The rise of Zionism, particularly reflected in the writings of Ahad Ha-am (Asher Ginzberg), gave Hebrew literature fresh impetus, and Palestine became again the center of publication in Hebrew. Hebrew was proclaimed the national language of the Jews even before the establishment (1948) of the state of Israel. The two great poets of modern Hebrew literature are Hayyim Nahman Bialik and Saul Tchernihovsky, who was strongly influenced by ancient Greek literature. The poetry of Abraham Shlonsky, Lea Goldberg, and Nathan Alterman deals with social and political themes.
Among the many writers of prose are Joseph H. Brenner, who described Jewish life in Eastern Europe and pioneer life in Palestine, and Salman Shneur, who wrote of the simple and uneducated Jews. The Nobel laureate S. Y. Agnon portrayed the Eastern European milieu and pioneer life in Palestine; his works have become classics in modern Hebrew epic literature. Hebrew writers who are native to Israel seek inspiration in the classical Hebrew past or in the new life of Israel. The most outstanding writer of this group is Moshe Shamir, who in his two novels—one depicting a Hasmonean king and the other dealing with the Arab-Israeli War of 1948—gave new dimensions to Hebrew fiction.
Aron David Gordon (1856–1922) was one of the greatest social and political essayists of Hebrew literature; significant Hebrew language literary critics include David Frishman (1861–1922) and Yosef Klausner (1874–1958). In recent years the Israeli novelists Amos Oz, Abraham B. Yehoshua, and Aharon Appelfeld, and the poet Yehuda Amichai have been widely translated and have achieved international distinction. Outside Israel, the writing of the Jews is ordinarily in the language of the countries in which they live or in Yiddish, whose literary use developed rapidly after the middle of the 19th cent.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.