Page 25 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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Images of Women in
Israeli Literature
There is no one
single image of woman in
Israeli literature today just as there is no type of woman on the Is­
raeli street. But in analyzing the fiction written by Israeli writers,
one can discern patterns in the portrayal of women that reflect
deep Israeli concerns and literary traditions. In this article we shall
draw attention to some of these patterns, limiting it to the work of
male writers, as a discussion of women writers constitutes a subject
in itself. It is interesting to observe first of all that in Israeli litera­
ture there is no Jewish-mother pattern like the one that exists in
American Jewish fiction. One searches in vain for Sophie Portnoy
in Israeli literature. In contrast to the notorious involvement of
many Jewish men with their mothers, Israeli male writers seem to
be “hung up” on their fathers. This is due, in part, to the fact that,
in comparison with the emasculating Mrs. Portnoy, the ambitions
and energies of Israeli women, have, out of necessity, been less di­
rected to their children’s success and more to the general demands
of survival under difficult conditions. This accounts, both in life
and literature, for the more traditional image of the Jewish mother
as struggling and self-effacing. But perhaps, even more important
in evaluating the Jewish-mother figures in Israel and America, is
the fact that the American Jewish writer often shadow-boxes with
his identity through the Jewish mother, while the Israeli does so
through the father.
The issue for the Jewish male in America is whether he will oe-
dipally identify with mama and marry within the fold, or will deny
his roots in Jewish mother and “make it” by marrying a “shiksa.”
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