Must Israeli Literature Come from Israel?

Israel’s thriving literary culture now encompasses a sizable number of talented expatriate writers, some of whom have made no secret of their lack of interest in returning to Israel. This phenomenon reanimates old questions about the meaning of Jewish culture, Beth Kissileff writes:

As Hillel Halkin—an American-born writer, translator, and critic who has been living in Israel for over 40 years—told me, the tradition of the literary expatriate is long and distinguished, including luminaries like James Joyce, Marguerite Yourcenar, and Samuel Beckett. The difference, however, is that “no one in France gets upset” because Yourcenar decamped from her native Belgium to live most of her life in Maine. But where a writer lives, Halkin noted, is still “an issue in Israel in a way it isn’t in other countries.”

It’s an issue because of a simple question: What is the revival of the Hebrew language for? Is it cultural or territorial? The resurrection of Hebrew as a living spoken and written language was essential to the Zionist movement; and since the establishment of the state of Israel, the majority of Hebrew literature has been written with the intention of contributing to the culture of the new Jewish state. Now, for many different reasons, a younger generation is choosing to live and write outside Israel while still making a contribution to Hebrew culture. What the ultimate outcome of these attempts will be, and whether it is good or bad for Israel, Zionism, and Hebrew literature in general, remains unknown.

Read more at Tower

More about: Israel, Israeli expatriates, Israeli literature, Jewish literature, Modern Hebrew literature, Zionism

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7