Writer A.B. Yehoshua Is Born
A.B. Yehoshua. Photo: Arie Linson

December 19, 1936

Avraham B. Yehoshua, one of Israel’s most acclaimed writers, is born in Jerusalem into a Mizrahi/Sephardi family going back at least five generations in the city. His father, Ya’akov, is a historian who writes about Israel’s Sephardi community; his mother, Malka, is the daughter of a wealthy Moroccan businessman.

A.B. Yehoshua is part of the new wave of Israeli writers and is influenced by such authors as Franz Kafka, William Faulkner and S.Y. Agnon. The New York Times brands him the “Israeli Faulkner,” and his writing is translated into many languages and adapted to the stage and screen. His awards include the Bialik Prize in 1989, the National Jewish Book Award in 1990 and 1993, the Israel Prize for Hebrew literature in 1995, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 2006 for his novel “A Woman in Jerusalem,” and Italy’s Giovanni Boccaccio Prize and Viareggio Prize. A Yedioth Ahronoth poll in 2005 rates Yehoshua the 77th greatest Israeli of all time.

Yehoshua serves as a paratrooper from 1954 to 1957, then studies philosophy and Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He publishes his first book of short stories, “The Death of an Old Man,” in 1962. His first novel, “The Lover” in 1977, is one of the first works by an Israeli Jewish author to feature an Arab main character. “Mr. Mani,” “The Late Divorce” and “A Journey to the End of the Millennium” are among his other famous novels.

Yehoshua becomes a teacher in Jerusalem in 1962 and teaches in Paris from 1963 until 1967, when he returns to Israel and fights in the Six-Day War. In 1972 he begins working as a professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at the University of Haifa. His stints as a visiting professor and a writer in residence include Oxford, Harvard and the University of Chicago.

Beyond literature, Yehoshua is known as an active part of Israel’s peace movement. Through his writing, he criticizes the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Palestinian use of violence.

His wife, Rivka, a clinical psychologist whom he credits with helping him write with psychological perceptiveness, dies in 2016. They have a daughter and two sons