In the Convoy and Alongside It: A Study of S. Yizhar’s Works on Education and Literature


During his years of silence, S. Yizhar, one of the canonical writers of Modern Hebrew literature, published six books of non-fiction and numerous articles. These writings, which deal mainly with education and literature, are barely mentioned in the diverse and extensive research on Yizhar, which focuses on his fictional works. Through an investigation of his non-fictional writings, this article will seek to shed new light on Yizhar’s position as a cultural critic and on a central issue in his works in general: the tension between the individual and society. The article will suggest three main arguments: 1) There is a significant parallelism between Yizhar’s view on education and his view on literature — namely, just as the internal world of the individual student is constantly threatened by outer forces, so, too, a work of fiction is threatened constantly from without by critics, academic researchers, etc; 2) His claims and the nature of his analysis testify to the fact that he perceives society as an uncontrollable entity that can be neither changed nor understood; 3) Yizhar’s perception of society (and, accordingly, his relation to it) is more complex than what seems to be reflected in his fictional works, at least according to the common readings of them. Yizhar’s world contains not only a vast and impenetrable social framework, but also an interpersonal and intimate sphere, and the distinction between the two is at the foundation of all of his thinking.

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  1. 1.

    The following are the main works to be discussed here, accompanied by abbreviations in parentheses. All of the following sources are in Hebrew, unless otherwise noted. S. Yizhar, A Call for Education, Sifriyat Poalim, Tel Aviv, 1984 (“A Call for Education”); S. Yizhar, On Education and on Education for Values, Am Oved, Tel Aviv, 1974 (“The Education of Values”); S. Yizhar, Two Polemics, Zmora-Bitan, 1990 (“Two Polemics”); S. Yizhar, Farewell to Education, Zmora-Bitan, Tel Aviv, 1988a (“Farewell to Education”); S. Yizhar, To Read a Story, Am Oved, Tel Aviv, 1982 (“To Read a Story”); S. Yizhar, A Story Is Not, Ha Kibbutz Ha Meuhad, Tel Aviv, 1983 (“A Story Is Not”); Yizhar Smilansky, Pages of a Dispute, Zmora-Bitan, Tel Aviv, 1988b (“Pages of a Dispute”). In addition to these titles, Yizhar published articles in the daily press and granted several interviews. He was also at the center of forgotten polemics (for example, following his remarks on “the espresso generation,” or the “ghetto of Emek Yizrael” during the course of discussions on “Jewish consciousness” on the Board of Education in the Knesset). Several of these issues will be noted in section 3 of the article. Furthermore, Yizhar’s doctoral thesis, which lies at the base of much of his later non-fictional work, is a significant source for understanding many of his positions; Yizhar Smilansky, Alternative and Complementary Concepts in the Reading and Learning of Literature. Thesis submitted for the degree “Doctor of Philosophy,” Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1979 (“Alternative and Complementary Concepts”). We do not purport here to cover every article or theoretical text that Yizhar wrote, nor will we describe every polemic he was involved with. Our principle interests are in his non-fictional books and notable essays. For a comprehensive survey of Yizhar’s works, see Haim Nagid, ed., S. Yizhar: A Selection of Critical Essays on His Works, Am Oved, 1972. For a recent biographical study, see Nitza Ben Ari, S. Yizhar: A Life Story (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University Press, 2013.

  2. 2.

    See: Haim Nagid, “Introduction (The Development of Criticism on S. Yizhar’s Stories),” in, Haim Nagid, ed., S. Yizhar: A Selection of Critical Essays on His Works, Am Oved, 1972, page 34; in particular, see David Canaani’s article “In the Convoy and Alongside It,” which is included in this collection. Canaani’s claims will be discussed at the end of this article. Coincidentally, not everyone who attributed intellectual shortcomings to Yizhar indicated this to be a deficiency. See, for example, Yitzhak Laor, We Write You, Homeland in Narratives with no Natives: Essays on Israeli Literature, Ha Kibbutz Ha Meuhad, Tel Aviv, 1994, page 75.

  3. 3.

    In his essays, Yizhar relies on the ideas of several thinkers. Most prominent are these: Jean-Paul Sartre, Paul Valéry, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. We will not examine their influences here. The more interesting cases, and, for some reason, less prominent in his writings, are the influences of Martin Buber and A.D. Gordon.

