Page 115 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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Portrait of the Israeli as an
Uprooted Person
T h e
the Jew can be taken out of exile but that exile
cannot be taken out of the Jew keeps coming to mind as one reads
about homelessness and alienation in contemporary Israeli litera­
ture. Surely one does not have to be Jewish to feel ill at ease in the
world today, and the theme of spiritual exile has been a well
known existential one in modern world literature, as well as in
modern Hebrew literature ever since the days o f the Haskalah
(Enlightenment). What makes its recurrence in Israeli fiction
unique derives from the fact that many o f the protagonists are
Israeli Jews whose feelings o f uprootedness are closely related to
their disillusionment with the State of Israel. It is this aspect of
uprootedness which will be especially examined in this article.
Accordingly, the works chosen for discussion are taken from fic­
tion written after the Yom Kippur war, when both an awareness
of the “Israeli condition” and serious doubts as to the remedial
powers o f the Jewish state become evident. Though all the works
e x p lo r e th e th em e o f th e u p r o o t e d p e r s o n a n d b e a r
unmistakenly the mark o f decadence, they vary greatly from
each other, as do the different writers in whose minds they were
conceived. In addition to their differences in style, use o f
language, etc., the writers are also not o f the same generation.
Thus, Benjamin Tammuz belongs to the generation o f the
Palmach (whose writers were born mostly in the twenties),
whereas Ya’akov Buchan, Arie Semo, and David Shitz, were all
born in the forties. Itzhak Ben-Ner and the late Ya’akov Shabtai
(who died in the Summer o f 1981) were born in the thirties. An
analysis o f some o f the fiction of these diversified contemporary
authors should prove illustrative, but first a few words o f back­
ground about the uprooted protagonist in Hebrew literature.
Modern Hebrew authors share a tradition o f depicting the up ­