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1 CHAPTER 1 Introduction Not like a cypress not all at once, not all of me, but like the grass, in thousands of cautious green exits, . . . but like the rain in many places from many clouds, to be absorbed, to be drunk by many mouths, to be breathed in . . . not the sharp ring that wakes up the doctor on call but with tapping, on many small windows at side entrances, with many heartbeats1 In 1971, Gershon Shaked published his major work, Gal hadash ba-siporet haivrit (New Wave in Hebrew Literature),2 which contained an article titled, following Amichai’s lines, “Be-harbeh ashnavim be-knisot tsdadiyot” (on many small windows at side entrances). In the article in particular, and the book as a whole, Shaked intended to describe the developments that took place in Hebrew literature in the 1950s and 1960s, when new authors replaced the literature of the Palmah generation. With the phrase “on many small windows at side entrances” Shaked meant to outline the penetration of a group of poets into the literary center in roundabout paths—through small windows and side entrances. Ostensibly , this picture could represent some kind of literary pluralism. Retroactively, however, Shaked’s study established a well-defined literary center, and the “new” coroneted center was, in many ways, not new. Shaked proposed to examine the work of authors such as Aharon Megged, Pinchas Sadeh, David Shahar, Aharon 2 CHAPTER 1 Appelfeld, Amos Oz, A. B. Yehoshua, and Amalia Kahana-Carmon, all of whom indeed presented new poetic ways, yet they were all of Ashkenazi origin and belonged to the political center. Obviously many Israeli authors, among them authors of Mizrahi origin, new immigrants, and Palestinian authors, were not part of this history. This book seeks to spot new corners in the history of Israeli literature, by applying multicultural perspectives, and analyzing the position of literature within the struggles for recognition and reception of different ethnic cultural groups, while focusing on the relations between the literary hegemony and weakened groups. In this book I explore the landscape of Israeli literature through a comparative discussion of the literatures of Palestinian citizens of Israel, of Mizrahim, of migrants from the former Soviet Union (FSU) and of migrants from Ethiopia. Inspired by the essence of Amichai’s lines, I replace the teleological linear-homogeneous historical narrative with a diversity of voices, a multiplicity of origins and different perspectives, in order to understand Israel’s multicultural nature within its literary context, providing an opportunity for a diachronic and synchronic mapping, for a new, alternative, in-depth examination of “Israeli literature.” The history of the State of Israel and its distinctive nature engendered a highly heterogeneous social and cultural fabric. The nationalist tension between the Palestinian minority and the Jewish majority, and the ethnic tension between groups of immigrants and migrants, are among the conflicts that have characterized its fabric from its inception.3 From the first years of the Zionist settlement, its ethos aspired to create a national monocultural community. If we follow David Ben-Gurion’s words we learn that the overarching goal was to take a highly diverse general public, “from all points of the globe, speaking many languages, educated in foreign cultures, and divided into assorted ethnic groups and tribes in Israel,”4 and meld them into a single mold of a reborn nation, with a single language, a single culture, a single citizenship, and a single loyalty. Thus, the term melting-pot policy (or “ingathering of the exiles”)—seemingly illustrating a pluralist -multicultural agenda—was a cover for a program of creating a dominant Zionist ethno-national culture, defining national “standards” such as the “National Poet,” the “National Theatre,” the “National Museum,” and the “National Library.” These standards were formulated in accordance with the Ashkenazi Western Jewish culture, and left no place for other national and ethnic groups. Mainstream Hebrew literature accompanied the Zionist project from its very beginning, and migrated to the Land of Israel where it later became Israeli.5 It generally complied with the ideological mechanisms that sought to create cultural homogenization. The establishment encouraged this literature, through its principal central agents in the field, including publishers, periodicals, literary critics and scholars. Its authors were granted positions in the heart of the Israeli canon—the “mouthpiece” of the norms perceived as acceptable. Introduction 3 Since statehood, and with growing impetus in the 1960s and 1970s, cracks became visible in the efforts to structure a Jewish-Israeli homogenous culture. Alternative narratives...


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