HEBREW LITERATURE, MODERN
DEFINITION AND SCOPE
THE EUROPEAN PERIOD (1781–1917)
Haskalah Literature: The Beginnings of Modern Hebrew Literature in Europe (1781–1881)
Naphtali Herz (Hartwig) Wessely
Types of Literature
Ancillary Centers of the Early Haskalah
The End of the German Haskalah
THE GALICIAN HASKALAH (1820–1860)
THE RUSSIAN HASKALAH (1840–1881)
The Modern Period (1881–1917)
RUSSIA AND POLAND
The Age of Aḥad Ha-Am
The Age of Bialik.
THE PALESTINIAN ḤALUTZIC PERIOD (1905–1948)
The Ottoman Period (1905–1917)
The Mandate Period (1917–1948)
The Genesis of Women's Hebrew Literature
Women's Prose Writing in the Period of the Yishuv (1882–1948)
THE ISRAEL PERIOD (1948–2005)
THE NEW WAVE
The 1980s and After
National Renaissance Period (1880–1947)
REALISTIC HEBREW DRAMA
SYMBOLISM AND EXPRESSIONISM
THE "ḤALUTZ" PLAY
Drama in Israel
THE SIX-DAY (1967) AND YOM KIPPUR (1973) WARS AS TURNING POINTS
THE MOBILIZATION OF HISTORICAL AND BIBLICAL DRAMA
THE HOLOCAUST AS SOCIO-POLITICAL METAPHOR
ALONI AND LEVIN
THE PRIVATIZED ERA
Introduction – Beginnings of Literary Criticism
18th Century – Normative-Aesthetic Approach
ENCOMIASTIC AND EPISTOLARY CRITICISM
Late 19th Century – The Limits of Hebrew Literature
AESTHETIC APPRECIATION FOR ITS OWN SAKE
THE AHAD HA-AM AND BERDYCZEWSKI CONTROVERSY
Early 20th Century – Aesthetic and Ideological Concepts
CRITICISM BY POETS AND WRITERS
BEGINNINGS OF CRITICISM IN EREẒ ISRAEL
CRITICISM IN THE UNITED STATES
EREẒ ISRAEL AFTER WORLD WAR I – OLD AND NEW CRITERIA
Mid-20th Century – New Perspectives
The 1970s and After
TRANSLATIONS OF HEBREW LITERATURE
Facts and Figures
Translations of Books for Children and Youth
Translations into Arabic
Translation into Special Languages
Anthologies and Special Journal Issues on Hebrew Literature
HEBREW LITERATURE IN THE UNITED STATES
Sporadic Publication and Literary Curiosities (1654–1870)
The Early Modern Period (1870–1918)
After World War I
The entry is arranged according to the following outline:
For the purposes of this article the term modern Hebrew literature designates belles lettres written in Hebrew during the modern period of Jewish history.
The definition is more limited than the generally accepted notion that modern Hebrew literature includes everything written in Hebrew during the modern period (e.g., Y.F. Lachower, Toledot ha-Sifrut ha-Ivrit ha-Ḥadashah (1928–48); J. Klausner, Historyah shel ha-Sifrut ha-Ivrit ha-Ḥadashah (1930–1950) and others). This view has some validity concerning Hebrew letters written before 1914 when most Hebrew authors, in addition to belles lettres, wrote historical or philosophical works, journalistic articles, and even popular science, all of which were generally held to be "literature." Dov Sadan
The development of modern Hebrew literature represents an almost unique phenomenon in world literature. It is now generally assumed that Hebrew ceased being the spoken language of most Palestinian Jews even before the close of the biblical period, albeit evidence exists that small pockets of Hebrew speakers persisted even in the mishnaic period. In the Middle Ages, it became leshon ha-kodesh ("the sacred tongue") and the overwhelming number of books written in Hebrew were of a religious nature. Side by side with these religious works a secular or quasi-secular literature also developed – in Spain, Provence, and Italy. By the time modern Hebrew literature began, however, this literature was on the wane, even in Italy, its last stronghold. Moreover, modern Hebrew is, on the whole, the work of Ashkenazi Jewry and among them secular literature rarely appeared before modern times.
Hebrew was not only the literary language of medieval Jewry but also served as its lingua franca. Nevertheless, it had to be rendered flexible before it could adequately be used as a language to depict modern life. The literary problem created by the radical difference between Hebrew and Yiddish, which most of the Hebrew writers and readers spoke, became crucial with the rise of realism on the Hebrew literary scene. It was difficult to write in Hebrew realistic dialogue which was spoken in another tongue.
To some degree, too, the command of Hebrew was a class phenomenon. Large segments of the Jewish working class never attained sufficient competence in the language. It is therefore no accident that as Yiddish literature developed at the close of the 19th century, it not only enjoyed greater popularity but politically tended to be more radical than Hebrew literature. Moreover, it was natural that Hebrew would become the vehicle of the Zionist movement, while Yiddish, the language of the Diaspora, was that of Jewish movements which were Diaspora orientated. On the other hand, it would be oversimplifying matters to claim that the Yiddish-speaking masses were capable of understanding many of the sophisticated modernist poets and writers of fiction who were the proponents of Yiddish literature in its heyday. In any society most significant literature has always been and is still produced and read by the educated segment.
Unlike the authors of many "folk" literatures which developed in Europe during the nationalist period (19th century), Hebrew writers had the advantage of possessing a rich tradition and a large corpus of "classical" literature: the Bible, the Talmud, the Midrashim, the prayer book, medieval religious and secular poetry and prose, and the prose works of various pietistic groups. As modern Hebrew literature developed, the classical tradition proved to be a mixed blessing. Writers were overwhelmed particularly by the literary excellence of the Bible and often became discouraged in the face of its achievement. It is, however, to the credit of contemporary Hebrew writers that this is no longer a major problem. Without abandoning its classics, Hebrew writing is no longer frustrated by them.
From a statistical point of view Hebrew is a minor literature. It is currently estimated that there are approximately seven million people who speak Hebrew, of whom the large majority are either children or semiliterates in the language (including both poorly educated Israel natives and the very large number of immigrants who are highly educated but read European languages). Hebrew bestsellers have a circulation of 10,000–50,000. Hebrew poetry on the other hand is read by a comparatively large group of Israelis and dozens of volumes of verse are published annually. Being a "small" literature, written and read by a society whose intellectuals belong to a variety of language cultures, Hebrew literature is strongly subject to multifarious European literary influences. The interplay of Russian, Polish, English, French, and German literatures with Hebrew literature has greatly enriched the Hebrew literary scope and has given it its special flavor.
Scholars disagree as to when modern Hebrew literature actually began. There are generally two schools of thought:
(1) those who adhere to Gershom *Scholem's views and consider the disruption of the medieval authority of the Jewish community in the wake of the Shabbatean debacle at the close of the 17th century the starting point of the modern age (Simon Halkin, Modern Hebrew Literature (1950), 29–32);
(2) those who hold that the German Haskalah (see below) of the latter half of the 18th century marks the beginning (J. Klausner; Historyah etc.; B. Kurzweil, Sifrutenu ha-Ḥadashah: Hemshekh o Mahpekhah?, 1959; Ḥ.N. Shapiro, Toledot ha-Sifrut ha-Ivrit ha-Ḥadashah, 1940). *Lachower, without reference to Scholem's thesis, opens his history with Moses Ḥayyim *Luzzatto (1707–1746) contending that not only was he the cultural heir to the Italian-Hebrew humanists of the 16th and 17th centuries, but was influenced by modern non-Jewish writers and by their secularist ideas (a view held by Ḥ.N. Bialik, Shalom Streit, N. Slouschz, and Avraham Shaanan). Scholem's thesis explains the inner causes which ultimately led to the development of the "anti-establishment" movements of the late 18th and early 19th centuries (Ḥasidism and Haskalah) and points out that proto-Haskalah ideas were current among the disillusioned Frankists in Prague during the 18th century ("Mitzvah ha-Ba'ah ba-Averah" in: Keneset, 2 (1937) see also Commentary, 51 (Jan. 1971), 41–70). However, the secularism which clearly identifies the modern period first received significant literary expression in Germany during the Enlightenment (for contrary opinions see B. Kurzweil, Ba-Ma'avak al Erkhei ha-Yahadut (1970), and Ḥ.N. Shapiro, Toledot ha-Sifrut ha-Ivrit ha-Ḥadashah).
Those who would begin modern Hebrew literature with Moses Ḥayyim Luzzatto agree that its basic characteristic is its secularism but assert that Luzzatto's plays were products of the "new spirit" and that these in turn affected subsequent modern Hebrew literature. Luzzatto's world view however was not modern. He was a kabbalist and the bulk of his works were religious and mystical. His poetics too are clearly based on medieval notions; Leshon Limmudim (1927) draws heavily on Quintilian. Moreover, while he influenced David *Franco-Mendes during his stay in Holland, his plays were not known to the early German Hebrew authors.
Historians also disagree as to the periodization of modern Hebrew literature. Lachower follows a geographical-chronological pattern in the first two volumes of his history: (1) "From the Growth of the New Literature in Italy until the Decline of the Haskalah in the West" – Italy, Holland, and Germany (1750–1830); (2) "The Early Days of the Haskalah in the East until the Close of the Haskalah Period" – Austria, Galicia, and Russia (1820–1880). In volume 3 he shifts to a conceptual definition: "From the Beginnings of the Jewish National Idea until our Times" – Russia (1860–1920). *Klausner, proposing a more "literary" scheme, limits his history to the Haskalah (1781–1881) dividing it into three periods which are also defined conceptually and geographically: (1) the rationalist, pseudoclassical period (1781–1830) – the defense of the Enlightenment in Germany against the attack of the traditionalists; (2) the romantic period (1830–1860) – the reconciliation between religion and the Haskalah in Galicia; (3) the realistic period (1860–1881) – the attack of the Haskalah on religion in Russia and Poland.
B. *Kurzweil prefers a cultural-historical scheme distinguishing between (1) the "naïve Haskalah" which attempts to reconcile modernism with religion (1781–1830); (2) the militant reformist Haskalah (1830–1881) with its humanist-European orientation; (3) the period of disillusionment with European humanism (1881–1948). He argues unconvincingly that a fourth period, characterized by an apocalyptic vision of national sovereignty, begins with Uri Ẓevi *Greenberg. The schemes of Klausner and Lachower are faulty because they treat early modern Hebrew literature as a mature literature when in reality it possessed little aesthetic value prior to 1881. Most of the authors were provincial, used a cumbersome language, and hardly had acquired the European education and the standards of judgment which they were avidly seeking. Their works must therefore be considered as precursors of a literature which was to reach maturity only at the close of the 19th century.
The following scheme reflects more accurately the periodization of modern Hebrew literature:
I. The European Period (1781–1921)
(1) Haskalah Literature: the beginnings of modern Hebrew literature in Europe (1781–1881): (a) The German Haskalah (1781–1830); (b) The Galician Haskalah (1820–1860); (c) The Russian Haskalah (1840–1881)
(2) Modern Hebrew Literature in Europe: in Russia and Poland (1881–1920)
II. The Palestinian-Ḥalutzic Period (1905–1948)
(1) The Ottoman period (1905–1917)
(2) The Mandate period (1920–1948)
III. The Israel Period (1948 to the present)
The first center of modern Hebrew literature developed in Prussia (particularly in the cities of Berlin and Koenigsberg) among the new Jewish merchant and managerial class, which had risen to social and economic prominence during the latter half of the 18th century. This new class discovered in the ideology of the German Aufklaerung ("Enlightenment"), with its emphasis on "reason," "good taste," and "the rights of man," a rationale that would justify their abandonment of many Jewish religious practices which had hindered their access to gentile society. It would also support their demand for social and political rights in a society which judged a man's worth by his ability and not by his origins. They believed that the realization of this ideology would transform the Jews into productive and enlightened citizens of the emerging modern state. When the Hebrew writers of Germany began propagating the "new philosophy" they selected the Hebrew word haskalah as the equivalent for the German Aufklaerung. Etymologically haskalah is derived from the root שׂכל denoting understanding, reason, or intelligence. Haskalah meant a commitment to reason rather than to revelation as the source of all truth, or, perhaps more correctly, the identification of revelation with reason. The maskilim averred that the practices, beliefs, and mores of Judaism and Jews must be in consonance with reason and that those which were not were basically not Jewish but distortions of the lofty purposes of Judaism.
The maskilim chose as a model the enlightened gentile merchant class which had accepted good taste and reason as its two social criteria. Their world view included not only the realms of science and philosophy but also the whole area of social behavior and aesthetics. Jews must not only abandon their medieval patterns of thought but also their outlandish manners, dress, and taste and adopt those which are in accord with the new order of things. The task of the maskil was lehaskil ("to be enlightened" and "to enlighten others"). For the maskil, education was not only the tool for the dissemination of the new truth but formed the very basis of his aesthetic theory. The prime purpose of literature was to educate the reader morally, socially, and aesthetically. Haskalah literature was therefore didactic and propagandist, aiming at bringing enlightenment to the "benighted" and backward Jewish communities of Germany and Eastern Europe.
It was natural for the Haskalah to choose Hebrew as its linguistic vehicle. The Yiddish dialects had no literary prestige at the time and were especially repugnant to maskilim who
The most significant personage of the German Haskalah, Moses *Mendelssohn, wrote mainly in German. In his literary and philosophical works he attempted to harmonize traditional Judaism with the new rationalist-deistic philosophy of his times. Mendelssohn also dealt with general philosophical problems and was accepted as a cultural, if not a social, equal in gentile circles – a symbol of the new type of Jew for both gentiles and Jews. Though he wrote very little Hebrew, he was the unchallenged leader of the German Haskalah and the initiator (or at least the one who encouraged) its main literary projects: the Biur and Ha-Me'assef (see *Me'assef), the first Hebrew periodical. The Biur was at first favorably received by Western European traditional Jewry but soon, for fear that it would lead to cultural assimilation, was denounced as heretical. On the other hand, enlightened Jews hailed it as a major achievement. It served as a textbook to generations of East European Jews in the study of literary German, which in turn was a means to obtain secular knowledge. Ha-Me'assef, a Hebrew monthly magazine, modeled after the Berliner Monatsschrift, was founded in 1783 in Koenigsberg by a group of young maskilim. It appeared intermittently until 1829. All of the leading figures of the early Haskalah contributed to Ha-Me'assef including Moses Mendelssohn, Naphtali Herz *Wessely, Solomon *Maimon, David Franco-Mendes, Isaac Abraham *Euchel, Isaac *Satanow, and Shalom b. Jacob *Cohen. Its influence during the earlier years of the German Haskalah was great, but with the Germanization of Jewish intellectual life its circulation dropped off. Readers of German were unable to abide its lower literary and critical standards. From a purely literary point of view Ha-Me'asef was not very important. It is significant only as a pioneering project of modern Hebrew literature.
The leading Hebrew author of the German Haskalah, Naphtali Hartwig Wessely (Naphtali Hirsch Weisel), wrote only in Hebrew although he knew several European languages, including German. Through his pamphlet Divrei Shalom ve-Emet (1782), an impassioned plea in support of the edict of toleration (1781), he won renown as the foremost apologist of the Haskalah. In it he urged the adoption of modern educational methods and the need for "human" knowledge (science, history, and social ethics) as well as "religious" knowledge.
Wessely's main contribution to modern Hebrew literature however is Shirei Tiferet ("Poems of Splendor"), a long epic poem on the life of Moses; it is the major literary work of the German Haskalah (pts. 1–5, 1789–92; pt. 6 posthumously 1829). Judged by modern standards, the poem has small literary merit; while it is written in an almost purely biblical style, it is imitative and lacks the conciseness and concreteness of the original biblical account. Moses is cast in the rationalist image of the Haskalah and the entire work is permeated with Haskalah preachments. From a formal point of view, Wessely introduces the alexandrine (the 12-syllable heroic line prevailing in the French poetry of his day) which was to dominate early modern Hebrew poetry for half a century. Of particular interest are his prose introductions to the "books" of the poem which, although written in a period in which sentimentalism already predominates in German literature, still express earlier neoclassical views.
The German Haskalah produced several epic poems besides the work of Wessely; most significant among them were Shalom b. Jacob Cohen's Nir David ("The Splendor of David," Vienna, 1834); Issachar Schlesinger's Ha-Ḥashmona'im ("The Hasmoneans," 1817); Ḥayyei Shimshon ("The Life of Samson") by Sueskind Raschkow (d. 1836); and Moses Frankfurt *Mendelsohn's Toledot Avraham and Toledot Yosef. Other poets influenced by the Italian Hebrew school of the 17th and 18th centuries composed closet dramas in verse which were either allegories imitating Moses Ḥayyim Luzzatto's La-Yesharim Tehillah ("Praise to the Upright," Amsterdam, 1743), or based on biblical themes: Shalom Cohen's Amel ve-Tirẓah (1862); Gemul Atalyah ("Athaliah's Retaliation," Amsterdam, 1770), by David Franco-Mendes (1713–1792), adapted from Racine's Athalie; and Joseph *Ha-Efrati's (Troppolowitz) Melukhat Sha'ul ("Saul's Reign," Vienna, 1794). A third genre was the Hebrew proverb or maxim in which Isaac Satanow excelled. He published Mishlei Asaf ("The Fables of Asaf") and its sequel Gam Elleh Mishlei Asaf ("Also These Are the Fables of Asaf"). Related to this genre are the mikhtamim (maxims in rhymed quatrain form) and the fable (Joel (Brill) *Loewe, Baruch *Jeiteles, and Judah Leib *Ben-Zeev). Except for the verse of Ephraim *Luzzatto, a contemporary of the German Haskalah who lived in Italy and later in London, no lyrical poetry of any merit was produced. Most of the poetry in this genre was a feeble imitation of contemporary German verse and moralistic or didactic in tone. Two poems worthy of mention are Aggadat Arba Kosot ("The Legend of the Four Goblets," Berlin, 1790), by the talented poet Solomon *Pappenheim, which after Wessely's epic is the most important poem of the period, and Solomon *Loewisohn's ode to the Hebrew language which he composed as a preface to his book Meliẓat Yeshurun ("The Poesy of Jeshurun," 1816).
The German Haskalah produced no remarkable narrative prose. The few pieces in Ha-Me'assef are merely sentimental prose poems. Mention should be made, however, of Aaron *Wolfsohn-Halle's Siḥah be-Ereẓ ha-Ḥayyim ("A Conversation in the Land of the Living"), a biting satirical sketch directed against the rabbis of his day, and Moses Frankfurt Mendelsohn's article on the history of the German Haskalah (in Penei Tevel, published posthumously in 1872). Solomon Maimon's contribution to Hebrew literature was insignificant compared to his role as a German post-Kantian philosopher and to his literary contribution as the author of an autobiography in German which influenced later autobiographical writing in Hebrew. He also wrote a number of works in Hebrew, almost all in philosophy, the physical sciences, and mathematics. His best Hebrew work, Givat ha-Moreh (Berlin, 1791), is a commentary on Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed.
Besides the German authors, a number of maskilim continued the tradition of Hebrew writing in Italy. Foremost among them were Ephraim Luzzatto, whose Elleh Benei ha-Ne'urim ("These Young Men," London, 1768) contain the best lyrical poetry of the period, and Samuel *Romanelli. In Amsterdam a group of writers appeared who were influenced by Moses Ḥayyim Luzzatto or his disciples. In Alsace several poets wrote patriotic Hebrew poetry, the most notable being Elie Ḥalfan *Halevy. Not all "German" maskilim were natives of Germany. Solomon Maimon and Solomon b. Joel *Dubino were born in Lithuania, Isaac Satanow in Podolia, and Judah Leib Ben-Zeev in Poland. In Lithuania a subcenter of the Haskalah developed in the town of Shklov and from there moved to St. Petersburg where a number of Shklov's wealthy merchants settled (Joshua *Zeitlin, Nathan *Notkin, and Abraham *Peretz; for a short time the Galician author Menahem Mendel *Levin (Lefin) was a tutor in Peretz's home). The most important St. Petersburg maskil, Judah Leib *Nevakhovitch (Ben Noah), published a pamphlet in Russian that he had originally composed in Hebrew, in which he urged the emancipation of Jews.
The rapid Germanization of German Jewry led to the displacement of Hebrew as the language of the enlightened Jewish middle classes in Prussia. Between 1794 and 1797 one issue of Ha-Me'assef was published annually. By 1797 only 120 subscribers remained. In the meantime a Jewish literature in German, including a literary journal, began to develop. It is no accident that it was reported that Aaron Wolfsohn-Halle, one of the editors of Ha-Me'assef, was unable to write Hebrew in his old age.
From Prussia, the Haskalah movement spread to Polish Galicia. Prosperous Jewish merchants from Galicia involved in the export-import trade (exporting agricultural products to Germany and importing manufactured goods) often frequented the great trade fair at Leipzig where they met the new, enlightened German Jewish merchants. German-Jewish salesmen in turn came to the larger cities of Galicia bearing the new way of life with their wares. Centers of the Haskalah were soon established in Brody, Tarnopol, Lemberg, and Cracow in the early 19th century.
Demographically the Jewish population of Galicia was larger and more concentrated than that of Prussia. Intellectually, however, it was uninfluenced by the indigenous Slavic communities of the area whose cultural level was on the whole inferior to that of the Jews. Galician maskilim looked to German as the language of European culture. Politically, it was in the interest of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy to encourage Jewish, pro-Austrian elements as a separatist counterforce to Polish nationalism. Consequently, the assimilationist factors which affected Prussian Jewry were far less felt in Galicia.
The first Haskalah leader to come to Galicia was Naphtali Herz *Homberg who, in 1787, upon Mendelssohn's recommendation, was appointed chief inspector of German Jewish schools in Galicia by Joseph II. Despite the vigorous opposition of rabbinic and ḥasidic leaders, he established over a hundred modern Jewish schools in Galicia and Bukovina and opened a teachers seminary in Lemberg. Homberg's arrogance toward Jews and his subservience to the government earned him the hatred of Galician Jewry. They blamed him not only for the "heretical" views and practices taught at his schools but even more for his part in the imposition of the notorious and discriminatory candle tax from which he personally and illegally profited. Homberg also served as censor of Hebrew books. His critical and caustic reports about the backward social situation of the Jews and their inferior morals reinforced the antisemitic views of his patrons. In the wake of growing protests and accusations by the Jews, he was finally removed from his office in 1806 and the schools he established were gradually closed.
Far more significant for the development of the Haskalah in Galicia was M.M. *Levin (Lefin) who, like Homberg, came to Berlin in the 1780s and for a time was a member of Mendelssohn's circle. Mendel Levin ultimately returned to Galicia, living most of the time in Brody. There he became a leader of the first generation of the Galician Haskalah and a friend of N. *Krochmal, S. *Rapoport, Josef *Perl, and Jakob Samuel *Bick. Levin's major contribution to modern Hebrew literature, the development of a Hebrew prose style based on mishnaic Hebrew, was to affect subsequent prose writing. He is also one of the early writers of modern Yiddish.
A key literary figure of this early period is the poet Shalom Cohen. Polish born, he too came to Berlin in the 1780s joining N.H. Wessely's circle. After Ha-Me'assef ceased publication in 1797, he succeeded in reviving it in 1808 for a short time. In 1810, he was invited by Anton von *Schmidt, the Viennese gentile publisher of Hebrew books, to serve as editor of his publishing house. In Vienna he launched *Bikkurei ha-Ittim, the first Hebrew periodical in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Vienna). The journal was in the form of an almanac and at first served as a vehicle for the reprint of an anthology of Ha-Me'assef, but later included original articles. Anton von
The major contribution of the Galician Haskalah was in the area of Jewish studies. The first generation of German maskilim had attempted studies in this field but, except for some grammatical works, their achievements were awkwardly unprofessional. Only after the succeeding generation had shifted to German as their medium of expression did the golden age of *Wissenschaft des Judenthums dawn in Germany. In Galicia, however, Hebrew remained the language of modern Jewish scholarship. Foremost in the ranks of its scholars was Nachman Krochmal, the mentor of an entire generation. His Moreh Nevukhei ha-Zeman ("Guide of the Perplexed of the Time," 1851) is considered to be the philosophical statement of the period. An amorphous work, unfinished by its author and put together and published posthumously in 1851 by Leopold Zunz, it attempts to reconcile Judaism with the post-Kantian (mainly Hegelian) idealism, the prevailing philosophy of the age. Krochmal is the first to outline a scheme for Jewish history which not only explains the survival of Jewry in time but attributes to it an eternal existence because of the special relationship of God (The Absolute Spirit) to the Jewish people. With great erudition and intelligence he discusses almost all of the major problems of Jewish historiography, thus laying the groundwork for future historical research.
Less profound but still significant are the monographs of Krochmal's disciple Solomon Judah Rapoport which, in the main, constitute scholarly biographies of leading Jewish scholars in the medieval period (the series Toledot Anshei Shem which was published in Bikkurei ha-Ittim and Kerem Ḥemed). Although Samuel David *Luzzatto lived in Italy, his works also belong to the Galician Haskalah in whose journals he published and with whose scholars he was intimately involved. Luzzatto was a prolific writer who was involved in almost every scholarly, theological, and communal problem of his times (see his voluminous correspondence, Iggerot Shadal (1882–94)). His best work was in the areas of Hebrew and Aramaic grammar, biblical exegesis, and medieval Hebrew poetry.
From a purely literary point of view, the Galician Hebrew authors are to be credited for evolving the Hebrew prose satire. They not only influenced Hebrew style but introduced character types which would receive more sophisticated development in subsequent Hebrew fiction.
Galicia's most important satirist Josef Perl was a communal leader involved in educational reform who used his connections with the monarchy to foster the Haskalah. Perl's two satires Megalleh Temirin ("The Revealer of Secrets," 1819) and Boḥen Ẓaddik ("The Ẓaddik on Trial," 1838) were primarily directed against the new ḥasidic movement which had captured the imagination of the lower classes of Galician Jewry during the first half of the 19th century. Perl evinced a profound, if hostile, interest in Ḥasidism, studied its sources diligently, wrote the article on Ḥasidism in Peter *Beer's book on Jewish sects, and is said to have completed a book on Ḥasidism in German which was never published. Megalleh Temirin, written in an epistolary style, parodies the folkish ungrammatical Hebrew of the Ḥasidim. In keeping with the rationalist-modernist prejudices of a maskil Perl draws a grotesque picture of the ignorance, superstition, and gullibility of the Ḥasidim and the cunning of their leaders. Unwittingly, he creates a Hebrew prose style which imitates the Yiddish speech of his characters. In Boḥen Ẓaddik, he widens his satiric scope to include other classes of Galician Jewish society, even the maskilim themselves. Despite the satirical distortion, Perl's is the first attempt to depict the social context in Hebrew fiction and his cast of types often served as prototypes for the more sophisticated characters of later East European fiction.
Stylistically, Isaac *Erter chose a different path than Perl's. The high style of biblical Hebrew in which his satires are written seems to Hebrew readers of today to be out of keeping with his subject matter. He uses dream sequences or imaginary visions as vehicles for his satires. He spares no one: impoverished Ḥasidim, enlightened physicians, corrupt tax farmers who exploit the poor. In Gilgul Nefesh ("Transmigration of Souls," 1845) he uses a bestiary to satirize his characters. Although Erter is less basic to the development of Hebrew prose than Perl, his influence, even on as late a writer as S.Y. *Agnon, is discernible. The Galician Haskalah did not produce great poetry. Maskilim continued the tradition of adapting European poetic drama to fit the taste of their Hebrew reading contemporaries. Rapoport, whose poetic talent was decidedly limited, adapted Racine's Esther and Athalie, justifying his choice in terms of the importance of historical themes for the restoration of Jewish pride. Meir *Letteris adapted Goethe's Faust; he eliminated Christological references, set it in the mishnaic period, and identified Faust with the heretical tanna *Elisha b. Avuyah.
Letteris and Samuel David Luzzatto were the best of a number of poets who wrote lyrical, meditative, and eulogistic poetry. Other poets deserving mention are Aryeh Leib Kinderfreund (1788–1837), Baruch Shenfield (1787–1852), and Dov Ginzberg (1776–1811).
The Haskalah in Russia developed in two geographical centers – Lithuania (Vilna) and Belorussia (Kremenets Podolski). Vilna was influenced by the tradition of rationalist Orthodoxy developed among the disciples of *Elijah b. Solomon the Gaon of Vilna and by the German Haskalah. Haskalah came to Belorussia by way of Galicia with many of its earliest authors actually having lived in Galicia at various times.
Historians of the Russian Haskalah aver that already during the German period proto-maskilim were to be found in Vilna, Shklov, and St. Petersburg, but it is generally agreed that the first Russian maskil of major significance
In the field of belles lettres, Levinsohn composed two satires against Ḥasidism which were clearly influenced by Josef Perl's and Isaac Erter's works, but are inferior to them. He also wrote a volume of verse comprised of epigrams, satires, and occasional poetry of no literary merit whatsoever.
Greater strides were made in the development of Hebrew poetry and prose fiction in Lithuania. Four important writers appeared at the close of the century who paved the way for the great Hebrew writers: Adam ha-Kohen *Lebensohn, his son Micah Joseph *Lebensohn, Judah Leib *Gordon, and the novelist Abraham *Mapu. Adam ha-Kohen Lebensohn is the first of a long line of Russian Hebrew poets. Essentially cerebral, his poetry is the product of the mental world of a Vilna maskil who viewed life as a somber enterprise and literature as having a serious ethical purpose. Lebensohn's personal life, beset as it was with economic difficulties in his early adult years and the untimely deaths of several of his sons, reinforced his basically tragic view of life. Restrained by the literary conventions of the times, his long poems, written in a pseudo-biblical style, were marred by verbosity, a penchant for punning, and an exaggerated tendency to intellectualize.
The emotional fire lacking in Adam ha-Kohen Lebensohn's intellectualized verse animates the poetry of his son Micah Joseph Lebensohn (Mikhal). Mikhal's talents were encouraged and nurtured by his father, who afforded him every opportunity to gain the European education which he, the father, lacked. Mikhal studied at German universities and was strongly influenced by the German Romantics. Although his style remains biblical, his Hebrew attains a remarkable flexibility and he does not hesitate to introduce neologisms. The poetry of his Berlin days is urban, with allusions to city parks, gas lamps, and carriages. He is also one of the first modern Hebrew poets to write love poetry. Many of his longer poems are on biblical themes but his attitude to biblical heroes often differs from the traditional view. For example, he is able to empathize with Sisera in Ya'el ve-Sisra ("Yael and Sisera"); the hero of Nikmat Shimshon ("Samson's Revenge") becomes a symbol of revolutionary ardor; and he identifies with Moses, in Mosheal Har ha-Avarim ("Moses on Mt. Abarim," all published in Mikhal's collection of poems Shirei Bat Ẓiyyon (1851)). Mikhal, sick with tuberculosis, like Moses will not reach the Promised Land. In Ḥag ha-Aviv ("Spring Holiday"), one of his most moving poems, the young poet bewails his tragic inability to relate to nature and to society because he is aware of his imminent death. In contrast to all his predecessors, Mikhal wrote genuine lyrical poetry. Unfortunately, he appeared too early on the Hebrew literary scene to attain the literary level to which his talents might have carried him had the language and the literature in which he wrote reached the maturity it was to gain half a century later.
The greatest literary figure of the Russian Haskalah, Judah Leib Gordon, was a poet, short-story writer, and militant journalist who dominated the literary scene until the 1880s. Emerging in the 1860s as a younger member of the Vilna Haskalah and a disciple of Lebensohn the elder, he was committed to what has been described as the realistic Haskalah. Although his poetry was written in biblical Hebrew and was often hampered by the bombast of biblical rhetoric, it reached beyond the limitations of its period. Most of it was also dominated by the reformist thrust of the Haskalah. Gordon, unlike his predecessors, not only questioned the "spirituality" of the traditional Jewish values of the rabbinic period but also those of the Bible. He demanded a more vital materialistic commitment to life. His rejection of the "impractical and overspiritualized" Jewish world of his childhood led him to depict traditional "villains" of the Bible in more positive terms. Thus in his long poem Ẓidkiyyahu be-Veit ha-Pekuddot ("Zedekiah in Prison," 1879), he justified Zedekiah's criticism of Jeremiah's unrealistic stress on the spiritual at a time of national crisis. Soldiers and statesmen, realistic men of affairs, and not prophets and scholars were needed to save the country. Gordon's poems frequently struck out against the unreasonable legalism of the rabbis and called vigorously for the improvement of the woman's status ("Koẓo shel Yod," 1869). A genuine lyricism pervades his poetic fables which, although drawn from the Midrash, Aesop, La Fontaine, and particularly Krylov, are original works. More than any of his predecessors, Gordon had an uncanny ear for the biblical idiom and was able to forge new phrases which retained the biblical cadences. Bialik was to acknowledge the debt which he and his generation owed to Gordon.
