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DISCOURSES OF MOURNING AND REBIRTH IN POSTHOLOCAUST ISRAELI LITERATURE: LEAH GOLDBERG'S LADY OF THE CASTLE AND SHULAMITH HAREVEN'S "THE WITNESS" Rachel Peldhay Brenner York University, Toronto The events of the Holocaust effected a complicated discourse in Israeli literature. This literature, which had long been preoccupied with the themes of Israeli nation building, was suddenly compelled to search for proper modes of response to the Diaspora destruction. The difficulty of approaching the unspeakable was compounded from the outset by the Yishuv's powerfully promoted notion of "a new beginning" which posited "an ideological divide" between the Diaspora Jews and the Israeli born sabras (Yudkin 1984:1-2). In many of their programmatic statements, leading politicians and writers of the Yishuv manifested a tendency to subsume the catastrophe into the triumphant process of Jewish rebirth. Avraham Shlonsky, for instance, "claimed that the most significant act of defiance that the inhabitants of the Yishuv could engage in would be to carry on business as usual and to show that in at least one comer of the world Jews were thriving" (Ezrahi 1985-1986:252). Later, this attitude was further reinforced: public commemorations of the Holocaust have been designed to emphasize the regenerative force of the Jewish people as demonstrated in the valiant founding and the heroic defence of the Jewish State. Israeli literary discourse, however, has shown growing discomfort with the manner in which the ideologically promoted glorification of Israel has superseded the grief and mourning of the Holocaust destruction. Natan Alterman in "On the Boy Avram," Amir Gilboa in "Isaac," and Uri Zvi Greenberg in River's Roads, for example, offered the surviving European remnants consolation, regeneration, and ultimate safety in the Jewish Homeland. Other writers, however, have highlighted the problematic aspects of this premise. The implausibility of the survivors' painless integration into Israeli society emerges in such novels as Yehuda Amichai's Not o/This Time, Not o/This Place and Dan Ben Amotz's To Remember, To Forget which focus on the return of the survivor-now-Israeli to Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 72 Brenner: Discourses ofMourning Gennany to reclaim his past. Aharon Megged's short story "The Name," Ben-Tzion Tomer's play Children of the Shadow, and Yosef Bar-Yosefs novel The Life and Death of Yonatan Argaman portray the unavoidable ideological and emotional clash between the native Israeli and the European survivor. In his survey of Israeli Holocaust literature, Gershon Shaked maintains that "[these] writers plumb the depth of the significance of the Holocaust. ... They 'reveal' the weakness of the 'native Israelis,' who cannot cope with the Holocaust and its survivors" (1985:280). Both Leah Goldberg's play Lady of the Castle (1954) and Shulamith Hareven's short story "The Witness" (1980)1 illustrate the failure of the Israeli to come to tenns with the horror of the Holocaust. The typical insensitivity of the Israeli witness of the European tragedy towards its victims assumes particular poignancy in that in both works one of the Israelis is the survivor's landsman. The prism of shared history and locale which have shaped the fonnative experience of both characters brings into focus their conflicting attitudes towards the past. The referential framework of common diasporic background highlights the discrepancy between the need to deny the past and the urgency to assert the significance of memory that separates the Israeli from the survivor. The clashing modes of discourse generated by these characters elucidate the evolving struggle for identity redefmition which detennines the relationships between the "new" Israeli Jew and the Holocaust victim. Written at a time when the ideal of the "new" Israeli Jew and the notion of shlilat hagola, the negation of the Diaspora, were intensely promoted, Lady of the Castle presents the story of Lena, a Holocaust orphan in postwar Central Europe, who is kept hidden away in a Castle by its fonner owner, Count Zabrodsky, under the deception that the war is still going on. Lena is rescued from her captor by two members of the Israeli Yishuv: Dora, a Youth Aliyah social worker on a mission to discover the surviving Jewish children in Europe and transfer them to Israel, and Sand, a librarian searching for remnants...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 71-85
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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