  4. 4.

    A quite comprehensive description can be found in Nagid’s introduction (see note 15 above); Gidi Navo, Seven Days in the Negev: On The Days of Ziklag by S. Yizhar, Ha Kibbutz Ha Meuhad and Machon Ben-Gurion, Tel Aviv, 2005, describes in depth the two waves of criticism on Days of Ziklag. The first was stirred up around the time of the book’s publication in 1958, and the second during the time of the new edition that was published in 1989. According to Navo, “while the main findings of the early criticism were … that The Days of Ziklag constituted a de-mythologization of the soldiers of ‘48, the later criticism … saw in [the novel] the ultimate mythologization of the War of Independence (ibid., 37–38). The reception of Khirbet Khizah is discussed by Anita Shapira: “Hirbet Hizah: Memory and Forgetting,” in Anita Shapira, Jews, Zionists, and What Is Between Them, Am Oved, Tel Aviv, 2007, 13–63

  5. 5.

    As will be seen in the following section, this general claim expresses Yizhar’s own perception of the status of the fictional text.

  6. 6.

    The Labor Trend Worker’s Organization was a socialist and Zionist professional union of preschool teachers and school teachers that was founded in 1925 and dismantled in 1953, when the law of compulsory education was enacted. See Yuval Dror, “The Labor Trend Workers’ Organization during the British Mandate: An Educational Movement and a Unique Professional Organization.” Studies in Zionism, the Yishuv and the State of Israel, Thematic Series, 2, Economy and Society in Mandatory Palestine, 2003 (583–615) (in Hebrew).

  7. 7.

    What was noted above regarding the inherent value in using Yizhar’s non-fictional writings to illuminate his understanding of the individual and society should be said again: The criticism expressed in his non-fiction, even though it contains the advantage described above, doesn’t necessarily become a standard for the critical meaning of his stories. Yizhar’s non-fictional writings certainly contain some of his ideas regarding the question of the tension between the individual and society, and thus can complete what is understood from his fictional texts.

  8. 8.

    Yisrael Banimyanov, “Education — Without Values,” Mikrave'Iyyun, vol. 59, (84) (1991), 7–13, Banimyanov notes that Yizhar’s essay “Education for Values” “struck readers with astonishment and stirred up an aggressive, bitter controversy between educators and Yizhar” (7). The “astonishment” is explained further: “In his dismissal of the education of values, the author lands a death blow … on the chance for a struggle for change and for the curing of illnesses and distortions of Israeli society.”

  9. 9.

    Herzel and Balfour Haqaq, Mishnat Yizhar: Tel a-Za'atrve'Hirbet Ha Hrchim, A Study of the Contrast in “On Education” and “Education of Values,” Ma'alot, vol. 8, issue 4, (1977), 9

  10. 10.

    Ibid. Additional responses to Yizhar’s essays are: Yehiel Kidmi, “Free Education or Freedom from Education,” Ha Hinukh Ha Meshutaf, vol. 34, issue 113 (1984), 139–142; Edna Berg, “On a Distorted Understanding of Mishnat Yizhar: Notes on Herzel and Balfour Haqaq’s Article,” Ma'alot, vol. 8, issue 5, (1977), 43–46; Yitzhak Barzili, “Heresy from Despair: Notes and Criticism on S. Yizhar’s Ideas on the Matter of Education of Values,” Ha Doar, year 60, vol. 36 (September 25, 1981), 577–579.

  11. 11.

    “Alternative and Complementary Concepts,” 357–613. The critics whom he discusses are Baruch Kurzweil, Arnold Band, Dov Sadan, Meshulam Tochner, Nathan Rotenstreich, Gershon Shaked, Ya’akov Bahat, Yo’av Elstein, Esther Netzer, S.Y. Pnueli and Avraham Holtz. This analysis was incorporated into Yizhar’s “To Read a Story,” 387. See also, “A Story Is Not,” 83.

  12. 12.

    S. Yizhar, “Get Rid of ‘Guidance for Authors,’” Katedra 71 (1991), 189–190; see Yehoshua Kaniel’s response in the same issue: “Choking out the Freedom of Creativity, Is that So?” 191–192.