Abraham Mapu, the first modern Hebrew novelist, chose the historical novel (Ahavat Ẓiyyon (1853) and Ashmat
In the generation following Mapu, Peretz *Smolenskin and Reuben Asher *Braudes contributed to the development of the Hebrew novel. Smolenskin, by far the more influential of the two, founded *Ha-Shaḥar (1869–84), a journal which he was forced to publish outside of Russia to circumvent censorship restrictions. Abandoning his initial Haskalah assimilationism he embraced a fiery brand of Jewish nationalism which called for an ultimate return to Zion. Smolenskin's Ha-To'eh be-Darkhei-Ḥayyim ("Who Wanders in the Ways of Life," 3 vols. (1868–70)) became the novel of the generation. A character novel like Ayit Ẓavu'a, Ha-To'eh be-Darkhei ha-Ḥayyim is structured more competently than Mapu's work because it centers around the main protagonist (Joseph) who roams the Jewish Pale of Settlement in search of the meaning of life. The novel contains elements of the picaresque: Joseph wanders into the world of Jewish beggars, sees life in a yeshivah and the court of a ḥasidic rabbi, and travels as far as London, Paris, and Berlin. Smolenskin thus attempted to draw a panorama of Jewish life not only as it was lived inside Russia but also in Western Europe. Far more realistic than Mapu's, his fictional world is still considerably removed from life. The novel remained a rambling, poorly constructed work, full of Haskalah speculations about life, European culture and society, and the meaning of Jewish history. Although many of its characters were derived from Mapu and, like the latter's, are flat and drawn in black and white, Smolenskin extended their range.
More realistic and written with greater discipline were the novels of Reuben Asher Braudes. The plot of his unfinished novel Ha-Dat ve-ha-Ḥayyim ("Religion and Life," 1885) revolves around the struggle of a young maskil to liberate himself from the narrow world of his childhood town and become a European; it is, in part, drawn from the biography of Moses Leib Lilienblum. In Shetei ha-Keẓavot ("Two Extremes," 1888), the protagonist has liberated himself from tradition only to discover that the new secularism lacks the certainty and peace of mind afforded by the old Orthodoxy. Although Braudes was unable to free himself from the one-sided view of the Haskalah and often lapsed into ideological preachments, he came closer to the reality he attempted to depict than any other novelist of the period.
By the 1880s, literary and political factors earmarked a new period in modern Hebrew literature. Almost a century of literary endeavor had been completed by then. Writers had a large corpus of literature to fall back on, a literature which had struggled with language, genre, and motifs and was ready for real artistic achievement. The cultural situation of East European Jewry had also undergone a radical change. A generation of writers had emerged that expressed its awareness of the secular-scientific orientated European culture through Hebrew literature. Although few writers could be called totally "European" in their point of view, a degree of sophistication had been attained that had been lacking in the previous generations. In the meantime European Romanticism, intimately bound to idealist philosophy, had given way to naturalism and realism – literary movements which were rooted in a more materialistic view of the universe. Influential Russian literary critics, like Pisarev and Chernyshevski, called for a more realistic form of writing and demanded a literature of social criticism. These attitudes were quickly picked up by some of the younger Hebrew critics who began publishing in the journals of the Russian Haskalah. Abraham Uri *Kovner, well versed in Russian positivist criticism, called for a realistic literature which would mirror the true character of the nation and lead to economic and social reform. He attacked the artificial biblicism which dominated much of Hebrew literature and commended the satires of Erter and Perl and Mapu's Ayit Ẓavu'a. A more realistic-materialistic literature was also advocated by Abraham Jacob *Paperna. Moses Leib Lilienblum in his Olam ha-Tohu ("Desolate World," 1873) attacked the idealistic Haskalah; he ascribed its use of romantic and unrealistic subject matter and theme to an escapism nurtured by the tragic and hopeless reality of Jewish life. Critics of the 1870s attacked the batlanut ("the impracticability") of Hebrew literature and denigrated most of its achievements.
Political and social events reinforced these new views. The rise of Russian reaction during the reign of Nicholas II, and particularly the pogroms of the early 1880s, which were either instigated by the czarist regime or at least actively encouraged by its political police, disillusioned the vast majority
The new nationalism did not reject modernization; on the contrary, it defined Jewish life in terms of the values of European nationalism. A national literature must aim at an objective depiction of the condition of the people and it must use European aesthetic standards in the working out of its themes. The shift from universalism to particularism led also to the discovery of the individual. In the Haskalah period fiction and poetry tended to depict types. The literary type stood somewhere between the allegorical hero and the individualized character. With the new period a more individualized characterization manifested itself in fiction and poetry.
The literary activity of Moses Leib *Lilienblum serves as a paradigm of this transvaluation of values. Raised in an obscurantist ḥasidic environment, he began his literary career as a polemist advocating religious and social reforms. His autobiography Ḥatot Ne'urim ("Sins of Youth," 1876–99), a classic work of the period, eloquently describes his struggle toward freedom. Lilienblum, influenced by Joshua Heschel *Schorr, a radical Galician maskil, argues against the "divine authority" of the Talmud and the Shulḥan Arukh contending that although the halakhic laws had validity in their time, they should not be accepted uncritically by modern Jews. In the 1860s, he and J.L. Gordon were the leading proponents of reform. During the 1870s, he seems to have lost hope in theological solutions and turns to positivism, and even socialism, as the new alternative. After the 1880s, he despaired of Russian liberalism and embraced the Zionist nationalism of the Ḥibbat Zion movement, stressing the "Oriental" quality of Jewish life. He never lost his pragmatic view of the world and therefore rejected Aḥad Ha-Am's cultural nationalism as being unrealistic and vapid.
The most influential intellectual figure of the European period was *Aḥad Ha-Am (Asher Ginzberg), a brilliant essayist, who attempted to develop an integrated philosophy for the new nationalist movement. He was not an original thinker but was able to articulate an ideology out of contemporary ideas with which to meet the needs of many Hebrew intellectuals of his day. Aḥad Ha-Am had indicated, at various times in his career, that he planned to write a systematic exposition of his philosophy, but he did not carry out his program. Unfortunately the essay form, which was his medium, hardly lends itself to a systematic presentation of ideas.
Aḥad Ha-Am drew heavily on positivist, utilitarian ideas current in his days and on the then newly developed science of sociology. At the center of his philosophy he placed the nation, which he equated with society. Judaism was the system of ideas, laws, and mores which the Jewish nation had developed in order to preserve itself. Individuals are merely limbs of the nation. The nation is the constant factor in human history. The success and prosperity of the nation is the only reward which is vouchsafed to the ephemeral individual.
In times of national crisis or degeneracy, Judaism was forced to express itself in terms of the individual. Biblical Judaism was national and communal, but after the destruction of the Second Temple and the loss of national sovereignty, rabbinic Judaism was compelled to direct its appeal to the individual, and only then was the doctrine of individual salvation propounded. Natural redemption will follow when the center of gravity will shift from the selfish concern for individual prosperity, spiritual or material, to the broader concern for the welfare of the people as a whole.
In his system society, i.e. the nation, replaced God as the source of authority. Yet Aḥad Ha-Am was careful not to tamper with the sancta of Judaism. The traditional Jewish customs were justified in terms of the national culture and its values. At the center of the national culture he placed the prophetic ethic, its peculiar expression. "There is almost a general consensus about the moral genius of the Jewish people and that in this area the Jewish people stand above all other nations. It makes no difference as to how the Jewish people attained this talent or how it evolved among them" (in Shinui Arakhim). Aḥad Ha-Am obviously avoided a metaphysical explanation for the uniqueness of the Jew and yet at the same time asserted its existence. His definition of the national character, or as he called it the national spirit, saved him from a biological definition of nationality and lent a universalistic humanist dimension to his nationalism. The universal ethic finds its expression in the particularist culture of the Jew. Jewish cosmopolitanism was for Aḥad Ha-Am an inauthentic expression of the Jewish ethical idea. Universal values must be rooted in the concrete experiences of the people and within its culture, otherwise they will remain vapid generalities. Translated in terms of a specific culture, they must be properly assimilated so as to become a part of it.
The nation-society, an organic fact, has a will and a life of its own in his system. Nationhood is axiomatic and must be accepted on faith. The Jew who asked why he was a Jew was already inauthentic. In his past history, the Jew taught theology and played a central role in preserving the nation, but with the breakdown of religious authority the national idea became the rallying point of Judaism. Aḥad Ha-Am saw in Zionism the return to the national idea. The very effort to establish a Jewish settlement in Palestine would serve as a focal point around which the national "will" could rally. He did not believe that a mass return to the national homeland was possible; instead he conceived of the homeland as the future spiritual (cultural) center of the Jewish people wherever it resided. The spiritual center would not only preserve the people but would bring about a national cultural renaissance.
The national revival, however, cannot occur merely because of the practical needs of the nation for migration or for a refuge. Ereẓ Israel was a poor and underdeveloped country and settlement must be preceded by a renewal of the national will. The task of the nationalist intellectuals must be to educate the people toward the difficult struggle for national renewal. For the Jewish intellectuals who had lost their faith in traditional Judaism, Aḥad Ha-Am's cultural-humanist nationalism offered itself as a welcome solution. One could preserve not only one's group loyalty but a great part of Jewish mores and customs by shifting the source of authority from God to history and from community to nation. One could likewise retain the old ethical goals of Judaism by identifying them with the national culture. It is no small wonder that the majority of Hebrew authors rallied to Aḥad Ha-Am's banner.
Aḥad Ha-Am's role in modern Hebrew literature went beyond his ideology. From a literary point of view he is the father of the modern Hebrew essay. His Hebrew style, which draws a great deal on Maimonides' Hebrew, is lucid and well constructed. Moreover, as the editor (1897–1903) of the most influential Hebrew journal of the period, *Ha-Shilo'aḥ, he set a high standard of literary taste for an entire generation of Hebrew writers. His conservative literary views, however, discouraged radical experimentation. He also insisted that writers of Hebrew belles letters should confine themselves to Jewish subjects. These two attitudes ultimately led to a revolt against his literary domination and he finally resigned his editorship of Ha-Shilo'aḥ.
The career of Sholem Yankev *Abramovitsh (Mendele Mokher Seforim) stands at the crossroads between the Haskalah and the nationalist period. Sociologically he still belonged to the Russian Haskalah, but aesthetically he was the harbinger of the new period with its stress on realism and artistic discipline. To Mendele belongs the double crown as the father of the new Hebrew literary style and the first serious writer in Yiddish. He began writing in the biblically orientated Hebrew style of the Haskalah, although even then his work Ha-Avot ve-ha-Banim ("The Fathers and the Sons," 1865) was influenced by Turgenev and is cast in a realistic mode. Mendele's penchant for realism led him in 1864 to abandon the inflexible and literary Hebrew of the Haskalah for the more vivid and folk-like Yiddish. He returned to Hebrew in 1886, writing original fiction or translating and recasting his Yiddish works. The style of these later works are a landmark in the development of modern Hebrew literature. The more simple Hebrew prose of mishnaic and talmudic literature and of the Hebrew prayer book replaced the high biblical Haskalah style that had characterized his earlier works, and with it he forged an idiom more akin to the realism which had become dominant in Hebrew fiction. Mendele's long short stories and novels were better structured than any of the prose works of his predecessors. He drew on the modern Hebrew literary tradition for his characters but added a new, realistic subtlety. The picaresque Sefer ha-Kabẓanim (1909; Fishke the Lame, 1960), for example, recalls Smolenskin's description of the society of beggars in Ha-To'eh be-Darkhei ha-Ḥayyim, but the prose and the characterization are infinitely more sophisticated. Mendele satirized the Jewish life of Eastern Europe so mercilessly that later patriotic critics have urged to expunge his works from school curricula because they "desecrate the memory of European Jewry." His portrayal, however, is not one-sided and he often depicts the folk piety and warmth of the Jews of the townlet with deep sympathy. Despite his emphasis upon the grotesque, the world he describes has a Jewish unity which even pervades the natural world; he "Judaizes" nature. Mendele's characters rarely develop beyond typology. Yisrulik, for example, in "Susati" (1911; The Nag, 1949) is a typical Jewish external student preparing for state examinations, and Binyamin in Masot Binyamin ha-Shelishi (1911; "The Travels of Benjamin the Third") is a typical impoverished and impractical member of the scholarly lower middle class. Mendele never became an active Zionist but his later works reflect the disillusionment with Russian liberalism ("Susati"). His meticulous devotion to the craft of writing became a model for the disciples of his Odessa school. Two of them, Ḥayyim Naḥman *Bialik and Shalom *Aleichem, were to become major literary figures in Hebrew and Yiddish literature respectively.
In contrast to the realism of Mendele's Odessa school, a neoromantic, impressionist center developed in Warsaw whose leading authors are David *Frischmann, I.L. *Peretz, and Micha Josef *Berdyczewski. The Polish Haskalah was far less practical and doctrinaire than that of Odessa. It tended to stress form and beauty rather than a central idea. Poland, moreover, if not completely removed from the literary influences of the Russian utilitarians, was drawn to the continent and was more sensitive to the new aestheticism which in the 1880s had captured the European literary imagination. David Frischmann laid great stress on style and form. He was the self-declared European of Hebrew letters, but for him Europeanism had little to do with a materialist view of the universe or even scientism but was a matter of aesthetic values and literary taste. His Hebrew prose has a limpid and almost lyrical quality; his plots are carefully rounded although not devoid of impressionistic lapses. In keeping with his aestheticism, he no longer describes the struggle of the generations in Jewish life as a clash between reason and tradition but as a struggle between beauty and life on the one hand and an unrelenting tradition on the other (Be-Yom ha-Kippurim (1881)). Frischmann's characters are often individuals whose irrational passion leads them to break with their tradition. He can also sympathize with the rigid traditionalism of the older generation and at the same time poke fun at the rationalist absurdities of half-baked maskilim. His secularist lyrical, biblical "legends" are one of his original contributions to Hebrew literature. Frischmann, through his knowledge of folklore and myth, created stories almost devoid of biblical ethos but which attempt to reconstruct the passionate world of the primitive quasi-pagan Hebrews ("Meḥolot" = Dances). The mythical-pagan setting contrasts strongly with the biblical stories and poems produced by such writers as Mapu or even Micah Joseph Lebensohn.
I.L. Peretz continues the Polish tradition. Unlike Frischmann, he shifted to Yiddish (in which language he wrote most of his works) in the middle of his career and became the proponent of Yiddishism after the revolution of 1905. His contribution to modern Hebrew literature, however, is also of great significance. Like Frischmann he attacks the realism of the Odessa school, dubbing it anachronistic. "In the world of general literature the sun of realism has set. It has been followed by materialism and then the decadents have raised their banner, but among us, so removed from the battlefield, realism is the new slogan which excites the heart" (Ha-Ḥeẓ, 1884). Peretz earned his place in Hebrew literature primarily as a prose writer of the 1880s and 1890s. His earlier short stories: "Ha-Dibbuk ve-ha-Meshugga" ("The Dibbuk and the Madman") and "Hiẓtaddekut ha-Ne'esham" ("The Alibi") were influenced by the sentimentalism of German-Jewish authors who wrote about East European Jewish life. The stories emphasize the individual rebellion of young Jews against the traditionalistic puritanism of their environment. His stories often took a psychological turn: Be-Leil Zeva'ah ("Nightmare") and "Mi Anokhi" ("Who Am I"), whose characters display a split personality. Peretz's ḥasidic tales, in the main, represent a humanistic-secularist, and especially romantic, reading of ḥasidic themes. Although they have been described as ḥasid-like, rather then authentically ḥasidic, Peretz is nevertheless one of the earliest Hebrew writers to portray Ḥasidism in a positive rather than a critical light. In his folk ḥasidic tales he uses an impressionistic sentimental style in an attempt to capture the pious rapture of his characters (kabbalists) and he often resorts to lyrical monologues or dialogues – "Ha-Mekubbalim" ("The Kabbalists"), "Gilgulo shel Niggun" ("Metamorphosis of a Melody"), and "Bein Shenei Harim" ("Between Two Mountains"). One of his best short stories, "Oseh Nifla'ot" ("The Magician"), is a folktale in which Elijah the Prophet appears as a magician who miraculously provides a seder for an impoverished pious family. (All of I.L. Peretz's were published in Kol Kitvei I.L. Peretz (1947).)
Perhaps the most skillful proponent of the Polish neoromantic style was Micha Josef Berdyczewski, whose work reflects the Nietzschean demand for a transvaluation of values. He put into question the entire value system of traditional Judaism with its stress on communal discipline and religious conformism at the expense of individualism. Challenging Aḥad Ha-Am's contention that there exists a mainstream in Judaism and arguing that there is no unified Jewish culture, he advanced the concept of a heterodoxy of Jewish experience. There is no rational evolution of a tradition but rather a series of miraculous and irrational revelations. Tradition always strove toward discipline, it controlled the outbursts of the spirit but was never able to contain them for long. During these periods of restraint Judaism lost its vitality. Berdyczewski insisted that the Judaism of his day was stagnant and must free itself of its restraining legalism and its intellectualism. He opposed Aḥad Ha-Am's attempt to provide a utilitarian-nationalist apology for tradition and to reconstruct a unified nationalist culture. Only the creative spark of the individual and the individualist dissent can lead to a national renaissance. The call for individualism and the individualist rebellion against the yoke of tradition and society also form the core of Berdyczewski's fiction. His characters often are Jews who try to escape the narrow world of their childhood but are psychologically incapable of making the break. They are lost souls moving in a limbo between traditional puritanism and modern libertinism, impotent physically and psychologically to live the life they desire. The impotence is often accentuated, not only by feelings of guilt toward their former system of values, but also by their deep group loyalty and their feelings of familial love (e.g., Nathaniel in "Me-Ever la-Nahar" ("Across the River" in Kitvei M.Y. Bin-Gorion (1960)). In Ḥasidism Berdyczewski discovered a dissenting, individualist movement which had broken with the loyalism and conformism of rabbinism. Stylistically, his Hebrew bears affinities to Frischmann's impressionist lyricism, but unlike the latter, he often cuts the flow of his prose either with impassioned outbursts or to indicate moments of doubt and despair.
The writings of M.Z. *Feuerberg also mirror the tragedy of loss of faith but, unlike the Berdyczewskian hero, the Feuerbergian protagonist, although he rejects the simple faith of his fathers, never crosses the line into the secular world which remains beyond his grasp. Feuerberg's hero lives in an irresolvable crisis. Naḥman in Le'an ("Whither," 1927), having lost the living God of Israel (tradition), finds no solace in the God of Aristotle (reason) who to him is lifeless and impotent. His anxieties, resulting from his loss of faith, ultimately drive him mad.
Most of Feuerberg's stories are autobiographical in which the basic concept is a variation of the same theme: the world of childhood secure in its faith is disrupted as the child or young hero experiences life. The process is inevitable. In a letter to Aḥad Ha-Am he wrote: "The new life extends its domain among us without the consent of literature. The old life is disappearing despite its sanctity and sublimity." Feuerberg's outlook, however, was not devoid of hope. He saw his disrupted world in a state of crisis but believed in the ultimate revival of the spirit of man: "Europe is sick now, everyone senses that society is collapsing and that its very foundations are rotten. Human society is weary and yearns for the word of God. The minor prophets who arise, Kant and others, last for only a century. We need a great prophet and lawgiver… Not only do we turn our face eastward, the entire West is journeying to the East. The greatest enemy of Judaism is the West… Therefore when you journey to the East, my brothers, do not go as the enemies of the East but as its sons and lovers" (Le'an).
The achievement of Ḥayyim Naḥman *Bialik marks the high point in form and content of the European period in Hebrew literature. Most of Bialik's poetry was written between 1892 and 1917, the turbulent years which immediately preceded the Russian Revolution and the decline of the East European Jewish community. At the brink of catastrophe,
Bialik consciously accepted the Aḥad Ha-Am view that through cultural nationalism a synthesis between these two polar cultures could be established ("Al Saf Beit ha-Midrash," 1894; "Le-Aḥad Ha-Am," 1905). Baruch Kurzweil and others, however, have demonstrated that Bialik often unconsciously rejected the all-too-pat Aḥad Ha-Am solution and gave vent to the tragic despair that the lost paradise of faith cannot be regained ("Levadi" ("Alone)" 1910) "Lifnei Aron ha-Sefarim" ("In Front of the Bookcase," 1910)). He also writes about the clash between traditional Jewish puritanism, with its religious ethical imperatives, and the hedonistic-aesthetical orientation of the secularized Jews (Ha-Matmid, 1894–95). In his Zionist poems "El ha-Ẓippor" ("To the Bird") and "La-Mitnaddevim be-Am" ("To the Volunteers") he castigates both the people and its leaders for their shortcomings and in Ha-Matmid nostalgically reflects upon the piety and devotion of the past. The desperate struggle to discover the link between the past and the present is central to Bialik's poetry.
From the very outset of his career Bialik was totally committed to the national revival. His is therefore a poetry of involvement in his people's quest for a national identity and it expresses its tragic experience of persecution and massacre: "Be-Ir ha-Haregah" ("In the City of Slaughter"), 1904; "Al ha-Sheḥitah" ("On the Slaughter"), 1903. These nationalist poems earned him the title of ha-meshorer ha-le'ummi ("the national poet"). It would be a mistake, however, to limit Bialik's achievement to his nationalist themes, as profound as his involvement in them, and expression of them, might be. He was also a great lyric poet whose thematic scope embraced love and nature poems, folk poetry, and even children's verse. Even these poems, because they could be read on several levels – personal, nationalistic, and universalistic – were often interpreted as nationalistic by the one-sided criticism of his generation. Contemporary criticism has corrected this imbalance.
No modern Hebrew poet possesses Bialik's command of the vast resources of Hebrew literature. His vocabulary and symbols are drawn from a literary tradition that spans the entire literature of his people from the biblical period to the latest works written by his contemporaries. Bialik's knowledge served him not simply as a means to reproduce old phrases but to forge a new idiom capable of meeting the literary needs of a modern literature. He freed Hebrew poetry from the bonds of the Haskalah rhetoric and yet his poetry style remained essentially biblical. Unlike his predecessors, his line is not a composite of biblical phrases and half verses. Mastering the source from the inside, he creates his phrasing in the image of the biblical diction. Although he was not a great innovator structurally, and generally preferred the more traditional patterns of meter and rhyme, he developed the Hebrew prose poem, "Megillat ha-Esh" ("The Scroll of Fire," 1905) and his occasional experiments with symbol and myth ("Megillat ha-Esh," "Metei Midbar" ("The Dead in the Desert," 1902) extended the frontier of modern Hebrew poetry.
Bialik's impact on Hebrew literature was not altogether positive. His literary genius cast an entire generation into the shadow; its writers were dominated by Bialik's style and themes. Yet a number of significant Hebrew poets of the period were able to maintain a great degree of artistic independence. Foremost among them was Saul *Tchernichowsky, who by education and temperament was much more "European" than many of his contemporaries. Thematically and structurally he strove to introduce a more European poetry and therefore utilizes a large variety of European poetic structures (sonnets, idylls, ballads) and rhyme patterns. His poetry also expresses revolt against the puritanism of the Jewish tradition and its shunning of the plastic and the physical. Like Berdyczewski, he stresses the individualism of his characters and the revolt of healthy passion against the suppressive puritanism of the Jewish society. More radical than Frischmann, he sought to bring to the fore the pagan undercurrent which he believed had flourished in the biblical period. He found it embodied not only in the erotic passion of the biblical woman (Ashtorti Li), but in the suppressed prophecies of the "false prophets." Yet it would be a mistake to stress only this aspect of Tchernichowsky's work. As a humanist, he remained committed to the universalist goals of European culture despite the tragedy of terror and war ("La-Shemesh," "To the Sun," 1919). He rejected, however, the traditionalistic belief that nature, passion, and physical prowess are antithetical to morality. Unlike Bialik, Tchernichowsky wrote extensively after his migration to Ereẓ Israel in 1931. Some of his landscape poems are among the finest composed in Israel ("Ayit, Ayit" 1936, "Eagle! Eagle!"). The Ereẓ Israel experience is also reflected in his patriotic verse ("Re'i Adamah" ("See Earth") 1938) and in his profound long poem "Amma de-Dahavah" ("People of Gold," 1937–40).
A third and less significant poet of Bialik's generation, Zalman *Shneour, expressed a rebellious and individualistic disillusionment with conventional mores. His poetry is often permeated with a pessimistic view of the future of European civilization as in Yemei ha-Beinayim Mitkarevim ("The Middle Ages are Approaching," 1915). In a literature which was in his day extremely puritanical, his verses are marked at times by a comparative erotic boldness. Shneour had a gift for descriptive poetry ("Be-Harim," "In the Mountains," 1908), but his diction often took on an immature and extravagant tone. His world is one of unbridled passion and instincts experienced by a sensitive poet who would have preferred a more idealist view of man but discovered that such a view is an illusion. Against this backdrop of blood and instinct, he describes the massacres of Jews in the Ukraine following the Russian Revolution and later in World War II. Erotic motifs also appear in his later work, the less successful series of poems on the theme of Israel's false prophets in biblical times (Luḥot Genuzim, "Hidden Tablets," 1941).
A very prolific poet of Bialik's school, Ya'akov Cahan, wrote verse in keeping with the great European Romantics. His poems are highly nationalistic. He frequently wrote closet drama dealing with historical Jewish themes. Bialik's school also produced two poets whose meditative lyrical poems have elicited renewed enthusiasm of contemporary Israel students of literature. Jacob *Fichmann wrote impressive landscape poetry in a terse but simple verse and Jacob *Steinberg, elliptic philosophical poetry. Deeply personal and pessimistic, Steinberg's poetry is almost devoid of the social and nationalist idea which were the earmark of his generation.
The Second Aliyah brought an increasing number of Hebrew authors to Palestine; they settled mainly in the Jewish part of Jaffa. Among the major writers were: Shlomo *Ẓemach (1904); S. *Ben-Zion (1905); Yosef *Aharonovitch (1906); Mordecai ben Hillel *Hacohen, Rabbi *Binyamin (Radler), Uri Nissan *Gnessin, David *Shimoni (1907; Gnessin and Shimoni returned to Russia in 1908); S.Y. Agnon, J.Ḥ. *Brenner, *Raḥel (Bluwstein; 1909); Ya'akov *Rabinowitz, Ẓevi *Schatz (1910); Devorah *Baron, Yeshurun *Keshet (1911); and Asher *Barash, Jacob Steinberg (1914). They were preceded by several Hebrew writers who had settled in Ereẓ Israel during the 1880s (First Aliyah); the foremost among them, Eliezer *Ben-Yehuda, arrived in Jerusalem in 1881. Ben-Yehuda was not only the great advocate of the revival of spoken Hebrew but an important lexicographer who coined hundreds of new Hebrew words, many of which were absorbed by the revived language. He also was the father of modern Palestinian journalism. After serving on the editorial staff of I.D. *Frumkin's *Ḥavaẓẓelet, he founded his own weekly, Ha-Ẓevi, in 1885 and in 1909 converted it into a daily. The paper often appeared under different names to avoid censorship restrictions. As editor, Ben-Yehuda adopted the sensational journalistic style then current in Paris. The historian and essayist Ze'ev (Wolf) *Jawitz lived in Ereẓ Israel between 1888 and 1897 and published romantic stories about the early agricultural settlements in the Sharon. Moshe *Smilansky, who arrived in 1891, wrote slightly more realistic stories about Palestinian life. He was the first to write Hebrew fiction about Arab life, using the pseudonym "Ḥawajah Musa."
Hebrew literature in Palestine acquired significance during the Second Aliyah, particularly after the founding of *Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir (1907), the literary-political organ of the younger pioneers. The Palestinian short story grew out of the landscape of the old-new homeland. Jawitz's romantic picture of God-fearing, observant farmers who tilled their soil peacefully like their biblical ancestors gave way to the more realistic depiction of the hardships of pioneering, the life of disillusioned immigrants in Jaffa or Jerusalem (Brenner, Ẓevi Schatz, S. Ẓemach). Stylistically, the development of spoken Hebrew and its extension from the classroom, the library, and the study to the farm and the workshop not only lent a new flexibility to the language but also broadened its active vocabulary. Thus the poetry of Raḥel strives to capture the rhythms of new speech and, in contrast to the poetry of European Hebrew poets, scans in the Sephardi accent.
The most significant prose writer of the period is J.Ḥ. Brenner who began his literary career in Russia. Brenner was influenced by the Russian psychological school, particularly Dostoevski (he translated Crime and Punishment into Hebrew). His main characters are "underground" men, Jewish intellectuals who are unable to free themselves of the society against which they revolt because psychologically they have been thwarted by its restrictions. Brenner's writing, brutally honest, eschews sham or pretense; his sentences, clipped, often broken, and rarely polished, convey the hesitancy and the tension of his neurotic characters. The world he depicts is tragic and helpless, pervaded by a gloomy pessimism which holds no promise for a way out. His Palestinian stories followed those of his Russian period and except for the change of venue, the dark mood is hardly altered. His later works, however, point to a maturing of style and a greater concern for structure. Undoubtedly Shekhol ve-Khishalon ("Bereavement and Failure," 1920) is the best of his works.
Brenner's close friend, Uri Nissan Gnessin, spent only one year in Palestine and therefore geographically belongs to the European period of Hebrew literature. His experiments in style, particularly his use of the long, meditative, almost lyrical sentence to express the Angst ("anxiety") of his characters, his individual use of the interior monologue, and his psychological insight mark him as a forerunner of the Palestinian school.
S.Y. Agnon, who began writing in his native Galicia, arrived in Palestine in 1909, and at this time published his first mature works, including Agunot ("Forsaken Wives," 1909, in: Ha-Omer), under the pseudonym Agnon, which in 1924 became his official name. His best works which made such a great impact on Hebrew literature were, however, written after World War I.
The upheavals which racked Russian Jewry in the wake of World War I and the Russian Revolution all but spelled the end of the Hebrew literary center in Russia. Following the revolution there was some attempt to start a Communist Hebrew literature in Russia but Hebrew was soon declared a counter-revolutionary language. Hebrew publications were banned, and many Hebrew writers, including Bialik, were thrown into prison. At the request of Maxim *Gorki, Lenin ordered their release. For a few years the exiled writers established a center in Berlin. In Poland and Lithuania a few writers maintained small subcenters. Some also migrated to New York where they reinforced the already existing U.S. Hebrew press (Ha-Toren and later Hadoar) and maintained a small center (see below, Hebrew Literature in the U.S.). But a seemingly inevitable process was propelling the majority of Hebrew writers to Palestine.
The pioneers of the Second Aliyah had begun to develop an indigenous Palestinian literature – the so-called "Ereẓ Israel genre." Their numbers, however, were small and they remained an annex of the European center. With the destruction of the old center, the Hebrew writers of Palestine came into their own. Bialik arrived in Tel Aviv in 1924 and shortly thereafter organized the Dvir Publishing House and the Hebrew Writers Association, and became the undisputed leader of the literary community. However, his contact with the new homeland left little impact upon his writing and the little poetry he wrote in the last decade of his life, which he spent in Palestine, was generally in the mode of his Odessa period. The writers of the Second Aliyah and the older immigrant authors who arrived after World War I formed a cohesive community. The younger writers of the Third Aliyah (1920–24) soon, however, began to question their literary leadership and gave expression to the radical changes in the social, political, and literary views which grew out of the trauma of World War I and the Russian Revolution.
Politically and socially, the younger writers were far more radical than their elders. While their Zionist commitment led them to reject the Leninist denial of Jewish nationalism (at least in the Zionist sense), they embraced the socialist ideal and its call for a radical change of the class structure of Jewish society. Whether Marxists or voluntarist socialists, they dreamt of a new social order often in terms of farm or city communes. Almost all of them were ḥalutzim who had come to build a new society. The Ukrainian pogroms and the general breakup of their home communities in Russia found expression in a somber pessimism which often led them to question the ideology they had embraced. Their youthful exuberance and a leap of faith which grew out of the camaraderie of fellow ḥalutzim, however, redeemed their idealism. Yiẓḥak *Lamdan's poem Massadah (1927), for all its expressionist rhetoric, is an honest document of the period.
From a literary point of view, the well-rounded, learned phrasing of Bialik's school and its preoccupation with classical structure and clarity of expression was hardly in consonance with the mood of the younger writers and of European letters. Russian revolutionary writers had broken with classicism: the rhythms and wild images of poets like Aleksandr Blok and Sergei Esenin more aptly expressed the psychological world of these younger writers. At the same time, the new poetic diction of the Russian symbolists, the acmeists, and the German neoromantics (Stefan George, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Hugo von Hoffmannsthal) also left its mark on Hebrew poetry. The latter trends made their appearance in such poets as Avraham ben Yiẓḥak *Sonne, David *Vogel, and Yehudah *Karni.
The new literary views found expression in Ketuvim, a magazine founded by the Hebrew Writers Association in 1926, but soon taken over by the younger generation. Under the editorship of Eliezer *Steinman, who was soon joined by the poet Abraham *Shlonsky, it became the organ of the modernist group and disassociated itself from the sponsorship of its founders. Among the new writers who published in Ketuvim were: Ya'akov *Horowitz, Yiẓḥak Norman, Yisrael *Zmora, and later Nathan *Alterman, Lea *Goldberg, and Ezra *Sussman.
