvation – and with the establishment of the Zionist village – which represents secular-temporal salvation. Abraham and Sarah Levi establish a “bakery” in the village and the revolution which they engendered could have been a success story had a dispute not broken out between “Ya’akov” and “Esau” over the inheritance, a dispute which was resolved in the first round of the struggle between the brothers by the dispossession of “Esau” from “Ya’akov’s” inheritance. The novel concluded with the assumption that in the second round between the brothers, about to commence, the injustice to “Esau” would be ameliorated.

The story of the Zionist village’s failure was recounted in A Russian Novel and was encapsulated in the order which Mirkin gave to his grandson to uproot the orchard cultivated by the village’s founders and to restore the land to its traditional destiny which it had fulfilled during the course of the Diaspora, to serve as a burial ground for all of the elderly who decided to wait in the Holy Land for the messianic resurrection, which, according to tradition, will begin in Zion. The sight of the failed Zionist village is also described in the novel, As a Few Days. All of the farm units established by the village founders are abandoned and eccentric descendants of the pioneers and arrivals from other countries inhabit the village. The continued history of the “family” is recounted in the novel, In His House in the Wilderness. The sin of abandoning “Jerusalem”, which is the sin of impelling the advent of Messiah, led to the sin of dispossessing “Esau” from the inheritance and to the beginning of the hundred-year dispute with the Arabs, and they both caused the failure of the “family’s” settlement in the Kinneret colony. Grandpa Raphael hung himself on a beam in the barn after falling deep into debt. All of the men who were supposed to continue the lineage were killed in various strange incidents. Grandma Shulamit, who was widowed from her husband and grieved after her children, understands, that the attempt to integrate into the village has failed and that she and her widowed daughters-in-law must retreat to within Jerusalem’s walls. This return symbolizes her awareness that the secular-Zionist revolution has collapsed and in order to preserve the family, it is necessary to go back and grasp the alternative solution represented by Jerusalem: Passive waiting for the religious-Messianic salvation. The trek of the family from the “village” back to “Jerusalem” symbolizes the withdrawal from farming, which failed and return to its previous parasitical life. The grandson, Raphael Mayer, understands the meaning of the “family’s” history in the Zionist era and derives from it the following conclusion: Since the family had exhausted its vitality in the Zionist adventure in Kinneret and now death awaits it, it is incumbent upon him as the last descendant of the “family” to bring the family tree to burial in the desert, which serves as the burial ground for families which have exhausted their role in history (p. 405). Loyal to that conclusion, he found an appropriate place in the Judean desert to await his death.

“A Jew is One Who Remembers”

Meir Shalev’s novels are all allegorical and political, and his treatment of Jewish culture’s myths displays his attitude towards them. It turns out that the Bible is perceived by Shalev as a compendium of mythical and therefore, false stories. They are not sacred in his eyes nor does he accept their authority. He belittles the values emphasized in them: faith, vision, heroism and pioneering. His books express rejection of a Judaic Heritage by systematically shattering the national myths. Even by reading each novel separately, one can detect his anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish philosophy. A Hebrew author who makes no effort to integrate a Judaic Heritage in his generation’s evolving national creation, especially during the years of wondrous accomplishments by the nation – when it renews and reinforces its sovereignty in its homeland – is committing an act of cultural destruction and decadence. The actions of an author of this sort are similar to that which Aharon Meged described in a satiric scene which he integrated in the novel, The Living on the Dead (1965). The scene describes the gathering of the bohemians on the eve of the Ninth of Av, the night when the Temple was destroyed, in the “Hamartef Cafe”. In the middle of the gathering, one of the assembled opened the Book of Lamentations

and began reading from it in the traditional tune, trilling the rhymes on each verse. According to his instructions we sat on the floor and answered accompanied by body movements, and Levia was stifling her laughs with her hands every time that he produced an especially funny rhyme.

Aharon Meged was one of the few authors who consistently battled the frivolity with which many of the authors of his guard hastened to divorce themselves from generations of Jewish culture, a divorce to which they attached a presumptuous promise, that they and their disciples would provide an alternative, native Israeli, culture. Binyamin Tammuz was another, who, like the hero of another one of Aharon Meged’s novels, Foigelman (1987), abandoned his Canaanite philosophy – to which he enthusiastically subscribed in his youth – regarding the establishment of a homeland of the “Young Hebrews” in the region. In his important ideological novel, Jacob (1971), Tammuz surprised everyone when he placed words of admiration for his grandfather in the mouth of the hero:

I am proud of you, Grandfather. You were a giant, when you woke up in the morning, among the snows of foreign lands, among the hostile ice, to bring bread to your home, and when you first took a pamphlet of Spinoza into your hand, your heroism was more awesome and more beautiful than anything which I might ever perform on this country’s soil.

And, thereafter, in the novella, Bottle Parables (1975), he added the following regarding Jewish culture:

Since the Jewish nation has, more than any other nation, maintained a tie to spirituality, there is no reason in the world to prevent us from arriving at the following conclusion: Everything that is spiritual, everything that is culture, is essentially Jewish. And for that reason, Mozart was Jewish as were Bach, Rembrandt and many other fine people which are too numerous to list in this forum.

Tammuz’s attachment to a Judaic Heritage over the last two decades of his life underscored the feasibility of an apparently impossible possibility: That a secular Jew can be connected to his Judaism by grasping it as a cultural value. Tammuz expressed his confidence in the feasibility of this possibility in the following hero’s statement who attempts to provide a different definition of a Jew with the help of his cultural identity:

And now I will tell you who is a Jew. A Jew is a person who remembers the story. Even if he doesn’t know what is in the story and even if he only knows that a certain story exists.

