Yehuda Amichai: Master of Metaphor and the Quintessence of Israeli Jewishness

Jan. 17 2018

Reviewing a new volume of Yehuda Amichai’s poetry in English tranlsation, Hillel Halkin analyzes the verse of a man who once declared that he had “a complex network of pipes” in his soul.

Yehuda Amichai . . . saw poetry everywhere. If anyone spoke it, it was he. You couldn’t know him without being struck by the casual way in which original and sometimes startling metaphors dropped from him in ordinary conversation, spontaneously occasioned by something that you and he might be looking at or talking about. It wasn’t done for effect. It was just the way his mind worked. His thought was habitually associational. One thing made him think of another and what it made him think of was generally something that would not have occurred to anyone else. . . .

Amichai was a deeply Jewish poet. His Orthodox education and upbringing in Germany before emigrating with his family to Palestine at the age of twelve in 1936 (he died in Jerusalem in the year 2000) left their permanent mark on him, though his adult life was lived as a non-observant Jew in secular Israeli society. This society regarded him as its own quintessential expression. He lived and wrote about its wars and tragic conflicts; he shared its appetite for life and its love of its land; his irreverent humor struck a chord in it. And yet he also had an ironic detachment from it, a distance that came partly from being steeped in a Jewish tradition that was foreign to it.

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More about: Arts & Culture, Hebrew poetry, Israeli literature, Yehuda Amichai

 

Palestinian Acceptance of Israel as the Jewish State Must Be a Prerequisite to Further Negotiations

Oct. 19 2018

In 1993, in the early days of the Oslo peace process, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasir Arafat accepted the “right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security.” But neither it nor its heir, the Palestinians Authority, has ever accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Robert Barnidge explains why this distinction matters:

A Jewish state for the Jewish people, after all, was exactly what the [UN] General Assembly intended in November 1947 when it called for the partition of the Palestine Mandate into “the Arab state, the Jewish state, and the city of Jerusalem.”

Although the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state does not stand or fall on this resolution—in declaring the independence of Israel on the eve of the Sabbath on May 14, 1948, the Jewish People’s Council, [the precursor to the Israeli government], also stressed the Jewish people’s natural and historic rights—it reaffirms the legitimacy of Jewish national rights in (what was to become) the state of Israel.

The Palestinians have steadfastly refused to recognize Jewish self-determination. [Instead], the PLO [has been] playing a double game. . . . It is not simply that the PLO supported the General Assembly’s determination in 1975, rescinded in 1991, that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” It is that that the PLO leadership continues to speak of Jews as a religious community rather than a people, and of Zionism as a colonial usurper rather than the national liberation movement that it is.

The U.S. government, Barnidge concludes, “should demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state” and refuse to “press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians unless and until that happens.”

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Peace Process, PLO, US-Israel relations, Yasir Arafat