Abraham Shlonsky, Nathan Alterman, Uri Ẓevi Greenberg, and Lea Goldberg were the leading poets of the Palestinian period. From the very beginning of his career Shlonsky was the staunch advocate of modernism. As coeditor of Ketuvim, and the editor of Turim (1933–38), he openly challenged Bialik's literary authority, calling for a modern, individualistic, "de-theologized" Hebrew poetry and rejecting both the "logical" rationalist poetry of Bialik's school as well as its collective-nationalist orientation. He demanded the acceptance of spoken Hebrew and even slang usage as a legitimate form of poetic diction. Under the influence of the Russian revolutionary poets, Blok, Esenin, Mayakovski, and the French symbolists (Shlonsky lived in Paris between 1924 and 1925), he wrote poems which gave expression to the ennui and despair of his generation, particularly of the Jew who has suffered so much from war, revolution, and pogroms. "Devai" (1923–24), the title poem of his first volume of verse, is a long symbol-laden poem which takes up the malaise and the horror of modern secularized urban life and offers little hope for the future. In other poems Shlonsky returns again and again to the sheltered world of childhood, contrasting it with the lonely, desperate life of the ḥalutz torn between his dream of rebirth and the reality of his pioneering hardships ("Le-Abba Imma" (1927), Ba-Galgal (1927)). In his later works these themes receive a more mature treatment; Shlonsky somehow strikes a balance between the low-key symbolist influences and the more blatant surrealistic and even expressionist imagery. His urban hell now also embraces the fascist threat. At the same time, he continuously harks back to the primordial themes of soil and agriculture with their blessings of fertility and security.
Nathan Alterman and Lea Goldberg may be considered Shlonsky's disciples. Both were discovered by him and he encouraged their writing during their crucial years as beginners. Alterman continued and extended Shlonsky's experiments with new rhythms and the syntax of the spoken idiom. Simultaneous with his serious poetry, he wrote light verse not only for the musical comedy theaters which staged political satires and enjoyed popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, but especially for his weekly verse column Ha-Tur ha-Shevi'i ("The Seventh Column"), which enjoyed great popularity during the struggle against the British. From a stylistic point of view these media enabled him to develop a saucy, slangy diction. In retrospect, like Shlonsky, he did not stray too far from classical Hebrew, perhaps because in the 1920s and 1930s a literal language was needed to fill the lacuna left by the yet inadequate spoken tongue. Alterman's serious poetry was punctuated with wild expressionist metaphors and slangy or slang-like neologism. At his best he produced a score of impressive modernist poems which in their day had a major impact on the works of his younger contemporaries. Many of his poems have a ballad-like
Lea Goldberg was influenced by the Russian acmeists and the symbolist German poets. She shunned the verbal extravagance of the expressionist, preferring calmer tones. Like the acmeists, she aimed at simple conversational diction and gave preference to more conventional poetic forms. Her themes were modern, however, and her verse expresses the sad wisdom of an urbane and mature artist who, despite her sophistication, was able to experience and give voice to the miracle of the poetry which lies behind the ordinary phenomena of nature and life.
Perhaps the most talented poet of the age, and far less accessible to schematic definition, is Uri Ẓevi Greenberg. Unlike his contemporaries, Greenberg rejected the humanist socialist ideologies of his contemporaries, positing bold gigantic strokes, a mystic, anti-rational, and quasi-racial conception of the destiny of the Jewish people. He draws the Jew with bold gigantic strokes, a God-elected figure living outside history. His tragedy grows out of his great refusal to fulfill his historic destiny as the bearer of the holy seed. European civilization is a satanic fraud which beguiles him and leads to his massacre. Only by accepting his historic vocation with all the horror and the glory its fulfillment calls into being will the Jew survive. From a formal point of view Greenberg's rejection of Europe leads him to seek poetic forms and cadences which are historically Jewish. His language and metaphors are drawn not only from biblical sources but also from later Hebrew literature, frequently from the Kabbalah. Although he is also capable of writing terse lyrical verse, he prefers the expressive cadences of biblical rhetoric. He, himself, acknowledges his stylistic debt to Walt Whitman.
In his poetry Shin *Shalom wedded a strong nationalist commitment with a mystical individualistic experience which often showed a deep psychoanalytic insight into the world of the self. The increasing momentum of his nationalist enthusiasm in his later poetry overshadows his personal experience and much of his lyrical force is lost. Yonathan *Ratosh successfully endeavors to give formal expression to the cult of Canaanite primitivism and paganism whose first signs appear in the prose of Frischmann and the poetry of Tchernichowsky. Ratosh strove to revive ancient poetic forms and metaphors by reconstructing mythical remnants preserved in biblical narratives and by drawing upon ancient Ugaritic poetry. Ratosh's preoccupation with Canaanite myth is related to his Canaanite political ideology that views Israel as a new nation which is no longer Jewish and must reintegrate itself into the Middle Eastern culture of the Fertile Crescent. This he believes can be done by picking up those strands of ancient Near Eastern myths which were abandoned after the Jews forsook the Middle East and became Europeans.
The two leading prose writers of the period are S.Y. Agnon and Ḥayyim *Hazaz. Agnon's literary achievement is second only to Bailik's and his work encompasses large areas of the Jewish experience: Jewish Galicia of the remote past; the Galicia of his childhood; the Palestine of the Second Aliyah; the Jerusalem of the older traditionalistic settlement; Austria, Germany, and Galicia of the interbellum period; and Jerusalem of the British Mandate. His career marks the high point of the Polish-Galician strain in modern Hebrew literature with its stress on the emotional and nonrational experience of its protagonists. The influence of ḥasidic and Jewish pietistic folk literature are integrated in Agnon with the psychological, symbolistic, and existential mode of Scandinavian and Austro-Hungarian literature. His style is based, in the main, on the rabbinic-ḥasidic prose of the period immediately preceding the development of modern Hebrew but it also owes much to such early Galician Hebrew writers as Menahem Mendel Levin (Lefin) and Josef Perl and in its biblical tone (Bi-Demi Yamehah ("In the Prime of Life") for example) even to Erter. To the contemporary Hebrew reader it has a manneristic obsolescence deliberately reinforced by the Yiddish spelling of certain European words (zuker instead of the accepted sukar or kahve instead of kafe). Some critics see in his style an attempt to point up the paradox of writing modernistic stories in an ancient sacred tongue. Others explain it as an attempt to preserve the flavor of the Yiddish idiom used by many of his characters in his Galician stories.
Agnon's novels are landmarks in modern Hebrew literature. Hakhnasat Kallah (second rev. 1929; Bridal Canopy, 1937) is an attempt to depict the spiritual world of 18th-century Galician Jewry. From a structural point of view Agnon develops an indigenous Jewish literary form built around cyclical motifs drawn from pietistic literature (marriage, hospitality, wandering, etc.). It is essentially a character novel, and the hero R. Yidel is a quixotic personality who confronts life with a world view which is nurtured in the past. Traditional folk themes, the treasure and the cock, are imbued with modern symbolic significance. Ore'aḥ Nata Lalun ("A Guest for the Night," 1939), Agnon's attempt to describe the decline of East European Jewry after World War I, has for its hero a hesitant Palestinian Jew who returns to his native Galicia to seek the key to the forsaken synagogue. He is confounded by the realization that after the key turned up, it is he alone who is charged with the responsibility of keeping the synagogue open. Temol Shilshom ("The Days Before," 1945), probably the best modern Hebrew novel, is set in Ottoman Palestine and is a tale of two cities – Jaffa (Tel Aviv), symbolizing the new secular yishuv, and Jerusalem, representing the traditional Holy Land. Isaac Kummer ("he who comes" or "grief and sorrow") is torn between the two civilizations; unable to orientate himself toward either, he goes mad. The story within the story, that of Balak the dog, is one of the profoundest animal symbolistic fables in
Other leading prose writers of the Mandate period are Yehuda *Burla, one of the early modern writers of Sephardi descent, who wrote stories depicting Sephardi life in his native Jerusalem and in the Middle East; Asher Barash, a prolific short-story writer and novelist who wrote of Jewish life in his native Galicia and in Palestine; Devorah Baron whose short stories sensitively describe life in her native Belorussia; Gershon *Shofman whose psychological-lyrical short stories and sketches are an original type of narrative.
Only recently has it become known that the history of women's writing in Hebrew literature starts in the mid-19th century, during the Haskalah period. Hitherto, it was generally assumed that as a result of women's ignorance of Hebrew and the canonical texts, the Hebrew Haskalah was a male movement. The very few women who dared to compose poetry or fiction were never considered to have initiated women's literature. That picture has changed as a result of the discovery of Hebrew writings by some 25 women in manuscript archives and Hebrew-language literary periodicals of the Haskalah period. The few known women writers now appear to have been part of a wider phenomenon. Even in this early period, several others not only read Hebrew but also put their knowledge of the language, their ability to express themselves, and their creativity to active use in writing.
Women gained a significant place in Hebrew enlightenment circles only in the latter half of the 19th century, mainly in Russia and Lithuania. Most of them expressed themselves in non-literary genres: various kinds of correspondence, social essays, and translations (of which the best known example is Miriam Markel-Mosessohn's Hebrew translation of a German-language work of history, which she called Ha-Yehudim be-Angliyah, 1869).
The only extant complete archive of a woman's correspondence is that of Miriam Markel-Mosessohn (1839–1920). However, other letters have survived in men's archives, such as those of Judah Leib Gordon (which contains letters by Rivka Rottner, Sheyne Wolf, Sarah Shapira, Nehama Feinstein, and others), Dr. Judah Loeb Landau, Perez Smolenskin, and Shneur Sachs. Other letters (for example by Sarah Cohen Nevinsky, Bertha Kreidman, and Shifra Alchin) were published in Hebrew Haskalah periodicals or collections of correspondence. Most of the letters demonstrate an excellent knowledge of Hebrew and a strong commitment to Haskalah ideas.
Another way in which maskilot sought to participate in maskilic creative endeavor was to publish feminine social essays in Haskalah Hebrew periodicals. Some of these essays (for example Sara Feiga Foner Meinkin's "Ha-Aviv," 1876, and Marka Altschuler's "Thoughts on the Ninth of Av, My Birthday," 1880) focused on conventional maskilic "male" ideological themes. Others (like Taube Segal's "The Woman Question," 1879) expressed specifically female protests and a demand to improve girls' education.
Prior to the end of the Haskalah period, very few women published conventional literary works; we know of only three poets and one significant prose writer. Two of the poets wrote only two poems each: Hanna Blume Sulz of Vilna ("The Play," 1882, and "The Valley of Revelation," 1883) and Sara Shapira ("Remember the One Caught by a Horn," 1886, and "Zion," 1888). These poems display good knowledge of Hebrew and familiarity with canonical texts and Haskalah poetry. However, Sulz's poems are an example of the woman poet's failure when she surrendered to the masculine tastes of the time, losing her feminine authenticity. Shapira's poems are more authentic and therefore more successful, but her writing never developed into mature poetry.
A first poetic expression in Hebrew of the woman's world and her problems may be found in the writings of the Jewish-Italian poet Rachel *Morpurgo (1790–1879), whose works were collected in book form only after her death (Rachel's Organ,
Only one woman dared to write novels during the 1880s, Sarah Feiga Foner Meinkin, who published four Hebrew books, three of them works of fiction: A Righteous Love, or The Pursued Family (first volume 1881; the second was never published) The Treachery of Traitors (1891), and a children's didactic story, Children's Way or A Story From Jerusalem (1886). The fourth book was her memoirs (Memories of My Childhood, or A Memoir of Dvinsk, 1903). A Righteous Love is the first Hebrew novel by a woman. Although it seems merely to imitate male Haskalah novel-writing conventions, the author did not abandon her authentic female voice (from which she retreats in her later works). It comes out in the lively, persuasive, and colorful descriptions of the character and world of the heroine, Finnalia, her relationships (especially with other women), and her domestic life. Feminist criticism of her society also finds expression: When describing arranged marriages in Galicia, the narrator critically comments on fathers who use their daughters for business deals, "like horses and donkeys."
Sarah Feiga Foner Meinkin, however, was a unique phenomenon in her own times. Further Hebrew short stories by women were not published in Russia until the first decade of the 20th century. Thus, in 1902 the first stories by Devorah *Baron appeared in Hamelitz and in 1909 a small collection of short stories (Koveẓ Ẓiyyurim) by Chava Shapira (1871–1943) was published. Both writers (Shapira wrote only a few more stories but Baron became a dominant writer) centered their stories around women's lives and thus mark the beginning of conscious female writing within a tradition of Hebrew women's writing.
[Tova Cohen (2nd ed.)]
From the very outset of the Zionist settlement movement, at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, a smattering of writings by women, setting out their own vision of Ereẓ Israel, can be seen in the pages of the Hebrew-language periodicals of the time. In the Jewish communities of Europe, despite the increasing acquisition of culture and learning by women, very few of them had made so bold as to make their writings public. A woman writer was seen as deviating from accepted social norms, compromising the natural occupations of women as homemakers and mothers, and invading, by way of her creative activity, a realm that was reserved exclusively for men. Those women who nevertheless had the courage to publish their writings were received with derision and criticism so harsh as to deter others (see Sarah Feiga Foner Meinkin). However, things were different in Ereẓ Israel. Here, too, the creative efforts of women writers were either roundly criticized or ignored, but this no longer put them off writing. To be sure, if the Zionist revolution, particularly in its socialist stripe, had declared its pioneering endeavor to be an equal partnership of men and women, it had retreated from this declaration on the practical level from the moment the settlement effort got underway. In keeping with the traditional conceptions characteristic of the Diaspora, women were kept in the margins of public and nationalist activity and were expected to serve as "helpmeets" rather than equal partners in the leadership of the yishuv. However, the women did not keep quiet. Unlike their Diaspora predecessors, they were cognizant of their roles and contributions in advancing the Zionist endeavor, and they set out to fight for their rightful place in both the public and the literary arenas. For the women who took part in that endeavor, as settlers, laborers, or pioneers, the national revival was also a women's revival, and so also a women's literary revival. Women insisted on making their voices heard in the male-dominated public sphere of the yishuv and on continuing to publish their creative work, even if they met with rejection.
On the other hand, a perusal of anthologies, historiographies, and Hebrew literary studies concerned with the period of the yishuv reveals very little in the way of prose writing by women. Their literary output, it would seem, was largely confined to poetry, including that of *Raḥel Blaustein, Esther Raab, Lea *Goldberg, Elisheva Bichovsky, Anda Pinkerfeld- *Amir, and others. These poets, too, never received the support and encouragement they deserved from contemporary male poets and critics, but their poems nevertheless made their way into the public consciousness and became an inseparable part of the literary repertoire of the period. This fortune was not shared by the women prose writers, notwithstanding their literary productivity, which enriched the Hebrew bookshelf with dozens of novels, novellas, short stories, plays, stories for children and young adults, non-fictional works, essays, memoirs, and biographies. Only the fiction of Devorah Baron attracted the interest of literary critics and scholars. Baron's works certainly were outstanding in their aesthetic quality, but the exclusive focus upon them gave rise to the unfounded historiographical thesis that there was nothing much in the way of women's prose writing from Devorah Baron until Amalia *Kahana-Carmon, who began publishing her work in the 1950s. The impression was of a void during the period of the yishuv that began to be filled only in the early period of the state.
Who were the "unknown" women prose writers, and what did they write? They began arriving in Ereẓ Israel with the first waves of settlers, with aspirations not only to give vent to their creative impulses but first and foremost to fulfill their Zionist, or socialist-Zionist, commitment to building the Jewish national homeland. They were working women – their writing always emerged as a secondary occupation – who engaged in public and ideological activity within the rural
Taken together, these writers do not present a uniform typological visage; rather, they represented a multicultural cross-section of the various sectors of the yishuv. If most of them were secular, there were those who were religiously observant (Malka Shapira); and if the majority originated in Eastern Europe, there were those who hailed from Western Europe (Hannah Trager) and several from the Yemenite (Sarah Levy, Yonah Wahab) and Sephardi (Shoshanah Shababo) communities. Politically, they belonged to several different streams in the Zionist movement, some to the labor sector (Rivkah Alper belonged to the moderate wing, Emma Levine Talmi to the radicals), and some to the "civil" sector (Ira Yan, Shoshanah Sherira). Most were new immigrants, but a few were born in the country (Hannah Lunz Bolotin, Shoshanah Shababo).
The women prose writers of the yishuv can be grouped into three generations. Those of the first generation, born in the second half of the 19th century, immigrated to Ereẓ Israel with the first and second aliyot, in the years immediately before and after the turn of the 20th century, and began publishing their works from this period onward (Nehamah Pukhachevsky, Hemdah *Ben-Yehuda, Devorah Baron). Those of the second generation, born in the first decade of the 20th century, immigrated to the country and began publishing their works in the period between the two world wars (1918–1939 – Batyah Kahana, Rivkah Gurfein, and the native-born Shoshanah Shababo). Those of the third generation, born during the second two decades of the 20th century and brought to the country as young children, grew up for all intents and purposes as native Israelis (Sarah Gluzman, Pnina Caspi, Shoshanah Sherira, Yehudit Hendel) and began publishing their works in the 1930s and 1940s.
This diverse community of writers naturally produced a spectrum of women's narratives that varied in their social, political, and cultural perspectives. The plots ranged around two principal foci: (1) women's experience qua women: their self-awareness, motherhood, male–female relations, sexuality, relationships among women, the exploitation and oppression of women, and so on; and (2) women's experience as a function of their situation in Ereẓ Israel: their encounter with the land, the transition from conservative ways of living to freer ones, the absence of the older generation, women's isolation within the "united" collective, their struggle for a place in public life, their critique of the masculine character of the Zionist endeavor, and so on. These women's themes contributed to the creation of a unique female narrative, an integral part of which was a female version of the national narrative that had a distinctly different character from the dominant masculine one. If the latter was one of dramatic struggle, danger, and heroic death, the female narrative was one of gray, ongoing struggle for survival. If the masculine national narrative presented itself as the collective subject, giving every plot the power of a statement of historic vision, the female national narrative focused on the private and the everyday, which it treated in a restrained but critical tone.
A further distinctive quality of the female narrative was the presence, to varying degrees, of critical "feminist" tendencies. From the very outset of women's prose writing in the yishuv, two principal feminist positions may be discerned in it: a constructivist trend, trail-blazed by Hemdah Ben-Yehuda, and a melancholic one, whose first representative was Nehamah Pukhachevsky. According to the constructivist stance, women were destined, with time, to emerge from their marginal position in the society of the yishuv. Their increasing acquisition of learning and culture, particularly their reeducation to Hebrew culture and national consciousness, would surely advance their equality and centrality in the evolving national community. Ben-Yehuda spoke primarily of the centrality of women as mothers in constructing the new generation and emphasized how the quality of their mothering conditioned that of the entire nation. This optimistic feminism emerged in a variety of fictional narratives in which alternatives to the conventional portrayal of women posed models of strong-willed, self-confident women, able to stand their ground against patriarchal men (as in the works of Batyah Kahana, Sarah Gluzman, and Shoshanah Sherira).
The melancholic position took the shape of a more critical type of feminism. It excoriated the masculine Zionist activity that in practice replicated all the ills of the past, so that instead of realizing the liberal-nationalist rebirth of the people and of humanity, it rebuilt a reactionary society characterized by overweening hegemonies, new class hierarchies, and indifference to the weaker members of society, such as laborers, members of the Oriental Jewish communities, "others," and, of course, women. The writers who took this position sought to recount, from the perspective of women, the national narrative of those who stood in the margins of Zionism and the society it was creating and to expose the oppressive situation in which they found themselves. However, this critical protest was not voiced aggressively or stridently. On the contrary; it was muted and introverted, fluctuating between anguish and melancholy in a kind of drawn-out lament (as may be seen in the works of Ruhamah Hazanov, Pnina Caspi, Yehudit Mensch, and Miriam Tal).
These and other features led to the coalescence of a female meta-poetics. Although the writers emerged from different sectors and were informed by different ideological and literary worldviews, they may be seen as belonging to an "imagined community" – one that worked and created, consciously or unconsciously, according to a shared meta-poetics with several distinctive qualities. (1) Unlike contemporary male writers, who devoted little space to representations of women in their pioneering narratives, the women writers completed the missing half of the map by filling that void with their own creations. Moreover, they endowed women in the yishuv with a more powerful presence, allowed them to articulate themselves, and gave voice to all those representations of silent or silenced women. (2) Prose-writing in the yishuv devoted much discussion to the development of the "new Hebrew," while continuing to represent the "Hebrew woman" according to men's traditional conceptions, represented by just two archetypal contrasts: that between Eve and the she-demon Lilith, and that between the lover and the wife-mother. But women's prose was different; it endeavored to mold a new woman with a female Israeli character, in possession of a female Hebrew culture (anticipating the appearance of the native-born sabra). (3) The "literature of the homeland," as written by men, developed two primary genres: novels on the theme of settling the land, and documentary novels. Women writers, too, dealt in their own way with these genres, but they narrated them along the lines of romance, or "national romance," interweaving them with elements of legend and fantasy.
It is perhaps because of these gendered differences in poetics that the male literary community showed little understanding for and interest in women's prose, to the point of excluding and banishing it from the collective memory. That exclusion was not entirely all-encompassing; here and there a few male writers and critics encouraged women writers, particular in the early stages of their careers. Thus, Joseph Klausner read and commented upon the writings of Batyah Kahana; Yitzhak Lamdan, editor of the literary periodical Gilyonot, published the work of Shoshanah Sherira; Avigdor Hameiri facilitated the publication of Miriam Tal's first book; and Asher Barash, as editor of the Mitzpeh publishing house, published works by Rivkah Alper, Shoshanah Shababo, and Miriam Bernstein Cohen. However, this kind of partial, fleeting recognition did not lead to the public embrace of their work, nor were women's journals like Ha-Ishah (1926–29), Devar ha-Po'elet (1934–70), and Olam ha-Ishah (1940–48) successful at keeping the women prose writers of the yishuv in the public eye.
Only in the 1980s, when literary scholarship began to take an interest in feminist and gender theory and so also to take up the status of women writers as a topic of study, were these nearly forgotten writers rediscovered, as works by Yaffah Berlovitz, Orly Lubin, Avivah Ufaz, Tamar Hess, and others began restoring their writings to the collective memory of contemporary Israeli culture.
[Yaffah Berlovitz (2nd ed.)]
The year of the establishment of the State of Israel, 1948, is a convenient date to mark the onset of the Israel period of modern Hebrew literature, although it actually began earlier. One of its leading literary figures, S. *Yizhar, published his first short story, Efrayim Ḥozer la-Aspeset, as early as 1938. Most of the younger generation of writers on the literary scene in 1948 were either native Palestinians or had come to Palestine in their childhood. The few who came in their youth or later had been so deeply involved in Zionist or Hebrew youth movements in the Diaspora that they too were culturally Palestinians. Hebrew was the mother tongue of these writers or at least their childhood language. The earlier Palestinian generation had by now forged a spoken language which had rid Hebrew of its somewhat pedantic character and the Hebrew of the new school was a natural language alive with colloquialisms and the echoes of childhood speech. Born into the Palestinian landscape, the younger authors viewed it more realistically than the older generation with its tendency to idealize the land of their Zionist dreams, on the one hand, and to recollect nostalgically the northern climes of their childhood on the other. For the new generation, the East European landscape existed only in the memory of childhood stories which they had read or heard from their parents. The change of geographic locus also affected their Hebrew style. The new secular Hebrew school de-emphasized rabbinic and medieval Hebrew studies and gave primacy to biblical and modern literature. The Hebrew of the new writers was more flexible than that of the older generation but not as learned. Yiddish language and literature hardly affected their style or choice of themes. While the older writers were generally influenced by Eastern or Central European literature, the new school, whose second language was usually English, was affected by British and, especially, American literature. Moreover, unlike many of their predecessors, whose knowledge of a European literature was intimate and acquired in the country in which it was spoken, most Israel writers knew European literature through translations or criticism in Hebrew. Many learned a European language only after they began to publish.
The more "natural" approach of the Israel writers often expressed itself in its questioning of the Zionist-Socialist ideology of the parent generation. This trend was discernible in the earliest of their works. S. Yizhar in Efrayim Ḥozer la-Aspeset questions the kibbutz ideology and whether it really succeeded in establishing an egalitarian society. Uri, the hero of M. *Shamir's Hu Halakh ba-Sadot ("He Walked Through the Fields," 1947), for all his sense of duty, is hardly representative of the new type of Jew which the kibbutz movement apparently intended to produce. The ideology crisis and its subsequent existential anxiety, already dominant in post-World War II European literature, was delayed in the first phase of Israel literature by the struggle for national independence.
Many of the younger writers were members of kibbutzim and associated with various left-wing movements. They
By the 1950s the ideology crisis had set in: "Utopia" realized came to be seen as "utopia" lost. The enthusiasm of the War of Liberation and its victory gave way to the harsh reality of building the new state. Mass immigration, the unresolved conflict with the Arabs, the shift of Russian foreign policy, the necessity to compromise ideals in order that the state might survive militarily and economically, and the rise of careerism tended to erode the utopian ideals of the soldier-writer. National independence and the creation of the state had not resolved all problems. During the national struggle egoisms had been harnessed, following it, they seemed to burst forth. After the War of Independence some of the idealism that had led to the creation of the state paled and people began to pursue their own private ends. On the literary scene, the writer, his finger on the pulse of the nation, aesthetically expressed what the man in the street unconsciously felt. He chose to no longer subordinate his talent to a national cause to which he had often in the past consciously sacrificed his originality. Writers began to question the possibility of any ideology except subjective expression of their inner world. The prose and poetry in the late 1950s therefore took on an individualistic, existentialist, and even surrealistic tone expressing the anxieties of a generation disillusioned with ideologies. Their central theme is the alienation of modern man; their world that of the secularized, non-ideological urbanite. Rarely, except for their cultural or geographical context, does their writing deal with parochial Jewish topics. Yet, even when the Israel writer had rejected ideologies, he could not entirely escape the ethical imperatives of his Jewish tradition. Even before the Six-Day War his conscience had been disturbed by the Arab problem: the plight of the refugees whose solution could endanger the survival of the nation. After the war, which had come as a natural consequence of a long-term conflict, while accepting its harsh reality, he was perturbed by the military atmosphere. Perhaps the crisis following the war had already shifted the pendulum back to ideology.
The leading poets of the early Israel period, Ḥaim Gouri, Amir Gilboa, Abba *Kovner, and T. *Carmi are connected in one way or another with the Palmaḥ. Gouri's early verse, Pirḥei Esh ("Flowers of Fire," 1949), perhaps more than any other poem, expresses the revolutionary Zionist ideology of his generation which "spoke in the first person plural." While throughout his career he retained his commitment to his youthful ideology (this was reinforced by the experience of the Six-Day War) his later poetry took on a more personal tone. His anguish, however, is often rooted in the lonely feeling of a man who has retained a truth that others have abandoned: "But I guard the walls of a city that died years ago." Amir Gilboa, unlike Gouri, was born in Europe and his poetry, even during the earliest phases, is permeated by the tragedy of the Holocaust in which his family perished. Gilboa also confronted the horror of the Holocaust when as a soldier in the Jewish brigade he encountered the remnants of European Jewry after World War II. Breaking with the Shlonsky-Alterman tradition, he not only introduces his particular individual blend of traditional and colloquial elements but a surrealistic atmosphere pervaded by dream sequences and childish memories. In his later phase these characteristics became more pronounced and he added to them a remarkable experimentation with Hebrew sounds, extracting from them poetic implications. Abba Kovner, like Gilboa, is a product of the European Zionist left. Unlike Gilboa, who had arrived in Ereẓ Israel in 1937 and had experienced the Holocaust indirectly, Kovner was in Eastern Europe during the Nazi period. He was the partisan leader of the Vilna ghetto and later became a high-ranking resistance commander. His is a modernist poetry in which he fuses themes of the national struggle and the anti-Nazi resistance with the personal tragedy of the partisan or Palmaḥ fighter. Surrealistic symbols and visions which recur throughout his work project a complex image of the war and the Holocaust.
T. Carmi, an American by birth, was one of the earliest new poets to draw upon modernist American and French techniques for his verse. (Simon Halkin had preceded him.) He combines a deep knowledge of European and American poetry with a mastery of traditional sources. Although his earliest volumes deal with "national" themes, the Holocaust, and the war even they, like his later works, have a subjective, existentialist perspective. In the 1950s he moved completely to a personal poetry which is intelligent, playful, and commands all the skills of the trade.
The second phase of Israel poetry is dominated by the work of Yehudah *Amichai in which are integrated the author's German Jewish Orthodox heritage and his Ereẓ Israel experience (arrived in Palestine in 1936). His use of daily speech, irony, metaphysical metaphors, and existentialist Angst have become the hallmarks of much of the poetry written by his younger contemporaries, who freely acknowledge their debt to him. These younger writers formed a literary group called Akhshav ("Now") which proclaimed the end of ideological poetry and broke with the Alterman-Shlonsky tradition. In later years Amichai personally disassociated himself from the group. Among the many talented poets of this generation are Nathan *Zach, Tuvyah *Ruebner, Dan Pagis, David Avidan, Dalia *Ravikovitch, and David *Rokeaḥ. At the same time, a new generation of poets began publishing; among the most promising are Meir Wieseltier, Mordecai Geldman, Ya'ir Hourvitz, Aryeh Sivan, and Israel Pincas.
The Palmaḥ generation produced realistic literature dealing in the main with their kibbutz experience and with their experiences during the War of Liberation. Prominent among them is Moshe Shamir, who in his novel Hu Halakh ba-Sadot, a best seller set during the War of Liberation, gives a realistic description of a Palmaḥ commander whose sense of duty seemed greater than his ideological commitment. Pirkei Elik (1952; With his Own Hands, 1970), a quasi-biographical work, is artistically the more interesting. Shamir's historical novel Melekh Basar va-Dam (1954; A King of Flesh and Blood, 1958) was very popular, while his later works are somewhat more experimental and have not enjoyed the popularity of his earlier novels.
S. Yizhar writes a more lyrical prose and his long novel Yemei Ẓiklag ("The Days of Ziklag," 1958) is undoubtedly the most important novel of the Palmaḥ generation. Despite its amorphous style, its lyrical repetitions, and its rather limited range of characterization, it expresses more than any other work the crisis of belief which shook the entire generation in the wake of the establishment of the State. S. Yizhar is one of the earliest authors who dealt honestly with the Arab question and expressed certain moral reservations with regard to handling the Arab refugee problem ("Ha-Shavui" "The Prisoner," 1949) and "Sippur Ḥirbet Ḥizeh," 1949).
Aharon *Megged began his literary career by writing seafaring short stories (Ru'aḥ Yamim, "Sea Wind," 1950) but turned to humor in his popular work Ḥedvah va-Ani ("Hedvah and I," 1954) and later to existentialist short stories and novels, such as Yisrael Ḥaverim (1955), Mikreh ha-Kesil (1960; Fortunes of a Fool, 1962); and Ha-Ḥai al ha-Met ("Living off the Dead," 1965). His characters, foiled by their own human weaknesses, are unable to adhere to the ideals (humanist-Zionist-socialist value system) they advocate and are therefore in a constant state of conflict.
Hanoch *Bartov, like Megged, depicts the challenge of the value system of the native Israeli confronted by a state he helped to create in which the new immigrants are not ideologically orientated and natives have become careerists: Ha-Ḥeshbon ve-ha-Nefesh ("The Reckoning and the Soul," 1953) and Shesh Kenafayim le-Eḥad ("Each Has Six Wings," 1954). He, too, writes about the Nazi catastrophe, as seen through the eyes of a Jewish Brigade soldier from Israel Piẓei Bagrut (1965; The Brigade, 1968). In his novel Shel Mi Attah Yeled ("Whose Are You, Boy," 1969), he returns to his childhood in Petaḥ Tikvah.
Poets like Amichai and Gouri have also written serious fiction. Amichai's Lo me-Akhshav Lo mi-Kan ("Not from Now nor Here," 1963), set in Jerusalem and in Germany, plumbs the Nazi Holocaust in an attempt to find meaning in it. He also wrote a volume of surrealist stories. Gouri's Iskat ha-Shokolad (1965; The Chocolate Deal, 1968) approaches the Holocaust theme through the relationship of two refugees. Of the younger prose writers, the more significant are Amos Oz (1939– ), whose Mikha'el Shelli (1968) also alludes to the Arab problem; and Nissim *Aloni who writes brilliantly about his childhood in the Jaffa slums and is by far the most original Israel playwright. He combines a superb sense of the theater with a talent for the absurd. Benjamin *Tammuz writes nostalgically about his childhood in Tel Aviv (Ḥolot ha-Zahav, 1950; Sands of Gold, 1953); he has published a trilogy which centers around a picaresque hero, Eliyakum. Avraham B. *Yehoshua, published three volumes of short stories: Mot ha-Zaken ("Death of the Old Man," 1963); Mul ha-Ye'arot ("Facing the Forests," 1968); and Tishah Sippurim ("Nine Stories," 1970); Three Days and a Child (1970) is a collection of five short stories.
Aharon *Appelfeld delves into the inner world of his characters, who, like himself, are victims of the Holocaust. His central theme is the psychological residue of the Holocaust experienced by the characters years later. Thus he approaches the tragedy obliquely, writing in a lyrical prose which is simple, but freighted with nightmarish symbols. The deep religious mysticism which dominates Pinḥas *Sadeh's prose and poetry is not orthodox and at times takes on Christological overtones. Amaliah Cahana-Carmon's sensitive short stories deal with her childhood.
