To a large extent, gone are the old concerns of nation building, absorption of new immigrants, the heroic cast of the pioneers of the kibbutzim, the melting pot, existentialist concerns for the future of the country.In their place is a new brand of less spiritual concerns - the good life, the pursuit of happiness, the debunking of hitherto sacred causes - often in a surrealistic, anarchic, iconoclastic, and at times even nihilistic, literary style.The sixties were, above all, marked by the military victory in the Six-Day War of 1967, when a whole new national mythos and sense of euphoria engulfed not only the Jewish population of Israel, but indeed the entire Jewish Diaspora - only to be shattered to a large extent by the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and its aftermath, some of the effects of which are still very much with us nearly three decades later.
Pre-state Israel had, of course, a rich cultural life of its own, despite the paucity of its population.Literature flourished, with the national poet Chaim Nahman Bialik and the writer Shmuel Yosef Agnon leading the way.These writers were profoundly influenced by the preceding generation, and the creation of the state and its existentialist struggle during their own childhood were still their main concerns. Yehoshua, Yehoshua Kenaz and Aharon Appelfeld (the latter's main influence is that of the Holocaust, although his work, set in rather amorphous and intangible European settings, only contains allusions to the cataclysmic events of that time).Several of these writers have gained substantial international recognition, and their works are widely translated. But the "Generation of the State" writers have now also passed on the literary baton.Israel in 1948: a country of 640,000 Jews; just three years after the annihilation of six million Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.
A country on the eve of invasion by five neighboring Arab nations intent on wiping it out, or, in the words of one Arab leader, "driving the Jews into the sea." A country in the throes of absorbing the remnant of decimated European Jewry - despoiled of all their worldly goods and brutally severed from their cultural and linguistic roots, but intent on surviving and creating a new life in the one piece of land that was prepared to accept them.Agnon was to go on to receive Israel's only Nobel prize - for literature - so far, in 1966.The Palestine Philharmonic Orchestra, subsequently to become the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, was founded by a renowned Polish-born violinist, Bronislaw Huberman in 1936, its opening concert being conducted by Arturo Toscanini.The Bezalel Academy of Art, which had been founded by the Bulgarian-born Professor Boris Schatz in Jerusalem in 1906, had already trained a generation of painters, sculptors, carpet weavers, craftsmen and craftswomen, whose work was widely appreciated and had even been shown in exhibitions abroad.Painters such as Reuven Rubin, Anna Ticho, Mordechai Ardon, Yosef Zaritsky, Marcel Janco; the sculptors Yitzhak Danziger, Avraham Melnikoff, Chana Orloff and others, were beginning to receive international recognition.The Habimah Theater, founded in Moscow in 1917, had moved to Tel Aviv in 1931 and attracted large and appreciative audiences for its dramatic offerings, which were already beginning to include works by local playwrights. The first signs came in literature with the work of a group of writers who became known as the "Palmach Generation" (the Palmach was the striking force of the Haganah, the forerunner of the Israel Defense Forces).