  13. 13.

    See pages 31, 51, 55, 66, 72, and 114 in “Education for Values.” In his doctoral thesis, “Alternative and Complementary Concepts,” Yizhar suggests a general and comprehensive critique of views calling for the positioning of literature and education in the service of society and its institutions. See, for example, his discussion on page 13 of Kaufman’s “Mind and Spirit in Education” (1939), as well as his analysis of Yosef Schechter’s view that the educational process ought to focus on texts relating to issues of existential meaning, pages 45–46.

  14. 14.

    Fragmentary discussions of Yizhar’s non-fictional writings can be found in the following: Nitza Ben Ari, “S. Yizhar: (Anti)Hero of Culture,” Keshet He Hadasha, vol. 21, Fall 2007, 169–178; AviMa’apil, “Two Friends Set Out on the Path,” Mikan, vol. 19 (Spring 2008), 183–211; Harel Lahav, “The Alterman-Yizhar Polemic: How the Division Between ‘Doves’ and ‘Hawks’ First Began” Kivunim Hadashim, 26, (June 2012) 119–133. Shortly after Yizhar’s death in 2006, newspaper articles were published that dealt with his contribution to the preservation of the environment, his activity as a public figure, and his educational ideas. Among these were the following articles: Uzi Paz, “The Green Voice,” Haaretz, Culture and Literature, October 6, 2006, 2; Ilana Elkad-Lehman, “This is All the Appreciation for the Importance of Education: On Yizhar’s Approach to Teaching Literature,” Haaretz, Culture and Literature, October 6, 2006, 3; Uri Avnery, “A Lament for a Culture that Died,” Time Out Tel Aviv, vol. 199, August 24–31, 2006, 117.

  15. 15.

    For example, see “Departure from Education,” 18–21. In order to illustrate this claim, Yizhar points at Nazi Germany as an example of a society wherein education toward lofty aesthetic ideals did not preclude the outbreak of barbaric violence. See ibid, 20.

  16. 16.

    “Departure from Education,” 19.

  17. 17.

    Ibid., 28.

  18. 18.

    Quoted in ibid., page 52, taken from Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Will to Power, translated by Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale, New York: Vintage (1968), section 333, 492. In “Departure from Education,” Yizhar adopts an epigrammatic style of writing characteristic of Nietzsche.

  19. 19.

    “The Story Is Not a Story,” in Departure from Education, 152.

  20. 20.

    Ibid., 153.

  21. 21.

    Ibid., 162.

  22. 22.

    Ibid., 153 and on.

  23. 23.

    It is only a special status, not an exclusive one. This detail is important for evaluating his response to the polemic that arose in reaction to the decision to screen the film Khirbet Khizah on state television in 1978. During the course of the controversy, people pleaded with Yizhar to reveal the name of the village in which, according to the story, the expulsion took place. Yizhar refused to do so and presented his explanation in his article, “Before I Am Silent,” Yediot Ahronot, February 24, 1978, 1. The focus of his claims revolved around the independent status of the fictional work, in literature as well as on film. However, from his aesthetic position as it is presented here, it is clear that there is no reason not to reveal the name of the village. Not only do the different levels of interpretation invalidate one another, they, in fact, join together. A realist interpretation is fitting for the majority of readers, while understanding the text “aesthetically” is intended only for a few. None of this is even hinted at in the article in Yediot Ahronot: “The gaze of the story is turned towards a distant horizon, far away from this time and place… What is universal in it, which began with the local and the concrete, and in the fact of its exactness, at a later stage spreads wings and takes off … turns to beyond what is known and recognized and limited to the here and now; otherwise, it is not art.” Therefore, it is not due to “poetic hallucination” (as Shapira argues; see above, note 17, 52) that Yizhar avoids revealing the name of the village, but for other reasons that should perhaps be located in the passivity that characterizes not only his protagonists but also his position as a critic. This matter will become clearer below.

  24. 24.