Aharon Meged and Binyamin Tammuz represent a very unusual spiritual position in their “Generation in the Land” guard, and each arrived at it because of a common, apparently consequential biographical fact, when assessing the attitude of an artist towards his national culture: Neither was born in Israel, both temporarily adopted the Sabraist ideology and its deportment until they became anxious and retreated from it. In the second, “The New Wave” guard of authors, two additional writers were conspicuous in their attitude towards Jewish culture: Aharon Appelfeld and Dan Tzalka. In their biographies as well, the same not inconsequential fact regarding the attitude of the secular Jew to Jewish culture is conspicuous. Both were born in Europe, came into contact with non-Jews in their youth and arrived in Israel during their teens. They never attempted to join the Sabras and did not share their philosophies. As a result, they were conspicuously anomalous in a guard led by Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and Yehoshua Kenaz.

Memory and the Spark of Brilliance

In the 1970s, Aharon Appelfeld began to deal with the Jewish identity crisis, a crisis which weakened the Jewish people and at its weakest point in history brought it to an existential test during the Holocaust years. At that point, he concluded the early period in his work, in which he dealt with concentration camp survivors, the monasteries and hiding places in the forests and began to describe the assimilated in the provincial and resort towns. In their homes the assimilated Jews employed non-Jewish maids from the surrounding villages. They cared for the family’s children, who in most cases knew nothing of their parents’ Jewish origins. It was these maids who preserved the spark of Judaism in their employers’ families. They remembered the dates of the holidays and their customs and encouraged the family members to keep the holiday customs. Thanks to them, the children of assimilated families like these were able in their adolescence and mature years to successfully embark upon return voyages to the faith, which their parents previously rejected.

One can distinguish between two types of story lines, which describe the voyage of the children of the second generation to assimilation back to Judaism’s warm embrace. The heroes of the stories which transpired before the Holocaust (in the novels At One and the Same Time, Abyss, and All That I Have Loved) carry out a secular return to the faith of their forefathers: They re-identify themselves as Jews, in a hostile, anti-Semitic environment by grasping onto Judaism as a cultural asset. They do not begin to fulfill the religious commandments, but identify them as human values, which became so rare in Europe in the years surrounding the Nazi ascent in Germany. Most are overcome at that stage and are even put to death as Jews, before they manage to complete their trek and reach the Carpathian mountains’ villages in order to totally repent by accepting upon themselves the fulfillment of the commandments. Appelfeld’s heroes in stories of the second type, those which take place during the Holocaust (Katerina, The Ice Mine, and A Journey into Winter) accomplish a religious return to the faith of their fathers. Within the ghetto and the forced labor camp, in incarceration which identified them as Jews, they begin to learn the commandments and even to fulfill them. It was possible to fulfill very few commandments under camp conditions, however, prayer, for example, could be memorized from another prisoner. In this way, prayer was transformed from an otherwise routine action, to a life sustaining action like bread and clothing. Fulfilling the commandment strengthens the soul, and one whose soul is steadfast succeeds in surviving famine and frost.24

In his most comprehensive and significant work, A Thousand Hearts (1991), Dan Tzalka illustrates the contribution of a Jew’s commitment to Judaism through the architect Ezra Marinsky. In his youth, he learned in a “heder” and a yeshiva, however, his uncle interrupted his religious studies and sent him to study architecture. Soon he gained a reputation as a successful architect, and before reaching the age of thirty, he was charged with establishing the Mitridet Hotel, whose construction continued throughout World War I and the October revolution. Though he could have established himself as an architect in Russia, he detested the pogroms and the murderous acts which accompanied the revolutionaries’ progress towards a better world and in 1919, he and his young wife, Raya, immigrated on the deck of the “Roslan”, the “Mayflower” of Zionism, sailing from Odessa to Eretz Israel. Why did he choose to sail specifically to Zion at a time when, because of his profession and the acclaim, which he had already achieved, he could have immigrated to any Western country and been successfully absorbed there? A different author would have been tempted to declare that the hero’s motive was Zionist, but Dan Tzalka chooses a more original way to explain Marinsky’s motives to immigrate specifically to the Land of Israel.

As the “Roslan” nears the coast of Eretz Israel, the omniscient narrator penetrates Marinsky’s consciousness in order to illustrate the feelings of a Jew returning from exile to his homeland. Throughout the entire voyage, the architect projected serenity bordering on indifference and reacted with ironic skepticism to enthusiastic, pathos-filled Zionist statements made by fellow travelers. The final stage of the voyage, described through Marinsky’s eyes, portrays him in a different light:

The sea was full of letters, but wasn’t their form obscured, didn’t their impression pale upon the water? Rashi’s letters flashed like silver hooks upon the waves for naught, Maimonides, Rabbi Avraham ben-Ezra and Rabbi Levi ben-Gershom, people who knew the meaning of the divine voice, what Moshe and the prophets meant, they elevated themselves like a huge wave and Oh Lord, what did you mean, where did you take your people, Israel? Rabbi Shmuel ben-Moshe, Nachmanides, Yitzhak Arame, Abarbanel, Yehuda Halevi – were swept up in the massive wave which raced to the distant coast, where it crashed with a great reverberation on the boulders and the sea shuddered again, poorer, scattered, splintered words, and destroyed letters again rise and spin in its waves. (p. 58)

This is a metaphorical description integrated in a complete picture which compares the “Roslan” to a chariot of fire approaching the coast while it is “decorated with torches...pearl drops, golden tapestries and trails of purple”. The water is a sea of letters from the books of those at the far-reaches of the West who throughout the generations missed and longed to reach Zion, letters which safely guide the ship to shore.

