Literary Pioneer Yosef Haim Brenner Is Born
Photo: Central Zionist Archives

September 11, 1881

Yosef Haim Brenner, the leading Israeli literary figure of the early 20th century, is born in Novi Mlini, Ukraine.

He grows up receiving a Jewish education and joins the Bund, a Jewish socialist movement. He publishes his first short story collection in Hebrew, “Out of a Gloomy Valley,” as a teenager in 1900. Brenner serves in the Russian army for three years, and the experience affects his writing and the marked disillusionment of his characters.

Brenner flees to London in 1904 to avoid fighting in the Russo-Japanese War, and he edits a Hebrew publication. He immigrates to Palestine at age 28. When Jews are forced by the Ottoman authorities to leave Tel Aviv during World War I, Brenner moves to Hadera in the northern Sharon region. He returns to Tel Aviv-Jaffa after the British conquer Palestine in 1917.

Brenner is lauded as an essayist, novelist, poet and commentator who experiments with techniques such as blending various languages. Part of his recognition comes from his outwardly paradoxical views and pessimistic realism. His works express his belief that life is marked by hardship, and his main characters face disastrous obstacles. A major theme of his writing is the fading of Judaism from modern society.

Brenner is killed in May 1921 during Arab riots in Jaffa. Kibbutz Givat Brenner and streets throughout Israel are named for him.