Ratosh, Yonatan 1909-1981
RATOSH, Yonatan 1909-1981
PERSONAL: Original name Uriel Halprin; born 1909, in Poland; died 1981. Education: Sorbonne, Paris. Politics: Canaanite.
CAREER: Journalist and activist. Yarden, editorial writer, c. 1943; Alef, editor, c. 1948-53.
Shire heshbon, Hadar (Tel-Aviv, Israel), 1962.
Shire mamash, Hadar (Tel-Aviv, Israel), 1964.
Shire na'arah, Devir (Tel-Aviv, Israel), 1975.
(Editor) From Triumph to Collapse,[Tel-Aviv, Israel], 1976.
The First Days, [Tel-Aviv, Israel], 1982.
Poems, [Tel-Aviv, Israel], 1984.
SIDELIGHTS: Yonatan Ratosh was born in Poland in 1909 as Uriel Halprin, but eventually changed his name to reflect the zeal of his political beliefs—Ratosh comes from the Hebrew verb for "to rend", and the author was an ardent Zionist in the decades prior to the creation of the modern state of Israel, Ratosh became increasingly militant and radical throughout his career, eventually founding his own movement for Jewish liberation, dubbed the Canaanite movement. Canaanites were strongly nationalist but also secular, seeking to establish not a Jewish culture but a Hebrew culture independent of religion. Canaanites were frustrated with the Zionist movement, both because it was not active enough and because it made religion the basis of its activism. By contrast, the Canaanites emphasized territory, wanting to create a Hebrew nation from the current inhabitants of the area known as Eretz Israel, including Jews as well as Maronites, Kurds, Druze, and other minorities in the Arab region. Ratosh wrote heated editorials calling for the establishment of a Hebrew state and the removal of British influence, which Canaanites felt was a support for Arab nationalism. He also wrote political poetry lamenting the plight of the Hebrew nation.
Writing about Ratosh's career in Modern Judaism, Elliot Rabin suggested that Ratosh used his poetry to distinguish his idea for a Hebrew culture from Judaism, calling on the inhabitants of Palestine to forget their Jewish history and forge a new identity in a new state. Rabin observed that the heroes of Ratosh's poems tend to be faceless, interchangeable figures without ties to family or community; in short, they have no links to the past and can therefore be purely Hebrew. Rabin wrote, "The individual in Ratosh's poetry exists in isolation from familial as well as communal ties. Ratosh regarded family bonds as secondary to national commitment. Judaism, he argued, sanctified the family over the nation in order to preserve its aterritorial existence. However, in Ratosh's time, this misplaced emphasis on the family prevented the emergence of a Hebrew nation by elevating ethnic divisions and family roots over an identification with one's immediate neighbors and homeland." Though Ratosh was embroiled in political controversy by staking out the most extreme positions, modern readers have been willing to embrace his poetry as an offshoot of the Zionist movement and simply as literature. In the online journal Outpost, Erich Isaac reprinted Ratosh's poems "despite his idiosyncratic and often bizarre ideas," citing Ratosh's importance as one of the "powerful voices among Israel's poets who have spoken out against . . . anti-Judaic and anti-Israel attitudes."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Modern Judaism, May, 1999, Elliott Rabin, "'Hebrew' Culture: The Shared Foundations of Ratosh's Ideology and Poetry," pp. 119-132.
Ben Gurion University Web site,http://www.bgu.ac.il/ (March 4, 2002), "The Canaanites."
Outpost,http://www.afsi.org/ (October, 1995), Erich Isaac, "Prophetic Poems."
Save Israel,http://www.saveisrael.com/ (March 4, 2002), poems and biography of Yonatan Ratosh.*