From the description, it becomes clear that Judaism does not only save the individual from hunger and cold, as one can deduce from Appelfeld’s work, but it has the power to save the Jewish people from its demise in exile. One who absorbed a Judaic Heritage and studied all of the writings of the sages, the letters of whose writings Marinsky remembers as he approaches the shores of Zion (Moses and the prophets, Rashi, Maimonides, ben-Ezra, ben-Gershom, ben-Shmuel, Nachmanides, Yitzhak Arame, Abarbanel and Yehuda Halevi) is a Zionist from the start, who at the sight of Jaffa as it appears to him from within the gray mist, will not be able to restrain himself and will break out in tears. Marinsky joined everyone and cried from excitement and joy as sons returning to their homeland. (p. 59) Anyone who, like Marinsky, became a time-centered Jew by means of the Jewish culture which he absorbed in his childhood and youth, the national feeling pulsates within him everywhere and implores him to reach the place destined for the Jewish people – Zion. This type of excitement will not be felt by one who is only a place-centered Jew for whom only nativism supports his national feeling. Even Amos Oz was forced to admit that in his Sabras, Yoni in A Perfect Peace and Boaz in Black Box, the national feeling is shallow because they are merely place-centered Jews. The “spark” which shines in the eyes of Azaria and Somo who were born in the Diaspora is absent in the two Sabras. Azaria and Somo do, in fact, seem ridiculous in the eyes of the Sabras and their opinions regarding current events are extreme, however, because they were born in the Diaspora and are Jews tied to the heritage of the generations, they became time-centered Jews and the “spark” was preserved in them.

Training Agents to Teach the Heritage

Most of the Jewish people in Israel and abroad are secular. The anti-Semitism abroad delays the total spiritual assimilation of the youth, however, as the world becomes more and more open and the integration into it is simplified, it gets progressively easier for a young secular Jew to take the additional step, totally freeing himself from affiliation with the Jewish people. Anyone for whom the continual existence of the Jewish people is important must understand that time is not working in our favor. Only by deepening the ties to the spiritual assets created by the Jewish people throughout the generations and truly studying them, in other words, through education to maintain Judaism as a cultural asset, at least, can the threat be thwarted. Over the course of the few decades which have passed since the establishment of the State, the illusion has been dominant that there is no need for the wisdom of the generations and that it is possible for the young Israeli to maintain his national identity with the help of only nativist elements: Love of the homeland, the Hebrew language, the civic experience (membership in a youth group, serving in the army and the like) and culture which was developed in the course of Israeli existence. All of these are sufficient to provide the youth born and raised in the State of Israel with the Israeli experience, but they lack the emotional or intellectual depth in order to keep them in the country and to motivate them to support Jewish nationalism. The emotional relationship with Jewish culture is capable of preventing our youth from emigrating from Israel and to be deducted from the register of the Jewish people, and it is capable of such because it can offer something that global culture – which is gradually spreading from America to the other continents in the universe – lacks.

The power of the Jewish culture is in its authenticity and its original vision and the education system must emphasize these aspects in the instruction of humanistic subjects. It is not enough to cultivate the Israeli experience in the Jewish youth in Israel and abroad, because that only forms a place-centered Jew. In order to motivate a young person to be a loyal and devoted member of the Jewish people, the Jewish experience must be cultivated in him which will shape him into a time-centered Jew, a history and heritage-based Jew. In order to accomplish this, we require educators who themselves have assimilated the Jewish culture within them. The obligation of the teacher training seminars is to assist them by transforming humanistic studies into an impetus for the fashioning of adults’ worldviews as agents of the historical national culture. Only a teacher-in-training who in the course of his college years acquired sufficient expertise in Jewish culture, discerned its originality and appreciated its vision, will feel the moral imperative to bequeath it to his disciples and be capable of endearing it to them.


III. The Attitude Towards Zionism in Israeli Literature

Haim Hazaz, among the immigrations period’s most important authors, managed to formulate the uniqueness of Hebrew literature within world literature in one of his speeches. He said the following:

Literature in general deals with the person, the individual and everything that is within him and stems from him – Love, desire, secrets of the heart, joy, sorrow, regret, lust, heroism, weaknesses, failures and the like...Hebrew literature is distinct from all of these literary attributes or from most of them listed before you here in that...its only hero is the Jewish people, the Jewish collective. The pathos found in Modern Hebrew literature and the allegories which burst forth and emerge from it stems from this. It goes without saying that it never amused itself with literary schools and trends, it didn’t take pleasure in didactic, sterile and narrow, Jewish intellectualism, nor with the illusions of mysticism and the other condiments of art and refinement...Hebrew literature was completely constructive and purposeful, totally directed inward, completely suffused with a sense of responsibility, concern and anxiety regarding the fate and future of the nation and was full of introspection and gravity – especially gravity.

Hazaz also knew that he did not innovate anything in the characterization of Hebrew literature, as indeed throughout all of the generations it expressed “concern and anxiety regarding the fate and future of the nation”, however, when he expressed them before the delegates of the 25th Zionist Congress, before whom he appeared in Jerusalem in 1961, he expressed his anxiety regarding the transformation which had already begun to prevail in Israeli literature. And indeed, until his premature death in March 1973, he witnessed – just as he feared – the visionary impoverishment of the literature produced within the borders of the nascent Israeli sovereignty and the alienation from Zionism or the redemption as he referred to it in his works, was beginning to dominate.

Over the first 50 years of the State’s existence, Hebrew literature conducted a bitter and obdurate dialogue with Zionism. At first, it was a critical dialogue, but it later became genuinely hostile. In the past, I surveyed the development of this dialogue in two manners. First, I surveyed the content of the claims which literature raised against Zionism both as an ideology and as a movement actualizing the prophecy of the Jewish people’s redemption in the Land of Israel. The claims focused on four failures for which Zionism was portrayed as being responsible.

