Page 40 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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ROCHELLE FURSTENBERG
Images of Woman in Israeli
Literature
T
h e r e
is
n o
o n e
single image o f woman in Israeli literature today
ju s t as there is no type o f woman on the Israeli street. But in
analyzing the fiction written by Israeli writers one can discern
patterns in the portrayal o f women that reflect deep Israeli con­
cerns and literary traditions. In this article we shall draw attention
to some o f these patterns , limiting it to the work o f male writers, as
a discussion o f women writers constitutes a subject in itself. It is
interesting to observe first o f all that in Israeli literature there is
no Jew ish-mother pattern like the one that exists in American
Jew ish fiction. One searches in vain fo r Soph ie Portnoy in Israeli
literature. In contrast to the notorious involvement o f many Jew ­
ish men with their mothers, Israeli male writers seem to be “ hung
u p ” on their fathers. Th is is du e , in part, to the fact that, in
comparison with the emasculating Mrs. Portnoy, the ambitions
and energies o f Israeli women, have, out o f necessity, been less
directed to their ch ildren ’s success and more to the genera l d e ­
mands o f survival und er difficult conditions. Th is accounts, both
in life and literature , for the more traditional image o f the Jew ish
mother as strugg ling and self-effacing. Bu t perh ap s, even more
important in evaluating the Jew ish-mother figure s in Israe l and
America, is the fact that the Am er ican Jew ish writer o ften
shadow-boxes with his identity through the Jew ish mother, while
the Israeli does so through the father .
T h e issue fo r the Jew ish male in America is whether he will
Oedipally identify with mama and marry within the fo ld , or will
deny his roots in his Jew ish mother and “make it” by m arry ing a
“ sh iksa.” For the Israeli writer there is less d an ger o f deny ing
one ’s identity through interm arriage. He grapp le s less with the
mother-figure and the model fo r continuity she represen ts . It is
the father who is the ideational and ideological focu s o f Jew ish
continuity. It is with him the writer strugg le s over the issue o f the
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