The 1970s marked the passing of most of the prolific writers of this generation: S.Y. *Agnon (d. 1970) and Ḥayyim *Hazaz (d. 1973), two outstanding writers of prose fiction, and Nathan *Alterman (d. 1970), Lea *Goldberg (d. 1970), and Abraham *Shlonsky (d. 1973), three eminent poets. Only Uri Ẓevi *Greenberg, in his eighties, continued to write his exceedingly powerful, expressionist-mystical verse until his death in 1981.
Collected works of these authors appeared either shortly before or soon after their deaths. Most significant were the posthumously published works of Agnon, which were edited by his daughter, Emunah Yaron. These include the novels Shirah (1971), depicting Jerusalem's intellectual community of the 1930s and 1940s, and Be-Ḥanuto shel Mar Lublin ("In Mr. Lublin's Shop," 1974), set in Leipzig during World War I, Ir U-Meloah ("A City and its Fullness"), a monumental portrayal of Agnon's home town and for that matter of 1,000 years of Jewish life in Poland (1973), and Sofer, Sippur ve-Sefer ("Writer, Story and Book," 1978), a collection of traditional vignettes relating to the art of writing. Despite their sometimes incomplete form, these works reinforce the generally accepted view that Agnon was the greatest fiction writer of modern Hebrew literature.
Older poets, like Sh. *Shalom (Ki Panah ha-Yom – "The Day is Setting"; Shai Lavan – "White Gift," 1974) and Avraham *Broides (Kol Od Odi – "While I Still Am"), continued to publish poetry whose very titles reflect their stage of life. Yehoshua Tan Pai (1975) and Yonatan *Ratosh (d. 1981), who 30 years ago were looked upon as innovating trailblazers, published their collected works. Ezra *Sussman's (d. 1973) reflective prose poems Keshet Nisan ("April Rainbow," 1976) were extolled by the critics. The collected verse of Simon *Halkin
Writers associated with the "Generation of 1948," such as Ḥaim *Gouri, T. *Carmi, Abba *Kovner, and Amir *Gilboa, were active. In Mar'ot Geḥazi ("Visions of Geḥazi," 1973), Gouri seemed to be reliving vicariously the fears, anxieties and the glory of the War of Independence in poems reflecting the Yom Kippur War. Carmi's selected poems Davar Aḥer appeared in 1973. In Hitnaẓlut ha-Meḥaber ("The Author's Apology," 1974), he too reacts movingly to the trauma of the Yom Kippur War, and his El Ereẓ Aḥeret ("To Another Land," 1977), contains highly sophisticated, ironic lyric poetry reflecting his two-year stay at Oxford. In Raẓiti Likhtov Siftei Yeshenim ("I Wish to Write Sleeping Lips," 1968) and Ayalah Eshlaḥ Otakh ("Gazelle, I Dispatch You," 1972). Amir Gilboa moved away from his originally surrealistic poetry to a more realistic and concrete world. There is a thinning out of metaphor, yet at the same time a dazzling display of aural experimentalism. With Moaḥ ("Brain," 1975). Dan Pagis moved from a Rilkesque poetry to a more economical and cerebral idiom. Ozer Rabin, a poet who writes comparatively few poems, produced an impressive volume of delicately meditative verse (Be-Terem Ta'avor, 1976). *Zelda surprised Israeli readers with moving religious poetry (Al Tirḥak, "Do Not Go Far," 1975).
Fiction writers were equally productive. Moshe *Shamir's Yonah Be-Ḥaẓer Zarah ("Pigeon in a Strange Yard," 1975) is part of a trilogy written in a realistic vein which attempts to depict the saga of several generations of Israeli settlers. Aharon *Megged has made a more courageous effort to vary his themes and style. In Al Eẓim ve-Avanim ("Just About Everything," 1974), he tries to portray the ugly Israeli without the usual stereotyping. His anti-hero turns out be a frustrated human torn between the moral values he inherited from his Zionist past and a crass, almost self-destructive realism. Megged explores the theme of disillusionment with Zionist leaders rather than ideology in Maḥberot Evyatar ("Evyatar's Notebooks").
Benjamin Tammuz's Requiem le-Na'aman ("A Requiem for Na'aman," 1978) also deals with the failure of the Zionist dream to transform Jews into an earth-bound "normal" people. Like many contemporary novelists, Tammuz examines the naive ideals of the early settlers of Israel and the disillusionment of their descendants.
Aharon *Appelfeld's Badenheim, 1939 (English: Boston, 1981) recaptures the eerie inevitability of the approaching Holocaust as viewed through the eyes of alienated middle-class Jews vacationing at an Austrian summer resort. His novel Torha-Pelaot ("The Time of Wonders," 1978) tells the story of an assimilated Austrian-Jewish family before, during and after the Nazi period.
Interesting is the *Seneds' (Alexander and Yonat) experimentation with new techniques of novel writing, influenced by the modern anti-novel writers like Natalie Serraut (Tandu – "Tandem," 1974).
The New Wave is a term coined by the Israeli critic Gershon Shaked for the generation of prose writers which began publishing in the late 1950s and the 1960s but is equally applicable to the poets of this period as well. The movement expressed itself not only in its rejection of the earlier Zionist Socialist certainties but in its proclaimed indifference toward all ideologies. In the words of Shimon Sandbank, there was a "Withdrawal to a no man's land of existential angst." The New Wave not only questioned the patriotic rhetoric which characterized some of the writing of the pre-State period, but called for a written idiom which was more concrete and closer to the spoken language. Their ideology was articulated in the avant garde magazines which were founded in the 1950s and 1960s, Li-Kerat ("Towards," 1953–54), Akhshav ("Now," 1957–to date) and Yokhani (1961–67).
Among the ideologists of the New Wave were the poet Nathan *Zach and the critic Gavriel Moked. Zach's iconoclastic criticism of poets like Alterman cleared the ground for the new poetry. Zach objected to Alterman's strict and regular metrics and what he called his high-blown diction and advocated the writing of more concrete, low-key poetry.
Zach, together with Yehuda *Amichai who chronologically belong to the 1948 group, and David *Avidan, wrote poetry which reflected the new poetics. When from time to time they had recourse to the phrasing of classical literature they would yank words and phrases out of their original context and give them an ironic twist. As is frequently the case the new style either influenced or was influenced by some of the more sensitive older poets such as Amir Gilboa and Abba Kovner. By the 1970s however, the poetry of the New Wave assumed an "after the battle" air. Nathan Zach almost ceased publishing poetry or criticism. Amichai appeared to be restating completely what he already had said (Ve-lo al Menat Lizkor – "So as Not to Remember," 1971; and Me'aḥorei Kol Zeh Mistater Osher Gadol – "Behind all This is Concealed Great Joy," 1974). David Avidan's troubador pyrotechnics, previously permeated by an air of youthful exuberance, have lost their verve.
The prose writers of the New Wave, on the other hand, played a leading role in Hebrew letters. A.B. *Yehoshua and Amos *Oz, whose short stories have been described by Hillel Barzel as meta-realistic, without entirely abandoning their symbolistic proclivities, moved closer to realism. This is evidenced in Yehoshua's bestselling novel Ha-Me'ahev (The Lover, 1976) and in Oz's Har ha-Eẓah ha-Ra'ah (The Hill of Evil Counsel, 1976). In The Lover the symbolic referents are less concealed. Although universal themes such as loss of innocence and aging underlie the story, it has specific Israeli-Zionist dimensions. There is not only veiled criticism of the failure of the post-1948 society to realize the Zionist-socialist ideologies of the past but an assertion of its inability to comprehend
Amalia *Kahana-Carmon's work has greater affinity to that of the post-1948 generation. Her first collection of short stories appeared in 1966, Bi-Khefifah Aḥat ("Under One Roof"), and includes stories written in the late 1950s. With her novel Ve-Yare'aḥ be-Emek Ayalon ("And the Moon in the Valley of Ayalon," 1971) and her collection of three novellas, Sadot Magneti'im ("Magnetic Fields," 1977), she emerged as one of Israel's leading writers of fiction. Unlike Yehoshua and Oz, she uses a stream of consciousness technique influenced by Virginia Woolf. Kahana-Carmon's handling of narrative time is not chronological but psychological. Her major theme is the impossibility of sustained human relations, since such relationship means a surrender of that independence which alone can redeem one from the tragedy of the human condition. In the best short story in her latest book Ḥadar ha-Ḥadashot ("News Room"), Kahana-Carmon's style is elliptical, manneristic, elusive and freighted with all the ambivalences which mark an in-depth probing of the psychology of modern men and women.
Yiẓḥak *Orpaz, like Amaliah Kahana-Carmon, belongs to the 1948 age group but his writing is closer to that of the New Wave. While his earlier stories still retain a great deal of the realism of the 1948 group, his writing moves toward the more elliptical, involuted style of the psychological school. This is increasingly apparent in his post Six-Day War novels. Masa Daniel ("Daniel's Odyssey," 1969) describes how Daniel, a war-weary veteran, discovers the meaning of life through a mystical encounter with the well-springs of existence on an abandoned beach. His novel Bayit le-Adam Eḥad ("A House for One," 1975) is existentially religious in tone.
In Sus Eẓ (Rockinghorse, 1973) Yoram Kaniuk continues to explore the alienated Israeli. His hero Aminadav Sus Eẓ, an emigré living in New York, returns to his native Tel Aviv in the wake of the Six-Day War and proposes to make a film about the Tel Aviv of his childhood as an uncommercial exercise in self-examination. Kaniuk is at his best when he evokes the Israel of the 1930s. His artistic control of the spoken idiom and his masterful use of the stream of consciousness technique place him among the more effective writers of his generation. His story concludes with an ironic note; the film was a commercial success.
The achievement of the younger generation was mainly in poetry. The writers of prose have veered away from the fundamentally symbolist bias of their predecessors to a more realistic vein. Yitzḥak Ben-Ner, in Shekiah Kafrit ("Village Sunset," 1976), and Y. Koren, in Levayah ba-Ẓohorayim ("Funeral at Noon," 1976), set their stories in the more established communities of rural Israel.
Revolting against the anti-romantic, new-criticism type of poetry of the New Wave, the younger poets strive for a more decorative idiom. In part they take their cue from Amir Gilboa's experiments with sound and syntax. Many evoke a personal mythology in which beauty, music and free association are given free rein thus creating what Aharon Shabbetai called "the new sweet style," in which the logic of words gives way to the harmony of sound. Ya'ir Hourvitz speaks of his preferring "sea time" to "land time."'
Yonah Wallach's Shirah ("Poetry," 1976) tinkers with the subconscious mechanisms of feeling pushing boldly against the very borders which divide sanity from madness. In contrast, Moshe Sartal takes up the apocalyptical, mystical cadences of Uri Ẓevi Greenberg in Basar al Gabei Geḥalim ve-Shirim Aḥerim ("Meat Over the Coals & Other Poems," 1976). Aharon Shabbetai's Kibbutz (1974) was written when he was still much under the influence of the New Wave and is almost devoid of adjectives. His Ha-Po'ema ha-Beitit ("Domestic Poem," Siman Kriah, 6, 1974) is rich with images.
On the other hand, Mordecai Geldman, whose earlier poetry was suffused with pictorial opulence, began writing a sparser verse, without sacrificing musicality. "I want to say it still more/still more simply." Meir Wieseltier's approach to poetry is eclectic. He criticizes Zach for being "romantic" and "uncommitted." Zach took the "self" to be an autonomous being. Wieseltier considers his "self" exposed in all directions and susceptible to constant charges, to the direct impact of "things." In the title poem of his collected works Kaḥ ("Take," 1975), he takes on an anti-poetic, quasi-Mayakovskiesque tone.
Anti-romanticism carried to grotesque parody was characteristic of Hebrew playwright Ḥanoch Levin. His brutal exposé of the banality of urban living, its ugly loneliness, its cruel division between people "who make it" and "the slobs" excludes the slightest ray of hope in his society of the damned. Other playwrights who represent the New Wave in Hebrew drama of the 1970s are Hillel Mittlepunkt and Yehoshua Sobol.
Intense activity characterizes Hebrew prose since the 1980s, with members of various literary generations writing at the same time: From the "Palmaḥ Generation," which marked 60 years at the turn of the century since its appearance on the literary scene, to writers who were born in the 1960s and 1970s and made their debut in the 1980s and 1990s. The prose of this period is many-sided in theme and approach, enterprising and innovative in style and in its use of diverse literary techniques. Ideologically, this prose follows for the most part the long-established tradition which considered Hebrew literature to be a means for examining and grappling with the basic questions of Jewish-Israeli existence by exposing the collective tensions
One of the striking phenomena is the astounding creative energy and tremendous output of the older writers, those commonly referred to as the "Palmaḥ Generation" or "Dor Ba-Areẓ." Moshe Shamir, one of the seminal voices of that group, completed his historical trilogy Raḥok Mi-Peninim in 1992, the saga of Zionist settlement and at the same time a sweeping epic following the various stages in the life of Leah Berman, a model type of the idealistic Jewish pioneer. During the last decade of his life, Shamir (d. 2004) published a book of poetry, a collection of stories, and a biographical novel on Avraham "Yair" Stern (2001), the legendary figure of the Leḥi underground organization, who in many respects personifies Shamir's national and political ideal. "The Jewish people faces a new Holocaust, initiated by the Muslim Arab world," Shamir warned, maintaining further that "the Arab terror has one goal: to annihilate the State of Israel."
Shamir's contemporary S. *Yizhar surprised Israeli readers in 1992: After 30 years of self-imposed silence, he published Mikdamot ("Foretellings"). This is a lyrical, impressionistic novel reconstructing the author's early childhood in pre-state Ereẓ Israel. The novel was followed by stories and novellas (Ẓalhavim, 1993, Malkomiyah Yefefiyah, 1998) in which the doyen of modern Hebrew prose displays his unparalleled art of storytelling, rich in sensual vivid images.
Two of the leading figures of the veteran generation passed away during the period. David *Shahar, who died in Paris in 1997, added further volumes to his monumental work Heikhal ha-Kelim ha-Shevurim ("The Palace of Shattered Vessels") and left behind a fragment Har ha-Zeytim ("The Mount of Olives"). Like Shahar, the other master of the modern Hebrew picaresque, Benjamin *Tammuz (d. 1989), also tried in his later works to view Zionism within the larger context of Jewish history, and to examine Zionist accomplishments and failings while reevaluating the Jewish heritage (e.g., Requiem le-Na'aman; 1987; Requiem for Na'aman, 1982). In his last work, Ha-Zikkit ve-ha-Zamir ("Chameleon and Nightingale," 1989), Tammuz presents the chronicles of a Jewish family over 1,300 years, integrating fiction, letters, diaries, and wills from the family archive. Ironically, the generation that celebrated the New Jew, the mythological Sabra, seems to have rediscovered the riches of the Jewish past. Tammuz, once committed to Canaanite ideology, was later fascinated by the mysteries of Diaspora existence. The belated encounter with Jewish life underlies also the works of Aharon Megged, Hanoch *Bartov, Nathan *Shaham, and other representatives of the "Palmaḥ Generation." Megged depicts the tensions between Hebrew and Jewish culture in his novel Foigelman (1987; Foiglman, 2003); deals with early idealists traveling to the Holy Land in Duda'im min ha-Areẓ ha-Kedoshah (1998; Mandrakes from the Holy Land, 2005); describes intrigues in the local literary scene in Ha-Gamal ha-Me'ofef ve-Dabeshet ha-Zahav (1982; "The Flying Camel and the Golden Hump"); recounts the joys and agonies of creative writing with humor and a touch of satire that verges on the grotesque in Ga'agu'im le-Olgah (1994) and Nikmat Yotam (2003). Bartov recollects the past in a realistic style, mingling humor with nostalgic longing (Be-Emẓa ha-Roman, 1988). He writes about loneliness in the big city of Tel Aviv (Lev Shafukh, 2001; "A Heart Poured Out"), and outlines the professional as well as personal frustrations of an aging Israeli (Zeh Ishel Medaber, 1990; "This is Ishel Speaking"). In 1987, Nathan Shaham published a story about four musicians and a writer in pre-State Israel, Rosendorf Kevartet (The Rosendorf Quartet, 1991), which many saw as his most accomplished work of fiction. Music figures in the novel as a metaphor for universal understanding and cosmopolitan identity, transcending nationalism and language. In the wake of the novel's success, both in Israel and abroad, Shaham followed up the adventures of the protagonists in the far less successful Ẓilo shel Rosendorf (2001; "Rosendorf's Shadow").
The writers known as "Dor ha-Medinah" (writers born in Ereẓ Israel in the 1930s) were equally prolific as was the movement known as the "New Wave" (G. Shaked) of the 1950s and 1960s. Yaakov *Shabtai's impressive final work, Sof Davar (Past Perfect), a masterpiece of Hebrew style and the stream-of-consciousness technique, appeared three years after his death in 1981. In her later works, Shulamit *Hareven (d. 2003) confronted seminal moments in Jewish history, going back to biblical times (Soneh ha-Nissim, 1983). Yehudit *Hendel was remarkably successful. Her early novels Reḥov ha-Madregot (1955; Street of Steps, 1963) and Ha-Ḥaẓer shel Momo ha-Gedolah ("The Yard of Momo the Great," 1969) were reissued (1998 and 1993, respectively) as was her first collection of stories Anashim Aḥerim Hem (2000; "They are Different"), one of the early literary attempts (1950) to confront the Holocaust. Hendel's trip to her native Poland resulted in a moving, perturbing book, Leyad Kefarim Sheketim (1987; "Near Quiet Places"). The death of her husband, painter Zvi Mairovitch, led to her extraordinary, lyrical memoir Ha-Ko'aḥ ha-Aḥer (1984;
The vigorous and versatile author Yoram *Kaniuk, published numerous novels and stories such as the family portrait Post Mortem (1992), Od Sippur Ahavah (1996; "Another Love Story"); the delightful Hamalka ve-Ani (2001; "The Queen and I"); recollections of time spent in New York (Ḥayyim al Neyar Zekhukhit, 2003; "I Did It My Way"); a fictitious account of a perturbing journey through Germany (Ha-Berlinai ha-Aḥaron, 2004; "The Last Berliner"); and books for children (Wasserman, 1988). Dan *Tsalka published the monumental epic mosaic Elef Levavot (1991). Yossel *Birstein (1920–2003), a Yiddish author hailed by some critics as the Hebrew Shalom Aleichem, published the novel Panim ba-Anan (1991), among others. Yitzhak *Orpaz, David Schütz, Naomi *Frankel, Ehud Ben Ezer and Amos *Kenan came out with new novels and collections of stories, as did Yitzhak *Ben-Ner with his realistic, often somber portraits of decadent contemporary Israeli society (Protokol, 1982; Boker shel Shotim, 1992; Ir Miklat, 2000).
Special attention was paid by critics and readers to new works by Abraham B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, Yehoshua *Kenaz, Meir *Shalev and David *Grossman. Yehoshua continued to explore and modify the realistic-psychological family novel and the narrative of mono-dialogues, while constructing parallel plots and playing with hidden ideas and allegories. Molcho (1987; Five Seasons, 1989) depicts the tumultuous first year in the life of the widower Molcho and the mental process he undergoes in his pursuit of a new life. Jewish history and Zionist dreams underlie the novel Mar Mani (1990; Mr. Mani, 1992), the story of a Sephardi family over five generations. Jewish history in Spain and in Ashkenaz is featured in Mas'a el Tom ha-Elef (1997; A Journey to the End of the Millennium, 1999). The physical journey as a voyage into the subconscious is a leitmotif in Yehoshua's prose as in Ha-Shivah mi-Hodu (1994; Open Heart, 1996). In his latest novels, Yehoshua has returned to the political scene: In Ha-Kalah ha-Meshaḥreret (2001; The Liberated Bride, 2003) the Orientalist Yohanan Rivlin confronts the traditions and hardships of Israeli Arabs living in Galilee and of Palestinians in the West Bank; in Sheliḥuto shel ha-Memuneh le-Mashabei Enosh (2004) he tells the story of a Russian worker who is killed in a terror attack in Jerusalem as a kind of modern Passion, at times comic, at others serene.
The many shades of the collective Israeli experience are present in the prose works which Amos Oz, the best-known Israeli author abroad, has published over the past two decades. Oz addressed the changes in the political climate in Israel (e.g., Menuḥah Nekhonah, 1982; A Perfect Peace, 1985; Kufsah Sheḥorah, 1987; Black Box, 1989) as well as the relationships between Ashekanzi and Sephardi Israelis (e.g., Kufsah Sheḥorah); His landscapes vary from the Negev desert (Al Tagidi Laylah, 1994; Don't Call It Night, 1995) to the unappealing cityscapes of Bat Yam (Oto ha-Yam, 1998; The Same Sea, 2001). In his later novels (Lada'at Ishah, 1989, To Know a Woman, 1991; Ha-Maẓav ha-Shelishi, 1991, Fima, 1993; Oto ha-Yam) he gives prominence to trials and dreams of anti-heroes, men like Fima or Albert Danon. Moving away from his highly symbolical early stories, Oz experimented with narrative modes: He turned to the epistolary novel (Kufsah Sheḥorah or the story "Ga'agu'im"), structured his novel Oto Ha-Yam as poetic prose fragments which at times even rhyme, and merged the autobiographical with the fictional in his universally acclaimed work, Sippur al Ahavah ve-Ḥoshekh (2002; A Tale of Love and Darkness, 2004) which he defined as an "autobiographical novel".
David Grossman, the outstanding author to emerge during the 1980s, is equally innovative. His wide-ranging works deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict (e.g., Ḥiyukh ha-Gedi, 1983; The Smile of the Lamb, 1990) as well as the inadequacy of language to confront the Holocaust (in the highly ambitious Ayen Erekh Ahavah, 1986; See Under Love, 1989). Grossman also revisits his youth in Jerusalem in the 1960s (Sefer ha-Dikduk ha-Penimi, 1991; The Book of Intimate Grammar, 1994) and depicts the peculiar love relationship, an affair in writing, between Miriam, a married woman, and the younger Yair in She-Tihiyi li Sakkin (1998; Be My Knife, 2001), an epistolary novel containing intertextual allusions to Kafka's Letters to Milena. Time and again Grossman tests the power of language to convey meaning and emotions, and reflects on his own métier, the world of fiction. In 2002 he published Ba-Guf Ani Mevinah.
Exceptionally popular among Israeli readers is Meir Shalev, who made his literary début with Roman Russi (1988; The Blue Mountain, 1991), the chronicle of pioneering settlers in the Jezreel Valley. Shalev's novels (Esav, 1991; Be-Veyto ba-Midbar, 1998; Fontanella, 2002) combine realistic and fantastic elements, and his multi-layered narrative teems with biblical and mythic associations.
Yehoshua Kenaz is one of two prominent Israeli authors who shun publicity, declining interviews as well as all forms of public relations. But this has in no way affected the success and high reputation which he and Yoel *Hoffman have enjoyed. Kenaz, whose first novel, Aḥarei ha-Ḥagim, appeared in 1964 (After the Holidays, 1987), published remarkable novels dealing with the frailty of human relations, the loneliness of individuals in urban society (Maḥzir Ahavot Kodmot, 1997; Returning Old Loves, 2001), physical and mental decline (Ha-Derekh el ha-Ḥatulim, 1991; The Way to the Cats, 1994), or the disruption of adolescence and rites of manhood (Moment Musikali, 1980; Musical Moment, 1995). One of his finest accomplishments is the novel Hitganvut Yeḥidim (Heart Murmur, 2003), a book which has been compared to Yizhar's seminal Yemei
Like Kenaz, Yoel Hoffman was born in 1937, but unlike him – Kenaz is a Sabra who grew up in the "Moshava" – Hoffman's first year of life was spent in Hungary. He presents a world of uprooted Jews, Europeans who escaped the Holocaust by the skin of their teeth, yet remain strangers in Israeli society. They remain German Jews, their acquired Hebrew interspersed with German expressions, their dreams filled with longings for the culture they had to leave behind (Bernhart, Kristus shel Daggim). While Kenaz is a virtuoso of realistic style, Hoffman's prose is postmodern: instead of a traditional, linear plot, he writes an idiosyncratic narrative made up of enigmatic fragments in a private, Joyce-like language. Anecdotes, recollections, and observations both humorous and melancholy form a unique prose texture which poses a challenge to the reader.
The European world left behind and primarily the cataclysm of the Holocaust seem to engross the imagination of Israeli writers the more they recede in time. An attempt to map out the many prose works relating to the Shoah discloses various groups. The first comprises the survivors themselves. Innumerable books recollecting the traumatic years of humiliation, hunger, constant fear, brutal persecution, and above all the loss of family members, have appeared over the last 25 years. Quite a number of these "nonprofessional" authors, such as psychologist Shlomo Bresnitz (Sedot ha-Zikaron, 1993), Ruth Segal (Goyah im Nemashim, 2002), or Esther Eisen (Imi Tafrah Kokhavim, 2003), to name but a few, display remarkable literary subtlety. Established authors such as Uri *Orlev recounted their shattering experiences in the ghetto and the concentration camps in books for adults and young readers. Among the survivor-writers, however, Aharon *Appelfeld is unique in his obsessive descriptions of a world lost forever. In spare, unsentimental yet powerful prose, Appelfeld describes a prewar Jewish community that shut its eyes to reality; men and women who wander alone or in small groups across Europe, hoping to be saved; others who fail to escape death; antisemites, oppressors, and occasionally warm-hearted Christians who empathize with the victims and help them (Katarina). It is notable, however, that Appelfeld's survivors remain strangers in their new home, Israel. They cannot start a new life. Instead they are haunted by the past, or consciously indulge in memories of earlier days. Some even reject any hope for a new beginning, glorifying instead their years in the forests or in the camps, which they consider to have been their finest "heroic" hour.
Israeli writers born in Israel before the war, such as Yoram Kaniuk or Nathan Shaham, focused mainly on the emotional scars of the survivors while European-born authors who came to Palestine before the Holocaust – such as Naomi Frankel, Yehudit Hendel, or Shulamith Hareven – wrote about a childhood world left behind and the "otherness" of the survivors. David Schütz, born in Berlin in 1941, wrote compelling semi-autobiographical novels, such as Ha-Esev ve-ha-Ḥol (1978; "The Grass and the Sand"). Most impressive, however, is the prose written by the so-called "Second Generation": Israeli writers born after the Shoah who nonetheless felt the need to confront that unique chapter in Jewish history. David Grossman's novel Ayen Erekh Ahavah (1986) is a milestone in the works of Sabra authors on the Holocaust. Savyon *Liebrecht (b. 1948; Tapuḥim min ha-Midbar, 1986; Apples from the Desert, 1998; Susim al Kevish Gehah, 1988), Nava Semel (b. 1954; Kova Zekhukhit, 1985, "Hat of Glass"; Ẓeḥok shel Akhbarosh, 2001, "The Rat Laughs"), Ya'akov Buchan (b. 1946; Yeled Shakuf, 1998), Eleonora Lev (Sug Mesuyam shel Yatmut, 1999, "A Certain Kind of Orphanhood"), Hannah Herzig (Temunot Meḥapessot Koteret, 1997), Lizzie Doron (b. 1953; Lamah lo B'at lifnei ha-Milḥamah, 1998; Hayetah Po Pa'am Mishpaḥah, 2002), Lili Perry (b. 1953; Golem ba-Ma'agal, 1987, "Golem in the Circle"), Rachel Talshir (b.1957; Ha-Ahavah Meshaḥreret, 2001, "Love Macht frei"; Pegishah bi-Keẓeh ha-Erev, 2003, "Meeting at the Edge of the Evening"), Amir Gutfreund (b. 1963; Shoah Shelanu, 2000; "Our Holocaust"), to name but a few, depict the sufferings of the victims and the effect of the parents' traumatic experiences on their children who were often brought up amidst secrets and untold tales, and had to discover the truth for themselves years later.
The relationship between German persecutors and their Jewish victims is yet another aspect of the complex Holocaust theme, especially in the works of Savyon Liebrecht, Itamar Levy (b. 1956; Agadat ha-Agamim ha-Aḥuvim, 1990, "The Legend of the Sad Lakes") or Rivka Keren (b. 1946; Anatomiyah shel Nekamah, 1993, "Anatomy of Revenge").
Confronting the Holocaust inevitably sensitized the authors to the "otherness" of the survivors, who could not or would not conform to the model of the New Jew, the self-confident Sabra. The literature of the past decades shows that the survivors were only one group of outsiders who drew the attention of Israeli authors. Another group was the Oriental Jews, who immigrated to Israel from various Arab countries in the 1950s. Among the older generation (Sami *Michael, Shimon *Ballas, Amon Shamosh, Dan Benaya *Seri, Yitzhak Gormezano-Goren, Eli *Amir), recent years have seen many works on the hardships of and discrimination against immigrants and their children in overcrowded transit camp ("ma'barot"), in development towns or destitute city suburbs (such as south Tel Aviv). Among these are novels by Albert Suissa (b. 1951; Akud, "Bound," 1990), Sami Bardugo (b. 1970; Yaldah Sheḥorah, "Black Girl," 1999), Dudu Busi (b. 1969; Ha-Yare'aḥ Yarok ba-Vadi, "The Moon Goes Green in the Wadi," 2000; Pere Aẓil, "A Noble Savage," 2003), and Yossi Sucary (b. 1959; Emiliyah ve-Melakh ha-Areẓ, "Emilia," 2002). In fact, the growing self-awareness of the so-called Oriental writers combined with a feeling of long-suffering injustice have led to the founding of a press (Kedem) as well as a magazine (Ha-Kivvun Mizraḥ) promoting this literature.
Another social group which did not conform to the ideal of the secular, heroic Israeli and was thus ignored, occasionally
Indeed, the "other" in his various configurations has ousted the mythologized, self-confident Israeli from his dominant position and moved from the margins of Hebrew literature to center stage. Along with stories about various ethnic minorities (Sephardi, Bukhari, Iraqi Jews, or "yekkes"), the voice of new immigrants from the Soviet Union has made itself heard. Writers like Alona Kimhi, who was born in Lvov in 1966 (Ani, Anastasia, 1996, I, Anastasia, 2000; Suzannah Bokhiyah, 1999, Weeping Susannah, 2001), Marina Groslerner, who came to Israel at the age of six (Lalya, 2001), or Suzane Adam (Kevisah, "Laundry," 2000; Maymia, 2002), who was born in Transylvania and came to Israel at the age of 10, have written about their native country and their experience as immigrants in Israel, particularly in their earlier works. Born in Leningrad, Alex Epstein (b. 1971) came to Israel in 1980 and is one of the younger original writers who experiment with various narrative techniques, as in Ahuvato shel Metapes Harim ("The Mountaineer's Beloved," 1999) or in his dictionary-like novel Milon Mahapakh ("Honey Dictionary," 2000).
Beside these religious and ethnic minorities, women have made a sweeping entrance into male-dominated Hebrew literature, both as fictional figures and as writers. Cynical observers of the contemporary Israeli scene maintain that being a woman and writing about female concerns guarantee the publication and commercial success of a novel. The list of female writers who started publishing over the past three decades is impressive, especially in view of the few women writers in previous generations and the fact that the main issues of Israeli life – war, army life, professional success, political involvement etc. – were almost always represented by male characters. Along with established women such as Amalia Kahana-Carmon – one of the first and most vehement champions of gender issues – and Yehudit Hendel, many new names have joined the literary scene. Among these are Dorit Abusch (1955– ), Leah Eini (1962– ), Marit Ben Israel, Gail Hareven (1959– ), Esty G. Ḥaim (1963– ), Yael Hedaya (1964– ), Shifra Horn, Avirama Golan, Judith *Katzir (1963– ), Ronit *Matalon (1959– ), Dorit Rabinyan (1972– ), Zeruyah *Shalev (1959– ), and Shoham Smith (1966– ). Their fiction addresses political and historical issues, social and ethnic themes as well as "typically" feminine concerns such as love, sexuality, betrayal and abandonment, menstruation, pregnancy, motherhood and female friendship, or the status and role of women in Israeli society.
The new gender-oriented literature also deals with homoerotic love. Yossi Avni (a pseudonym) published stories (Gan ha-Eẓim ha-Metim, "The Garden of the Dead Trees," 1995) and novels (Arba'ah Aḥim, "Four Brothers," 1998; Doda Farhumah lo Hayetah Zonah, "Auntie Farhuma Wasn't a Whore After All," 2002) depicting homosexual relations, as have Ilan Schoenfeld (Rak Attah, "Only You," 1998), Motti Auerbuch (Elohim Nekheh Me'ah Aḥuz, "God Is One Hundred Percent Disabled," 2003), Yossi Waxman (Alexandria Yakirati, "Dear Alexandria," 1988; Liebchen, 2004) and Dan Shavit (Pitom Ra'iti Oto, "Suddenly I Saw Him," 2004). Yehudit Katzir recounts a lesbian relationship between a young woman and her teacher in her novel Hineh Ani Matḥilah ("Here I Begin," 2003).