  1. The Visionary Failure – The prognostic failure of Zionism to correctly predict the manner in which renewed Jewish sovereignty would be established.

  2. The Moral Failure – Its part in the defilement of the vision’s white flag of the vision with moral injustices (dispossession and acts of violence) in the process of the establishment of the Jewish state.

  3. The Genetic Failure – Its responsibility for the progressive deterioration in the quality of the founders’ descendants and in their ability to adhere to the vision.

  4. The Continuity Failure – Its lack of success in maintaining the desire to continue the vision’s actualization in future generations.

Second, I traced the historical events, which most influenced literature’s attitude towards Zionism. This follow-up underscored the decisive influence of the cyclical wars, which the State fought against its neighbors since its inception on the attitude towards Zionism. At this point, I would like to attempt a third, integrated manner which will describe the worsening in the dialogue between literature and Zionism over the course of the State’s first 50 years by means of considering the works of three authors, members of three of the four literary guards simultaneously active at present in Israeli prose. In each of their works, the dialogue with Zionism plays a central role and constitutes a section of considerable scope. The three are: S. Yizhar, among the outstanding members of the first literary guard (“The Generation in the Land”), A.B. Yehoshua, among the central figures in the second literary guard (“The New Wave”) and Meir Shalev, one of the most famous figures in the third literary guard (“The Disillusioned Wave”).

The Disappointment Stage – S. Yizhar

Zionism was portrayed in S. Yizhar’s early work, which reacted to the War of Independence as that which dispossessed the Arabs and caused their misery. In his story “Hirbat Hiz’a”, for example, S. Yizhar bases his indictment of Zionism on hints of the injustice done to the Jews in recent history (on the Holocaust: “The Spandau never granted any rights at all”), on an analogy to the fate of the Jews throughout their long history (“Exile. It played on all of my heartstrings. Our people’s complaint against the world: Exile! And that apparently became part of me, with my mother’s milk. What, essentially, have we done here today?”), and on verses from the Bible which express the eternal moral doctrine of the Jewish people (“when they reach their refuge it will already be night. Their clothes alone provide shelter for their skin, in which they will sleep.”). In his story, “The Captive”, which was written less than a year before “Hirbat Hiz’a”, the warriors are portrayed, by means of violent verbs, as a gang of aggressors who invaded an idyllic place and violated the natural harmony and tranquility which existed there previously:

Among the luxurious golden sorghum, we sneaked and with our heels trampled truncated bushes of oaks gnawed at those flocks, our spiked soles touched upon hot, gray soil...and we broke into a gallop towards the lad who was sitting on a rock in the shade of the oak.

In this way, S. Yizhar, in his stories about the War of Independence represents the first stage in the dialogue of the incipient Israeli literature with Zionism – the disappointment stage. His works were at the forefront of the expressions of disappointment in Israeli prose by emphasizing the first two of the four failures listed above: The visionary failure and the moral failure. Researchers managed to reveal the expressions of disappointment in S. Yizhar’s texts and those written by others who followed in the conceptual path which he forged, but they did not provide a satisfying explanation to the enigmatic connection in those texts between the War of Independence and the disappointment in Zionism. In addition, due to this connection, the incipient Israeli literature ignored the 1948 war’s political and military reality and instead of depicting the magnitude of the victory and the historical significance of the accomplishment which it produced in terms of Zionism’s efforts to establish a State for the Jewish people in Zion, the authors opted instead for a penetrating critique of Zionism.

I want to, once again, suggest an explanation for the strange connection which was then formed in literature between the War of Independence and expressions of disappointment in Zionism: Literature did not reflect the historical substance of the 1948 war but rather the spiritual anguish which affected the warriors in that war. The 1948 generation absorbed Zionism’s innocent assumption that the Jewish state would be achieved in a conciliatory fashion, at home, in school, in youth groups and in the community in which it was raised. Even though the Zionist ideologies disagreed as to which conciliatory fashion would be employed, they all shared the common assumption that Zionism would not necessitate establishing the state through military conquest. Years after I published this explanation in the literature section of Ha’aretz, on May 12, 1967, and I included it in my book, Splinters, Professor Anita Shapira characterized this conclusion, in her book, The Sword of the Dove, as “the defensive ethos” of Zionism. The disappointment developed among the warriors when it became clear to them that Zionism had not prepared them for their generation’s central challenge: the experiences of war. It is possible that had the Jewish people possessed previous practical political experience and a tradition of orderly military thinking, the generation would not have been so surprised by the methods employed in its establishment, and would not have subjected Zionism to criticism so penetrating.

Their disappointment from Zionism and their revenge against it was expressed by the authors of the 1948 generation in a number of ways. First, they shifted the discussion from the concrete events of the war to its moral implications. However, since they recounted the story of the War of Independence in a realistic style, later readers, those unfamiliar with the events personally, were under the impression that they read an accurate description of the 1948 war. Second, they surrounded Zionism with quotation marks in order to mock it. Zionism had just completed its greatest accomplishment, however, in the literature of “The 1948 Generation”, it became a synonym for prattle, for a nice speech composed of words incapable of changing anything of substance. S. Yizhar’s heroes in Days of Ziklag (1958) speak of Zionism like a “spitz”. And earlier, the heroine of Yehudit Hendel in Street of Steps (1955), Erella, thinks in similar terms about her grandfather, Yeshayahu Dagan: “He has a great love for fancy words and enthusiastic speeches...and what are those phrases or speeches? They call it ‘Zionism’.” (p. 144, 1998 edition) And the third way in which they accomplished this, was by abandoning writing about the War of Independence after only ten years. The appearance of Days of Ziklag, for all intents and purposes, marked the end of writing about the most significant historical event in the modern Jewish history.

