Holler, Roy. "Multiple Identity Politics: Dahn Ben-Amotz and Biased Readings of Hebrew Literature." Prooftexts: A Journal of Jewish Literary History. (Forthcoming).
Dahn Ben-Amotz was an Israeli icon, prolific novelist, humorist, journalist, artist, linguist, infamous bon-vivant and polygamist. Born in Rivne, Poland as Musia Tehilimzogger, Ben-Amotz is sent to Palestine in 1938, and failing to fit in as an immigrant, he begins his passing, shedding the skin of a meek Diaspora Jew to become the ultimate representation of the New-Hebrew; reborn in Tel-Aviv, he erases all connections to the past.
Hebrew literary criticism deals primarily with these two polarities of the Jew—the old vs. the new/the Diasporic vs. the Hebrew—but this negotiation I argue, has an adverse effect on our study and understanding of Israeli fiction and nation creation. By analyzing Ben-Amotz’s semi-autobiographical 1968 novel, Lizkor veliskoakh, I will show that while aspiring to locate a space for multiple identities, critical readings of Israeli literature work overtime to emphasize the negotiation of identity/difference—ending up creating more segregated, essentialist identities, instead of ones that are multiple and contingent. My reading of Ben-Amotz’s novel argues that a nonconventional author calls for a nonconventional reading, a reading that instead of adhering to, diverges from and challenges prior understandings and approaches to trauma, testimony and identity in Hebrew literature, opening the discourse to other tangible possibilities in the search for individual coherency, outside the binary of the Old/New Jew, possibilities that previous negotiations seem to dismiss.