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Yehudit Hendel


HENDEL, YEHUDIT (1926– ), Hebrew writer. Born in Warsaw to a rabbinic family, Hendel came to Palestine as an infant. The family settled in Haifa, the setting of many of Hendel's prose works. Hendel's stories were first published in Mi-Bifnim (1942), and subsequently appeared in various Israeli literary journals. Her first collection of stories, entitled Anashim Aherim Hem ("They are Different") appeared in 1950, followed by her first novel Reḥov ha-Maderegot (1956; reissued 1998; Street of Steps, English translation 1963), a social novel, depicting the disparity between two classes in the new Jewish state: the poverty-stricken, disadvantaged Oriental Israelis, living in downtown Haifa, and the established, influential Ashkenazi elite, living on Mount Carmel. Hapless Oriental characters, traumatized Holocaust survivors, and weary immigrants are the anti-heroes in Hendel's second novel, Ha-Ḥaẓer shel Momo ha-Gedolah ("The Yard of Momo the Great," 1969; reissued as Ha-Ḥamsin ha-Aḥaron, "The Last Hamsin" in 1993) which is set again in downtown Haifa shortly before the Six-Day War. Hendel, commonly associated with the "New Wave" in Hebrew literature, was one of the first Israeli novelists to foreground the fate and sufferings of ethnic minorities and of women in Israeli society. The novel Ha-Koaḥ ha-Akher ("The Other Power," 1984) is a lyrical elegy to her late husband, the painter Zvi Mairovitch, in which Hendel describes and contemplates on the nature and meaning of the creative process. No less personal is her next work, Le-yad Kefarim Sheketim ("Near Quiet Places," 1987), a moving account of a voyage she undertook to Poland, juxtaposing pastoral landscapes and the awareness of the shattering past, the concentration camps and a Jewish world lost forever: "One cannot avoid the feeling that Poland is a great cemetery," she writes. Sickness, death, loss and bereavement became major themes in Hendel's works. In the collection Kesef Katan (1988; Small Change, 2002) she tells of a woman dying of cancer ("My Friend B's Feast," included also in R. Domb (ed.), New Women's Writing from Israel) and of a man twice widowed; in Har ha-To'im ("The Mountain of Losses," 1991) she critically reflects on the state-organized ceremonies in military cemeteries, pleading for a genuine and heartfelt private ritual of mourning. Following the collection of stories Aruḥat Boker Temimah ("An Innocent Breakfast," 1996), Hendel published the novel Terufo shel Rofe ha-Nefesh ("Crack Up," 2002), a skillfully narrated psychological novel describing the disintegration of a man who marries the wife of his deceased best friend, the woman he had always loved. The marriage is marred by hallucinations and guilt feelings, overshadowed by the imaginary presence of the dead.

Some of Hendel's prose works have been adapted for stage, screen, and television. She was awarded the Jerusalem Prize and the Bialik Prize and is one of the few women writers to be awarded the prestigious Israel Prize for literature (2003). "A Story with No Address" is included in G. Abramson (ed.), The Oxford Book of Hebrew Short Stories (1996); "Small Change" is included in G. Shaked (ed.), Six Israeli Novellas (1999). For further information concerning the translation of Hendel's prose into various languages see the ITHL website at

Hendel died in Tel Aviv at the age of 93 on May 23, 2014. 

Sources:R. Wallenrod, The Literature of Modern Israel (1956), index; S. Kremer, Ḥillufei Mishmarot be-Sifrutenu (1958), 300–6; G. Schoffmann, Kol Kitvei (1960), 124–5; L. Rattok, "Kol Ishah Makirah et Zeh," in: Apiryon, 15 (1989), 10–17; L. Rattok, "Al 'Kesef Katan,'" in: Siman Keriah, 20 (1990), 428–437; G. Steindler Moscati, "Memoria e storia: Viaggio in Polonia di Y. Hendel," in: Viaggiatori ebrei (1992), 119–128; R. Litwin, "Ha-Text ha-Samui shel ha-Ḥayyim ha-Shakulim," in: 'Iton 77,' 144–145 (1992), 44–45; D. Miron, "Ha-Har she-Heḥemiẓu ha-To'im," in: Alpayim, 14 (1997), 232–256; P. Shirav, Ketivah Lo Tamah (1998); H. Nave, "Al ha-Ovdan, al ha-Shekhol veal ha-Evel ba-Ḥevrah ha-Yisra'elit," in: Alpayim, 16 (1998), 85–120; N. Gertz, "'I Am Other,' the Holocaust Survivor's Point of View in Y. Hendel's Short Story 'They Are Others,'" in: Divergent Jewish Culture (2001), 217–237; D. Miron, Ha-Ko'aḥ ha-Ḥalash: Iyunim ba-Sifrut shel Y. Hendel (2003); D. Miron, Ha-Rofe ha-Medumeh veha-Marah ha-Shevurah, in: Alei Siaḥ, 50 (2003), 12–33; D. Miron, Bein Ofek la-Anakh: Al Reḥov ha-Maderegot, in: Ẓafon, 7 (2004), 19–36.

[Anat Feinberg (2nd ed.)]

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