S. Yizhar did not change his outlook on Zionism after he returned to writing after almost 30 years. In the five books that he published during the course of the 1990s, he continued to attack its nationalist aspirations. In each of them, S. Yizhar identifies “The Land of Israel” in cosmopolitan terms: “Square”, “Field” and “Land”, in order to make the claim that he expresses most explicitly in Lovely Malcolmia (1998): “There was never any homeland here for any one nation...and it always was a land and there were always nations living here. Each nation had its turn.” (p. 105) In Zalhavim (1993), S. Yizhar mentioned all of the masters of the country throughout history in one breath, without ascribing an advantage to any of them: “Our ancestors and the Philistines, the Byzantines, the Arabs and everyone”. However, our “ancestors’” invasion in this generation was the most destructive of all because they came to “develop the backward desolation with sophisticated Zionist blossoming.” S. Yizhar concealed his resolute conclusion regarding the renewal of the presence of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel behind the ironic phrasing. And this is the way it is phrased in Lovely Malcolmia: “How we are strangers here. How they don’t want us in this land. And the land itself doesn’t want us. We are nothing more than another group of invaders who recently insinuated themselves here, after the interminable series of invaders, sons of invaders, throughout the generations who constantly came and went in turn, wave after wave, to inherit a land not theirs.” (p. 177) I am still waiting for the first Palestinian author who will negate in this way, whether in a direct statement or a polished irony, the past or the present Arab right to Palestine.

 The Rejection Stage – Yehoshua

The succeeding literary guard, “The New Wave” guard, did not at first challenge the position expressing disappointment with Zionism as is manifested in the works of “The Generation in the Land” authors. They invested their initial efforts in enhancing their standing by means of existential topics and by composing prose in its less realistic forms (symbolic, allegoric, absurd and ironic). However, the Six Day War forced the authors of that literary guard to reengage Zionism in dialogue. The most outstanding authors were the ones who did not wait for the national feelings of pride which the restoration of additional homeland regions to Jewish sovereignty aroused to fade as they hurried to accuse Israeli society of small-mindedness and of an additional dispossession of the “occupied territories” Arabs from their land. The significant authors from the immigrations and 1948 generations aligned against them, expressing their belief in “Greater Israel” in the pages of This is the Land. The debate over the future of the territories did in fact begin between the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War but it still did not compromise Zionism’s position in the country’s life. The claim that Zionism failed and therefore its right to influence the State’s direction should be negated was only proffered in the wake of the Yom Kippur War. This conceptual position was advocated in the 1970s and 1980s by A.B. Yehoshua who at that point abandoned symbolic, absurd and ironic writing in the short story literary forms and moved to allegorical-conceptual-political writing in the novel form.

After the Yom Kippur War, writing which reacted to current events dominated the works of the authors from the two younger literary guards, the authors of “The New Wave” (Yoram Kaniuk, Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua) and “The Disillusioned Wave” (Yitzhak ben-Ner, David Grossman and Meir Shalev). Since then, the political novel has thrived in Israeli prose. In most political novels, written in the two subsequent decades, the topical messages relied on a multi-generational story line relating the story of three generations in the life of a family in order to describe the failure of the vision towards whose realization the founding father began laboring. The similarity between the multi-generational plot and the broad epic plot of a family saga is merely external. Novella-length stories like Requiem to Na’aman (1978) and Minotaur (1980), both written by Binyamin Tammuz, sufficed to achieve the conceptual purpose for which they were intended. The first political novels of Amos Oz, A Perfect Peace (1982) and Black Box (1987), in which he emphasized Zionism’s responsibility for the genetic failure were equally long and based on the same model.

Yehoshua, who strove to emphasize the continuity failure, strayed from the multi-generational novel, preferring the more limited family saga model. His novels tell of couples whose married life has run into trouble because of the disparities between them. The disparity, which Yehoshua stressed time and again in the couple’s life, was between the spiritual visionary tendency of one to the temporal-practical tendency of his life-partner. The plots of the four novels, which he wrote during these two decades, each describe attempts to dissolve the marriage and separate the elements incapable of peacefully coexisting. In The Lover (1977), Adam (the couple’s earthly element) attempts to separate from Asia (the marriage’s visionary element) by searching for a lover to whom he could deliver her thereby freeing himself from the torments of his conscience, which resulted from a depressing incident which transpired in the War of Independence and involves erotic resurrection from the destruction of another. Adam retreats from his plan when he is surprised to discover that if he wants to separate from the woman, there is someone who is willing to tie himself to her with bonds of love: the Arab boy, Na’im, who became the lover of Dafi, the daughter who so resembles his wife, Asia. The story ends with the hurried return of Na’im to his village in order to distance him from the anticipated danger. The whole incident transpires while at the fringe of the drama’s stage, Zionism is depicted, as expected in allegory, through Veduca’s – an elderly woman who was born the year that Zionism was born – exhaustion.

In Late Divorce (1982), the separation between the mates succeeds a bit better than it succeeded in The Lover. Kaminka (the couple’s visionary element which henceforth will be represented in the series by a hero of European origin) brings a rabbinical group to the hospital in which Naomi (the earthly element which henceforth will be portrayed in the series by the hero’s orientalism) is in order to divorce her. Naomi’s dementia is manifest in an intense desire to stockpile food as a result of the doubling of the State – a transparent hint to the economic boom, which swept the country after its dimensions doubled during the Six Day War. The novel ends strangely: After Kaminka finalizes the divorce he does not leave the gates of the hospital in order to fly to his new lover waiting for him in America, but rather attempts to leave through a gap in the fence and gets stuck there. The strange end to the novel’s story line expresses temporary reservation from a total separation between the visionary (Zionism) and the earthly (the State). It is true that compared to Adam in the previous novel, Kaminka concluded the legal separation from his first wife, however, he does not take advantage of his divorce from Naomi and remains with her in the Israeli insane asylum.