While the majority of Israeli writers cling to the realistic modes of expression and traditional conventions of characterization, some of the younger writers explore postmodernist techniques. No doubt the most outstanding of these (apart from Yoel Hoffman, mentioned above) is Orly *Castel-Bloom (b. 1960; Doli Siti, Ḥalakim Enoshiyim). Particularly popular among younger readers is Etgar Keret (1967– ), who has published collections of mini-narratives and comics that shift between the funny and the serious, the real and the imaginary. These and other postmodernist writers are eager to debunk prevailing myths, to experiment and to shock; they play with language, probe metaphors and clichés, and underscore the inadequacy of words while creating their own vocabulary.
Other original voices in contemporary Hebrew literature include Gabriela *Avigur-Rotem (b. 1946; Mozart Lo Hayah Yehudi; "Mozart Was Not a Jew"; Ḥamsin ve-Ẓipporim Meshuga'ot, "Heatwave and Crazy Birds"); Yitzhak *Laor (1948– ), Youval *Shimoni (b. 1955; Me'of ha-Yonah; "The Flight of the Dove," 1990; Ḥeder, "Room," 1999); Dror Burstein (b. 1970; Avner Brenner, 2003); Yoav Alvin (b. 1962; Marak, "Soup," 2002); Benny Barbash (b. 1951; My First Sony, 1994; Hilukh Ḥozer, "Rerun," 2003) Uzi Weill (b. 1964; Le'an Holekh ha-Zikaron ke-she-Anu Metim, 1996); Alon Ḥilu (with the historical-fictional novel Mot ha-Nazir, "Death of a Monk," 2004); Eran Bar-Gil (b. 1969, with his lyrical, reflective novel about identical twins handed over for adoption soon after their birth, titled Parsah ve-Kinor, "Horseshoe and Violin," 2005) and Eshkol Nevo (1971– ) with the novel Arba'ah Batim ve-Ga'agu'a ("Osmosis," 2004), a fine example of the way collective Israeli experience and questions concerning the Zionist narrative are intertwined with the experience of individual protagonists.
The reproach sometimes voiced is that the new writers are a "private generation," less preoccupied with collective national and political themes than with selfish concerns, materialistic gratification, and immediate pleasure, but this is inaccurate. In some prose writers, the political is clearly present between the lines; others, like Etgar Keret, handle it with
As the discussion on the literary canon continues and critics vary in their opinion of which prose works "qualify" as canonical, there has been a continuous expansion of so-called "popular literature." The weekly list of bestsellers features many writers who are often commercially more successful and popular than the leading canonical ones; their novels (e.g., Irit Linor, Shirat ha-Sirenah, Benot Braun) set up a mirror to the prevailing Israeli mentality and create a literary vogue that is later imitated by others (Michal Shalev, Shevua'at Rachel, 1997; Sheli Yechimowitz, Eshet Ish, 2001; Rakefet Zohar, Ha-Aḥayot Schuster Nikhnasot le-Herayon, 2002; Semadar Shir, Roman Amiti, 2002). Among the reasons for the proliferation of this inferior, titillating prose, is no doubt the ever-growing number of new publishing houses that are willing to take commercial risks and publish unknown young writers, as well as the dictates of a market that is dependent on ratings. Beside the long-standing publishing houses (Schocken, Am Oved Ha-Kibbuẓ ha-Me'uḥad and the associated Ha-Sifriah ha-Ḥadashah), new publishing enterprises have shot up like mushrooms. Among these are Keter, Zemorah-Bitan, Sifriat Maariv, Yedioth Ahronoth, Miskal, Kinneret and Kedem, Bavel, Ḥargol, Gevanim, Astrolog and Carmel. Mention should also be made of Keshet, Ram *Oren's privately owned press, which began by publishing its owner's commercially successful thrillers and later published also "pop"-literature (Kobi Oz) as well as bestsellers of considerable literary quality such as the novels of Avigur-Rotem and Zeruyah Shalev. Keshet is a major promoter of Israeli detective novels (Ram Oren), though others have followed suit. Amnon *Dankner has published a detective novel set against the emergence of Zionism, Ha-Ish le-Lo Aẓamot, "The Man without Bones," 2002; see also Malkodet ha-Devash, 1994). On the whole, the sophisticated Israeli thriller, a relatively new genre in Israeli fiction, has had tremendous success and includes writers of international repute such as Batya *Gur, Uri *Adelman, Shulamith Lapid, Amnon Jackont, and Agur Schiff.
Finally, at the initiative of publishers, editors, and literary scholars, major books by earlier generations have been reissued and some forgotten classics of early Hebrew literature rediscovered. These include the prose of David *Vogel, David Kimchi's family saga Beit Ḥefeẓ ("House of Hefetz"), Aharon *Reuveni's trilogy Ad Yerushalayim, as well as prose works by Y.H. *Brenner, M.Y. *Berdyczewski, D. *Frischmann, and A. *Hameiri, S. Yizhar, M. Shamir, H. Bartov, B. Tammuz, and others.
Over the past 25 years Israeli poets have alternated between politically oriented and meditative, personal poetry. The Lebanon War of 1982–83 as well as the First and Second Intifadas produced an impressive protest poetry. Two collections were published following the Lebanon War: Ḥaẓiyyat Gevul ("Crossing the Border") and Ve-Eyn Tikhlah li-Keravot u-le-Hereg ("Fighting and Killing No End"). The poetry that emerged in the wake of the Lebanon War and the uprisings of the Palestinians was written by established poets like Nathan *Zach, Yehuda *Amichai, Meir *Wieseltier, Moshe *Dor, Aryeh *Sivan, and Aharon *Shabtai as well as by newcomers to the literary scene: Maja *Bejerano (1949– ), Rami Ditzany, Yitzhak *Laor (1948– ), and Rami Sa'ari (1963– ). Poets expressed shame, fear, rage, and helplessness. The political poems of Dalia *Ravikovitch were particularly impressive (see: Ima im Yeled, "Mother with Child"), and focused on the sufferings of the individual victim, especially the agony of mothers and children. The impact of the Gulf War was reflected almost immediately in Hebrew poetry; see, for example, the collections published by David *Avidan and Ilan Schoenfeld.
The tendency of contemporary Hebrew poets to reflect on their own medium – language – was seen in two anthologies edited by Ruth Kartun-Blum: Shirah bi-Rei Aẓmah ("Poetry in its own Mirror," 1982) and Yad Kotevet Yad ("Self-Reflexive Hebrew Poetry," 1989). Kartun-Blum also edited the volume Me'ayin Naḥalti et Shiri ("Writers and Poets on Sources of Inspiration," 2002).
The past two decades have also seen the passing of prominent poets of the older generation like S. *Halkin, A. *Yeshurun, Z. *Gilead, K.A. *Bertini and *Zelda, as well as of poets belonging to the "Palmah Generation" and the "Generation of the State" such as A. *Gilboa, A. *Hillel (Hillel Omer), Y. *Shalev, A. *Kovner, D. *Pagis, A. Sachs, and, in 2000, the internationally famous Yehuda *Amichai. The "Tel Aviv Circle," which dominated the scene in the 1960s and 1970s, lost two of its seminal figures: Yona *Wallach (d. 1985) and Yair *Hourvitz (d. 1988). Meir *Wieseltier, who belonged to that group, published a number of collections which gave impressive expression to intimate experiences, childhood memories, and current events (Mikhtavim ve-Shirim Aḥerim, Maḥsan).
Artistic maturity and a tendency to reflect on time, old age, and transience characterize the writing of veteran poets of the "Palmaḥ Generation" and the "Generation of the State," with new collections coming out as well as the publication of the collected works of H. *Gouri, N. *Zach, M. *Dor, A. *Sivan, Moshe Ben Shaul (1930– ) and Ya'akov Besser (1934– ). A tone of maturity and sobriety prevails also in the poems of Ori *Bernstein (who also published a sensitive, melancholy autobiographical novel in the genre of the Bildungsroman, Safek Ḥayyim, 2002). Asher *Reich, Tuvia
Blending together the world of scientific thought with recollections and immediate experiences scientist-poet Avner Treinin (1928– ) published a number of original collections (Euclidium, 1985; Zikhron ha-Mayim, 1991). One of the consequences of abandoning the "high" diction used by previous generations was a more intimate access to the psyche and the observation of mental processes and crises. Among the first to turn inward was Yona Wallach, followed by poets like Leah Ayalon (Daniel, Daniel, 1988; Yehudiyot ve-Yehudim, 2001), Maja Bejerano (1949–; Bat Ya'anah, 1978; Anaseh Laga'at be-Tabur Bitni, 1998), and others. Instead of romantic love, male poets (e.g., Aharon Shabtai in Zivah) and, more importantly, a considerable number of women depicted the sexual experience, celebrating the authentic erotic element and occasionally transforming their poetry into a manifesto for transsexuality. Indeed, bisexuality as well as homoeroticism figure prominently in contemporary Hebrew poetry as in the writing of Hezy Leskli (1952–1994; Leah Goldberg ve-ha-Akhbarim) and in poems by Ilan Schoenfeld (1960– ; Leta'ah Mekhushefet, 1981) or in the lesbian poetess known as Shez.
Others who made their debut during the past three decades and publish regularly are M. *Geldman (1946– ); Yosef Sharon (1952– ; Dibbur, 1978; Sippur Iti, 1994), Zali Gurevitch (1949– ; Shurah Pesukah, 1984; Sefer Yare'aḥ, 1998), Ronny *Someck (1951– ; Goleh, 1976; Bloody Mary, 1994), Pereẓ Dror Banay (1947– ; Ḥamẓan, 1980; Turkiz, 1993; Gevul Aḥaron le-Yofi, 1999), Erez Biton (1942– ; Minḥah Marokait, 1976; Ẓippor bein Yabashot, 1989), Zvi Azmon (1948– ; Kortekst, 1993), Leah Ayalon, Sabina Messeg (1942– ; Zeh ha-Yam ha-Zeh, Yam Kinneret, 1998); Hava Pincas-Gan (1955– ); Miron C. Izakson (1956– ), Yonadav Kaploun (1963– ; Ha-Keter ha-Afor, 1987; Bat Shelomo, 1994); and Admiel Kosman (1957– ; Higanu le-Elohim, 1998), the last two coming from a religious background. Some poets, like Rami Sa'ari (1963– ; Hineh Maẓati et Beiti, 1988; Kamah ve-Khama Miḥamah, 2002), Dori Manor (Bariton, 2005; notably poetry which reverts to traditional forms and rhymed verse), and Amir Or (1956– ) have also translated world poetry into Hebrew. An unusual voice is that of Maya Arad (1971– ), a linguist living in Stanford, Calif., in the United States, who published a novel in rhymed verse (Makom Aḥer Ir Zarah, 2003), which tells the story of Orit, a soldier who has been asked to write a leaflet about Israeli identity and to help a lonely soldier who has just immigrated from Canada to feel at home. Inspired by Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, she spices her unusual poetic text, written in a seemingly old-fashioned rhyme scheme, with wit and humor. The poetry of Agi *Mishol (1947– ) has attracted a great deal of attention from literary critics such as Dan Miron and from the media; as a result, she has advanced to the forefront of the contemporary scene. On the whole, however, Hebrew poetry arouses far less interest than prose. It is read by a coterie of loyal devotees, many of whom write and publish their own poetry. Poems are usually published in the literary supplements of the bigger newspapers, in literary journals such as Moznayim, Iton 77, Siman Keriah, Keshet ha-Ḥadashah, Akhsahv, Dimmu'i, Ho!, and Mita'am, or in special journals promoting poetry, such as Ḥadarim and Helikon. Publishers are reluctant to take the risk of publishing poetry; among the few who do so are Keshev, Eked, and Ha-Kibbuẓ ha-Me'uḥad, Tag, Even Ḥoshen, and Shufra. An important contribution to the dissemination of Hebrew poetry abroad is no doubt the English-language periodical Modern Hebrew Literature, published by the Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature, the Tel Aviv Review, and the magazine Ariel, which has been published intermittently for many years in various languages, including English, German, and French, and is sponsored by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Along with the translation of individual poems in various foreign periodicals and anthologies (e.g., T. Carmi's Hebrew Verse), a number of poets have had books of poetry published in foreign languages (Amichai, Dor, Reich). The new and updated edition of The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself (edited by Stanley Burnshaw, T. Carmi, S. Glassman, Ariel Hirschfeld, and Ezra Spicehandler; Wayne University Press, 2003) is highly recommended. It includes translations, interpretations of individual poems, and general articles on Hebrew poetry and prosody.
Finally, one should mention new editions as well as the collected works of leading poets of previous generations. The two main projects, both directed by Dan Miron, were the scholarly edition of Ḥ.N. Bialik's poetry (two volumes: 1983, 1990) and the complete work of U.Z. *Greenberg. Avner Holtzman is responsible for a new edition of Bialik's poems (Devir Publishing House, 2005) marking the 70th anniversary of his death. There has been a new edition of Kol Kitvei Tschernichovsky (1990–98), a collection of Lea Goldberg's poems (1989) and a new edition of Shirei Raḥel (1997). Yehuda Amichai's collected poems were published in five volumes shortly after his death (2002–04). A previously unknown book of David Vogel's poetry, Le'ever ha-Demamah, was published by Menaḥem Peri in 1983. Other poets whose work was collected after their death are Y. *Katzenelson, A. *Ben-Yitzhak, Y. *Karni, E. *Raab, A. Chalfi, A. *Gilboa, D. *Pagis, and Y. *Hourvitz. A selection of poems by Y. *Orland appeared in 1997.
[Anat Feinberg (2nd ed.)]
The drama is one of the least developed forms of literary expressions in Hebrew literature. Some have attributed its modest achievements to the inherent contradiction between the monotheistic spirit of the Jewish religion and the dualism implicit in drama (A.J. *Paperna, I. *Zinberg, and others). Others have stressed the objection of the sages to the ritualistic and "heretical" aspects of the drama (J.H. *Schirmann) which
Amateur and professional Hebrew troupes emerged in Eastern Europe and in Ereẓ Israel only at the close of the 19th century. The amateur Hebrew groups of Brody and Lodz and itinerant troupes, like I. *Katzenelson's, were the harbingers of the Hebrew theater in the Diaspora, where since Abraham *Goldfaden (1840–1906) the Yiddish theater had greatly flourished. The amateur theatrical troupe in Jaffa, on the other hand, was the precursor of the theater in Israel. By the 1920s there already existed in Ereẓ Israel a professional theater while in the Diaspora, *Habimah, the first professional Hebrew theatrical company (established 1917, premiere in 1918) gained a great reputation in Russia. It established itself in Tel Aviv in 1931.
The development of the Hebrew theater in the 20th century is linked with the Zionist movement, the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language, and the Jewish claim for cultural national autonomy. The linguistic and sociocultural reorientation in the attitude of the public to the theater gave new impetus to the Hebrew drama (intended for the stage) and brought about its continuous development in Hebrew literature.
Dramatic elements and dialogue are already found in the Book of Job and, at a later period, in the piyyut (the Hebrew liturgical hymn), for example "Ozlat Yokheved"; or in some of the polemical verse of Abraham *Ibn Ezra depicting the conflict between body and soul, summer and winter, water and wine. Hebrew drama as such was, however, written occasionally mainly in Italy and Holland as early as the end of the 16th century and during the 17th and 18th centuries. This period in the Hebrew drama is mainly characterized by sporadic isolated plays which failed to lead to a continuous development and by a "literary," nontheatrical structure of the play.
Judah Leone b. Isaac *Sommo's Ẓaḥut Bediḥuta de-Kiddushin ("An Eloquent Marriage Farce"), the first Hebrew play, was written in Italy under the influence of the 16th-century Italian comedy. Though first printed in 1618, it had apparently been written a few years earlier. Schirmann assumes that it was probably staged in connection with Purim. Unlike Jewish playwrights of the 17th and 18th centuries, Sommo was well versed in theatrical technique (his essay Trattato sul arte rappresentativa points to this fact); his language is not purely biblical but contains later Hebrew phrasing and idioms lending the play not merely a visual but also an auditory dimension. The plot, characters, and structure are borrowed from the commedia dell'arte and only the Jewish comic subject (related to halakhic problems) and the cultural atmosphere in the play are original.
Most Hebrew playwrights of the 17th and 18th centuries (from Sommo to Moses Ḥayyim *Luzzatto) were unable to free themselves from the influence of the "Mediterranean" culture. They tried to transpose the Italian and Spanish live theater into the Jewish cultural milieu. In their adaptation of dramatic elements to a language and themes remote from the theater, they forfeited the structural authenticity of the play.
Moses *Zacuto in Yesod Olam (Altona, 1874), a dramatization of the story of Abraham and Nimrod, imitates the Spanish auto, and in Tofteh Arukh (Venice, 1715, 18812), whose plot is the journey of the dead to hell, he follows the structure and content of medieval Christian allegorical plays. Asirei ha-Tikvah ("Prisoners of Hope," Amsterdam, 1673, Leghorn, 17712), by Joseph Penso de la Vega, is patterned according to the Spanish commedia. Both Zacuto and Penso published their plays in Amsterdam, which was then enjoying a late renaissance of Judeo-Spanish culture.
Plays written in Hebrew in Italy during this period drew on their foreign cultural environment for their dramatic form and style without reference to contemporary Hebrew drama, thus failing to create a continuous link. Immanuel *Frances wrote a few occasional plays for festivals, a dramatic dialogue on woman (1670), and a Purim play. The most significant playwright of the Italian school, Moses Ḥayyim *Luzzatto, had a definite effect on the development of the Hebrew drama. He wrote three different types of plays which had been influenced by the Italian allegorical and pastoral drama. Ma'aseh Shimshon ("The Story of Samson," 1724) serves as a paradigm to illustrate the dramatic genre in his work on literary theory, Leshon Limmudim (Mantua, 1727). The play, a monologue interspersed with a chorus and fragmentary dialogue, is not a genuine drama. His other two plays, Migdal Oz ("The Mighty Tower," 1837) and La-Yesharim Tehillah ("Praise to the Upright," Amsterdam 1743, 195425), show the influence of Guarini's pastoral drama, Pastor Fido. Luzzatto attempted to impose on Jewish moral themes and ethical language the Italian dramatic structure. (It has been suggested that these plays also allude to kabbalistic themes.) Migdal Oz, the story of young lovers who prevail over antagonists scheming against them, is an allegorical-pastoral drama. It is the earlier of the two plays and had no decisive influence on the Hebrew dramatic genre. Conversely, Luzzatto's La-Yesharim Tehillah greatly influenced the development of the Hebrew play in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is an allegorical drama in which the characters are personifications of positive and negative moral qualities. The theme is the victory of good over evil and the plot – the story
La-Yesharim Tehillah was the first Hebrew play which exerted direct influence upon the subsequent Hebrew drama. Its dramatic and didactic elements affected Hebrew authors caught up in the *Haskalah movement as it moved from Western to Eastern Europe. Unrighteousness was viewed as a symbol of the Haskalah – the rational good which struggles against evil – seen as the anti-Haskalah forces. Plays written in this tradition were Yaldut u-Vaḥarut (Berlin, 1786) by the bookseller Mendel b. Ḥayyim Judah Bresslau (d. 1829); Ha-Kolot Yeḥdalun o Mishpat Shalom (Berlin, 1791) by S.A. *Romanelli; Amal ve-Tirẓah (Roedelheim, 1812, 18623) by Shalom b. Jacob *Cohen; Tiferet li-Venei Binah (Zhitomir, 1867) by A.B. *Gottlober; Emet ve-Emunah (Vilna, 1867) by Abraham Dov *Lebensohn; and Mashal u-Meliẓah (Paris 1867) by Meir Leib *Malbim. While in these plays the maskilim were usually the protagonists, Malbim used the genre in order to attack them. All the plays lack real characters, genuine dramatic dialogue, and a proper plot, but were a means through which the Hebrew writer, to whom the dramatic art was still foreign, was initiated into writing dialogue. The Haskalah literature was nontheatrical, even nondramatic, yet it heralded the beginning of a genuine drama.
Another important trend in Haskalah dramatic literature was the translation and adaptation of European plays on biblical themes into Hebrew and the composing of original biblical drama. The first author to develop the technique of adapted translation was the 18th century writer David *Franco-Mendes. In Gemul Atalyah (first printed in Amsterdam 1770, 18603), an adaptation based on Racine and Pietro Metastasio, Franco-Mendes altered the plot and structure of his neoclassic sources but did not write an original play. Melukhat Sha'ul ha-Melekh ha-Rishon al Yeshurun (Vienna, 1794), by Joseph *Ha-Efrati, though influenced by the German Sturm und Drang movement, Shakespeare, and Albrecht von Haller, is an original work with an ingenious and imaginative structure. The dramatis personae (David, Saul, Michal, and Jonathan), characters in their own right, are protagonists in a dramatic action which is not a struggle between good and evil but between noble heroes who are invested with moral qualities. The structure is defective, yet designed for the stage, and while the text includes "literary" passages unrelated to the plot (e.g., the play ends with Haller's poem "On Honor") which detract from the play, it nevertheless (as Paperna, one of the earliest Hebrew drama critics, asserted) paved the way for original Hebrew theatrical works on biblical themes.
Most playwrights, however, followed in the footsteps of Franco-Mendes – translating and adapting into Hebrew European plays on biblical themes. They were incapable of producing an original viable drama during this early phase of Hebrew literature. Not steeped in a dramatic tradition and lacking experience in the genre, they could not go beyond rhetorical writing. Plays written or adapted during this period were Ma'asei Navot ha-Yizre'eli (Roedelheim, 1807) by Shalom b. Jacob Cohen; On Ben Pelet and Ḥananyah Misha'el va-Azaryah (in Kinnor Na'im, Vienna, 1825), by Samuel David *Luzzatto; She'erit Yehudah (Vienna, 1827), an adaptation and translation of Racine's Esther, by S.J. *Rapoport; and Shelom Ester (Vienna, 1843), another rendition of the same play and a translation of Racine's Athalie (1835), both by Meir ha-Levi *Letteris. Basically, all these plays are dramatic failures. In his translation and adaptation of Goethe's Faust, which he called Elisha ben Avuyah (Vienna, 1865), Letteris deviated somewhat from the accepted practice of adapting neoclassic plays. He judaized the text, renamed the dramatis personae ("Faust" becomes "Elisha b. Avuyah,") and introduced character changes. Yet he remained faithful to the original dialogue, the general structure and even to certain key ideas, thus aborting his own attempt at genuine Hebrew dramatic creation.
The two didactic biblical plays by Naḥman Isaac *Fischman: Mappelet Sisera (Lemberg, 1841) and Kesher Shevna (Lemberg, 1870), though original in theme, do not differ in structure and didactic purpose from the allegorical dramas of the period.
The Haskalah period did not produce any real dramatists. It is the *Ḥibbat Zion generation which first prepared the ground for genuine Hebrew theater.
Some of the trends of the Haskalah continued through the period of the national renaissance. Allegorical plays were still being written (cf. S. Zweibel's Milḥemet ha-Ḥokhmah im ha-Sikhlut, 1895) in the 1890s and some of the later historical and topical dramas also contain allegorical elements. The most common characteristic of the period was, however, the historical melodrama which had evolved from the Haskalah. Among the significant playwrights of the period is Judah Loeb *Landau, whose poetic dramas developed Haskalah themes and were written in the same ornate style. The theme is either the relationship of gentiles and Jews during crises in Jewish history, or the plays are permeated with the ideology of Ḥibbat Zion, as Yesh Tikvah (1893) and Lefanim o Le'aḥor (1923, 19442). Bar Kokhva (1884), and Aḥarit Yerushalayim (1886) are historical plays whose protagonists Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Johanan b. Zakkai expound ideas about freedom and the glory of Israel which were drawn from Nachman *Krochmal. F. Hebbel's Herodes und Mariamne served as a model for Landau's Hordos which is an attempt at ahistorical justification of Herod; it takes up his defense against the Jewish historical tradition which Landau felt had unjustly vilified him. The lofty spiritual values propounded by the raisonneur characters in the monologues of all three historical plays are neither complemented by the actual episodes in the
One of the playwrights of the period was Meir Poner (1854–1936), whose Joseph della Reina (1904) is a dramatic adaptation of the story of this legendary character. The play is on two levels: the relationship of Jews and gentiles; and the relationship of man and God (in the manner of Faust). His other plays Beit Eli (1902), Yemei Hordos ha-Aḥaronim (1913), Mot ha-Melekh Hordos (1928), Yehudah ben Yeḥizkiyyahu ha-Gelili (1921), and others have as their main theme the freedom of the people of Israel; the plot, however, does not dramatically realize the rich texture of ideas. Poner's prose style, unlike Landau's uninspired, florid language, is quite original.
Hebrew writers of the 1930s and 1940s continued to write "melodramas of ideas," e.g., A.A. *Kabak's Be-Himmot Mamlakhah (1929) and Bat Sanballat (1934); and S. *Tchernichowsky's Bar Kokhva (1930). Bar Kokhva is replete with monologues on liberty by Rabbi Akiva and his wife Rachel; but the action of the plot centers around Bar Kokhba's betrayal of his people because of Havivah, the Samaritan. Tchernichowsky, however, failed to integrate the conceptual and melodramatic planes in the play. The ideas of the play are not realized in the action and therefore lack dramatic validity.
Most of Ya'akov *Cahan's plays are marked by a gap between a high view of existence and sentimental melodrama. In the King Solomon trilogy, Shelomo u-Vat Shelomo (1924, 1928), Shelomo ve-Shulammit (1942), Malkat Sheva (1945), the sentimental melodrama centers around Solomon's love for Shulamit, Ido's love for Solomon's daughter, and Solomon's love for the Queen of Sheba. Its ideological interpretation has a "Faustian" Weltanschauung. These plays are also marred by Cahan's inability to activate his ideas; his characters never gain the stature their positions demand, and the tone never rises above the sentimental. Most of his other plays are poetic drama but whether they are biblical like Hoshe'a (1956), David Melekh Yisrael (1921), Ha-Nefilim (1939–40), and Leyad ha-Piramidot (1939), or post-biblical plays: Aḥer (1950), Rabbi Me'ir u-Veruryah (1952) and Yannai u-Shelomit (1955); or nonhistorical prose plays: Ken ha-Nesher (1932), Ha-Shali'aḥ (1937), and Terufo shel Ben Adar (1939), they are mostly of the same caliber and texture. The style is very conventional and Cahan tends to embellish concrete dramatic reality with very ornate metaphors which are not always in keeping with the subject or theme. Some of Cahan's plays are, however, genuine melodrama: in Yiftaḥ (1945) no attempt is made to impose ideas on the plot and in Be-Luz (1940) they develop out of the action.
An earlier playwright, I.L. Mekler, in Pilegesh ba-Givah (1899), a dramatization of a biblical story, also stressed the drama of the play rather than its ideas. Yet most of the playwrights of "the melodrama of ideas" (S.D. Goitein, E.L. Jaffe, S. *Zemach, and others) created either stock characters or personifications of ideas which they failed to realize into fully developed dramatis personae. The American Jewish playwright Harry *Sackler made a significant contribution to the Jewish theater. Sackler wrote in Hebrew, in Yiddish, and in English. He was familiar with the theater and with stagecraft. Yosi min Yokrat (written in Yiddish, 1917, and translated into Hebrew by Sackler in 1921) is tragic in form. The plot revolves around the conflict between Yosi and his wife Yalta over the conduct of their daughter Ursilla, whose great beauty arouses men to passionate rivalry and ultimately to murder. The tragedy culminates in Ursilla's death. Yosi, prompted by rigid stringent moral convictions, kills his daughter because he believes that her beauty is an evil which spells disaster for all men. Although the play has dramatic impact, the dialogue fails to sustain the tragic intensity of the plot. In a number of other Hebrew plays (e.g., Raḥav (1934), Ha-Derekh l-Elohim (1964), Yizkor (1964)), which were printed in Yiddish before they were translated into Hebrew, the effect is basically melodramatic; Sackler fails to involve the characters in deep dramatic conflict. A mixture of humor and melodrama characterizes his Hebrew ḥasidic plays and playlets: Nesi'at ha-Ẓaddik (1936), Ha-Ḥozeh Ro'eh et Kallato (1932), Kelappei Mizraḥ (1933). Other works by Sackler resemble the chronicle play Orot me-Ofel (1936), a historical canvas of the persecution of Jews during the *Fettmilch riots in Frankfurt on the Main and alluding to Hitler's rise to power, and Mashi'aḥ – Nosaḥ Amerikah (Hebrew, 1933), a comic treatment of Mordecai Manuel *Noah's plan to found a Jewish state in the United States. Sackler's plays are well structured, the dialogue is simple and functional, and the stock characters find their actualization in social circumstances and historical garb. Some of them (Yosi min Yokrat and Raḥav) have been produced in the United States and in Israel.
The most frequently staged playwright of the 1930s and 1940s, Aharon *Ashman, began as a "ḥalutzic" writer (e.g., Min ha-Meẓar (1932); and Ha-Adamah ha-Zot (1942, which was successfully staged by Habimah) whose pioneering themes reflect the problems of his generation. He later wrote historical plays: the trilogy Mikhal Bat Sha'ul (first part printed in 1941), two parts of which were performed by Habimah; Aleksandrah ha-Ḥashmona'it (1947), used as a libretto for an opera by *Avidom; and Ha-Ḥomah (1938), written in the manner of the chronicle play. Most of Ashman's dramas have intricate plot structures in which simple characters become entangled in intrigues. The biblical or historical setting has little significance and serves only as an exotic background to the love story of the dramatis personae. While the melodramatic effects have a strong histrionic impact, his themes are superficial and trivial.
In contrast to the historical plays in which preference was given to the theatrical aspects over and against the poetic, dramatists like I. *Katzenelson, who is one of the
Mattityahu *Shoham, a major figure in Hebrew literature, composed four biblical plays in verse which, because of their original style and structure and imaginative conception of historical events, are landmarks in Hebrew drama. Yeriḥo (1924), a dramatization of the fall of Jericho, has for its main characters Achan and Rahab, whose love for each other is symbolic of the attraction between the decadent culture of Jericho and the rigorous, vital Hebrew culture of the desert. In Bilam (1925–29), the subplot which portrays the tension between Balaam and Moses embodies the dramatic theme of conflict between the forces of darkness (Balaam) and the forces of light (Moses). The tension is resolved in Balaam's regeneration. Ẓor vi-Yerushalayim (1933) presents the theme of culture polarity through the characters of Jezebel, Elijah, and Elisha. Elisha's dissociation from Jezebel indicates a subtle change from Shoham's earlier view on the attraction between the Jewish culture and a foreign culture. In Elohei Barzel Lo Ta'aseh Lakh (1937) Gog, who personifies Aryanism, and Abraham, who represents Judaism, are locked in a relentless struggle which forms an allegorical superstructure to a plot that revolves around Sarah, Hagar, and Lot's daughters. Shoham through the power of his poetry endows language with a dimension of its own which is revealed in the dramatic tension between his symbols. While the dramatic content is embodied in symbols of fire and water (Yeriḥo), light and darkness (Bilam), and the vine and the lion (Ẓor vi-Yerushalayim), it is actualized not in the plot, or in the characters who remain mostly symbolic or allegoric, or in the dialogue. Shoham's dramas fall short as theater primarily because his "literary," idiosyncratic language is completely unsuited for the stage. Thus while his literary dramatic achievement is undisputed, his plays are theatrically not successful. Shoham's dramaturgical problems reflect those of contemporaneous Hebrew drama.
Among the writers who attempted to write expressionist-historical drama were Nathan *Agmon, Sh. *Shalom, and Ḥayyim *Hazaz. Agmon broke with the tradition of the conventional plot and in the plays Yehudah Ish Kerayot (1930), Shabbetai Ẓevi (1931), and Be-Leil Zeh (1934) emotional tension rather than coherent sequence is the cohesive factor. The dialogue is fragmentary and rhetorical; the characters tend to be symbolic and episodes grotesque. The structure of the plays, however, renders them unsuitable for the stage. Years later Agmon rewrote two of these plays: Shabbetai Ẓevi (1936) and Be-Leil Zeh, renamed Leil Yerushalayim (1953), trying to tone down the expressionistic effects. Although the adaptations are much closer to the realistic school, they lack the verve, spontaneity, and originality of the earlier plays. All three dramas have for theme crisis in Jewish history as manifest in the struggle between traditional conservatism, which acquiesces to exile, and the demand for messianic redemption. Yerushalayim ve-Romi (1939), a dramatization of *Josephus, and the Herzl trilogy, Ḥevlei Gilgul (appeared in complete form in 1960), are two of his plays which were originally written in a realistic style. Some later plays, Maḥlefot Avshalom, Harostrat, and Don Quixote (1960), while original and interesting in their approach and interpretation of the subject matter, fall short of their theatrical realization.
*Shin Shalom gave full vent to his expressionistic dramatic tendencies in the two poetic playlets Shabbat ha-Olam (1945, first appeared as Elisha ve-ha-Shabbat, 1932) and Me'arat Yosef (1934) which are not intended for the stage but are dialogues giving voice to the Schrei (the famous expressionist cry). *Elisha b. Avuyah, the protagonist of Shabbat ha-Olam, revolts against tradition and in Me'arat Yosef Josephus attempts to return to the primordial forces of life after the destruction of civilization. Shalom's characters are projections of the poet's "I" rather than genuine portrayals of the "I" of the personae of his plays. His characters are never fully rendered as independent human beings. His "ḥalutzic" plays Yeriyyot el ha-Kibbutz (1940) and Adamah (1942) are less expressionistic.
