Page 38 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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EISIG SILBERSCHLAG
Arab-Jewish Confrontations in
Hebrew Fiction
T
he
A
rab
h a s
emerged as the major fact o f life in Israel. Con­
sequently, the Arab is the major theme in con temporary Hebrew
literature. Almost no novelist avoids him, almost no poet evades
him, almost no essayist shuns him. In an anthology
Hebrew Stories
From the Life of Arabs
, published sixteen years ago, forty-two H e­
brew writers were selected by the editor Jo seph Arika as literary
spokesmen o f the Arab. But the number could have been doubled
or even trip led though the viable suggestions fo r symbiosis were
disappointingly few.
Four years before the end o f the n ine teen th century Yehiel
Michael Pines (1843-1913), a literary p ioneer in the Land o f
Israel, advocated a new curricu lar aim for Jewish education in his
adop ted country: study o f Arabic. In the first decade o f the
twentieth century ano the r writer and educator, Isaac Epstein
(1862-1943), warned Jewish settlers in the Land o f Israel tha t
“while we feel passionate love for the land o f ou r fathers, we
forget tha t the people who live there now also have a feeling hea r t
and a loving soul.” T he earliest settlers and writers pressed for
coope ra tion with the Arab . One ph ilarab ic a u th o r , Moshe
Smilansky (1874-1953), was so enamored o f the Arabs tha t he
assumed an Arabic pseudonym:
Hawajah Mussah,
Mr. Moses. In
three volumes o f his collected writings he depicted Arabs in
relation with Jews and in relation with each o ther. Rapproche­
ment between the two chief claimants to the ancient Land of
Israel was the main theme o f his life and work.
Smilansky and o ther lonely advocates o f rapp rochem en t were
unheeded . Even such influential writers as Jo seph Hayyim B ren ­
n er (1881-1921) and Ahad Haam (1856-1927) who counseled
fra ternization did not prevail — perhaps because they were too
simplistic in the ir attitudes to the Arabs, perhap s because they
bucked the general trend . But failure of the advocates o f f ra te rn i­
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