Only in Molcho, his third novel in the allegoric, ideational, political series, does Yehoshua complete the separation of Zionism from the State. Molcho’s wife, with her fatal illness, represents the terminal condition of Zionism. The novel’s story indeed begins with the death of Molcho’s wife (the couple’s visionary element), but for Molcho (the story’s earthly element) it is difficult to part from the deceased as she continues to influence his behavior even after he was widowed from her. This novel presents a new stage in the severing of the ties between the vision and the State. The death of his wife already completed Molcho’s separation from her de jure and de facto. Nevertheless, he must now overcome the emotional connection, which continues to bind him to her. This is the role, which the story assigns to three women with whom Molcho conducts erotic relationships during his first year as a widower. Due to the similarity of each of the three to some aspect – looks or personality – of the deceased, each of the courted women assists Molcho to regain the ability to accept separation from his dead wife. Molcho’s separation from the deceased is completed only when he meets the new object of his love in the remote Moshav Zerua, the girl with the leadership qualities who shares his temporal-oriental mentality. Molcho knows that he must wait until she matures, but thanks to her, for the first time, he experiences the sense of freedom for which he longed. He feels that he finally succeeded in liberating himself from the deceased and prepares himself for his new love. However, he, too, knows that the previous connection with the deceased, exacted a steep price from him: He was “left back”, in other words, he lost valuable time due to his temptation-surrender to the ideology which so enchanted him in his youth, however it squeezed his personality from him and almost destroyed his masculinity.

After realizing the separation between vision and State in Molcho, Yehoshua could suggest, in Mr. Mani, the fourth novel in the series, the Zionist alternative to Western Zionism, which in his estimation prevented the State from arriving at a resolution of the Arab-Israel conflict. Through the Mani family lineage, the novel points to the Oriental Zionist solution (one which never existed, though Yehoshua tried so hard to ascribe it a dynastic character), a solution which had never been tried. In contrast to Western Zionism, which was inconsiderate of the national aspirations of the Arabs when conceiving its solution – the establishment of the Jewish state, each Mani in his generation attempts to establish the Jewish hold in the Land of Israel by means of a solution of compromise with the Arabs. In the three previous novels, Yehoshua first gradually severed the State’s ties with classic Zionism, the western-Ashkenazic one, and thereby laid the groundwork in “Mr. Mani” for the solution which he wanted to suggest for the Arab-Israel conflict: To call the ideology of compromise with the Arabs in the Land of Israel – Zionism. In this way, Yehoshua moved Israeli literature from the disappointment stage led by S. Yizhar, to the rejection stage of Herzl’s political Zionism, which he portrayed as unfit to dictate policy to the State. His demand to separate the vision from the State was raised in the four novels in order, at long last, to enable the State to be run in accordance with the realistic possibilities in the Middle East of the late 20th century.

The Abandonment Stage – Meir Shalev

The solution of separation between Zionism and the State was apparently not extreme enough after the Lebanon War and the intifada. The next, definitive stage, which ordains for Zionism a decree of post-Zionism, can be found in Meir Shalev’s books. In his four novels, Shalev tells of the deterioration of the Zionist village from a brief success to a continuing failure in order to finally establish that it is necessary to immediately abandon Zionism and be liberated from the death rites which developed to preserve its memory. One must begin Meir Shalev’s fictional story about the Zionist village, with that which is recounted in the novel, Esau (1991), beginning with “the family” departure from Jerusalem. There it is told that the great-grandmother, Sarah, the convert, despised Jerusalem. She stole the Patriarch’s carriage, loaded the twins and her spineless husband – an exemplary descendant of the parasitical life led in the city, which trains its children to passively await messianic salvation – onto it and brought the family to the village. In the move from Jerusalem to the village, the whole Zionist story is encapsulated: Taking fate into one’s own hands and realizing salvation by means of auto-emancipation. Sarah hopes to initiate the new Jewish dynasty – supported by manual labor (“inverting the pyramid”) – by settling in the village and baking bread in the bakery. The significance of the departure from “Jerusalem” the village is illuminated by Pines, the teacher in A Russian Novel (1988), the first novel in the series. He explained to generations of students that at the village settlement, Zionism is changing the history of our people. In this revolution, Zionism is canceling the Land of Israel’s traditional role throughout the course of the Diaspora as a national burial ground. Thanks to Zionism, Israel was to become a national homeland in which our people would renew their temporal lives like all other nations. The failure of Zionism is illustrated in the bequest of one of the village’s founders, Mirkin, to his grandson, Baruch Shinhar, to uproot the orchard and turn the land into a “pioneers’ cemetery”.

In the novel, Esau, the reason for the failure of the family’s settlement in the village is articulated. The temporal-Zionist salvation which was initiated by the great-grandmother in taking the “family” out of “Jerusalem”, led to a dispute between her two twins over the inheritance. At the conclusion of the first round of their struggle, which takes place around the year 1948, Ya’akov gets the woman and the bakery and the ability to produce children and bake bread, while his brother, who adopts the nickname “Esau”, is forced to exile himself from the land. Ya’akov’s acquisition of the inheritance transferred the Jacobean fate to his competitor. Esau, for the first time, experiences life in exile, a barren life during which he dreams of returning to the woman stolen from him and baking bread in the bakery from which he was dispossessed. It is obvious that the Palestinian narrative of the Arab-Israeli conflict is recounted in this parable.

