Shamir, Moshe

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SHAMIR, MOSHE (1921–2004), Hebrew author. Shamir was born in Safed and raised in Tel Aviv. He was a member of the *Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir movement and held a position on its national board. From 1941 to 1947 he was a member of kibbutz Mishmar ha-Emek, and in 1944 joined the Palmaḥ. He founded and edited the literary magazines Yalkut ha-Re'im, Daf Ḥadash, and Massa, and edited Ba-Maḥaneh, the underground weekly of the *Haganah and later the official weekly of the Israel Defense Forces. From 1969 until 1971 he headed the Jewish Agency Aliyah Department in London.

In the initial stage of his career Shamir was interested predominantly in the human aspect of social, class, and national problems. In Yalkut ha-Re'im he published several stories which were highly critical of kibbutz life and were not included in later collections of his works. This attitude is reflected even in some of his stories for children. In his short stories for adults, the moral is less obvious, although he is still concerned with problems of class and social structure ("Nashim Meḥakkot ba-Ḥuẓ," "Yihyeh Ḥam Yihyeh"), human problems in the kibbutz ("Ḥut ha-Zemer ha-Niẓḥi," "Ad Or ha-Boker"), and problems of immigration and the Holocaust ("Em ha-Hardofim").

Many of Shamir's articles and stories are devoted to Israel's struggle before and during the War of Independence, especially in the stories included in Ad Eilat (1950). These works are general emotional apotheoses of the goals and achievements of the yishuv. The native-born Israel hero who is committed to the ideals and goals of his country and whose life and personality are shaped by them attains its romantic crystallization in the novel Hu Halakh ba-Sadot (1947). The hero, Uri, the young Israeli, grows up amid family entanglements in his kibbutz home and reveals his traits of courage, ruggedness, hidden sensibility, cruelty, and honesty by his dedication to his family, to Mikah (his refugee girlfriend), to his comrades in the Palmaḥ, and in his military activities. Uri became the central figure in Shamir's works and appears in various guises in two main variations: first, as the born leader capable of stirring groups to action, exemplified by Alik in his stories for youth: "Eḥad Efes le-Tovatenu" (1951) and "Alik ve-ha-Kallaniyyot," whose early chapters resemble the above stories. Other evolutions of this central character are Ami in the play Kilometer 56 (1949) and the slum children in "Shekediyyot Yafot" and "Aggadot Lod" (1958; in Nashim Meḥakkot ba-Ḥuẓ). A more complex and obscure variant appears as Moshe, first in Taḥat ha-Shemesh and in its sequel Ki Eirom Attah (1951).

Shamir's historical novels show a turning-point in his work. The central character did not change, but the author's attitude toward him underwent a severe crisis. The earlier unrestrained apotheosis disappeared, and instead the hero's motives were criticized. By placing him in a different historical context (Alexander Yannai of the Hasmonean era), Shamir reveals how the positive qualities of his hero – leadership and determination –lead in a dialectic manner to negative results. Alexander Yannai, himself a victor over oppression, evolves into a cruel tyrant until his brother Absalom, who had idolized him, revolts against him. Shamir also turns his attention to the psychological make-up of the ruler whose ends justify his means in the historical-biblical novel Kivsat ha-Rash (1956). Here, and in even a sharper manner in his play Milḥemet Benei-Or (1955), Shamir reaches an utter negation of hero worship, in the character of King David, who crushes Uriah in order to achieve his egotistical aims. In Ki Eirom Attah, a novel, his theme is the intellectual and erotic revolt of youth against the collectivist values Shamir once lauded. He sets the novel in the 1930s and takes up several problems which concerned Israel's intellectual world in the 1950s. The hero who rebels against the values of his movement reflects the Shamir of the 1950s, questioning the validity of the sancta of his youth.

Shamir's novel Ha-Gevul (1966) deals with the condition of Israeli society in the 1960s. One of the heroes of this society, Rafi Orlan, becomes tired of his style of life and finds his way into the no-man's land between Jewish and Arab Jerusalem. The novel attempts to describe the Israeli "decline" in the 1960s, the feeling of being under siege, the un soldiers, the nouveau riche. Those who live on the border provide the background of the work.

Positive social themes likewise dominate Shamir's plays. Despite his questioning of the nationalist-pioneer values of his youth, in the end he reaffirms them (Beit Hillel, 1951; Leil Sufah, Sof ha-Olam, 1954; Gam Zo le-Tovah, 1958; Shettei Shabbatot, Ad Or ha-Boker). Only in two later plays, Me-Aggadot Lod and Ha-Ramkol, does he deviate from this position, both in his artistic presentation (atmospheric lyricism in lieu of naturalism) and in his ideological point of view. In two plays, Ha-Layla la-Ish and Ha-Yoresh, Shamir deals with social criticism, as he did in the novel Ha-Gevul.

Shamir is a romantic capable of writing on many subjects. His best works are those novels written in the naturalist genre. He depicts his stories against broad and rich backgrounds, has a keen sense of structure, and utilizes complex narrative techniques. Mythological motifs play a role in Ki Eirom Attah, and a vast architectural scope surrounds Melekh Basar va-Dam (1951). Likewise he tried his hand at epistolary technique in Ha-Gevul, a novel in which he also varies the narrative point of view.

