This essay examines one of the greatest ambitions of the Hebrew cultural revival––the creation of a modern and distinct Hebrew national culture by rewinding history and reconnecting the indeterminate Jewish subject to a determinate Hebrew soil. The essay looks at three writers from three distinct periods in the last century, S. Yizhar, Amos Oz and Orly Castel-Bloom, whose works are deeply concerned with this connection between man and land, and who demonstrate that concern through a particular use of language. The essay shows how each of these writers uses the Hebrew language to comment on these relations in the last 50 or so years and tell us something about the state of Israeli Hebrew culture in the so-called post-national age. The article looks at Yizhar’s careful creation of a language-land bond, at the way Amos Oz warns against the excesses of these bonds, and at Orly Castel-Bloom’s critical attempt to undermine these bonds half a century after they have been created.
Bar-Yosef, Eitan. “New Cities for New Jews: Haifa as Futuristic Urban Fantasy in Theodor Herzl’s Altneuland and Violet Guttenberg’s A Modern Exodus.” Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 12.2 (2013): 162-83.
This essay explores the representation of the modern Jewish city in Palestine, envisioned in two fin-de-siècle futuristic tales: Theodor Herzl’s Altneuland (1902) and Violet Guttenberg’s A Modern Exodus (1904). Focusing on the northern port city of Haifa, transformed by the Jews from a poor Oriental town into a thriving Europeanized metropolis, both novelists employ the city’s spatial, cultural, and human features to present radically different views concerning the national Jewish rejuvenation: for Herzl, it becomes a utopian triumph; for Guttenberg, a deplorable failure. Notwithstanding their different assessments of the Zionist vision, both authors share certain antisemitic assumptions about the nature of “the Jew” (greedy, intolerant, vulgar), which are inscribed into the urban space. Herzl’s ideal Haifa is designed precisely to reform the diaspora Jew by introducing such modern urban measures that would render these detestable Jewish traits obsolete. Guttenberg’s disordered city, in comparison, reflects an inability to alter the Jewish character: no wonder that London, not Haifa, becomes the final destination of her “Modern Exodus.”