The novel As a Few Days (1994) also tells of the failure of the settlement in the village. At its center as well, is the struggle over the woman’s heart, but this time there are three competitors for her: Globerman, Rabinowitz and Sheinfeld. In this novel, the failure of the Zionist village is manifest in the congregation of eccentrics who find something there and in the confusion of Zeide, the grandson of the founders of the village, who doesn’t know in the footsteps of which of the three men who courted his mother, Yehudit, he should follow. The dilemma, which confronts Zeide (the mythological Grandfather Israel), is whether to continue Sheinfeld, the “tent-dweller’s” Jacobean plight, or to follow the path of Rabinowitz, the “man of the furrows”. Like all of the grandchildren telling the story of Zionism in Shalev’s novel, Zeide, too, will not produce a new generation for his nation’s dynasty and will wait for the end of his life watching the crows and reconstructing his indefinite past and undetermined future.

The village, which was not identified in the first three novels, is identified in the novel In His House in the Wilderness (1998), as the Kinneret settlement, a well-known and significant site in Zionist history in Israel. The second immigration pioneers founded Kinneret in 1909. The story begins with the “family’s” abandonment of the settlement, when their expectations to support themselves through agriculture were disappointed. The survivors retreat to Jerusalem, which is described in the novel as a city which absorbs the survivors of the Zionist adventure in three institutions: A house for the blind, an orphanage and an insane asylum. In this way, Jerusalem, too, assumes its symbolic significance in the story as a city representing the stage before the secular-Zionist redemption, the stage of passive waiting for the religious-messianic redemption. The retreat from the “village” to “Jerusalem” just eternalizes Zionism’s failure. The grandson, Raphael, who narrates the story of “the family” in this novel, describes the death rites customary in the house in which all of the widows – who survived after the premature deaths of all the men in various catastrophes – raised him and those which he learned from their neighbor, Avraham, the stone-mason.

Raphael’s education is completed when he realizes that his destiny is to end the failed Zionist adventure with a post-Zionist solution: To perform for Zionism the ultimate act of kindness and bury it in the most appropriate place, the desert, a cemetery for visions of that sort, which were corrupted in their implementation, and after claiming the lives of those who implemented it, depress the survivors with death rites in their memory. This last novel is the most decisive of all. In it, the suggestion is not only to take Zionism to its appropriate place, burial in the desert, but also to bear the consequences of having been enticed by its vision. Raphael accepts the edict and awaits his death in the desert. He does not want to father a descendant and perpetuate the existence of the dynasty, even though the continuity of “the family” is totally contingent on his offspring, after all the men died and after his sister joined the widows and refused to marry. And, indeed, Raphael relocates to the desert, not as a dreamy representative of the Society for the Protection of Nature, but as the last descendant of a dynasty, a descendant upon whom the responsibility to bury Zionism in the primeval desert was placed, so that it may be swept into the Dead Sea.

The Buds of Return

To this point, we have discussed the gradual, deepening abandonment of Zionism as manifest in the works of three of the most influential authors, whose works also represent the conceptual position of most of their colleagues in their respective literary guards. The few who strayed from the majority position in their literary guard paid, and continue to pay, a heavy price for doing so. Their different assessment of Zionism and its appropriate role in the life of the State remains unheard, or more precisely, its sounding is prevented. Only a handful of writers protect the eternal light from being extinguished. These authors stood up to the falsehood in the post-Zionist philosophy and the frivolity of its proponents in order to warn against the abandonment of Zionism which threatens the continued existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Their obstinacy only produced the beginning of an attitudinal change towards Zionism in the course of the 1990s, the final decade of the 20th century.

The trend opposed to the one described in the works of the aforementioned three authors, was manifest by the authors listed below, in the renaissance of the Zionist novel, whose four characteristics crystallized in the prose of the immigrations period:

Expansive Story Line – the story line stretches over the Zionist time expanse in the life of the Jewish people.

The Hero’s Image – An image which is the opposite of the image of the anti-hero so common in Israeli prose for years, an image capable of leadership and of fighting for the realization of the national vision of redemption of the Jewish people in their homeland.

Ideological Causality – The heroes’ motives in the Zionist novel are grounded in Zionist ideology, in conjunction with human motives – psychological, social and economic – which generally motivate literary characters.

Language Replete with Allusions – which makes reference to phrases and images from literary sources on which Zionist philosophy is based.

The renaissance of the Zionist novel was led by Moshe Shamir in his trilogy Distant From Pearls, the publication of whose installments stretched over twenty years (1973, 1984, 1991). In this epic wide-ranging work, Shamir continued to develop the central idea, which he raised in My Life With Ishmael (1968), that the Six Day War prepared Zionism for its finest hour. Through the wondrous image of Leah Berman, Shamir tells of the history of the “mini-revolution” and its success in the shadow of the class-related and cosmopolitan “great revolution” in whose victory so many believed and contemptuously rejected Zionism as hopeless. Natan Shoham also compared the two revolutions in his ironic novel Bone to Its Bone (1981), but continued to describe people’s blindness regarding Zionism also in Rosendorf Quartet (1987). In his novel, The Heart of Tel Aviv (1996), he chose to recount Zionism’s success through the nondescript residents of one house in the first Hebrew city in order to explain its success through its popular nature as a movement of all segments of the nation.