Shamir began to write in a high literary style filled with pathos; his descriptions are elaborate and his dialogues contain a mixture of Arabisms and slang. Sof ha-Olam is also written in the dialect of Israel's various ethnic communities. In Melekh Basar va-Dam, he attempted to imitate the language of the Mishnah, but in Kivsat ha-Rash he decided against the attempt to imitate the biblical language. His dramatic abilities fall short of his narrative talents. Most of his plays are staged stories (see below) whose dramatic adaptations prevent an adequate characterization. In the two plays Ha-Layla la-Ish and Ha-Yoresh he tried to introduce modern techniques (flashbacks taken from the style of Arthur Miller and the epic sense of Berthold Brecht) without allowing these techniques to distort the subject of the drama. After the Six-Day War, Shamir turned to political endeavors through his identification with the "Greater Israel" movement. He served in the Ninth Knesset (1977–1981) as a representative of the Likud. His works, Ḥayyai Im Ishma'el (1968) and Nes Lo Karah Lanu (1968), are to be understood against this background. After the Camp David Agreement, Shamir left the Likud and was a founder of the nationalist Teḥiyyah party. In 1988 he was awarded the Israel Prize for Hebrew fiction.

His works comprise the following – Novels: Hu Halakh ba-Sadot (1947, appeared in four editions, and was later dramatized and performed), Taḥat ha-Shemesh (1950, revised edition 1956), Bemo Yadav (1951, five editions), Melekh Basar va-Dam (1954, ten editions; The King of Flesh and Blood, 1958), Kivsat ha-Rash (1957, four editions, translated into English), Ki Eirom Attah (1959), Ha-Galgal ha-Ḥamishi (1961; The Fifth Wheel, 1961), Ha-Gevul (1966); a saga of a pioneering Israel family entitled Raḥok Mi-Peninim – part one, Yonah mi-Ḥaẓer Zarah (1973), part two, Hinomet ha-Kallah (1984), part three, Ad ha-Sof (1991); plays: Hu Halakh ba-Sadot (1948, performed by the Cameri Theater), Kilometer 56 (1949, performed by Orot Theater), Beit Hillel (1951, performed by Habimah Theater), Sof ha-Olam (1954, performed by Ohel Theater), Milḥemet Benei Or (1955, performed by the Cameri Theater), Gam Zo le-Tovah (1958, performed by Ohel Theater), Ḥamishah Ma'arekhonim (1959, performed by several groups), Ha-Yoresh; children's Stories: "Yedidav ha-Gedolim shel Gadi" (1947), "Eḥad Efes le-Tovatenu" (1951), "Kullam be-Yaḥad" (1959); miscellaneous: "Poreẓei ha-Derekh li-Yrushalayim" (1948), Ad Eilat (1950, short stories and sketches), Nashim Meḥakkot ba-Ḥuẓ (1952, stories), Ha-Ḥut ha-Meshullash (1956, stories, 3 editions), Be-Kulmos Mahir (1960, articles, essays, literary sketches). The 1990s saw the publication of Shamir's poems (Kim'at Kol ha-Shirim, 1991), collections of essays, such as Protokol shel Mappolet (1991), and the biography of Reuben Hecht (1994). Shamir's last work was the biographical novel titled Yair (2001), the life story of Avraham "Yair" Stern, the leading figure of the Leḥi underground movement, who in a way represented Shamir's historical and national world view. Translations into English include the story Until Daybreak, which is included in the anthology bearing this title (ed. by Amos Oz, 1984), and the play He Walked through the Fields, which is available also in Herbert S. Joseph (ed.), Modern Israeli Drama (1983). For other works in English see Goell, Bibliography, index as well as the ithl website at


D. Aran, in: Massah, 2 (1952); M. Tochner, in: Beḥinot be-Vikkoret ha-Sifrut, 3 (1953), 30–5; S. Zemach, ibid., 2 (1952), 9–25; G. Shaked, Gal Hadash ba-Sipporet ha-Ivrit (1970), 13–6, 21f., 31–41; idem, in: Bamah, 3 (1959), 39–42; E. Schweid, Shalosh Ashmorot (1964), 185–201; D. Patterson, in: Judaism, 7 (1958), 337–44; I. Gour, in: Bamah (1971), no. 48–9, 21–64; D. Miron, Arba'ah Panim ba-Sifrut ha-Ivrit Bat Yameinu (1962), 343–75. add. bibliography: D. Patterson, "Moshe Shamir," in: Israeli Writers Consider the "Outsider" (1993), 100–1; N. Gertz, "The Book and the Film: He Walked through the Fields," in: Modern Hebrew Literature, 15 (1995), 22–6; S. Nash, "The Clash of Ideologies and Heroes in Shamir's Trilogy," in: Between History and Literature (1997), 65–80; E. Fuchs, "Public Men, Private Women: Women in Shamir's Novels," in: Shofar, 16:1 (1997), 74–84; N. Frenkel, Ha-Terilogiyah Raḥok Mi-Peninim: Madrikh Iyyuni (2000); L. Permuter, "'Le brebis du pauvre,' roman de Moshe Shamir," in: Yod, 8 (2002–2003), 97–111; Sh. Levi, "M. Shamir, Maḥazai Yisraeli," in: Teatron, 123 (October 2004).

[Gershon Shaked]