Ḥayyim Hazaz's play Be-Keẓ ha-Yamim (different versions: 1934, 1950, 1968), probably one of the outstanding achievements of contemporary Hebrew drama, is an expressionist
Hebrew historical drama during the national revival can point to a number of important literary works (e.g., the plays of Shoham). The discrepancy between the ideas of the playwright and his ability to realize them in a theatrical context is the reason why there were no major dramatic achievements during this period. Hebrew historical drama was also affected by a variety of Western literatures. Dramatists were eclectic and were influenced by many schools, plays, and a wide range of dramatic genres extending from French neoclassicism, to German classicism (Goethe), to Polish expressionism (S. Wyspiański).
The period of national revival (1880–1947) also saw the development of the play that dramatizes different facets of contemporary Jewish life. This type of play was a vehicle of expression in contemporary Yiddish literature as well, and some playwrights wrote in both languages.
The Zionist melodrama follows the tradition of the didactic Haskalah allegory and the historical "conceptual melodrama." J.L. Landau's Yesh Tikvah ("There is Hope," performed in Brody and published in 1893) is an early example. Shulamit, the heroine, is the daughter of the rich man of the town who must decide between Binyamin Ish Nadiv, the Zionist whom she likes, and Max Bilam, the assimilationist whom her father favors. In the end love and Zionism triumph. The play is a Zionist reading of allegories like M.Ḥ. Luzzatto's La-Yesharim Tehillah. Lefanim Le'ahor (1923), another play by J.L. Landau, is much more complex. Its theme is an ideological struggle between Zionism and assimilationism for the souls of the youth and the whole community. The conflict is embodied in the dramatis personae: the rabbi of the community De Shneour Michal, a spiritual Zionist, and the aristocrat Steinbach, the man who wields power in the small town and whose daughter converts to Christianity at his instigation. In two other melodramas: Ha-Sorer be-Veito (printed in 1900) by I.H. *Tawiow and Ba't ha-Rav o Giyyoret ha-Ẓiyyonut (1904) by Jacob Gordon, Zionism serves as the criterion of the good. The Zionists are the positive characters and good overcomes evil. The structure of the Zionist melodrama thus follows the pattern of the Haskalah allegory where enlightened "nationalists" are juxtaposed with the "enlightened maskilim" and the assimilationists take the place of the religious reactionaries.
Many of the plays of the national renaissance period bear affinity to the trends and forms prevalent in modern European drama, showing the influences of Ibsen's drama, Maeterlinck's symbolistic plays, and Hauptmann's social naturalism. Some of Peretz *Hirschbein's plays are markedly naturalistic while others are symbolistic. He wrote mostly in Yiddish but translated his own works into Hebrew. Miryam (1905), a conventional social melodrama about a poor and simple country girl, is a prime example of the influence of naturalism in Hebrew drama. She is seduced by the "landlord's" son and ends up in a brothel. The protagonist of the naturalistic play Nevelah ("Carrion," printed in 1905), Mendel Nevelah, is also a victim of society, here represented by his forefathers. Driven by suffering, he murders his own father and sinks into madness. Bein Yaldei ha-Sadeh (original Yiddish Grine Felder; Hebrew 1922), a comedy staged in Hebrew by Habimah, describes the comic confrontation between country Jews and Levi Yiẓḥak, a scholar from town.
Jacob *Steinberg, primarily a poet and short story writer, also wrote naturalistic social drama. The heroine of Ḥankah (1907), a play in the pattern of Miryam, is a pathetic girl who, persecuted by her stepmother, finally commits suicide. In R. Leib Goldman u-Vitto (1907), Steinberg dramatizes the eternal conflict of the generations as manifest in his time. Bayit mul Bayit (1908) by Zalman *Shneour, who is also mainly known for his poetry and prose rather than his plays, is a social drama in which prostitution is exposed by means of contrast with bourgeois life. Shneour's Adam (1926) is a lyrical dramatization of the story of Adam and Eve. Joseph Ḥayyim *Brenner's Me-Ever la-Gevulin (1907), a play comprised of a series of dialogue fragments, marks a chapter in the history of Hebrew drama and dialogue. Brenner's dramas, which he termed "plays and fragmentations of plays," use the dramatic fragmentation technique, a literary device also found in many of his prose works. Not well structured, the play is nevertheless interesting from the point of view of style, technique in dramatic dialogue, and theme. Its setting is the London of Jewish-Russian emigrants whose social customs and ideological struggles form the dramatic tension in the play. The protagonists, Yoḥanan and Ḥezkoni, despair of all socialist theories and regard suffering as the ultimate truth. Brenner, attempting to recreate the spoken word, evolved a kind of Hebrew-English dialect which was meant to be analogous to the Yiddish-English dialect in actual use. He thus brought the "language of the theater" closer to the "language of life." The playlets Le-Et Attah (1905) and Erev u-Voker (1908), written in a similar style, evince a better control of the medium and dramatically are realized more fully.
One of the first exponents of realism in Hebrew drama is Yitzḥak Dov *Berkowitz who wrote a number of important plays, among them Oto ve-et Beno (1928 and performed by Habimah). The play follows a realistic Ibsenian technique and is a landmark in contemporary Hebrew drama. The theme, the relationship between an
Yitzḥak *Shenhar also wrote realistic drama, though of a different type. Al ha-Gevul ("On the Border," 1943) is about a group of pioneers who attempt to immigrate to Ereẓ Israel. Their efforts lead to a momentary reorientation in the life of a degenerating family; no real change, however, is effected. Chekhov's Three Sisters served the author as model. His protagonists are three brothers and the ideal and yearning for Ereẓ Israel replace the nostalgic longing for Moscow. To some extent Shenhar writes in the earlier tradition of translation and adaptation of European themes, topics, and literary structures to a Jewish milieu, ambiance, and cultural ideal. Some of the best authors of Hebrew literature tried their hand at naturalistic-realistic plays, a parallel school of which developed in Yiddish drama. This affinity between Hebrew and Yiddish drama is still more evident in the symbolistic and expressionistic techniques of I.L. *Peretz, H. *Leivick, and D. *Pinski, who wrote mostly in Yiddish.
Isaac Leib Peretz (1852–1915) was one of the first symbolists and expressionists in Hebrew and Yiddish drama. Ḥurban Beit Zaddik (1903, had a number of versions, one in Hebrew) is a mystical play which dramatizes the decline of a ḥasidic ẓaddik's dynasty. Germinated in doubt, the degenerative process takes its full course, ending finally in heresy. The symbolistic technique is typical of Peretz's Yiddish plays. His social playlets are written in a naturalistic style, e.g., Seḥufei Zerem (1912) and Ba-Shefel (1924). P. Hirschbein also wrote symbolic plays: Olamot Bodedim ("Lonely Worlds," 1905) is set in a cellar where a group of wretched and oppressed people live in close proximity without talking to each other but "next to each other." In technique and atmosphere the play resembles M. Maeterlinck's Les Aveugles (translated into Hebrew in the same year). Teki'at Kaf (Ha-Shiloaḥ 18, 1908) bears similarity to S. *An-ski's Dybbuk. Its theme of innocent pure love, culminating in a blood bond between the young lovers, is enacted against the background of a contract sealed by their parents which, however, they later break. The breach leads to disaster and the young hero's death. The technique is symbolistic, as in the historical drama Be-Ẓel ha-Dorot (1922) and in the playlets Al Yad ha-Derekh (1907) and Pirḥei Sedeh ha-Kevarim (1907). Hirschbein's drama is thus marked by two distinct literary trends in European literature – naturalism and symbolism. A number of less important Hebrew playwrights also experimented with symbolism; none however attained the artistic level of the Yiddish dramatists. Their contribution to the Hebrew drama was the development of natural Hebrew style.
Developed mainly in Ereẓ Israel, the "ḥalutz" play (or "Maḥaze ha-Hityashvut," "the Settlement Drama") is defined by its subject matter: the story of the settlers in Ereẓ Israel, their problems, and their struggles. The underlying theme of the "ḥalutz" drama is to praise the pioneers and their efforts and to denounce all their opponents. Most of these plays were insignificant melodramas which at best were well constructed. The characters were drawn from the social milieu of Ereẓ Israel. Yehoshua Barzilai in Ha-Baḥlan ("The Disdainer" 1919: special edition), one of the early plays in the genre, transposed Molière's Misanthrope to the Ereẓ Israel landscape and its problems. "Ha-Baḥlan," the protagonist, hates his urban environment (Jerusalem) but when he comes face to face with the new settlement he has a change of heart. Allah Karim (1912), by L.A. Orloff-Arieli (1886–1943), has a more complex plot and is enacted within a pattern of intricate human relationships. The central character, Naomi Shatz, immigrates to Ereẓ Israel during the Second Aliyah and becomes engaged to one of the pioneers. She is, however, disappointed by the Jewish "pioneering" intellectuals and prefers the native Arabs (Ali, the pastry vendor) whom she sees as really belonging to the land. Set against the Arab-Jewish conflict, the play ends with Naomi's hope for a new Jewish generation whose character will be shaped by the native soil. Allah Karim heralds the development of "Maḥaze ha-Safek," "the Doubt play," a sub-genre of the "Settlement Drama" that accentuates the impotence of European newcomers in overcoming the hardships with which the physical and human reality in the Land of Israel confronts them. Although diminishing in number in course of the 1930s, in which the "positive," "optimistic" Settlement plays flourished due to the numerous anniversaries of veteran Jewish settlements and the establishment of new ones, the "Doubt play" prevailed until the ideological "earthquake" following the Yom Kippur War in 1973. David *Shimoni is another playwright of the "ḥalutzic" trend who extols the pioneering spirit (Laylah ba-Kerem, 1911) as does Ḥaim *Shurer, whose dramatic canvas unfolds against the social problems of the pioneers. La-Rishonah (1920) dramatizes the conflict between the viticulturists of the village and their workers and the tension generated by the contradictory social and national views of the laborers themselves. Structured as a family melodrama, the viticulturist's daughter Michal falls in love with a laborer, David, her father's social antagonist. Shurer exposes the unreasonable extremism of the young people as they rebel against their parents. Only as the play draws to a close do the young come to acknowledge the right of existence of their opponents. Various "ḥalutz" plays continue to be written over a long period. Roḥaleh (1933) by Moshe *Smilansky is but a new version of an old subject. Ha-Adamah ha-Zot, by A. Ashman, has also for theme the pioneering spirit, acted out in a confrontation between father and son. Yoel Yoshpeh, a pioneer, opposes his son who seeks to escape from the village and to
Not all plays about Ereẓ Israel have for theme the problems of pioneering. Some dramatize other aspects and problems arising from life in Ereẓ Israel. A central theme is the conflict between generations and the struggle between tradition and those who rebel against it. M. Avi-Shaul in his dramatization of the conflict in Ha-Maḥarozet ("The Necklace," 1928) pits the old values of the Diaspora represented by Raphael Ḥai, a member of the Jerusalem Moghrabi (Moroccan) Jewish community, against the new life in Ereẓ Israel to which his daughter Mas'udah is dedicated. Bar Yosef's Ya'akov ha-Ẓohek ("Laughing Jacob," 1939) and Be-Simta'ot Yerushalayim ("In Jerusalem Alleys," 1941, performed by the *Ohel Theater) have similar themes. The dramatic tension is between the values of traditional Jewry of Safed and Jerusalem, and their children who rebel against the suppression of eroticism in their society. The conflict is not resolved but has its tragic "dissolution" in madness to which some of the characters are ultimately driven. Ithamar Ben-Hur's Ha-Soreret (1942) and M. Berger's Me'ah She'arim (1943) are similar. A different aspect of Ereẓ Israel was probed by A. Karmon who, in Ba-Sevakh ("Entanglement," 1926) and Neginat ha-Em ("Mother's Melody," 1928), dramatizes various intricate human relationships in kibbutz life (e.g., incest between a brother and a sister, family and education problems in a collective settlement). Only toward the end of the 1940s were some attempts made at introducing into Hebrew drama contemporaneous Western dramatic elements. Thus Ya'akov *Horowitz, who had earlier written an expressionistic play (Gesher ha-Leẓim, 1929), wrote in 1956 Ani Roẓeh Lishlot ("I Want to Rule"), a social-universal play which broke with the conventional "ḥalutz" drama, a trend that had continued into the early period of the state, though in a different garb.
Hebrew drama gained considerable impetus after the War of Independence. The establishment of the state accelerated the development of the Hebrew theater. The *Cameri (Chamber) Theater, established in 1944, promoted the realistic school. In the wake of the War of Independence a youth cult developed to which the stage also tended to cater. Most of the plays were a continuation of the "ḥalutz" play in theme and form, with the young fighters of the War of Independence replacing the young ḥalutzim. Two plays belonging to this category are Yigal *Mossinsohn's Be-Arvot ha-Negev ("In the Negev Desert," 1949, performed by Habimah), a melodrama about the defense of a besieged Jewish settlement during the War of Independence; and Moshe *Shamir's Hu Halakh ba-Sadot ("He Walked in the Fields," 1947, an adaptation of a novel by the same name), a love story set in a kibbutz. The two lovers are Uri, born on the kibbutz and now a soldier, and Mika, a survivor of the Holocaust. Both plays end in the death of the heroes. Similar plays are Kilometer 56 (1949) and Beit Hillel (1951) by M. Shamir. The only exception to this wave of mythical self-glorification was Nathan *Shaham's Hem Yagi'u Maḥar ("They Will Arrive Tomorrow," 1949). In this realistic morality play, Jonah, the commander of an Israeli platoon, sends his comrades and two Arabs to their certain death on a landmined hill. Through this morally dubious act, fiercely condemned by his second in command, Avi (named after Abraham, the first legislator of the monotheist ethos), Jonah liberates himself and the remaining soldiers. The play is thus an early paradigm of the constant vacillation in Israeli drama (reflected even as late as 2005 in Yehoshua *Sobol's Zeman Emet ("The Moment of Truth") and in Yael Ronen's Plonter ("The Gordian Knot")) between vindication for any atrocities committed by Israelis against Arabs for survival's sake and fidelity to the humane tradition of Jewish morality.
Most of the plays of the 1950s are social dramas – distinguished by realistic-documentary or satirical-grotesque styles – in which the new developing society in Israel is criticized in the light of the values of the labor movement, e.g., A. Megged's Ḥedvah va-Ani ("Ḥedvah and I," 1964) and N. Shaham's Kera Li Syomka ("Call Me Syomka," 1950). The young dramatists of Israel's formative era (early 1950s) were primarily enraged by the "counter-revolutionary" symptoms of the new society. Corruption, bureaucracy, careerism, social inequality, and racial discrimination are criticized in realistic works which are all too often shallow: the new generation had ceased to uphold the cooperative and rural values of the pre-state Jewish population and had instead become bourgeois, trying to achieve its selfish ends at the expense of the young state, while the state on its part has been ungrateful to that part of the young generation that fought for its establishment.
An outstanding play in its superior aesthetic quality is Tura, a psychological-mythical drama by Y. Bar-Yosef (1933– ). It is set in the traditional Oriental Jewish community, and depicts the horrendous results of the devaluation of the patriarchal family and its codes in Israel's "melting pot" of the 1950s. The situation is aggravated by the fact that the protagonists become pawns within the tenacious grips of the codes of the traditional community, so that their violation by the young heroine sweeps the dramatic action to a climax which culminates in her "ritual" murder.
New developments in contemporary Hebrew drama were nevertheless apparent, even in the 1950s. Biblical and historical drama is manipulated as a religiously connoted prism for critique of political and moral problems. It gained fresh impetus with Akhzar mi-Kol-ha-Melekh (1955) by Nissim *Aloni; Milḥemet Benei Or (1956) and Ha-Laylah le-Ish by M. Shamir; Tamar Eshet Er (1947) by Y. Mosinsohn; Yoḥanan Bar-Ḥama (1952) by N. Shaham; Bereshit by A. Megged; Ha-Dov and Shalosh Nashim be-Ẓahov (both 1966) by Y. Eliraz; Uriyyah ha-Ḥitti and Sedom Siti (1959) by B. *Galai; Massale-Nineveh (1963) by Y. *Amichai; and Keter ba-Rosh (1969) by Y. Shabtai. These plays are not cast in one mold: some, like Shamir's, are politically topical drama in which contemporary social problems (revolution, mixed marriages) are projected into the past. Others try to dramatize the past but the protagonists are motivated psychologically (Tamar Eshet Er). Akhzar mi-Kol-ha-Melekh ("Most Cruel of All – the King") is an interesting social-poetic interpretation of the period of division between the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Replete with allusions to contemporaneous problems, warning against the dangers of separatism and internal Kulturkampf, the play has nevertheless an independent existence as a psychological-poetic drama which is bound neither by time nor place. Some brilliant and pungent parodies on the past were written by modern Israel authors. They follow either the comic-parodic style of contemporary French drama (Eliraz), or are modern poetic reinterpretations of biblical themes which shed a new light on the rather untended facets of the ancient myth (such as the depiction of the old, impotent, and unstable King David, who is nevertheless reluctant to retire and deal with the question of his political legacy in Shabtai's Keter ba-Rosh). Playwrights have also tried to achieve comic effects through the treatment of a lofty subject with bathos (Megged, Galai, Eliraz). All these dramatists show a certain originality of expression, form, and approach to the material. Among the finest and most problematic modern Hebrew dramatists is N. *Alterman. Nathan Alterman, primarily a poet, wrote very diverse plays: Kinneret Kinneret (1962), a kitsch-nostalgic new "settlement play" devised to idealize the courage of the pioneers; Pundak ha-Ruḥot (1963), a drama which, through obvious analogies with Goethe's Faust and Ibsen's Peer Gynt, deals with the dilemma confronting every great artist of having to choose between life, love, and familial happiness, on the one hand, and artistic success, glory, and loneliness on the other; Among Alterman's other dramatic work one should mention Malkat Ester (1968), a Purim farce, and Mishpat Pythagoras (1966), an allegorical-topical play. The predominant strength of Alterman's plays is their rich and multi-layered poetic language that thrives at the expense of a convincing and gripping dramatic plot and conflict.
The so-called "Holocaust Dramaturgy" is one of the main genres of the Hebrew-Israeli play. It rarely focuses on commemorating the historical catastrophe, but rather contemplates the Shoah's shifting repercussions on Israeli society or uses it as a socio-political metaphor. The Holocaust is presented in the plays written during the 1940s and 1950s as an image of impotence, and is juxtaposed with the sublime convention of the Sabra. This is the underlying premise of plays such as the above-mentioned Hu Halakh ba-Sadot ("He Walked in the Fields," 1947) by Moshe Shamir, in which Holocaust survivor Mika has to sacrifice her private dream of leading a normal life with her boyfriend, Uri, for the sake of fighting for the establishment of the state. So too in Nathan Shaham's Ḥeshbon Ḥadash ("A New Account," 1952), or Aharon Megged's Hanna Senesh (1958) which glorifies the bravery of the woman paratrooper who was executed in Nazi occupied Hungary in her attempt to save Jews, those weaklings who went to their death like "cattle to the slaughter." The only
The turning point in the Hebrew drama's attitude to society was the euphoric mentality that overtook Israel after the sweeping victory in the Six-Day War (1967). This was followed by a period of collective self-reckoning, soul searching, and myth shattering in the wake of the humiliating surprise of the Yom-Kippur War (1973). Whereas Israeli drama before 1967 was basically positive toward the ideal of the "New Jew," post-1967 protest plays adopted an asocial, agnostic, and deconstructive position in order to warn society against the dangers of a militarist power-cult and the moral deterioration inextricably connected with the occupation of the Palestinians and the subordination of human values to the imperative of territorial expansion. In fact, one may argue that from 1967 to Rabin's murder in 1995 the core of Hebrew drama was politically mobilized, rhetorically militant, and ideologically leftist. This thematic and stylistic watershed was also accompanied by a higher degree of ripeness and professionalism in Hebrew dramatic writing thanks primarily to the efforts of Oded Kotler as the artistic director of the Haifa Municipal Theater to promote young dramatists.
Hanoch *Levin's satirical revues At va-Ani ve-Hamil-ḥamah Haba'ah ("You and I and the Next War," 1968), Ketchup (1969, performed in fringe theaters), Malkat ha-Ambatiyah ("Queen of the Bathtub"), staged in 1970 by the establishment Cameri Theater and swiftly closed due to public outcry, and Levin's censored Ha-Patriyot ("The Patriot," Neveh-ẓedek Theater 1982), denouncing the Lebanon War, did not shrink from resorting to profane and provocative devices in order to slaughter the most sacred cows of Israel's collective value system: the ideal of the "justified war"; the cult of the fallen hero; bereavement and the admiration for the military; the avoidance of any chance for peace; the sanctification of land at the expense of life and ethics; and the ingrained racist attitude to Arabs. A.B. *Yehoshua (1936– ), one of the foremost young authors of the 1960s, heralded in Laylah be-Mai ("A Night in May," 1969) the falling apart of Israeli society through the metaphor of the psychological disintegration of a complex Jerusalem family during the period preceding the Six-Day War. One of the most vehement adversaries of Israel's belligerent orientation, provinciality, and disdain for culture was Yosef Mundy, who, as a deliberate rhetorical provocation, proclaimed his Diaspora-cosmopolitan Weltanschauung and anti-Zionist disposition. Mundy's most accomplished play, Zeh Mistovev ("It Turns," 1970) takes place in a madhouse (a common dramatic metaphor for Israel): the allegorical megalomaniac Herzl, representative of political and expansionist Zionism, torments the humanist, individualistic Kafka. In the symbolist-surreal play Moshel Yeriḥo ("The Governor of Jericho," 1975), written after the Yom Kippur War, Mundy depicts the racist and demeaning side of Israeli conduct towards the Palestinians through the vulgar, sexist, and despotic figure of the governor of Jericho, the first biblical town to be conquered by the Hebrew tribes as they invaded the Land of Canaan. One of the major genres in which the Israeli reality has been effectively examined and criticized is the docudrama. The most notable dramatists who continuously work in this genre are Yitzhak Laor, Motti Lerner, Edna Mazya, Ilan Hatzor, Daniela Carmi, Hillel Mittelpunkt, Matti Golan, Amnon Levy and Rami Danon, Shmuel Hasfari, Miriam Kainy, and Yael Ronen. They employ the strategy of undermining the accepted "photographic" conventions from within, thereby upsetting the positive self-image of Israeli society traditionally reasserted by the theater. Docudrama was inaugurated in the early 1970s by the American-born Nola Chilton, who created a succession of "living paper" documentaries promoting a spectrum of social causes in "the other Israel." Her partner in these ventures was Yehoshua Sobol, one of Israel's most prolific, politically engaged, and internationally successful dramatists. Sobol was also one of the major dramatists who developed – in the wake of the 1973 War – the mode of soul-searching plays that dissect the national myths and explore their false nature. Sobol's Leyl ha-Esrim ("The Night of the Twentieth," 1976), based on a historical episode, analyzes the mistakes of the Zionist founding fathers through the narrative of a group of young pioneers in 1920, engaged in a profound and merciless process of soul searching about their motives and purposes before descending from a Galilean hill to a new settlement where they expect to exchange "murderous blows with the Arab occupants of the Land." Sobol employs and develops similar docudramatic strategies in a number of plays, most notably in Nefesh Yehudi ("The Soul
Yet although mainly realistic, the trend of post-Zionist drama that began in the mid-1970s did not preclude stylized and fantastic plays. Yaakov Shabtai's Namer Ḥavarburot ("The Spotted Tiger," 1974) tells the story of Fink, half dreamer half charlatan, who at the end of the 1920s comes to the tiny township of Tel Aviv, a provincial resort of embittered, materialist, and desperate ex-pioneers. Fink brings with him a whiff of the wide world, hoping to establish an international circus in Israel with all its trimmings, including a spotted tiger, the symbol of speed, courage, and unearthly beauty. Being unable to live up to the imaginary dimensions of Fink's utopian dream, the petty, dystopian settlers of Tel Aviv bring about his death in a duel. In Shitz (1975) Hanoch Levin provides a biting satirical grotesque about the cynical Israeli philistines who are transformed by greed into warmongers who thrive on blood. Danny Horowitz's Cherli Ka-Cherli (1977) – a parody on the Israeli Massekhet- genre in the form of an oratorio for speaking voices and chorus – reflects the spirit of soul searching by offering an ironic dissection of the once sacred Sabra myth. The tradition of post-Zionist, non-realistic parables on the shattered ideals of the morally corrupt Israeli society is pursued on the threshold of the third millennium by several dramatists (Yehonatan Geffen, Eldad Ziv, Shlomi Moskovitch). They are, however, surpassed by the theatrical texts of the director and playwright Michael Gurevitch, whose phantasmagorias Mila Aḥat shel Ahavah ("One Word of Love"), Ḥeyl Parashim Anu ("We Are a Unit of Cavaliers") and Osher ("Happiness") constitute poetic stage legends that lend themselves to a plethora of interpretations.
The process of mobilizing the stage for political ends left its mark also on historical and biblical drama. Historical as well as biblical materials have served since 1967 for a critical illumination of local political and existential problems. Aharon Megged's Ha-Onah ha-Bo'eret ("The Burning Season," 1967) takes up the theme of Job in order to warn against the hazards of forgiving the Germans by accepting compensation and establishing diplomatic relations with Germany. Instead of being loyal to the biblical characterization of Job as a righteous and God-fearing patriarch who rightfully lives to see a happy end to his various ordeals, Megged presents him as a blind, "Holocaust-denying" person who deserves the recurrence of his tragic fate. The same biblical myth acquires a radically existential and agnostic interpretation in Hanoch Levin's Yissurei Iyov ("The Sorrows of Job," 1981). In the first part of this "Passion"-play we witness the descent and fall of Job presented as a catastrophic succession of episodic events, corresponding to the biblical narrative (apart from the omission of the prologue in Heaven); yet, in contrast to the Scriptures, the chain of events in Levin's play is the result of both human short-sightedness and selfishness as well as of Job's own moral corruption. In the second part we witness the increasing agony of Job on the verge of dying, having been speared on a pole by the Romans for refusing to renounce God. Becoming part of a circus spectacle, without being granted the sanctification of a martyr's death, Job's anti-heroic suffering is rendered as the epitome of the purposelessness of human existence, of the relativity of human happiness, not even an existential gesture of protest against a metaphysical void. Yaakov Shabtai's Okhlim ("Eating," 1979) is an updated version of the theft of Naboth's vineyard by Jezebel and Ahab. This canonical parable is directed against the apparently "legal" dispossession of the occupied Palestinian land, while Jehu by Gilad Evron (1992) – the story of a ruthless army commander who escapes the death sentence for disobedience, overthrows the reigning monarch, commits hideous crimes, and drives his chief supporter, Ziph, to commit suicide – has been interpreted as a parable on the man who pulls the strings, Ariel Sharon's cynical manipulations of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, which led to the war in Lebanon in the beginning of the 1980s. Rina Yerushalmi's Bible Project – consisting of two parts, Va-Yomer Va-Yelekh ("And he said and he went," 1996) and Va-Yishtaḥu Va-Yar ("And he bowed and he saw," 1998) – harnesses the biblical text itself to its peculiar political ends. Even a harmless biblical musical such as Shelomo ha-Melekh ve-Shalmai ha-Sandlar ("King Solomon and Shalmai the Cobbler") by Sammy Groenemann and Nathan Alterman has been deciphered in its Habimah revival in 2005 as an allegory on social exploitation.
The 1973 Yom Kippur War, which shattered the invincible image of Israel, resulted in a growing awareness that the Holocaust and Israeli experiences are metonymical and interchangeable. The best-known play of the period is Yehoshua Sobol's Ghetto (1984). The play dared for the first time to present – through an alienating "German" epic style and a "profane" image of a theater company in the Vilna Ghetto – the symbiotic relations and reversible roles of the Nazi victimizer and the Jewish victim, thereby reflecting on Israel's belligerency against Lebanon and the occupied territories. Similar political attitudes were advocated by Motti Lerner in his docudramatary Kasztner (1985), acquitting the hero, Rezso Kasztner, of collaborating
The unrivaled poets laureate of Hebrew drama are Nissim Aloni (1926–1998) and Hanoch Levin (1943–1999). Even though their plays are saturated with references and allusions to the local milieu, both Aloni and Levin tend to "distance the evidence" of their theatrical, self-referential phantasmagorias to mythical, literary, and legendary regions, thus serving as vanguards of the universal-existential trend in Hebrew drama. Aloni's signature play Ha-Nessikhah ha-Amerika'it ("The American Princess," 1962) delineates, through the detached narrative of a dethroned monarch, murdered by his opportunistic son, the cultural and normative deformation of Israeli society. This small lyrical-ironic masterpiece, strongly affiliated with the French Drama of the Absurd in the 1950s, and some of Aloni's other plays from an opus of 11 plays altogether (for example, Bigdei ha-Melekh, 1961; Ha-Kallah ve-Ẓayyad ha-Parparim, 1966; Ha-Dodah Lizah, 1969; and Eddie King, 1975) mark the playwright's ongoing influence on Israeli drama and theater, as an antidote to the prevailing flat journalistic dramaturgy.
Dramatist and director Hanoch Levin was undoubtedly the most prominent and prolific (60 works) theater practitioner to emerge from the aftermath of the Six-Day War. In the domestic neighborhood comedies that followed his first satirical revues, e. g., Ya'akobi and Leidenthal (1972); Ne'urei Vardaleh ("Vardaleh's Youth," 1974); Krum (1975); Popper (1976); Soḥarei Gummi ("Rubber Merchants," 1978); Halvayah Ḥorpit ("A Winter Funeral," 1978); Orezei Mizevadot ("Suitcase Packers," 1983); Melekhet ha-Ḥayyim ("The Labor of Life," 1989), Levin unravels the Diaspora myths underlying the apotheosized Jewish-Israeli family, and develops his image of humankind as a beastly hierarchy of humiliater and humiliated, motivated exclusively by their basest drives and thanatopsic fears. Levin's final cycle comprises legendary-universal phantasmagorias or "Spectacles of Doom," as, for example Hoẓa'ah La-Horeg ("Execution," 1979); Ha-Zonah ha-Gedolah mi-Bavel ("The Big Babylonian Whore," 1982); Ha-Nashim ha-Avudot mi-Troya ("The Lost Women of Troy," 1984); Kulam Roẓim Liḥyot ("Everybody Wants to Live," 1985); Ha-Yeled Ḥolem ("The Child Dreams," 1993); Pe'urei Peh ("Open-Mouthed," 1985); Kritat Rosh ("Beheading," 1996); Ha-Holkhim ba-Ḥoshekh (1998). In Ashkavah ("Requiem," 1999) he composed his own funeral oration, and Ha-Bakhyanim ("The Weepers," 2000), based on the Agamemnon narrative, was conceived on his deathbed.
The second substantial reversal in Israeli drama took place in the 1990s and characterizes plays written and performed at the beginning of the third millennium. The interconnected historical and theatrical developments (from the Oslo Peace Accord to Rabin's murder and the second Intifada) produce a complete renunciation of communal ideals along with their formal objective correlatives. The personal, cosmopolitan, and humane note is most clearly evident in the upsurge of women's – not necessarily feminist or gender-conscious – dramaturgy and directing. Most of the female dramatists work in the more established, well-made pattern. Shulamit Lapid's Rekhush Natush ("Abandoned Property," 1988) relates the story of an aging, half-blind and bitter mother who was long ago abandoned by her husband, and now tyrannizes her daughters under the pretext of wishing to protect them. Playwright and director Edna Mazia presents provocative, mentally unstable, and attractive heroines, and also directed several of Anat Gov's plays, of which the best and most popular is Ha-Ḥaverot Hakhi Tovot (1999), which takes for its theme the inextricable bonds among girlfriends. The opposite pole consists of stylized, poetic dramatic and theatrical texts, such as Yossefa Even-Shoshan's Ha-Betulah mi-Ludmir ("The Virgin of Ludmir," 1997), and Ravid Davara's Ha-Sirpad shel ha-Shakhen ("The Neighbor's Thistle," 1999).
The idealistic, committed, and selfless Hebrew plays of the early settlement period in Ereẓ Israel have thus reached the extreme opposite pole, as has indeed the entire Zionist ideology which generated them. However, both drama and theater are still engaged in the same quest for social identity.
[Gershon Shaked /
Gad Kaynar (2nd ed.)]