Aharon Meged chose the satirical path to battle post-Zionism in the novel, Iniquity (1996), in the tale of the poet Levinstein who discovered after the Six Day War that a Zionist poem, similar to the one which he published after the War of Independence and for which he was widely lauded, was rejected by all editors because “love of the land, its expanses, its skies, its contiguity, is forbidden love! It is sinful! It is permitted to speak of those only with cynicism and irony.” However, Meged did not suffice with that and in his next novel, Love-Flowers from the Holy Land (1998), reacted to the blindness of the post-Zionists towards the success of Zionism with the aid of an English pilgrim, Beatrice Campbell-Bennett, who arrived in Israel at the turn of the century. Despite her difficult personal problems, she discerns that an unusually daring enterprise is developing in the Holy Land by wonderful Jews the likes of whom she never encountered in England and whom her anti-Semitic father never imagined existed anywhere on Earth, Jews whom the Diaspora did not cause them to forget their love of Zion. The influence of Zionism on a native-born Israeli which manifest itself in his simple love for his homeland was told by Hanoch Bartov in the novel, Halfway Out (1994). The renaissance of the Zionist novel specifically in the writings of the authors belonging to the first literary guard is the most conspicuous phenomenon in the return to Zionist trend, though the phenomenon already began in the writings of authors of the second literary guard in A Thousand Hearts by Dan Tzalka (1991) and in two novels by Eli Amir, the more successful, Farewell, Baghdad (1992) and the less successful Saul’s Love (1998).

The Moral Choice

Beyond their literary significance, I appreciate these novels for their contribution in reassessing two accusations which had also been previously leveled against Zionism: The first – rethinking the assessment of its morality (challenging the doubt which S. Yizhar raised on this issue in his works). The second – rethinking the assessment of Zionism’s success as the movement for the redemption of the Jewish people (challenging Yehoshua’s resolute rejection of the State’s ability to derive any benefit from its continued affiliation with Zionism). And I believe that the day is not far off when the errors committed in Israeli prose regarding Zionism, some rashly and some intentionally, will be corrected by means of a third revision – works which will perpetuate the Zionist philosophy regarding the realization of the redemption in its entirety (challenging the declaration in Shalev’s works that it is “post” and has completed its role in the life of the nation).

And as for the dialogue which Israeli literature had conducted with Zionism to this point – it can be summed up in a number of conclusions:

  1. This dialogue demarcates the literature which was written since the establishment of the State as a new literary period in the history of Hebrew literature, the Israeli period, as distinct from the three previous periods of “Modern Hebrew literature” (the enlightenment period, the renaissance period and the immigrations period). During those three periods, Hebrew literature conducted a dialogue with Judaism, but since the establishment of the State, the dialogue with Judaism ended and the dialogue with Zionism began. This dialogue began in 1948 with disappointed, though still legitimate criticism of Zionism and by the State’s 50th year, deteriorated to an anti-Zionist, post-Zionist position.

  2. This was not a somnolent and static dialogue but rather a gradually developing dialogue, depicted through central sections of the works of three authors from the first three literary groups in Israeli literature. Three stages can be discerned: the disappointment stage, the rejection stage and the abandonment stage.

  3. The deterioration in the attitude towards Zionism in the course of this dialogue during the years of sovereignty was influenced by fluctuations in the national mood, rather than by Zionism’s actual and objective accomplishments as an ideology and a movement working towards its actualization by facilitating a reorientation of the Jewish people from existence in conditions of exile to existence in conditions of redemption and political independence.

  4. The national mood in Israeli society tended towards fluctuations under the influence of events which were existentially the most decisive in the course of the State’s existence – the wars which the State waged with its neighbors – from the 1948 war through the Intifada war.

  5. Each war’s influence on the national mood did not necessarily correspond with its military outcome. On the contrary, it almost always deviated from the military result due to the political influence possessed by those who dictated the national mood at the time. The deviation from the historical truth had serious ramifications on the power of the State of Israel, which continues its existential battle with its neighbors.

  6. The role of Hebrew literature in the State of Israel at this time is to rehabilitate trust in Zionism which, bottom line, is not only the 20th century’s singular successful revolution, but it is also the only prospect capable of ensuring continued Jewish existence in the future. One cannot rule out mobilization in Zionism’s favor any more than mobilization against it, but as all great literature is mobilized for some purpose – artistic or principled – the choice to side with the Zionist vision is a moral choice as it, in and of itself, is incapable of impeding authors possessing proven literary talent. It will only add depth and meaning and almost certainly longevity to the works of writers with that sort of talent. Estrangement from the vision and its abandonment enable, apparently even those with limited talents to distinguish themselves with provocative, cynical and banal ideas which are of no benefit to any nation and certainly not to a nation struggling for survival.




Recommendations for expanded readings on the topics raised by the author in this policy paper which express his outlook on Israeli literature and his assessments of its accomplishments and its shortcomings.

Hazaz, Haim, The Right of Redemption, (1977).

Oren, Yosef, Books in the series “The History of Israeli Fiction”, published by Yahad, Rishon LeZion:

Splinters (1981).
The Disillusionment in Israeli Prose (1983).
The Israeli Short Story (1987).
Zionism and Sabraism in the Israeli Novel (1990).
A Salute to Israeli Literature (1991).
The Pen as a Political Trumpet (1992).
Identities in Israeli Prose (1994).
Trends in Israeli Prose (1995).
New Voices in Israeli Press (1997).
Israeli Literature – Where To? (1998).
Best-Sellers and Quality Books in Israeli Prose (2000).
The Feminine Voice in Israeli Prose (2001).

 Shapira, Anita, The Sword of the Dove, (1992).

 Articles by the author:

“The Fear of the Impulsive Zionism”, Moznaim, September 1974.
“Language in Bad Shape”, Ma’ariv Literary Supplement, October 28, 1988.