Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Etgar Keret: The Other Israel.

The religious nationalism of contemporary Israeli culture is unappetizing, to say the least, especially the ongoing land grab of the West Bank underwritten by selective readings from the Hebrew Bible, as if that vast corpus of literature was dedicated only to conquest and exclusion and did not early on express compassion and a quasi-universalist respect for the condition of others. And, mostly, as if the Hebrew Bible, whatever its various and contradictory impulses and urgings, should govern life today.  

Religious nationalism may be the bad odor for which Israel is best known these days. But all along there has been an alternative, secular, and no less authentic/indigenous Israeli culture. Amos Oz is its best known representative. I think Etgar Keret may be assuming that role for younger generations.

Keret is a media personality in Israel, and an author of superb, original, and in my view, utterly Israeli short — including very short — stories. (See his most recent collection, "Suddenly, a Knock on the Door," for example.)

To see what this young, robust, secular Israeli culture is about you could do worse than to read Keret's recent post to

Let me end with the thought that it's interesting how seriously Israel takes its writers — from Oz and David Grossman onto Keret. I'm tempted to say there was something similar going on in the Soviet Union when writers expressed a worldview opposed to the dominant repressive ideology, and were sentenced to Gulags. I know this is a stretch, if for no other reason than that Israel should be so lucky as to have an Arctic to which to send its Dissidents. You get my drift.