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Kahanoff, Jacqueline Shohet

(382 words)

Author(s): Stanley Nash
Jacqueline Shohet Kahanoff was born in 1917 in Cairo to parents who hailed from Iraq and Tunisia. Educated in French schools, she moved to the United States in 1940–41, where she studied, wrote, and published in English, winning the Atlantic Monthly award for best short story and the Houghton Mifflin Fellowship for her novel Jacob’s Ladder. Returning to Egypt in 1951, she witnessed the decline in Jewish fortunes that began with the Nasser regime and the Sinai Campaign of 1956. After spending some time in Paris, she settled in Israel. She first gained prominence there through Aharon …

Yehoshua, Avraham B.

(1,212 words)

Author(s): Stanley Nash
Avraham B. Yehoshua (b. 1936) has been in the forefront of Israeli fiction writers and intellectuals since the appearance of his first book, Mot ha-Zaqen (The Death ofthe Old Man, 1962), a collection of disturbingly allegorical tales in the vein of Kafka and Agnon. Stories such as “Massaʿ ha-ʿErev shel Yatir” (The Night Journey of Yatir) and “Shelosha Yamim va-Yeled” (Three Days and a Child) portray a welling-up of violent emotions, presumably due to Israel’s culture of denial and repression during its first two decades of statehood. “ Mul ha-Yeʿarot” (Facing the Forests) portrays …

Biton, Erez

(573 words)

Author(s): Stanley Nash
Erez Biton, born in 1942 in Oran, Algeria, came to Israel in 1948 and was the first Mizraḥi poet to give poignant expression to the inner conflicts of acculturation. A childhood accident from an unexploded grenade while he was playing in a junkyard left Biton blinded and maimed, and added a dimension of rare acuteness, sensitivity, and immediacy to his poetry and persona. Labeled a "cultural icon," Biton overcame his handicaps and poverty to become a social worker with an M.A. in psychology. He founded and edited the literary journal Apirion, served as president of the Hebrew Writers…

Matalon, Ronit

(479 words)

Author(s): Stanley Nash
Ronit Matalon (b. 1959), the sabra daughter of Egyptian parents, is Israel’s most prominent younger mizraḥi fiction writer and essayist. Her extraordinarily successful first novel Zeh ʿim ha-Panim Elenu (1995; in English, The One Facing Us, 1998), set both in North Africa and Israel, delicately probed her reflections on her family’s complex of identities. More broadly, by incorporating whole chapters from Jacqueline Kahanoff’s essays aggrandizing “Levantinism” in its most positive multi-ethnic sense, Matalon affirmed but also critiqued mizraḥi perspectives of generations…