New Article: Lehrer, Conversations with Steiner and Yehoshua, on Jews, Jewishness and Israel

Lehrer, Natasha. “Baggage Carousel: Conversations with George Steiner and A.B. Yehoshua, on Jews, Jewishness and Israel.” Jewish Quarterly 62.2 (2015): 11-14.





Steiner has met with a huge amount of hostility (misplaced, in my opinion) throughout his career for his vocal opposition to Zionism and his criticism of Israel, but when we meet he strikes me as more melancholy than fierce on the subject. “When Israel is in danger,” he says, “we all become Zionists. Temporary, honorary Zionists. That, I can fully understand. They are, after all, our brothers and sisters. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with them. And it does not mean that I feel I should go … . Many years ago, I was offered one or two major posts in Israel, and I had to think about it. Yes, I had a little Hebrew from my bar mitzvah, but I did not continue with Hebrew; I plunged into Greek and Latin, the other road. Perhaps that was a great mistake. If I had learned Hebrew properly, maybe I could have contributed to making Israel a more liberal, a more humane place. But I have forfeited that chance, and I have no right to criticise where I am not prepared to take the risks and to contribute. And the risks are of course enormous in Israel. But that does not mean one has to agree with their policy.”


Yehoshua has been widely, and erroneously, quoted as telling the AJC audience that Judaism outside Israel has no future. “The Diaspora has been around for over 2,500 years, and there is no reason that it shouldn’t last for another 2,500 years. I believe that just as there will be settlers in space and on Mars, there will also be Jewish communities who will still sing ‘next year in Jerusalem’. I am not as certain, I am sad to say, that the state of Israel will last another hundred years, if she doesn’t find a reasonable modus vivendi with her neighbours in general, and the Palestinians in particular.”