    Ibid., 167. Due to the overcoming of threatening external forces, the work of art has a distinctly secular characteristic. Generally, secularism is a central topic for Yizhar. His article “The Courage to Be Secular,” which is included in the collection “A Call to Education,” had a broad impact and was published in several different outlets. Critics of his fiction also emphasized its secular dimension, each according to their own viewpoints; Baruch Kurzweil saw in secularism a distinct expression of decline and social disintegration: “The deep secret of a generation without faith, without a connection to history, that lives time in its disintegration” (Between Vision and the Absurd: Notes on Our Literature in the 20th Century, Schocken Books, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Kurzweil 1972b, 423); David Canaani is amazed by Yizhar: “Take note of the complete secularism of this soul, and his way of thinking — one of the prominent lines in the literary works of the young generation. Here, there is no God.” (Canaani, note 15 above, 45–65).

  25. 25.

    “Departure from Education,” 176–177. In this same vein, he notes this in his story Ha Nimlat: “Do you know, coincidentally, a word more beautiful than ‘to begin’? I know nothing more beautiful than it.” Ha Nimlat in S. Yizhar, Seven Stories, Ha Kibbutz Ha Meuhad, Tel Aviv, 1971, 253. In the original, it appears in parentheses.

  26. 26.

    “A Story Is Not,” 14.

  27. 27.

    Interview in Hadarim, note 1, 216.

  28. 28.

    See “Alternative and Complementary Concepts,” 337–343. Yizhar’s discussion here integrates general points with an examination of the position of literature in Israeli education.

  29. 29.

    See ibid, 337–338.

  30. 30.

    In “To Read a Story,” Yizhar formulates this claim as follows: “Literature (and art in general, but literature first and foremost) is therefore intended to be one of the most respected tools for ‘transferring the national capital,’ ‘for the embedding of a general belonging,’ and for ‘the creation of the proper image of man,’ according to the definition of the sociologist … contributing to ‘the realm of the dissemination of symbols’ and as ‘a vessel for the supply of general motion (Eisenstadt),’” 95.

  31. 31.

    “Departure from Education,” 150; “A Story Is Not,” 21.

  32. 32.

    To put it in the terms coined by A.D. Gordon, who was a major influence on Yizhar, the latter minimizes the status of the “limited family,” i.e., the biological family, and favors the “large family,” which includes all human beings. See A.D. Gordon, Man and Nature (Hebrew), in Gordon’s Writings (vol. 2) (Tel Aviv: Zionist Library, 1957), 76. See also, in this context, Gad Ufaz, “The Woman and the Family in the Philosophy of A. D. Gordon,” in Iyunim Bitkumat Israel, vol. 8 (1998), 602–613. For a general discussion of the status of the family in the Yishuv, see Dvora Bernstein, Woman in Eretz Israel: The Aspiration for Equality in the Yeshuv’s Period (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Ha Kibbutz Ha Meuhad, 1987.

  33. 33.

    “To Read a Story,” 11.

  34. 34.

    Martin Buber’s dialogical thought is particularly influential here. See Yuval Jobani, “The Lure of Heresy: A Philosophical Typology of Hebrew Secularism in the First Half of the Twentieth Century.” The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy 24, no. 1 (2016), 99, fn.12.

  35. 35.

    “To Read a Story,” 16.

  36. 36.

    “Ceasing Teaching Literature,” in Two Polemics, 153.

  37. 37.

    “Departure from Education,” 77.

  38. 38.

    “A Call to Education,” 121.

  39. 39.

    Ibid., 108.

  40. 40.

    Ibid. Using literary language, Yizhar describes here several fundamental ideas that can also be found in the manifest “Life and Nature” of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, which was founded in Jaffa in 1909 by Yehuda Leib Metman (1869–1939), who established the Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium. The goal of the society was to advance the scientific knowledge of Israel’s nature in order to strengthen the emotional ties of the youth to it. See Yehuda Leib Metman, Life and Nature (Founders of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel), (Jaffa: Society of Nature in the Land of Israel Press, 1909), 1. On Yehuda Leib Metman’s educational activity, see Shlomo Harmati, The Pioneering Teachers (Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense Press, 2000), chap. 11.

  41. 41.

    “Wondrous,” a translation of “pil’I,” is a term that originates in the story of the appearance of the angel to Manoah and his wife (Judges 13:18). It is here used to refer to the uniqueness of the individual as opposed to the commonality of the society around him. In this spirit, Hayim Nahman Bialik writes in his prose poem The Scroll of Fire: “A wondrous one (“pil’i”) wonders among them.” Bialik, H. N. (1957). Kolshirei, Hayim Nahman Bialik. Dvir. 397 (our translation).

