Israeli literature is part of modern Hebrew literature, of which it is a direct continuation. It is difficult to delineate the boundaries that separate the literature prior to the constitution of Israel from the next one. Jewish-Israeli literature can be summarized in three strands, whose authors project themselves from the “Palestinian” age into the Israeli one. Not only men of letters, now considered classics, belong to the “first guard” line (see Jews, XIII, p. 371), but also other authors who have remained active in the world of letters. Among them the writer SJ Agnon (1880-1970) occupies a prominent place. He drew fundamental inspiration from the circles of Jewish mysticism in Eastern Europe and in his copious production (of which we remember “Yesterday and the day before yesterday”, “So far”, “A simple tale”, “You have seen”) to merge, with exquisite sensitivity, the past and present of Israel. H. Hazaz (1898-1973) turned his attention to the multiform world of Israeli Jews, of which he represented, with strong realism, the different ethnic components (“She who dwells in the gardens” and Ya ‘ ī sh). Among the major exponents of this generation, considered “the priests” of Jewish humanism that has merged into Israeli literature, Yĕhūdāh Burla and UZ Grinberg deserve to be mentioned, whose poetry (“The roads of the river”) is rich in actuality, often violent in the expression and full of patriotic passion; also noteworthy is A. Shlonsky, in whose poetic work (“Raw stones”) the expressions of disappointment and suffering alternate with the nostalgia of childhood and civil satire; in S. Shalom pain and anguish for the man who has lost the sense of the divine predominate, while the poetry of nature often translates into a song of love for the rediscovered homeland.
The second current, the so-called “middle guard”, includes above all authors who in the 1920s and 1930s brought about a revolution in the whole of the inspiring motifs of contemporary literature. Among the literati of this generation, born outside of Israel but raised and educated there, we must remember: Yokheved Bath Miryām, poetess who with her symbolism often escapes from reality towards a hermetic world; Elīsheva ‛(1888-1949), proselyte of Judaism, whose language and spirit he managed to master in such a way as to sing with fervor and passion the nature and rebirth of the country which has become his homeland; Rāḥēl (Blovstein) (1890-1931) who poetically expressed genuine qualities of femininity and at the same time pride for the Jewish national resurgence; Lea Goldberg (1911-1973) essayist and delicate poet, that in “Soon and late” reveals remarkable powers of introspection and depth of feelings; N. Alterman, writer and poet well known for having commented at length political facts and daily events in newspapers with occasional stanzas (“The seventh column”, “The city of the dove”): author of collections of poems (“La gioia of the poor “) and of writings in prose, illustrated by symbols the epic of the political resurgence of Israel.
The “third guard” is the generation of writers who lived since birth in Israel and called “Sabra”. For such writers Israel is the natural homeland in the most elementary sense of the word; perhaps for this reason their human experience is, in a certain sense, less problematic than that of other immigrant authors in Israel, so that their work is closer to the human motifs of every time and place. Despite the complex problems that plague the national community, Israeli neo-priests are able to sing and rejoice in the land felt as their own, not out of a sense of romantic nostalgia or religious tradition but because they were born in that land and feel rooted. In prose the short story and the novel have been successful.
The recurring themes in poetry are those posed by the consciousness of national problems, as they reveal themselves in Y. Shalev and H. Guri. Y. Rathosh can be considered the exponent of the “Canaanite” current, so called because its authors try to abstract themselves from the traditional historical values of Diasporic Judaism to link up with a primordial Semitism. The poets A. Pinkerfeld-Amir, with his intimate poetry, Y. Amihai with a veiled pessimism, intensely lyrical Dalia Ravikovitch, T. Rivner and others are valid representatives of contemporary Israeli literature.