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An Ideological Death

Suicide in Israeli Literature

Rachel S. Harris

Publication Year: 2014

An Ideological Death: Suicide in Israeli Literature examines literary challenges to Israel’s national narratives. The centrality of the army, the mythology of the "new Jew," the vision of the first Israeli city, Tel Aviv, and the very process by which a nation’s history is constructed are confronted in fiction by many prominent Israeli writers.

Using the image of suicide, A. B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, Etgar Keret, Yehudit Katzir, Alon Hilu, Yaakov Shabtai, Benjamin Tammuz, and Yehoshua Kenaz each engage in a critical and rhetorical process that examines the nation’s formation and reconsiders myths at the heart of the Zionist project. In Israeli literature, suicide represents a society’s compulsion to create impossible ideals that leave its populace disappointed and deluded. Yet, as Rachel S. Harris shows, even at their harshest these writers also represent the idealism that helped build Israel as a modern nation-state.


Published by: Northwestern University Press


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Title page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-x

This book has taken a long time to come into being from its earliest origins as my doctoral dissertation. In the process it has benefited from the wisdom of a great number of people to whom I am extremely grateful. My doctoral supervisor at the University of Oxford, Glenda Abramson...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xi-2

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Prologue. Danny (A Note in Memory)

Amos Kenan

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pp. 3-4

Even as a child, Danny was convivial, sociable, and took part in the collective. When he studied at Tova’s kindergarten, he liked to sit in a group with all the other children and sing: Hurrah, hurrah, what can we do without labor...

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pp. 5-38

An Ideological Death: Suicide in Israeli Literature explores the depiction of suicide within the Israeli literary canon. In literature this image serves to represent, in metaphorical terms, the rupture at the heart of Israeli society between its ideological narratives of creation, which in every sense...

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1. Samson’s Suicide: The Sabra-Soldier Hero

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pp. 39-64

The foundations for the reuse of the Samson image in modern Hebrew (and later Israeli) culture can be traced through the evolution of a nascent Jewish nationalist identity in Palestine and one of its central myths, the sabra: “young and robust, daring and resourceful, direct and down-to-earth...

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2. The IDF: Training Base Four with All the Cripples

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pp. 65-94

The formation of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in May 1948, under Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, represented the unification of disparate Jewish paramilitary groups, with a range of political and military functions. Sometimes working with the British, and sometimes working...

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3. Unfortunate Suicides: Rewriting Narrative

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pp. 95-142

The “drive to construct the new national Hebrew culture” was a deliberate attempt to create a unique Jewish identity in Palestine.1 Narratives of heroism accompanied by “commemorative strategies” used rituals that connected a traditional Jewish past with a national present as a means of...

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4. Tel Aviv Necropolis

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pp. 143-172

The founding and growth of Tel Aviv reverberated with the ideology of Jewish national revival and the quest to build a modern Jewish city different than both the Jewish shtetl in Eastern Europe and the cities of the Levant. Established in 1909 as a suburb of Jaffa, Tel Aviv was cast as the...

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5. Nothing Left to Live For: Women’s Suicide

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pp. 173-208

In Judaism, the choice for a woman appears to be between marriage with children, and death. Though Christianity offered women the alternative option of a cloistered life, marriage to God rather than marriage to a man, historical Judaism did not offer women this alternative.1 “In Judaism...

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6. Suicide in Fiction: Suicide in Life?

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pp. 209-226

Albert Camus has written that there is only one real question posed by the act of suicide: whether life is worth living. In the context of Hebrew literature, the image of suicide poses the question: is life worth living in Israeli society? More accurately, the image challenges the construction...


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pp. 227-246


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pp. 247-260


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pp. 261-268

E-ISBN-13: 9780810167650
E-ISBN-10: 0810167654
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810129788
Print-ISBN-10: 0810129787

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 272
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 888316148
MUSE Marc Record: Download for An Ideological Death

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Subject Headings

  • Israeli literature -- History and criticism.
  • Hebrew literature, Modern -- History and criticism.
  • Suicide in literature.
  • Zionism in literature.
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