A.B. Yehoshua, Acclaimed Israeli Writer & Peace Activist, Dies at 85
Edited by: TJVNews.com
A.B. Yehoshua, an acclaimed Israeli writer, essayist, playwright and peace activist died on Tuesday in Tel Aviv at the age of 85.
The New York Times reported that the cause of death was cancer. This was confirmed by Avi Shushan, a spokesman for the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. Yehoshua, who lived outside Tel Aviv, had said he was being treated for esophageal cancer that had metastasized.
The Times of Israel reported that Yehoshua was the recipient of Israel’s top cultural award, the Israel Prize, in 1995, along with dozens of other awards, including the Bialik Prize and the Jewish National Book Award, and his work was translated into 28 languages.
Eulogizing Yehoshua, President Isaac Herzog called him “one of Israel’s greatest authors in all generations, who gifted us his unforgettable works, which will continue to accompany us for generations. His works, which drew inspiration from our nation’s treasures, reflected us in an accurate, sharp, loving and sometimes painful mirror image. He aroused in us a mosaic of deep emotions,” as was reported by TOI.
Referring to Yehoshua as “one of the pillars of Israeli literature, a man whose words were read by many,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that, “he has left a crowd of readers full of admiration for the person who took a part in shaping the culture of the State of Israel. May his memory be blessed.”
TOI also reported that Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper said: “Beyond his rare talent, Yehoshua was characterized by great care and sensitivity to the challenges facing Israeli society and was a social and political activist in an effort to improve society in his way. The words he wrote and the stories he told are an integral part of Hebrew literature and are in the hearts of masses of loving readers.”
Yehoshua was the author of eleven novels, three books of short stories, four plays, and four collections of essays, including Ahizat Moledet (Homeland Lesson, 2008), a book of reflections on identity and literature. Wikipedia reported that his best received novel, Mr Mani, is a multigenerational look at Jewish identity and Israel through five conversations that go backwards in time to cover over 200 years of Jewish life in Jerusalem and around the Mediterranean basin. It was adapted for television as a five-part multilingual series by director Ram Loevy. As do many of his works, his eighth novel, Friendly Fire, explores the nature of dysfunctional family relationships in a drama that moves back and forth between Israel and Tanzania. Wikipedia also reported that his works have been translated and published in 28 countries; many have been adapted for film, television, theatre, and opera.
The New York Times referred to Yehoshua as the “Israeli Faulkner.”
Abraham Gabriel (Buli) Yehoshua was born on December 9, 1936 to a third-generation Jerusalem family of Sephardi origin from Salonika, Greece. Wikipedia reported that his father Yaakov Yehoshua, the son and grandson of rabbis, was a scholar and author specializing in the history of Jerusalem. His mother, Malka Rosilio, was born and raised in Mogador, Morocco, and immigrated to Jerusalem with her parents in 1932. He grew up in Jerusalem’s Kerem Avraham neighborhood.
Wikipedia reported that he attended Gymnasia Rehavia municipal high school in Jerusalem. As a youth, Yehoshua was active in the Hebrew Scouts. After completing his studies, Yehoshua drafted to the Israeli army, where he served as a paratrooper from 1954 to 1957 and participated in the 1956 Sinai War. After studying literature and philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he began teaching. He lived in Jerusalem’s Neve Sha’anan neighborhood, as was reported by Wikipedia.
From 1963 to 1967, Yehoshua lived and taught in Paris and served as the General Secretary of the World Union of Jewish Students. From 1972, he taught Comparative and Hebrew Literature at the University of Haifa, where he held the rank of Full Professor, according to the Wikipedia report. In 1975 he was a writer-in-residence at St Cross College, Oxford. He has also been a visiting professor at Harvard (1977), the University of Chicago (1988, 1997, 2000); and Princeton (1992).
Moreover, Yehoshua also achieved notoriety as an Israeli Peace Movement activist. He set out his political views in essays and interviews, and attended the signing of the Geneva Accord. Yehoshua was both a long-standing critic of the what he termed the “Israeli occupation” of the Judea and Samaria regions in Israel’s biblical heartland as well as Gaza. He also critiqued Palestinian political culture.
Wikipedia reported that he and other intellectuals mobilized on behalf of the far-left wing Israeli political party known as the “New Movement” prior to the 2009 elections in Israel.
Politically, Yehoshua was a staunch and vocal advocate Palestinian statehood for many years. In 2016, however, he declared that the future lay in some sort of “joint endeavor.” He was not firm on the parameters of the sought-after arrangement but made clear that it would include equal rights for Palestinians, according to the Wikipedia report.
According to La Stampa, before the 2008–2009 Israel-Gaza conflict he published an appeal to Gaza residents urging them to end the violence. He explained why the Israeli operation was necessary and why it needed to end: “Precisely because the Gazans are our neighbors, we need to be proportionate in this operation. We need to try to reach a cease-fire as quickly as possible. We will always be neighbors, so the less blood is shed, the better the future will be.” Wikipedia reported that Yehoshua added that he would be happy for the border crossings to be opened completely and for Palestinians to work in Israel as part of a cease-fire.
Yehoshua was criticized by the American Jewish community for his statement that a “full Jewish life could only be had in the Jewish state.” He claimed that Jews elsewhere were only “playing with Judaism. Diaspora Judaism is masturbation,” Yehoshua told editors and reporters at The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he said, it is “the real thing.”
His wife, Ika, a psychoanalyst, died in 2016. He is survived by his three children, Sivan, Gideon, and Nahum, and seven grandchildren. (Additional reporting by: Fern Sidman)