Hebrew literary criticism as a discipline has existed for the past 200 years only, but the rudiments of literary appreciation can be traced to medieval works on normative poetics and rhetoric. In Shirat Yisrael (written in Arabic (Kitāb al Muḥadara wa-al-Mudḥākara), Heb. ed. (1924) by B. Halper), Moses *Ibn Ezra lays down the rules for writing excellent poetry, which he applies to his criticism on the Spanish poets, and discusses the problems of artistic creation. Critical evaluations of the Spanish
The development of aesthetic literary appreciation is primarily linked with the study of the Bible. Moses Ḥayyim *Luzzatto in his works on poetics and rhetoric draws mainly on the Bible for the many examples with which he illustrates his theories. His poetic methods and theories, however, are mostly influenced by medieval and contemporary Italian rhetoricians. In the Bi'ur (1780–83) project, a translation and exposition of the Bible in German, edited by Moses *Mendelssohn and his circle, aesthetic appreciation of the scriptural text formed an integral part of the exegesis. Influenced by 18th century German aesthetic thought, the introductions and commentaries are often an eclectic combination of neoclassical and sentimentalist views. Sometimes a psychological moralistic approach is in evidence and aesthetic distinctions are made, mainly in the poetical sections of the Bible. The discussion on rhyme and structure in Mendelssohn's commentary on "The Song of Deliverance" adheres to Robert *Lowth's aesthetic distinctions (De Sacra Poesi Hebraeorum Praelechones…, 1753; trans. from Latin by G. Gregory, London, 1787) in its emphasis on the connection between rhetoric and emotion. In Joel *Brill's preface to the book of Psalms (2 vols., Berlin, 1787–88) the influence of the author's mentor, Moses Mendelssohn, and that of Johann Gottfried von *Herder (Vom Geiste der hebraeischen Poesie, 1782; trans. by J. Marsh, The Spirit of Hebrew Poetry, 1833) can be discerned. Despite Brill's declared adherence to the Haskalah, he devotes much attention to the effects of poetry and rhetoric on man's senses and emotions. These are achieved through repetition, deliberate shifts in syntax, and the frequent use of similes and metaphors. Enumerating the qualities of the ideal poet, he distinguishes delicacy of feeling, imagination, wit, and psychological insight. Naphtali Herz (Hartwig) *Wessely in the introductions to sections of his epic composition "Shirei Tiferet" (5 vols., 1789–1802) on the Exodus from Egypt discusses the power of poetry and its characteristics. His view on the universality of poetry, the earliest literary form, is in the spirit of neoclassical thought which attempted to harmonize between reason and emotion. Temperate and cautious in his biblical exegesis, Wessely believes, however, that modern poetic interpretation of biblical themes is obviously superior to the biblical source itself, especially in the portrayal of the inner motivation of events and their causal connection. His many attempts at expounding in detail the relationship of his poetry to biblical and midrashic sources indicate his predilection for criticism.
In his discussion on the theory of literature, Isaac ha-Levi *Satanow in Sefer ha-Ḥizzayon (Berlin, 1785) confuses the elements of poetics, rhetoric forms, and general definitions of the essence of poetry. Stressing the didactic significance of poetry in some of the formulations, Satanow, a leading representative of the Haskalah, also points out the sensual and ecstatic elements of poetry which affect the reader. The emotional characteristics of the Sturm und Drang, already discernible in some of the works of Mendelssohn's disciples, became more prominent at the beginning of the 19th century and are given a distinctly personal expression in Solomon Lewisohn's Meliẓat Yeshurun (Vienna, 1816). Lewisohn integrates these elements with Longinus' concepts, gleaned from reading On the Sublime which enjoyed widespread popularity in the Germany and England of his day. Meliẓat Yeshurun, a book of normative poetics illustrated with examples from the Bible, but also from Wessely and Lewisohn himself, attempts to define poetic forms. The poet's personal emotional confession, written with dramatic pathos, intrudes on some of the explanations and definitions which are of an apparently prescriptive nature. Poetry, according to Lewisohn, is a phenomenon existing in and of itself and affecting the entire universe. He thus freed himself of the neoclassical distinctions which tried to create a balance between reason and sentiment, and to harmonize between aesthetic experience for its own sake and the didactic objective of the work, the latter, according to neoclassicism, having to guide poetry. Using biblical rhetoric, Lewisohn posits a normative order, in which he demonstrates how the sublime scriptural effects were designed to arouse reactions of wonder and amazement in the reader.
Parallel to normative aesthetic studies, reviews of new books began to appear in Ha-Me'assef
Besides the satirical parodizing approach to book reviewing by Haskalah writers (mainly Perl and *Erter), literary appreciation also took the form of ornate encomiastic verse which praised the author and his work. This was in fact a continuation of the traditional haskamah. S.D. *Luzzato, A.D. Lebensohn, and J.L. *Gordon included such eulogies in their collected works and notwithstanding their florid style, these helped shape public opinion concerning the merit of certain works and authors.
While the value of this type of poetry was transitory, critical comments found in literary letters, written often for publication, helped shape contemporary taste. Among these are the letters of Samuel David Luzzatto and Judah Leib Gordon containing relevant critical remarks on their own works and that of their contemporaries. The normative approach to contemporary literature was also prevalent and Luzzatto for one, in discussing A.D. Lebensohn and Meir ha-Levi *Letteris, expressed strong views on the meter, rhyme, and ideas in their poetry.
An important step in the development of literary criticism was the proliferation of the Hebrew press in Russia in the early 1860s. More liberal censorship regulations led to weekly publications. The unsigned short editorial review was very common in such periodicals as *Ha-Karmel (1861–1879), *Ha-Ẓefirah (1862–1931), and *Ha-Meliẓ (1860–1904; and also in the *Ha-Maggid 1856–1892), as was the topical article which related Hebrew literature to contemporaneous needs. The Hebrew press was also instrumental in disseminating the ideas of Russian positivist criticism of Vissarion G. Belinski and Dmitri I. Pisarev. Iconoclastic in character (major exponents were S.Y. *Abramovitsh (Mendel Mokher Seforim), A.U. *Kovner, A.J. Paperna), Hebrew criticism of the 1860s had revolted against the accepted aesthetic values of German neoclassicism and sentimentalism and had taken on more radical social orientation. Qualitatively (i.e., in the development of analytic and stylistic tools) it achieved little. Common to it was the polemical-sarcastic style, whose dominant feature was its concentration of inimical quotations, and the journalistic tendency to associate sociological matters with literary phenomena. Conversely, however, some critics of the group developed a distinctive personal approach.
With the appearance of A.U. Kovner (Ḥeker Davar, 1865 (first edition), Ẓeror Peruḥim, 1868) on the Jewish social and literary scene, a utilitarian-sociological trend developed whose aim was not only the evaluation of literature as such, but a social reformation of Russian Jewish life. The new ideas affected the choice of literary genres and critics began to express their reservations regarding poetry on biblical themes, preferring and encouraging literary vehicles such as social satire or the novel. Kovner developed the utilitarian tendency already formulated by some Haskalah authors. Challenging the accepted aesthetic concepts in Hebrew literature and rejecting its neoclassicist hypotheses, he distinguished between "idealist" and "realist" poets, as did his favorite Russian critic Pisarev. He strongly objected to the lofty and ornate style which he claimed had no real content, and called for the use of simple and natural language which would be intelligible to a wide reading public. As for the function of criticism, it should make bold demands, be unbiased, and not submit to conventional authority.
A.J. Paperna, Kovner's contemporary, was an even more fiery advocate of the didactic and theoretical approach to criticism. While fighting the uninspired and ornate conventions of the meliẓah poetry and condemning allegorical drama as obsolete (in his essays "Kankan Ḥadash Male Yashan," 1867; and "Ha-Drama bi-Khelal ve-ha-Ivrit bi-Ferat," 1868), he took great pains to enunciate the principles of literary theory to the Hebrew reader, and to define literary genres: epic, drama, and novel. His views were inspired mainly by the aesthetic theories of the Russian critic Belinski, but they were also rooted in classical aesthetics. Thus his demands for realism in Hebrew literature are aesthetically rather than socially motivated, forming criteria by which to measure the writer's creative talents.
M.L. Lilienblum's critical essays of the 1870s (and even of his Zionist period in the 1880s) were grounded in superficial positivism and utilitarianism in which ideological considerations led him to confuse literature with social pamphleteering. Reality was for him the sole criterion by which to arrive at "the truth of life." He judged Abraham *Mapu's novels accordingly and in his nationalist period criticized Judah Leib Gordon's poetry in the light of the "real" demands of the Hibbat Zion ideology as he understood them.
Simultaneously, the short newspaper article was also extensively cultivated. Its principal exponents were P. *Smolenskin, editor of *Ha-Shaḥar (Vienna, 1869–1884), and J.L. Gordon, writing for the weekly Ha-Meliẓ (mainly in the 1880s). These reviews, not exclusively on belles lettres, reveal not only a great sensitivity to questions of language and style, but also a more balanced cultural-historical perspective regarding contemporary Hebrew literature. Neither Smolenskin nor Gordon spared those authors whom they considered undeserving. Smolenskin is sometimes apologetic as regards the achievement of the Hebrew language which he considers fundamental to the Jewish national culture. His literary tools are rather superficial, and his comparison of Hebrew works with world classics are sometimes unrealistic. His principles of literary criticism are expressed in his definition: "The ability to describe scenes which are real to life and a style both beautiful and vigorous."
During the sudden growth of Hebrew criticism in the 1890s, attention focused on the basic problems of Hebrew literature rather than on practical and detailed criticism of individual works. On the one hand, there was a call for a Hebrew artistic revival which would be close to European literature and on the other a hesitancy and a conservatism arising out of a concern for authenticity and for the national objectives of Hebrew literature.
Two principal figures of this trend were D. *Frischmann and R. *Brainin. David Frischmann declared his criterion to be personal talent and the refinement of aesthetic taste. He tried to realize his goals through a criticism which was essentially negative, resorting not only to irony but even to controversy. Discussing works which he liked, he took on a lyrical pathetic tone, however, which, at times, became even hackneyed. His preference for the feuilleton form (an aesthetically orientated literary column) affected his critical writing since the feuilleton by definition must be playful and humorous, maintaining contact with the reader and underscoring the presence of the author's personality. Frischmann's egocentric tendency was given further free play in his "Letters about Literature" which he wrote at various times. He was particularly skillful in portraying authors and in depicting characteristic elements in their works. The aesthetic notions which he so profusely advocated were, however, rarely implemented in his own articles.
Reuben Brainin, like Frischmann, based his call for a literary revival on criteria drawn from Western literature. But while his tone was egocentric, he lacked the lyrical sentimental and ironic refinement so characteristic of Frischmann. His essays, particularly those written toward the end of the 19th century under the influence of G. Brandes and J.A. Taine, stressed biographical detail and the impact which environment and background have on the literary work. Brainin, rooted in the spirit of European literature, drew his examples and metaphors from the natural sciences. Comparing Hebrew literature with world literature, he was pessimistic as to its possibilities. Like Frischmann, Brainin had a propensity for sketching portraits, interlacing these with memoirs and anecdotes designed to interest readers of Hebrew dailies which began to appear in 1886. Brainin, however, lacked the analytic ability of the practical critic who discusses and relates to the specific work. He was interested in the writer's personal image rather than the literary work under discussion. His detailed article on Mendele Mokher Seforim's works, written at the turn of the century, is illustrated by ample citations from Mendele's writings. Brainin pointed out that Mendele's recording of Jewish life in Russia was of documentary import. (Frischmann used the same approach when writing about Mendele some years later.)
This orientation toward world literature is more clearly manifest in the criticism of Nahum *Sokolow despite the fact that he wrote in a more traditional "Jewish" style. His article (written in the 1890s) on experiments in naturalism in the Hebrew short story is a case in point. Sokolow's discussion of Zola's literary method bears witness to his knowledge of contemporary world literature and his ability to apply it to his own criticism. He makes few pronunciamentos which call for the cultivation of ties with world literature; instead, he maintains these ties in reality.
While the debate on the orientation of Hebrew literature toward universal culture appears in Frischmann's and Brainin's essays, it takes a more serious turn in the controversy between *Aḥad Ha-Am and the Ha-Ẓe'irim (The Young Writers) group, headed by Micha Josef *Berdyczewski, which was conducted mainly in the monthly Ha-Shilo'aḥ (1897–1926) at the end of the 19th century. Though the discussions did not contribute directly to the criticism of specific works, they gave it impetus and inspiration. Aḥad Ha-Am's utilitarian approach, which denies literature its autonomous status, was in consonance with a trend already existing in Hebrew criticism. He considered speculative writing of prime importance. In his view of the historical continuity of Jewish literature, literary form was the product of a nation's conceptual framework. Aḥad Ha-Am, striving "to unite poetry and thought," saw it as a medium through which the existential problems of the Jewish people could be expressed. Yet he did not disregard the quality of a work of art: Literary description, he felt, contributed to animation of thought and to fostering national consciousness.
J. Klausner's approach to the relationship between Hebrew and world literatures is simplistic-synthetic and his comparisons between the works of Hebrew writers and other poets are superficial. He firmly advocated the harmonization of Jewish and universal values and propagated his philosophical principles in his literary criticism. Biographical information is one of the basic elements in his criticism and his critical remarks are substantiated by many textual examples. Though Klausner, unlike Aḥad Ha-Am, stressed the special place of modern Hebrew literature in the life of the people, his evaluations are of a didactic and pedagogic nature. They tend to appraise literary works – of the Haskalah and his own period – in terms of their contribution to the national Zionist movement. Occasional normative ideological demands on contemporary literature can also be found in his criticism.
Among the young critics at the turn of the century M.M. *Feitelson deserves mention. Influenced by Russian 19th-century criticism, his aesthetic criterion was the relationship of fiction to life itself, but he also represents the trend which called for the freeing of Hebrew literature from its conceptual relationship to social ideas. His contemporary I.E. Lubetzki (in his essays as yet not collected) took an even more extreme stand on this issue. He claimed that the critical discipline should not be governed by actual ideological demands and aesthetic criticism should not be concerned with the conceptual and moral aspect of the work. He spoke of the need for "artistic documents" and not for "human documents." In contrast to Frischmann's aesthetic demands characterized by the critic's subjective sentimental attitude, Lubetzki proposed objectivity and pertinent criteria, advocating what he called a "science of literature" as a critical criterion. Lubetzki, however, did not implement his own ideas in his critical writings; instead, like his predecessors, he drew superficial comparisons either between literary works or between authors. He elucidated details but was unable to evolve an analytical system. To clarify literary concepts, he drew on the terminology of painting and music, a method which could not lead him to the realization of his scientific ideal.
Criticism written by poets and authors at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries bears a special stamp. Subjective in its approach, it reflects the private world of the creative writer and his aesthetic concepts, and is lyrical and descriptive in style. The significance of this criticism lies in the fact that it is the product of the creative writer. To this category belong Berdyczewski's short, critical reviews mentioned above. *Bialik in his discussion on the development of Hebrew style and the essence of language points to the significant role played by Mendele Mokher Seforim and his successors in forging a new Hebrew prose. His treatment of the development of Hebrew poetry is not merely genetic but shows contemporary Hebrew literature to be an antithesis to earlier trends. In his article "Shiratenu ha-Ẓe'irah" ("On Our Young Poetry," in Ha-Shilo'aḥ, 16 (1906), 66–76), Bialik rebelled against the poetic and linguistic traditions of Hebrew poetry and hailed the generation of national renaissance. He acclaimed its outlook which sought to fuse the subjective and individualistic aims of the artist with the literary traditions and ideals of the nation. His many allusions to biblical and rabbinic sources often have a rhetorical reversal of meaning. They testify to his profound knowledge of tradition and to his fertile poetic imagination. Bialik also devotes special attention to the problems of literary creation, often projecting his own predicament as a poet. The relationship between author and language he sees as a dramatic struggle of the creative artist with formless matter. J. *Steinberg's literary essays, written in Ereẓ Israel mainly between the two world wars, sometimes appear similar to those written by Bialik. They, too, are highly sensitive to the problems of language and
Brenner's literary activity is typical of the literary shift that occurred with the transfer of the literary center from Russia to Ereẓ Israel as far back as the Second Aliyah (prior to World War I). It served as a main link between the literary centers in the Diaspora and the new center evolving in Ereẓ Israel. This process is also reflected in the critical endeavors of Jacob *Rabinowitz, Jacob Steinberg, Shlomo *Zemach; and following World War I – Jacob *Fichmann, Fishel *Lachower, Joseph Klausner, and others. The immigration of authors and critics to Ereẓ Israel gave Hebrew criticism a special socio-national quality, though many of the critics preserved their individual character in their aesthetic and stylistic perceptions. The publication of critical articles (among them articles by Klausner, Lachower, and Fichmann) which had originally appeared in Russia were now presented to a new public in a new land and in a different historical context.
Parallel to the evolvement of the Ereẓ Israel center since the Third Aliyah (from the 1920s), a literary center evolved in the United States. Inspired by the national movement, the American critics followed the explanatory descriptive critical school (e.g., M. *Ribalow's and A. *Epstein's articles) reminiscent of Klausner, but they lacked his special personal and public pathos. At the same time, however, it introduced criticism of a more individualistic poetic nature by poets and writers (e.g., S. *Halkin and A. *Regelson during their American period and E. *Silberschlag and Y. Rabinowits). American Hebrew literary criticism, thematic in content, focused mainly on the specific manifestations and problems of Hebrew literature in the United States. This critical attitude was rooted in a wish to encourage the development of Hebrew literature in a foreign cultural environment. Concurrently, interest in world literature, hitherto hardly touched upon by Hebrew criticism, increased. Hebrew critics in the United States did not generally assimilate the methods of modern American criticism, but described in essay form Anglo-American artists, poets, and writers. World literature was analyzed and criticized for its own sake, and not only discussed by way of pronunciamentos and statements of principles.
Hebrew criticism in Ereẓ Israel since the end of World War I in its method has been a continuation of the trends evolved at the beginning of the century, mainly because the same critics continued writing in the new center. Nevertheless, the critical essay has developed as a result of a further crystallization of the Hebrew language which allowed it to lend itself to the tools of modern study. Conversely, as a result of the remarkable growth of the Hebrew press, which served as a forum for the best critics, the brief critical article flourished. Research study of modern Hebrew literature, including different intermediate stages, ranging from the critical review to scholarly research, began in the 1930s. The polarity between the two domains reached its peak in the 1960s with the expansion of academic teaching of Hebrew literature and the persistent impetus of literary scholarly research in the world. Impressionist criticism continues to be one of the main trends, as does the tendency to regard the artistic creation as a continuation of the artist's life. The lines between poetic reality and actual reality are thus blurred and documentary elements are constantly looked for in the work of art under discussion. Accurate depiction thus becomes the artistic criterion. In contrast to this superficial realism there is conceptual criticism which seeks a common denominator for all the components in a work of art, while paying little attention to the influence of genre and style. As to method, there is on the one hand a tendency to deal with various literary components: characterization, description of nature, and conceptual goals, without exhaustively studying any one of them, and on the other hand use is made of examples, the choice of which is completely subjective, being in consonance with the critic's personal reading. Contrary to the above eclectic method, there is also a tendency to isolate each problem and discuss it without functional relation to the totality of the work. But even when discussing a single
Hebrew criticism had a strong impetus in Ereẓ Israel in the 1940s. Critics who had started to write before World War I (e.g., S. Zemach, E. *Steinman, Y. *Keshet) had now attained original insight and had cultivated their own style. A number of new influential critics also appeared. D. *Sadan's analytical approach probed the hidden inner world of the author and of his work. He also underlined the recent tendency of extending the domain of Hebrew literature. At the same time, however, he emphasized its various ideological trends and the phenomenon of bilingualism as manifest in the mutual relation of Hebrew and Yiddish literatures. B. *Kurzweil sought to synthesize the intellectual sensitivity to the crisis of Judaism and to the shattering of the Jew's religious tradition in modern times with the artist's aesthetic formulation of this crisis through poetical and fictional symbols and motifs. S. Halkin continued to stress the significance of the secular-humanistic character of modern Hebrew literature. While discussing the author's individual poetical values, he pointed out their relation to trends and values current in Jewish society and emphasized their national pathos which formed a stimulating vehicle in Hebrew literature. A. *Kariv demanded a reevaluation of the literary heritage of European Hebrew literature, accusing its writers and proponents of having distorted in their writings East European Jewish life.
The increasing activity in criticism from the 1950s (after the War of Independence and the establishment of the State of Israel) underlines the tension between personal criticism in essay form and criticism based on scholarly criteria. Demands are made for the autonomous status of criticism as a special creative branch with its own distinctive characteristics extending beyond its interpretative task of "mediating" between the literary work and the reader (S. Zemach, I. *Cohen, and I. *Zmora). On the other hand, there are also normative trends attempting to direct literature from a spiritual and social point of view both as a creation of the contemporaneous generation and as the individual creation of the writer (A.Y. Kariv, A. *Ukhmani). Critics are also seeking to integrate the individualistic essay form, based on creative intuition, and literary analytical methods for examining the formal and literary qualities of a text. The search for such a methodical synthesis is variously approached in the critical works of S. Halkin, D. Sadan, and B. Kurzweil, who taught modern Hebrew literature at universities in Israel from the 1950s. The polarity between essay criticism and literary critical scholarship has intensified among the new generation of critics, most of whom have studied literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. At first they had been influenced by the essay tradition and by the normative-existential trends which they had adopted in their debates on the literature of the post-War of Independence period. At the same time, however, they evinced a certain sensitivity to the social and cultural processes that formed the background to the development of Hebrew literature during the last few generations. But mainly they assimilated methods of textual explication of the New Criticism school current in English-speaking countries and adapted the interpretation systems of the postwar Swiss and German schools. There are also slight traces of the Russian formalism of the 1920s and the 1930s to be found in modern Hebrew literary criticism. These influences led to a special sensitivity to problems of form, rhetoric, and structure, and to the development of genres, while the conceptual and historic aspects have become secondary and marginal. At the same time, there is a tendency to consider exhaustively every problem through maximum use of the textual data.
The tendencies to break completely with traditional literary criticism are growing. At the same time two diverse domains – literary criticism and literary research or study – each based on different principles, are still crystallizing. The process has found expression in Ha-Sifrut, a periodical (edited by B. Hrushovsky) which by its own stated purposes, and in fact, is a "Quarterly for the Study of Literature."
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Hebrew literary criticism was transformed by the inauguration of two new academic journals: Ha-Sifrut ("Literature"), which was founded in 1968–69 and published by Tel Aviv University under the editorship of Benjamin Hrushovsky, and Bikoret u-Parshanut ("Criticism
This conceptualization of criticism as a "science" and a "young discipline" stirred up a controversy within the literary and academic communities, of which Kurzweil was the most vocal mouthpiece. In the introduction to his own journal, Kurzweil attacked Hrushovsky for proclaiming innovation where there was none. "Critical reading" and "the art of reading" (as Kurzweil called it) had always employed the methods and the poetic, aesthetic, and interdisciplinary theories that the "innovative" terminology was claiming for the "literary theory" and "scientific writing" of the new discipline. Moreover, if, by speaking of the "scientific" nature of "literary theory," Hrushovsky was referring to objectivity in the interpretation, and hence to the evaluation of literary texts, this too was deceptive, since objectivity was not "within the confines of what is attainable in the humanities." This does not mean that there are no restraints to subjectivity in the scholarly study of literature, but they are set by other disciplines in the humanities.
This debate signaled the beginning of a "new age" in the history of Hebrew literary criticism in the State of Israel. From here on, Hebrew literary criticism took three parallel courses, aimed at different types of audiences or consumers of criticism. The first, as discussed above, was that of academic literary journals published by the literature departments of various universities. Their aim was initially to provide a publication venue for their own scholars, though other scholars of Hebrew literature were invited to contribute as well. Thus, for example, Ezra Fleischer, editor of Meḥkarei Yerushalayim be-Sifrut Ivrit ("Jerusalem Studies of Hebrew Literature"), addressed the readers of the first issue (1981) with the following words:
The same year saw the founding of Meḥkarei Yerushalayim be-Folklor Yehudi ("Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Folklore") and Meḥkarei Yerushalayim be-Maḥshevet Yisrael ("Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought"). Dappim le-Meḥkar be-Sifrut ("Papers in Literary Research"), published by Haifa University, was launched in 1984; Sadan: Meḥkarim be-Sifrut Ivrit ("Anvil: Studies in Hebrew Literature"), published by the School of Jewish Studies and the Katz Institute at Tel Aviv University, in 1996; and Mikan: Ketav Et le-Ḥeker ha-Sifrut ha-Ivrit ("From Here: A Journal for the Study of Hebrew Literature"), published by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in 2000.
Along with these purely academic journals, a number of "mixed" periodicals, publishing both theoretical articles and literary works, began to appear. Some of these were issued with the assistance of educational institutions (universities or research institutes) or were edited by scholars. Among these are Siman Keriah: Rivon Me'orav le- Sifrut ("Bookmark, a Mixed Literary Quarterly," 1972); Alei Si'aḥ: Ha-Ḥugim le-Sifrut Brit Tenu'at ha-Kibbuẓim ("Leaves of Discourse of the Literary Circles of the Kibbutz Movement," New Series, 1974); Zehut: Ketav-Et le-Yeẓirah Yehudit ("Identity: A Journal of Jewish Creativity," 1981), later reconstituted as Mahut ("Essence, 1989); Efes Shetayim: Ketav-Et le-Sifrut ("02 [the Jerusalem Area Code]: A Journal of Literature," 1992); and Reḥov: Ketav-Et le-Sifrut ("Street: A Journal of Literature," 1994).
A further context that began to be associated with literary criticism in the mid-1980s was that of broader cultural critique. This association was indicative of an effort to break out of the ivory tower of solipsistic intra-disciplinary discussion and open up, by means of critical, theoretical tools, to the multicultural representations of contemporary reality. A prime example of this development is the journal Te'oriyah u-Vikoret: Bamah Yisrelit ("Theory and Criticism: An Israeli Forum"), published from 1991 by the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem. The journal is devoted to reflexive, "interdisciplinary, systematic, and ongoing" discourse among scholars and writers within the academic world and outside of it, focusing on subjects from the realms of the "locale, society, and culture." Other such journals, with varying percentages of academic content, include Alpayim le-Iyyun, Hagut ve-Sifrut ("2000: A Journal of Inquiry, Thought, and Literature," 1989); Dimu'i: le-Sifrut, Omanut, Bikoret ve-Tarbut Yehudit ("Image: A Journal of Literature, Art, Criticism, and Jewish Culture," 1990); Mikarov: le-Sifrut u-le-Tarbut ("Close Up: A Journal of Literature and Culture," 1997); Ha-Kivvun Mizraḥ: le-Tarbut u-le-Sifrut ("Eastward: A Journal of Culture and Literature," 2000); Keshet ha-Ḥadashah: le-Sifrut, Iyyun u-Vikoret ("New Rainbow: A Journal of Literature, Inquiry, and Criticism," 2002); and Mita'am: Ketav-Et le-Sifrut u-le-Maḥshavah Radikalit ("On Behalf: A Journal of Radical Literature and Thought," 2005).
Meanwhile, non-scholarly literary criticism continued to be published in the weekend literary supplements of the daily newspapers and in the periodicals that carried on the tradition of the literary magazine, such as Iton 77: Yarḥon le-Sifrut u-le-Tarbut ("Journal 77: Monthly of Literature and Culture," 1977); Apirion: le-Inyanei Sifrut, Tarbut ve-Ḥevrah ("Canopy: A Journal of Literary, Cultural, and Social Affairs," 1983); Pesifas: Itton le-Shirah u-le-Meida ("Mosaic: A Journal of Poetry and Information," 1987); Ẓafon ("North"), published by the Association
The third direction was the publication of reviews in the literary or cultural sections of weekday editions of the daily newspapers. Here critics do not necessarily seek to evaluate or judge a literary work, but rather to share with readers the experience of reading and the impressions a book leaves. This kind of personal critique ultimately became accepted as legitimate, and it contributed, among other things, to the introduction of the bestseller list in the back pages of Sefarim Haaretz, the weekly book review supplement (launched in 1994) of the daily newspaper Haaretz.
Mention should also be made of the Hebrew-language websites devoted to literary criticism which began cropping up in the mid-1990s. A plethora of articles and essays of varying levels of quality may be found on these sites, some of them run by individuals and others by discussion forums. In some, the articles undergo selection and editing, in others not. These sites are open to a wide range of writers who wish to share their impressions and evaluations of literary works, including scholars seeking a wider audience for their writings.
This array of critical writing with its multiple aspects and directions marks the last three decades of the 20th century, during which it has absorbed the deconstructivist trends as well as the postmodernist theories. The encounter of Israeli literary scholarship with postmodernist theories (drawn from the fields of history, political science, sociology, and cultural studies), and even more so with post-colonialist and post-Zionist theories, shook the hegemonic community of literary critics. It led to new, subversive readings of foundational literary texts, and also to the unearthing and examination of "other" texts, which the critical elite had for years pushed to the literary margins for lack of interest or appreciation. Moreover, together with its gradual permeation by postmodernist critical tools, Hebrew literary scholarship continued to surprise its readers with a steady stream of innovative interpretations arrived at by means of modernist scholarly approaches, in which discussion of the classics of modern Hebrew writing remained a central concern.
Thus, new critiques were written of works by those writers who had heralded the rebirth of modern Hebrew: Ḥ.N. Bialik (by Shmuel Werses, Dan Miron, Hillel Barzel, Menahem Perry, Adi Tzemach, Yitshak Bakon, Zvi Luz, Reuven Tzur, Ziva Shamir, Uzi Shavit); Shaul Tchernikhowsky (Yosef Haefrati, Boaz Arpaly, Uzi Shavit, Reuven Tzur, Ḥaim Shoham); Micha Joseph Berdyczewsky (Shmuel Werses, Tzipora Kagan, Joseph Even, Avner Holtzman, Yitzhak Ben-Mordehai); Y.H. Brenner (Yitzhak Bakon, Menahem Brinker, Boaz Arpaly, Nurit Govrin, Ariel Hirschfeld, Adir Cohen); U.N. Gnessin (Dan Miron, Zvi Luz, Dan Laor, Hamutal Bar-Yosef); Gershon Shofman (Nurit Govrin); S.Y. Agnon (Shmuel Werses, Gershon Shaked, Hillel Barzel, Hillel Weiss, Dov Landau, Yitshak Bakon, Dan Miron, Aliza Shenhar, Dan Laor, Nitza Ben-Dov, Yehudith Zweig Halevi); and Devorah Baron (Nurit Govrin).
There were also new treatments of writers active in the period of the Yishuv between the two world wars: Uri Zvi Greenberg (Dan Miron, Yehudah Friedlander, Benjamin Hrushovsky, Hillel Barzel, Shalom Lindenbaum, Reuven Shoham, Dov Landau, Ortsion Bartana, Lilian Guri, Hannan Hever); Avraham Shlonsky (Israel Levin, Hagit Halperin, Aviezer Weiss, Abraham Hagorni-Green, Shlomo Yaniv); Nathan Alterman (Dan Miron, Uzi Shavit, Ziva Shamir, Aharon Komem, Ruth Kartun-Blum, Dan Laor, Haya Shaham, Shoshana Zimmerman); Lea Goldberg (Tuvia Rivner, Abraham B. Yaffe, Ruth Kartun-Blum, Ofra Yaglin); and Yonathan Ratosh (Ziva Shamir, Dan Laor). The works of writers who came of age in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s (known collectively as "Dor ba-Areẓ" and "Dor ha-Medinah") are nowadays also considered as classics and therefore are subjected to scholarly discussion and research: Yehuda Amiḥai (Boaz Arpaly, Nili Gold-Scharf, Yehudit Zweig-Halevi, Yosef Milman, Yair Mazor); Amalia Kahana-Carmon (Abraham Balaban, Lily Ratok, Yael Feldman); Aharon Appelfeld (Lily Ratok, Yigal Schwartz, Yitzhak Ben-Mordehai); Amos Oz (Nurit Gertz, Abraham Balaban, Yair Mazor); Abraham B. Yehoshua (Nili Sadan-Levenstein, Yedidiah Yitzhaki, Nitza Ben-Dov).
Israeli literary research has also been broadened by its extension to several genres (satire, drama, epistle), thematic and prosodic structures of the Hebrew literature of the Haskalah, the 18th and 19th century Jewish Enlightenment (Shmuel Werses, Yehudah Friedlander, Dan Miron, Uzi Shavit, Ben-Ami Feingold, Tovah Cohen, Yehudit Zweig-Halevi, Menuhah Gilboa, Reuven Shoham, Naomi Zohar, Iris Parush).
As mentioned above, suggestions emerged for culturally and politically subversive ways of reading. At the beginning of the 1970s, semiotic reading was in fashion (Itamar Even-Zohar, Nurit Gertz, Zohar Shavit, Ziva Ben-Porat), while from the end of the 1980s political reading was in the ascendant. The latter can be seen in Ḥannan Ḥever's analyses of Hebrew poetry between the two world wars, particularly of the work of Uri Zvi Greenberg. Other examples include Nissim Calderon's studies of writings from the 1950s and 1960s (by Natan Zach, Yaakov Shabtai, David Avidan, Dalia Ravikovich, Hanoch Levin, and others); Yohai Oppenheimer's post-colonial readings of several classic works of prose and poetry (by Moshe Smilansky, Avot Yeshurun, and Yehuda Amichai); and Michael Gluzman's political reading of the male national body in the writings of Moshe Shamir and Benjamin Ze'ev Herzl.