  42. 42.

    The matter is described in scholarship and criticism as follows: “The relation between the protagonist and society, between the wondrous and the convoy, is very problematic. The individual personality, the essence of whose desire is to deviate from reality, stands in contradiction with the surroundings. This problem posed is dire, as we noted, because the author sees an ideal in social action, but the ideal stands in contradiction to the internal world of the protagonist” (Kurzweil, “The Art of the Story or Literalization of Life?” in Nagid, note 15 above, page 111); “Yizhar attempts to present characters that seek to be exceptional…but the desire for deviation never actually deviates from their own frameworks” (Gershon Shaked, Israeli Fiction: 1880–1980, vol. 4, Ha Kibbutz Ha Meuhad, Tel Aviv, 1993, 206–207); “The equal side of all of these protagonists … stands out. All of them are deeply rooted in the life of society, but their internal lives do not border on the ideals of society and do not nurse from it” (Avraham Kariv, “S.Yizhar,” in Haim Nagid, note 15 above, page 41).

  43. 43.

    Gentle social mediation such as this — for example, such as an “intimate band” (havura) standing in opposition to society — is perhaps also expressed in his stories (“The Edges of the Negev” and “Habbakuk”) though it doesn’t hold a central place in the entirety of his literary canon, or at least in common interpretations of it. Social heterogeneity is therefore fully and distinctly expressed in his essays and not in his fiction.

  44. 44.

    “To Read a Story,” 94.

  45. 45.

    “Departure from Education,” 24–25.

  46. 46.

    In “To Read a Story,” 11, Yizhar calls to liberate literature from “the crushing tyrannical hegemony of society” and from the viewpoint of Georgi Plekhanov that “art is a social production.” In “Education of Values,” 72, he cites Trofim Lysenko’s lecture from the Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences of the Soviet Union as an example, in which Lysenko thanks Stalin as the “friend of science.”

  47. 47.

    “Departure from Education,” 83. The description that begins the essay recalls Nietzsche’s introduction to “Schopenhauer as Educator.”

  48. 48.

    Ibid., 123.

  49. 49.

    A linguistic diagnosis of the social condition is the focus of a printed essay found in Yizhar’s personal archive in the National Library of Israel. The essay’s date is February of 1986, and the title is “Listening to Kasakh (Brutal Force).” In it, Yizhar writes about those suffering from that year’s economic crisis: “A language that comes to be the principle language of the public: … Do you not know that this is the language of power… The name Kasakh alone strikes many with fear. A feeling of being helplessly exposed to a brutal force… language that sounds like violence for its own sake.”

  50. 50.

    “Departure from Education,” 132.

  51. 51.

    Ibid., 163.

  52. 52.

    See note 3 above, 222.

  53. 53.

    Yigal Sarna, “The Land that Was and Is No More: An Interview with S. Yizhar,” Yediot Ahronot, Seven Days, April 1990, 27.

  54. 54.

    Interview in Hadarim, 217–218.

  55. 55.

    “A Call to Education,” 122.

  56. 56.

    A literary depiction of this can be found in the story “The Edges of the Negev,” in which the equipping of the drilling is described as a monstrous creature rising up against his creators. For example, see S. Yizhar, The Edges of the Negev, Ha Kibbutz Ha Meuhad, Tel Aviv, 1978a, 112.

  57. 57.

    Uri Shoham, in his article “The Open Wilderness, The Closed Orchard, and the Arab Village: On Crucial Issues and Questions in S. Yizhar’s Fiction,” SimanKriya 3–4, page 336–346, points out the identical element in “the distant, open, and infinite that appears as a future not yet begun,” and the object of nostalgia that is symbolized with the aid of “the closed, the past; which is the orchard” (337). Shoham comes to this conclusion from an examination of Yizhar’s protagonists. What is noted here — that the power of society is substantially impenetrable in the present in the same way that by its nature it erases the wondrous past — illuminates from another angle the foundation shared by these escapes.

  58. 58.

