Yitzhak Shami: Ethnicity as an Unresolved Conflict*

By Hever, Hannan | Shofar, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Yitzhak Shami: Ethnicity as an Unresolved Conflict*


Hever, Hannan, Shofar


Yitzhak Shami (1889-1949) wrote fiction in Eretz-Israel, but from an unusual perspective for the times-the Mizrahi perspective. He chooses for himself a complex speaking position-a speaking site located in the space between two cultural options. One is Hebrew Jewish literary writing, the norm of which is perceiving the Arab as an enemy endangering the materialization of the Zionist project. But at one and the same time his stories expose a profound commitment to give voice in Hebrew to Arab culture, and a strong fascination for it. This dual position comes to its solution through the portrayal of the major protagonists. His systematic mode of resisting the West and avoiding its rule over Arab culture, expressed especially in his novella "Fathers' Revenge," is by placing in the center of his stories, instead of an autonomous, independent subject typical to the national literature, characters who turn out to be fragmented and decentered, and who finally fall apart.

"Yitzhak Shami is one of the buds of reviving Mizrahi1 Judaism in Eretz Israel, a worthy mate to Yehuda Burla (long may he live). He was born in Hebron (in 1889) and educated at the Ezra Teachers' College in Jerusalem. Suffused with Mizrahi expressions of nature and life, with traditions and customs both Hebrew and Arabic, and possessed of an excellent national and general education. Taught in

the settlements of Judah and Damascus. Spent several years working in Hebrew education and revival in Bulgaria, and at the end of World War One returned to his homeland and to educational work in Hebron and more recently in Haifa, where he died, at the age of 60, on March 3, 1949."

So wrote editor and author Asher Barash in his preface to a collection of Yitzhak Shami's work that was published by the Newman ptess in 1951.2 His words neatly capture the gist of Shami's reputation in Eretz-Israeli literature and culture; indeed, the author's absolute identification with the "buds of reviving Mizrahi Judaism in Eretz Israel" was a persistent feature of his career. Shami's work was habitually perceived as an expression of the Mizrahi Jews in Hebrew culture. Also noted, however, was his profound involvement in the life of the Arabs. This dual identification was so powerful that Gershon Shaked even called Shami a "Jewish-Arab author who wrote Hebrew."3 And indeed, Shami's stories offer the readers of Hebrew literature an unusual, perhaps unique experience. Shami created a complex authorial position of intermediacy. Even as he wrote Jewish-Hebrew prose that viewed Arabs as an enemy, a threat to the Zionist enterprise, Shami also seemed deeply committed to giving Arab culture a Hebrew voice.

Yitzhak Shami's work is therefore located within a particularly complex politics of identity. On the one hand, it was written for the Hebrew lirerary canon and accepted the norms of Hebrew-language Jewish writing. Shami's fiction obeyed the same code that governed all Hebrew writing as the national Jewish literature. This code was articulated, for example, by Second Aliyah writer and critic Yosef Chaim Brenner, who occupied a position of unequaled influence during the early years of Shami's career. In his essay "Ha-genre haeretz-israeli va'avizraihu" ("The Eretz-Israeli genre and its implements"), which appeared on August 10, 1911, Brenner attacked what he called "the stories of the Eretz-Israeli genre," and in doing so formulated the norm of the Hebrew canon:

When I hear one writer among our friends say to another," Your new work, is it of the life of Eretz Israel?", I am filled with a kind of derision: as though writing were some external thing, as though one wrote "of the life of the Jews of Lodz," of the life of Galicians, "of the life of the Kara'ites," "of the life of the Sephardim," "of life in Eretz Israel," of life in Petah Tikva . . . and not an internal thing, a manifestation of the inner life and of its essence within the relations and hues of a known time and a known environment. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Yitzhak Shami: Ethnicity as an Unresolved Conflict*
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.