A further innovative form of scholarly inquiry impelled by these anti-hierarchical trends was that of feminist and gender critique. The steady flow of new writing by women was accompanied by a burst of feminist and gender research, which undertook the reevaluation of works written by women since the establishment of the state (Lily Ratok, Pnina Shirav, Yael Feldman) and also rediscovered forgotten troves of writings by women in Hebrew. These new studies made it clear that literary women had played their part in the rise of modern Hebrew literature, from the Enlightenment, through the period of Ha-Teḥiyah (in the late 19th and early 20th centuries),
Various dates were celebrated during the 1980s and 1990s to mark a centennial of Zionist endeavor. Thus, 1982 represented "a century of settlement" from the beginning of the first wave of Zionist settlement in 1882, while 1997 concluded "a century of Zionism," recalling the First Zionist Congress (1897). Likewise, literary critics commemorated a century of Hebrew literature in transition from the Diaspora to the homeland of the Jewish people. This anniversary fueled the attempt to mark the borders of Israel's cumulative written creative activity, with the aim of summing up its literary manifestations and expressions. These interim assessments were meant to systematize and categorize what was known about the past and to offer some insight into the present. The period of summation opened with Gershon Shaked's comprehensive five-volume historiographical work, Ha-Sipporet ha-Ivrit 1880–1980 ("Hebrew Prose from 1880 to 1980"). Hillel Barzel undertook a history of modern Hebrew poetry, from the period of Hibbat Zion to the present, of which six volumes have thus far appeared. A third representative of this effort, Hannan Hever's Sifrut she-Nikhtevet Mikan: Kiẓẓur ha-Sifrut ha-Yisraelit ("Literature Written from Here: A Compendium of Israeli Literature") offers a historical-cultural survey of 50 years of literary life in the State of Israel.
Alongside these monumental works, there have been several partial historiographies which have endeavored to chart literary developments, processes, and trends, particularly since the establishment of the State, in the realms of drama (Ḥaim Shoham, Gideon Shunami, Ben-Ami Feingold, Gideon Ofrat, Shimon Levi, Abraham Oz, Dan Oryan), poetry (Benjamin Hrushovsky, Dan Miron, Dov Landau, Aharon Komem, Yair Mazor, Reuven Shoham, Yehudith Bar-El, Rachel Weissbord), and prose (Shmuel Werses, Dan Miron, Hillel Barzel, Hannah Herzig, Hillel Weiss). The same has been done for the country's literary and cultural life, in the 50 years preceding the establishment of the state (Itamar Even-Zohar, Yaffah Berlovitz), in the first few decades of the 20th century (Zohar Shavit, Nurit Gertz, Avidov Lipsker), and in literary circles (in the 1940s, 1950s) like the Dor Ba-Areẓ group (Nurit Graetz, Hillel Weiss, Reuven Kritz) and the "Canaanites" (Nurit Gertz, Dan Laor).
This process of collection and discovery also posed the challenge of examining the writings of hitherto neglected literary schools, such as Ha-Mahalakh ha-Ḥadash ("New Course"; Joseph Even, Menuhah Gilboa) and the literature of the First Aliyah (Nurit Govrin, Yaffah Berlovitz).
The effort to summarize and categorize a century of modern Hebrew literature also brought forth the publication of numerous monographs on writers of both the early and later periods. Zvi Luz issued a series of monographs on poets, including half-forgotten ones from the pre-state period (Yosef Zvi Rimon, Jacob Fichman, Jacob Steinberg) and others from the periods of Dor Ba-Areẓ (Pinchas Sadeh, Ayin Hillel, Natan Yonatan, Ozer Rabin) and Dor ha-Medinah (Uri Bernstein). Additional monographs worth mentioning in this context are those of Aharon Komem (on David Fogel and Jacob Steinberg), Hannan Hever (on Avraham Ben-Yitzhak Sonne), Ruth Kartun-Blum (on Yocheved Bat-Miriam), Hamutal Bar-Yoseph (on Zelda), Reuven Shoham (on Esther Raab and Abba Kovner), Rachel Frankel Madan (on Jacob Horowitz), and Reuven Kritz (on Rachel Blaustein).
Special mention must be made here of the colossal opus of Dan Miron. Though he has not organized his studies as an ordered historiography, there is no period of modern Hebrew literature, from the Enlightenment through post-modernity, in poetry and in prose, to which he has not turned his scholarly attention (see his studies of such writers as Abraham Mapu, Mendele Mokher Seforim (Shalom Jacob Abramowitsch), Ḥayyim Naḥman Bialik, Uri Nissan Gnessin, Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Ḥayyim Hazaz, Nathan Alterman). Miron has also collected and edited the writings of a number of authors from different periods, adding his own comprehensive introductions and afterwords (as he has done for the writings of Yehudah Karni, Uri Zvi Greenberg, Abraham Halfi, Menashe Levine, K. Aharon Bertini, Ya'akov Orland, and Abba Kovner).
Most of these efforts to collect and summarize, on the one hand, and to open new avenues of research, on the other, were the initiatives of lecturers and scholars of literature at various institutions of higher education in Israel, made for the purpose of preparing textbooks and further reading materials for their students. These instructional aims led them to issue studies of foundational issues, such as genres (the ballad, by Shlomo Yaniv; fantasy, by Ortsion Bartana; the allegory, by Uri Shoam; utopia, by Leah Hadomi; the confession, by Hannah Naveh; the historical novel, by Ruth Sheinfeld; the idyll, by Joseph Ha'efrati, Hamutal Bar-Yosef, Rachel Frankel-Madan); literary schools (the neo-romantics, by Ortsion Bartana; decadence, by Hamutal Bar-Yosef); and prosody (Bejamin Hrushovsky, Uzi Shavit, Dov Landau, Reuven Tsur, Zvi Luz, Ziva Ben-Porat).
Further concerns of theme and genre that came in for scholarly attention at the end of the century include the literature of the Holocaust (Hannah Yaoz-Kest, Hillel Barzel, Dov Landau, Nurit Graetz, Ben-Ami Feingold, Ruth Sheinfeld, Avner Holtzman, Yitzhak Ben-Mordechai, Yigal Schwartz) and that of the labor and kibbutz movements (Leah Hadomi, Shula Keshet, Pinhas Genosar, Aviva Ufaz). Research on literature for children and young people also developed during this period, with the opening of departments at several universities and colleges and the work of various scholars (Adir Cohen, Aliza Shenhar, Zohar Shavit, Miri Baruch, Maya Fruchtman, Menahem Regev, Shlomo Harel, Menuhah Gilboa, Leah Hovav, Aviva Krinsky, Meira Karmi-Laniado, Ben-Ami Feingold, Bosmat Even-Zohar, Yael Dar). New journals focusing on the study of literature for young readers include:
The publication of anthologies was also on the increase towards the end of the century. These include anthologies of critical articles and studies of Hebrew literature based on conference papers and edited by faculty members of literature departments; and collections devoted to the critique of single literary works, such as Shaul Tchernikhowsky's corona of sonnets, La-Shemesh ("To the Sun"); the short story Ve-Haya he-Akov le-Mishor ("The Crooked Shall Be Made Straight") by Shmuel Yosef Agnon; and Abraham B. Yehoshua's novel Mar Mani.
[Yaffah Berlovitz (2nd ed.)]
The translation of Hebrew literature into foreign languages involves a number of unique problems; some are specific to the art of translation while others concern the publishing, marketing, and diffusion of a translated work. Translation from one European language to another is no small task, despite common linguistic and cultural features. Translation from Hebrew – a Semitic language – into a European language is even more difficult: the entire range of literary associations and cultural realia that in fact provide the literary flavor of the original work can rarely be rendered as is. Echoes of biblical or mishnaic Hebrew, or from the wealth of Jewish liturgy, can hardly be captured, and significant details of the Israeli everyday scene often require footnotes or clumsy explanations. Given these obstacles, literary translations from Hebrew sometimes reflect a variety of compromises and conflicting solutions. It is even difficult to evaluate the quality of a translation, and a number of experts checking a translation for its accuracy and literary value in the target language will generate an equal number of different views. Even so, an excellent translation is considered one that is as close to the original Hebrew as possible, while reading smoothly in the target language and conveying as much as possible of the original texture, music, and diverse layers of linguistic and cultural sources. In recent years, an excellent team of literary translators from Hebrew has crystallized and their highly professional work is the main reason for the outstanding reception of Hebrew literature in translation since the 1990s, mainly in European languages.
The international publishing marketplace provides another angle to the difficulty of introducing Hebrew literature to world readership. Given the limited audience in the writers' mother tongue – Israel has a population of 6.8 million – they naturally seek to expand it. And while authors in general want to be translated into foreign languages, for authors writing in Hebrew it is a must. On the other hand, whereas foreign colleagues writing in a widely known language may submit their work to a publisher in the original, Israeli authors are unable to do so because of the lack of competent readers in Hebrew at the disposal of foreign publishing firms. Even when a Hebrew title is highly recommended by Hebrew lectors or attracts international attention, the publisher – especially in English-speaking countries – will generally refrain from a commitment to publish before he receives a complete English translation of the work. Synopses and translated extracts may draw his attention to the book, but it will not necessarily generate a decision to publish. This applies primarily to authors who have already made their reputation in Israel but have yet to make their mark on the international scene. Thus a Hebrew author has to find a qualified translator into English, pay his fee, and prepare a synopsis – without any guarantee that the English translation will arouse genuine interest, and without even knowing whether his efforts will result in an offer to publish the translation.
Publication of translations in other languages is more complicated as the publisher must invest considerable sums in a translation, hence the decision process becomes longer and more complicated. The Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature, a non-profit organization founded in 1962, has been entrusted by the Israeli government with the task of promoting Hebrew literature in translation worldwide. It is responsible for a wide range of activities, such as commissioning translations of selected Hebrew literary works, publishing professional catalogues which introduce the titles, providing financial aid to foreign publishers who initiate publication of Hebrew works in translation, publishing a literary journal in English – Modern Hebrew Literature – which keeps the foreign reader abreast of the literary scene in Israel, building and maintaining an attractive website, initiating international translation conferences, participating in selected international book fairs. The Institute also maintains a unique Bibliographic Center. Established in 1972, its database lists all translations of Hebrew literature in 66 languages (over 45,000 bibliographic entries).
In recent years, the Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature has become more attentive to the buzz of the marketplace, hence a significant rise in the number of Hebrew authors and works in translation, and in the variety of languages in which Hebrew literature has become available.
From 1874 to 1974 (100 years), some 500 Hebrew books were published in translation. From 1975 to 2004 (30 years), we see this number increased to about 3,460. Today, the total number of books published in translation exceeds 4,000. The first Hebrew novel in translation was The Love of Zion by Abraham Mapu, published in Yiddish in 1874. From then until 1960, an average of five books were published per year. As of the 1960s, figures increased to 27 books per year. During the 1970s, Hebrew literature was translated into 25 languages, and this grew to 40 languages during the 1980s. Today, the number stands at 66 languages. If we compare the figures in the decade 1983–93 to those in the following decade, 1994–2004, we see that the number of books in translation increased from 956 to 1,743.
Hebrew literature for children and youth started appearing in translation only in the 1930s: English and German in 1936, French in 1946, Spanish in 1949, Italian in 1958. Translations into Arabic started to be published only in 1966. The largest number of children's books is now being translated into German, with 129 books to date, followed by English with 76, Italian with 50, Spanish with 38, Dutch with 30, Arabic with 29. One tends to assume that interest in adult fiction in a certain foreign market will arouse interest in children's books as well, that a writer of adult fiction who does well in a certain market will have his children's books published there too and that this will bring about more and more translations of other authors. But this is not entirely the case. If we compare the number of adult versus children's books translated over the past two 10-year periods (1983–93 and 1994–2004) we get the following results: In English, in the first 10-year period, children's books made up 6% of the total number of translated books; in the second, the percentage rises to 15%. In German, the percentage has not changed over the past 20 years, and stands at a steady 21%. Spanish increased from 6% to 29%, and Italian from 12% to 27%. As a point of reference, in Israel today, Hebrew books for children and youth constitute about 5% of the total published per year. Hebrew literature for children is now available in book form in 42 languages, 34 of which have been added since 1975. To the earlier eight languages (English, German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Italian, Polish, and Arabic), the following have been added: Afrikaans, Albanian, Asamiya, Bangla, Catalan, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Greek, Guajarati, Hindi, Hungarian, Japanese, Kannada, Korean, Malayalam, Marathi, Norwegian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovene, Swedish, Tamil, Thai, Telugu, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu.
Although literary translation activity from Hebrew into Arabic has developed over the years, it has been overshadowed by the political conflict in the Middle East. This conflict has influenced translation policy in the Arab countries as well as in Israel. The first novel translated from Hebrew into Arabic was Abraham Mapu's The Love of Zion (1899). A limited number of translations followed, until 1948. Between 1948 and 1967, translations were mostly published in newspapers and periodicals but a few books were published too, such as Yehuda Burla's novel, In Darkness Striving, an anthology of short stories, and a collection of works by Ḥ.N. Bialik. Publication of literary research and translated literary texts emerged in Arab countries only towards the end of the 1960s. A significant increase in number and frequency can be detected from 1967 up to the present. Records reflect some 80 translated books and 21 anthologies published during this period in Israel and Arab countries (mainly Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria).
With the general flourishing of Hebrew literature abroad in the 1990s, new markets have opened up for Hebrew literature, and newly added languages have reflected the growing interest. Since 1990, 57 literary works have been published in Chinese, 63 in Japanese, 25 in Korean, and a few in each of the following: Georgian, Azeri, Armenian, Thai, Assamiya, Bongla, Gujarati, Marathi, Malayalam, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Kannada, Urdu. This wave of interest is still developing.
Anthologies and special issues of literary journals are considered to be the best way to enter a new market. Anthologies provide a taste of Hebrew literature and are bound, in the longer term, to generate interest in publishing whole books by the authors introduced in the general anthology. Special literary issues have an even better marketing effect as they usually have their own subscription system and the print run – normally a few thousand – can reach a focused readership which is a priori interested in quality foreign literature. Records show that some 428 anthologies of Hebrew literature are available in 40 languages. Among them, 162 volumes in English, 41 in French, 30 in Spanish, 28 in German, 26 in Russian, 25 in Italian. 105 anthologies were published between 1983 and 1993; in the 1994–2004 period, the number increased to 163 volumes.
All the above statistical data is from the Bibliographic Database of the Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature. Figures include whole books and anthologies only; individual poems and stories are not included.
[Nilli Cohen (2nd ed.)]
Hebrew writing began in the United States shortly after the arrival of the first Jews in New Amsterdam (1654), but the period of modern Hebrew literature only starts after 1870 when Hebrew writers came to America during the mass immigration from Eastern Europe. They settled mainly in New York and between 1918 and 1940 the city served as a subcenter for modern Hebrew literature. Despite their efforts, the immigrant writers were unable to raise a generation of native American Hebrew authors and the older writers are not being replaced. The rapidly growing center in Israel likewise attracted several of the more talented authors. At present a small, diminishing group of aging Hebrew writers are living in the United States.
Hebrew writing in the United States may be divided into three periods:
I. 1654–1870 – the period of sporadic publication and literary curiosities
II. 1870–1918 – the early modern period
III. 1918–to the present – the modern period
During the first two centuries of Jewish settlement in North America no major contribution was made to Hebrew letters. The Jewish population was small and unlearned in Hebrew. Sporadic attempts were, however, made to write and publish Hebrew works; and mention must be made of literary curiosities which have survived, such as the unpublished nomenclature by Judah *Monis, a converted Jew who taught Hebrew at Harvard College, and tombstone inscriptions: the elegy to Walter J. Judah who died in 1798 at the age of 20, or the rhymed epitaph on the grave of Samuel Zanvill Levy of New York City. Hebrew language and literature were also kept alive through publications of the Bible and works on Hebrew grammar. The latter were written both by Jews and by gentiles. A publication of the Bible, initiated by Jonathan P. *Horwitz of Philadelphia and continued by Thomas Dobson, appeared in 1814 and a Hebrew-English edition of the Pentateuch by Isaac *Leeser in 1845. Among the works on grammar there is John Smith's A Hebrew Grammar Without Points (Boston, 1803), Moses Stuart's A Grammar of the Hebrew Language (1835), and Isaac Nordheimer's A Critical Grammar of the Hebrew Language (New York, 1838; 1842).
Certain congregations showed a deep concern for the preservation of Hebrew as a language among Jews and for a sound Hebrew education. The New York synagogue Shearith Israel as early as 1731 "maintained some sort of Jewish schooling," and its constitution (1805) provides that "the fixed prayers shall forever be read in the Hebrew language." In 1830, Dr. Daniel L. Maduro Peixotto (1799–1843), a physician who favored the establishment of a Pestalozzi school, recommended that Hebrew should be taught there. These, however, can only be seen as isolated efforts which did not greatly influence the general Jewish cultural atmosphere in colonial America and in the early years of independence. Hebrew was so little known in the community at large that in Newport, toward the end of the 18th century, the Torah was read from a printed, vocalized text and not from a scroll.
Joshua Falk's Avnei Yehoshu'a ("Book of the Stones of Joshua," 1860), the first original work in Hebrew published in the United States, is a homiletic commentary on Pirkei Avot which also includes the classical text.
With the coming of large numbers of East European Jews to America, the influence of European Hebrew writing began to be felt. A small group of Hebraists who wanted to spread Hebrew culture made efforts to establish a Hebrew press. In a period of less than 30 years, 20 Hebrew journals appeared, most of which, however, were short lived, mainly because there was no receptive readership. The number of Jews conversant in Hebrew was limited despite the large waves of immigrants from Eastern Europe. The first independent Hebrew periodical, Ha-Ẓofeh ba-Areẓ ha-Ḥadashah, edited by Zvi Hirsch *Bernstein, appeared from 1871 to 1872. It slavishly followed the style and tone of contemporaneous East European Hebrew journals and, to a certain extent, the Anglo-Jewish press in America which had much earlier beginnings (1823). Unfortunately, no complete set of its issues has survived. Other major Hebrew periodicals during that period were Ner Ma'aravi (1895–97) and Ha-Pisgah (1889–1899 intermittently), which were of a high literary and journalistic standard, aroused hopes for a Hebrew renascence in America. Ner Ma'aravi in its first issue published a poem expressing the ardent longing for the development of Hebrew learning and Hebrew literature. Ha-Pisgah, edited by Zeev Wolf Schorr, an ardent lover of Zion, firmly tried to stimulate interest in Hebrew culture, and writers of the caliber of Saul *Tchernichowsky contributed to its literary columns.
Most of the periodicals of the early 20th century, like Ha-Yom (1909–13) and Ha-Le'om (1901–08), were close in style and character to their predecessors. Not until the appearance of Ha-Toren (as a monthly June, 1913–December, 1915; as a weekly March 3, 1916–March 18, 1921; as a monthly again May 1921–December 1925) did a real literary organ appear on the North American scene. But even ha-Toren did not rise to its full stature before the end of World War I, for there were not many good Hebrew writers, readers were not numerous, and libraries of Judaica and Hebraica were meager and, with few exceptions, insignificant.
Many of the American Hebrew writers were of East European origin and they were intensely patriotic about their new country. Judah David *Eisenstein translated the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States into Hebrew. Moses Aaron Schreiber, cantor of the Congregation Shaarey Tefila in New York, wrote a long poem, Minḥat Yehudah ("Offering of Judah"), for the centennial of American Independence (1876). The poem is a historical account of the American people and describes the mass of stricken humanity that surged to the shores of America. Abraham Luria dedicated a poem to President McKinley.
The fabric of traditional Jewish life changed under the impact of America; rabbinic responsa are flooded with names of towns in the United States. Questions on ritual from Kalamazoo and Leavenworth found their erudite answers in a halakhic work by Shalom Elḥanan Joffe, Sho'el ka-Inyan ("Asking to the Point"), which was published in Jerusalem in 1895.
Early American Hebrew writers were not uncritical of the American milieu: its vulgarism, optimism, its predilection for shallow panacea. Their denunciation of internal squabbles and communal ills was particularly keen. They were conscious of the effects of the democratization of society, the attendant ills of the leveling process, and they deplored the organized chaos in Jewish organizations. They could not reconcile themselves to the fact that stature and status were no longer coincidental.
The Jewish Kulturkampf was fought out with an intense bitterness in the United States. The war between the Reform and the Orthodox aroused Mayer Rabinowitz to publish Ha-Maḥanayim ("The Two Camps," 1888). Abraham Moses Shershevsky, rabbi in Portland, Maine, at the turn of the century lashed out against American Jewry:
"Just as our forefathers… crossed the sea and made the Golden Calf, so do their sons after them in this country; after they crossed the Atlantic, they bowed and prostrated themselves before the Golden Calf."
The Golden Calf became a standard metaphor. The poet Menahem Mendel *Dolitzki used it in his introduction to Shirei Menaḥem (1900), while another early author complains: "The basis of all things in America is the dollar… it's the method, it's the aim, it's the glory, it's the power…" Most Hebrew writers earned a precarious living. They were rabbis, teachers, or cantors. Some who were not fortunate enough to gain a livelihood as religious functionaries became peddlers. They never acquired wealth or even economic security.
Though American Hebrew literature cannot boast of a single drama or a single novel of importance at the beginning of the 20th century, two writers, Naphtali Herz *Imber and Gerson *Rosenzweig, exhibit a marked individuality. Imber, who became immortalized with the composition of Ha-Tikvah, the anthem of the Zionist movement and of the State of Israel, made an impact with his delicate lyricism. A note of mordant wit was injected into Hebrew literature by Rosenzweig with his merciless castigation of Jewish professions and occupations in the United States.
The end of World War I marked an important milestone in the development of Hebrew literature. Eastern Europe, the center of creative efforts in the Hebrew language for over a century, relinquished its hegemony: The Communist Revolution had relegated Hebrew literature in Russia into insignificance and with the rise of the Nazis to power the splinter center of Hebrew literature which flourished in Germany after the end of World War I was destroyed. The Nazi occupation of Poland almost obliterated creative Hebrew writing there. The previously insignificant foci of Hebrew literature in Palestine and in the United States thus emerged to new significance.
Anglo-American literature which had exerted a negligible influence before World War I now became a potent factor in Hebrew literature. Hebrew poets in America – B. *Silkiner, E.E. *Lisitzky, H. *Bavli, S. *Ginzburg, S. *Halkin, A. *Regelson, M. *Feinstein, H.A. *Friedland, R. *Avinoam (Grossman), A.S. *Schwartz, and Noah *Stern – were not only stimulated by the literary environment of the United States but translated English and American poetry, and even prose and drama, into Hebrew. They translated several plays by Shakespeare; Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (transl. by S. Halkin Alei Esev (1952)); and many poems by Keats, Shelley, Yeats, and Frost.
The Hebrew poets in America led their European colleagues in critical appraisal of English and American literature, thus opening new vistas for modern Hebrew literature. Their subject matter was also drawn from the American milieu. Benjamin Silkiner (1882–1933) turned to Indian lore for his inspiration in Mul Ohel Timmorah ("Opposite the Tent of Timorah," 1910). He was followed by other poets. Israel *Efros devoted an entire book, Vigvammim Shotekim ("Silent Wigwams," 1933), to a love story of a white man and a half-Indian girl. Ephraim E. Lisitzky wrote his Medurot Do'akhot ("Dying Campfires," 1937) on the basis of Indian legends. Like Silkiner, he struggled with the theme of Indian civilization before its destruction, and like the older poet he tended to idealize the noble savage. Unlike Silkiner, he successfully adapted the unrhymed trochaic tetrameter of The Song of Hiawatha to his story of the warring sons of the vulture and sons of the serpent.
The greatest impact on Hebrew writers in America was, however, made by the Afro-American civilization: spirituals, folk songs, sermons, and the Afro-American sense of rhythm and flair for music. Hillel Bavli, in his critical article which included translations from Afro-American poetry, pioneered in the field of critical appreciation of the Afro-American. He was followed by Avinoam (Grossman), Simon Ginzburg, and, especially, by Lisitzky, who published a cycle of poems on Afro-American themes: Be-Oholei Kush ("In African Tents," 1953). Not only the exotic minorities but the American Anglo-Saxon caught the imagination of Hebrew writers in the U.S. Hillel Bavli's idyll Mrs. Woods (1937) is an American version of the idealized country folk. Israel Efros in his narrative poem "Zahav" ("Gold") created an American character, Ezra Lunt, against the background of the gold rush of 1849. Stories about Jewish immigrants and American gentiles were written by such writers as Y.D. *Berkowitz, H. *Sackler, H.A. Friedland, A. Soyer, S.L. *Blank, Y. *Twersky, S. Halkin, and R. *Wallenrod. Yitzḥak Dov Berkowitz in his stories about American Jewish life wrote almost exclusively about immigrants. Ben Ereẓ ve-Shamayim ("Between Earth and Heaven," 1924), a novel by Harry Sackler, traces the history of an immigrant family from the time it planned to come to the United States to its painful years of adjustment. He also wrote historical novels which depict the struggles of early Judaism against a Canaanite milieu, the conflicts of rabbinic and ḥasidic Jewry, and the strife of early American Jewry with its new environment. Like Sackler, Yoḥanan Twersky culled from the past and present material for his stories and novels. Among these are historical personalities such as Rashi, Uriel da Costa, Alfred Dreyfus, and Aḥad Ha-Am. Simon Halkin, on the other hand, tends to be introspective. The two novels, Yeḥiel ha-Hagri (1928) and Ad Mashber ("On the Brink of Crisis," 1945), set in a New York immigrant milieu, are essentially religious novels whose theme is the quest of modern man for faith in a society which has lost its God. Reuben Wallenrod deliberately abandoned the old themes and consciously and realistically explored the life of the first- and second-generation Jew in
Among the more significant literary critics of the older generation are A.A. *Epstein, whose Soferim Ivrim ba-Amerikah ("Hebrew Writers in America," 1953) is still a standard work, Menachem *Ribalow, and S. Halkin. Three periodicals of the 20th century fostered high-level essays and critiques of Hebrew and non-Hebrew writing: Miklat (1920–21), Ha-Toren (1917–25), and Ha-Tekufah (1930–31). They became defunct, but periodicals like Hadoar and Bitzaron, which began to appear in 1922 and 1940 respectively, still publish criticism. Hadoar owes its original impetus to Ribalow, an excellent journalist and a serious critic, who was succeeded by M. *Maisels; and Bitzaron to the learned and dynamic Rav Tzair (Ḥayyim*Tchernowitz). These periodicals, particularly Hadoar, were supported by a small group of enthusiastic Hebraists. Hebrew journalism in the U.S. is greatly indebted to Reuben *Brainin and Y.D. Berkowitz, the editors of Ha-Toren and Miklat respectively. The future historian will, perhaps, recognize the Berkowitz/Brainin/Silkiner triad as the fathers of Hebrew literature in the U.S.: Berkowitz as the Hebrew stylist and realist, Brainin as the champion of catholicity and literary tastes, and Silkiner as the author who introduced American themes and motifs into Hebrew literature.
On the whole, Hebrew literature in America became less potent. Gabriel *Preil, a modernist lyric poet influenced by American imagists, also won acclaim in Israel. Isaiah *Rabinovich continued to write serious criticism which questions the growing tendency of some Israeli critics to apply the methods of New Criticism to Hebrew literature. Arnold (Avraham) Band (1929– ) published a major work on S.Y. Agnon. Aaron *Zeitlin, who arrived in the Unites States in 1939, expressed himself with equal ease in Hebrew and in Yiddish in a number of genres. His poetry is reflective and marked by mystical insights.
A number of American-Hebrew writers settled in Israel. S. Halkin and A. Regelson, although born in Eastern Europe, were educated in the United States and their poetry and criticism reflected their American experience. M. Maisels was an essayist and editor of considerable talent. Reuven Avinoam and T. Carmi were native Americans who spent most of their lives in Israel.
There seems to be little prospect that Hebrew writing in America will recover the force it had in its heyday. A small center, however, mainly nurtured by Israelis living in America and a limited American audience will probably survive.
For English translations of Hebrew works, see Goell, Bibliography.
Klausner: Sifrut; B. Kurzweil, Sifrutenu ha-Ḥadashah: Hemshekh o Mahapekha? (1959), Lachower, Sifrut; A. Shaanan, Ha-Sifrut ha-'Ivrit, 4 vols. (1962–1967); D. Sadan, 'Al Sifrutenu (1950); H.N. Shapiro, Toledot ha-Sifrut ha'Ivrit ha-Ḥadashah (1940); S. Halkin, Modern Hebrew Literature (1950); Idem, Derakhim ve-Ẓide Derakhim be-Sifrut, 3 vols. (1969); S. Spiegel, Hebrew Reborn (1962); Waxman, Literature, 3–5 (1960); R. Wallenrod, Literature of Modern Israel (1956), inc. Bibl; N. Slouschz, Renascence of Hebrew Literature (1909). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: D. Miron, Modern Hebrew Literature: Zionist Perspectives and Israeli Realities, in: Prooftexts 4, 1 (1984), 46–69; A.J. Band, "The Beginnings of modern Hebrew Literature," in: AJS Review, 13:1–2 (1988), 1–26; L. Yudkin, "The Specific Character of Modern Hebrew Literature," in: Modern Hebrew Literature in English Translation (1987), 97–118; D. Patterson, "The Emergence of Modern Hebrew Literature," in: A Phoenix in Fetters (1988), 1–20; G. Shaked, "Breaking the Mould: The Maturing of Hebrew Literature," in: Terms of Survival (1995), 385–411; Amos Oz, "Contemporary Hebrew Literature," in: Partisan Review, 49:1 (1982), 16–22; G. Shaked, Ha-Sipporet ha-Ivrit, 5 vols. (1977–1998); idem, "Through many small windows: An Introduction to Postrealistic Hebrew Literature 1950–1980," in: Prooftexts, 16:3 (1996), 271–91; idem, Modern Hebrew Fiction (2000); H. Bar Yosef, "De-romanticized Zionism in Modern Hebrew Literature," in: Modern Judaism, 16:1 (1996), 67–79; D. Miron, "Depictions in Modern Hebrew Literature," in: N. Rosovsky (ed.), City of the Great King (1996), 241–87; 515–16; W. Bargad, From Agnon to Oz: Studies in Modern Hebrew Literature (1996); R. Kartun-Blum, Profane Scriptures (1999); Y. Oren, An Unconventional Attitude towards Israeli Literature (2002); H. Hever, Producing the Modern Hebrew Canon (2002); G. Abramson, "Modern Hebrew Literature," in: The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies (2002), 515–40; J. Bar Ilan, "Modern Hebrew Literature on the Web: A Content Analysis," in: Online Information Review, 27:2 (2003), 77–86; R. Shoham, Poetry and Prophecy (2003); I. Milner, "Holocaust Survivors and their Children: The Dialogue between the Generations in Modern Hebrew Literature," in: Erinnerte Shoah (2003), 437–44; M. Gluzman, The Politics of Canonicity: Lines of Resistance in Modern Hebrew Literature (2003); A. Band, Studies in Modern Jewish Literature (2003); D. Patterson, "Against all Odds: Hebrew Literature in Our Times," in: The Solomon Goldman Lectures, 8 (2003), 85–102. WOMEN'S WRITING: C.B. Balin: To Reveal Our Hearts: Jewish Women Writers in Tzarist Russia (2001); T. Cohen, "From the Private Sphere to the Public Sphere: The Writings of Hebrew Maskilot in the Nineteenth Century," in: D. Assaf et al. (ed.), Studies in East European History and Culture in Honour of Professor Shmuel Werses (Heb., 2002), 235–38; S.F. Foner-Meinkin, A Righteous Love, or The Pursued Family (Heb., 1881); idem, A Story from the Days of Shimon the High Priest (Heb., 1891); idem, Children's Way or A Story From Jerusalem (Heb., 1886); idem, The Days of My Youth, or A Memoir of Dvinsk (Heb., 1903); R. Morpurgo, Ugav Raḥel (Heb., 1890). DRAMA: M. Kohansky, The Hebrew Theatre (1969); L. Ben-Zvi (ed.), Theater in Israel (1996); F. Rokem, ibid., 51–84; Kaynar, ibid., 285–301; N. Yaari, ibid., 151–171; S. Levy and K. Shoef, Israeli Drama: Synopses (2000); A. Yaari, Ha-Maḥazeh ha-Ivri ha-Mekori ve-ha-Meturgam me-Reshito ve-ad ha-Yom (1956), incl. bibl.; Shunami, Bibl, 1207–1211; Ḥ.N. Bialik, in: Bamah, no. 2 (1933), 3–12; G. Hanoch, ibid., no. 1 (1945), 32–38; J. Fichmann, ibid., no. 6 (1941), 3–4; L. Goldberg, in: Bamot, 1 (1951), 7–15; H. Gamzu, in: Me'assef, 1 (1960); M. Silberthal, in: Orlogin, 2 (1951), 28ff.; 10 (1954), 122ff.; A. Paperna, Ha-Drama bi-Khelal ve-ha-Ivrit bi-Ferat (1868); J. Schirmann, in: Gilyonot, 22 (1948), 217–67; idem, in: Keneset, 1 (1936), 430–42; idem, in: Moznayim, 4 (1935), 623–45; G. Shaked, Ha-Maḥazeh ha-Ivri ha-Histori bi-Tekufat ha-Teḥiyyah (1970); idem, in: Bamah, no. 6 (1960), 9–17; Waxman, Literature, index, S.V. Dramas; S. Levy (ed.), The Bible as Theatre (2000); H. Barzel, Drama of Extreme Situations: War and Holocaust (1995); H.S. Joseph (ed.), Modern Israeli Drama: An Anthology (1983); D. Urian, Demut ha-Arvi ba-Teatron ha-Yisraeli (1996); idem, Yahaduto shel ha-Teatron ha-Yisraeli (1998); G. Abramson, Drama and Ideology in Modern Israel
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