    Of course, this is not always the case. For example, see “An Open Letter to Yigal Yadin,” Haaretz, December 9, 1979, 9; “The Criticism of an Individual on Four Points,” Maariv, 3.11.79, 13. Yizhar comes out strongly there, for different reasons, against the withdrawal from Sinai.

  59. 59.

    “Don't Let the Treasurer Do This,” Haaretz, 7.3.80, 14, 20. “Pay attention, citizen, let them not come upon you and know everything about you without your consent. Pay attention, citizen, and don’t let them take from you whatever they want … and that they won’t turn taxes into a deity that is above people.”

  60. 60.

    “Notes for Human Rights Day,” Iton 77, 144–145 (February 1992), 6.

  61. 61.

    Article cited in note 69 above, 14.

  62. 62.


  63. 63.

    Yizhar’s identification with Zionism finds numerous expressions in his fictional, non-fictional, and biographical texts. Despite this, some described him as post-Zionist. A neglected essay that testifies to his enthusiastic relationship with Zionism is a manuscript that was apparently prepared as a lecture. It can be found undated in his archive (however, the envelope bears the date 17.8.79); he writes that Zionism “is one of the most pure, ethical, and human movements the world has seen,” and that it didn’t contain “appetite or fervor” except for “a few transgressions here and there.” On the claim that Yizhar is post-Zionist, see Gershon Shaked, “Imprisoned in Hirbet Hizah,” Eretz Aheret, vol. 35 (August-September 2006), 12–13.

  64. 64.

    Canaani, note 15 above, 73.

  65. 65.

    Ibid., 74.

  66. 66.

    Ibid., 75.

  67. 67.

    Ibid., 80.

  68. 68.

    Yizhar’s view on the limitations of the author is also possibly on the mark regarding his non-fictional writings: “Most unfortunately, the ‘capability of speech’ … of an author is problematic. It is a capability of speech for only a few matters and not for the rest of matters, important as they may be. An author is an author when the thing in front of him takes hold of him, and he is not an author when it does not take hold of him; and what does or does not hold him is a murky and complicated matter, and the author himself doesn’t always make the decision consciously, but sometimes it is as though he is held by some decree of calling, from within him or from without, and it forces him to do.” (“Before I Am Silent,” note 36 above.)

  69. 69.

    Compare this to Yochai Oppenheimer’s argument in Yochai Oppenheimer, Beyond the Fence: Representation of the Arab in Israeli Fiction (1906–2005), Am Oved, Tel Aviv, 2008. He rejects Canaani’s claim and argues that the inability to express protest doesn’t derive from Yizhar’s lack of “political platform,” but from a “complete internalization of the collective ethos that is rarely stated directly in his thousands of pages of prose, since no character is capable of feeling its power, except one who seeks to escape it but realizes over and over that he or she is doomed to continue to bear its yoke.”

  70. 70.

    See, for example, Helit Yeshurun, “Telling the Finite with the Infinite — An Interview with S. Yizhar,” Hadarim— Journal on Poetry, 11 (Summer 1994), 221. S. Yizhar, Departure from Education, Zmora-Bitan, Tel Aviv, 1988 (“Departure from Education”).

  71. 71.

    Later expressions, such as in Dan Ben-Amotz’s writings or through the influence of author Ayn Rand in Israel, were even more radical. Though interesting, however, these remained rather marginal.

  72. 72.

    See Menachem Brinker, “Nietzsche and the Hebrew Writers: Attempt at a Comprehensive View,” in Nietzsche in Hebrew Culture, 158–159. According to Brinker, this quasi-stoic position can serve as a personal and temporary escape for the Hebrew writer during hard times, but he cannot present it as a preferred position either to himself or to his readers. Indeed, “This rejection of Nietzsche’s positive philosophy is easy to understand when we recall that Nietzsche’s revolutionary values were meant to guide the lives of lonely philosophers who raise themselves above general needs and concerns. The fin-de-siècle Hebrew writers, however, were seeking new values for their entire public, values intended to edify and enlighten the younger generation of a whole nation … a generation which had high expectation for the near future, not only for themselves but for the entire Jewish people.” See Menahem Brinker, “Nietzsche’s Influence on Hebrew Writers of the Russian Empire,” in Nietzsche and Soviet Culture: Ally and Adversary, Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, ed., Cambridge University Press, 1994, 407–408.

