Avraham Yehoshua, farewell to one of the tenors of Jewish culture

Avraham B. Yehoshuaone of the most revered and prolific novelists of Israel and a staunch supporter of Palestinian rights, he left us. With Amos Oz And David Grossman he was part of that trio of “tenors” of Jewish culture, that one peace patrol who was not afraid to take uncomfortable positions, such as those on peace and coexistence with the Palestinians under military occupation for over 50 years.

Amos Oz has already left us for some time. In tune with them in his books and on the pages of Israeli newspapers, he strongly advocated a split between Israelis and Palestinians, a solution to the conflict at two states, as foreseen by the Oslo Accords of which the US and the EU would be the guarantors. An outspoken man, who after supporting the “two-state” solution in recent years had understood that it was no longer viable.

Yehoshua, for his friends “Buli”, received in 1995 the most important Israeli cultural prize, theIsrael Prize, along with dozens of other awards, including the Bialik Prize and the Jewish National Book Award, and his work has been translated into 28 languages. For most of his life, Yehoshua lived in mixed cities – Jewish-Arab: Jerusalem And Haifa. Yet, at about the same time, he moved to Givatayim, one of Israel’s most homogeneous cities, made a breathtaking U-turn. After advocating the two-state solution for 50 years, he announced in a series of articles in “Haaretz” that such a solution had become impractical. “What must be done,” he wrote, “is to give all Arabs of the West Bank and citizenship of East Jerusalem within the framework of a single Arab-Jewish state ”. In 2016 – announced in a conversation we had had in her book-filled house overlooking the sea a few days earlier – she wrote in an article that Israel was to begin granting the status of residence And citizenship to the approximately 100,000 Arabs living in Area C of the West Bank (which is under total Israeli control), thus resonating with the plan of the former director general of Yesha – the settlement council – Naftali Bennett, who is now prime minister.

It doesn’t happen every day that a person over 80 years old you change your mind, and not all societies have experienced a revision of approach like this by its greatest living writer, much less on the issue that has divided society since the birth of the state: the conflict with the Arabs. The astonishment is all the greater when one takes into account the fact that in his writings, both in his essays and in his fiction, Yehoshua has often spoken out fiercely against the idea of ​​blurring borders in general, and between Jews and Palestinians in particular.

Nitza Ben-Dov, herself a literary scholar and winner of the Israel Prize, writes well when she explains that Yehoshua’s literary work has changed dramatically over the years, from surrealist stories to realistic novels, but has remained, above all, in tune with the society in which he lived. “His awareness of human complexity, which he drew from his own experience, made his work multifaceted”.

Defender of Palestinians and supporter of leftist Israeli parties, Yehoshua was also a member of the public council of the prominent Israeli rights group B’tselem, which is fiercely critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Many of his greatest works probably came to define the era in which they were published. “Facing the Forests”, published in 1968, at the height of the post-Six Day War euphoria, is still widely regarded today as the most compelling exploration of Nakba Palestinian in Hebrew literature, signaling a revival among his generation; and his first novel. “L’Amante”, published in 1977, managed to announce the seismic change in Israeli society with the rise to power of the right-wing party Likud and the decline of the Labor and largely Ashkenazi left.

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