  73. 73.

    Pinhas Sadeh, Life as a Parable, Schocken: Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, 1984, 70–71.

  74. 74.

    Ibid, 129.

  75. 75.

    Ibid, 284.

  76. 76.

    We would like to thank the two anonymous referees for having brought this issue to our attention.

  77. 77.

    Brinker, for example, asserts that no other European thinkers or writers made a greater impact on the Hebrew writers of the early 20th century than Nietzsche. See Brinker, Nietzsche and the Hebrew Writers, 134–135. For a discussion on Nietzsche’s influence on Hebrew culture, see, for example, Baruch Kurtzweil, Our New Literature — Continuity or Revolution? (Hebrew) Jerusalem and Tel Aviv: Schocken, 1971, 225–269; Jacob Golomb, ed., Nietzsche and Hebrew Culture, (Hebrew) Jerusalem: Magnes, 2002; ibid, The Hebrew Nietzsche, (Hebrew) Tel Aviv: Yediot Ahronot, 2009. The importance of Nietzsche’s philosophy in Hebrew culture stemmed, among others, from the fact that it offered an escape for those who were caught in the mental-existential storm regarding their own identity. As put by Yirmiyahu Yovel, Nietzsche was the one who “taught them to uncover this immanent world, and to emphasize life that bursts forward, that overcomes itself in order to increase its power; he helped them to discover (or to dream of) a new sense of self-worth that does not depend upon external sources… but which stems from the full life of the being who says ‘yes’ to the world without surrendering passively…” (Yirmiyahu Yovel, “Nietzsche and the Jews: Incomplete Dialogue,” Nietzsche in Hebrew Culture, 89–90.)

  78. 78.

    H. Yeshurun, Saying the Finite with the Infinite, op cit., 218.

  79. 79.

    Gordon influenced Yizhar’s view on education as well. For example, Yizhar’s criticism of indoctrination echoes Gordon’s criticism in “Hebrew University” (1913), and in Gordon’s Writings (vol. 1): Nation and Work, (Tel Aviv: The Zionist Library, 1952), 177.

  80. 80.

    See, among many excellent analyses, Avner Holtzman, “The Rise and Decline of the National Poet,” Alina Molisak and Shoshana Ronen, eds., Polish and Hebrew Literature and National Identity, Warsaw 2010, 38–46; Hamutal Bar-Yosef, “Altruism Versus Egoism in Bialik’s Poetry and its Russian Context,” Iyunim Bitkumat Israel: Studies in Zionism, the Yishuv and the State of Israel, (Hebrew), vol. 3 (1993), 205–223.

  81. 81.

    In this context, it is important to point out that Yizhar became aware of Nietzsche at a relatively late stage of his intellectual biography. Indeed, Nietzsche wasn’t among the thinkers and writers with a critical influence on Yizhar in his youth, unlike Gordon, Brenner, Bialik, and Ben-Zion Dinur, who was Yizhar’s teacher at the teachers’ seminary in Beit Kerem, and who left a substantial and lasting influence. On Ben-Zion Dinur’s lasting influence on Yizhar, see Nitza Ben Ari. (2013). S. Yizhar: A Life Story. Part I. Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University Press (Hebrew), 206–217. Sigmund Freud, too, belongs on this list. Not only was Freud greatly popular in the 1930s in Yizhar’s environment, but also the young Yizhar used to obsessively analyze his own dreams and his friends’ dreams at the time. (Ibid, 206.) Even in the doctoral thesis Yizhar submitted to the senate of the Hebrew University in 1979, Nietzsche isn’t attributed a central place, at least not directly and openly. This is the case, despite the proximity of their critical stands toward the oppressive nature of education and the importance both attributed to protecting and maintaining individuality in a mass society.


  1. Avineri, O. (2006). A Lament for a Culture that Died. Time Out Tel Aviv, Vol. 199, 24th–31st of August, p. 117. (Heb.).

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Jobani, Y., Katz, G. In the Convoy and Alongside It: A Study of S. Yizhar’s Works on Education and Literature. Cont Jewry 36, 203–224 (2016).

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  • Education and Literature
  • Modern Hebrew literature
  • Hebrew Culture