Challenging contemporary historiography in shmuel yosef agnon's only yesterday

Philip Hollander, Gur Alroey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Agnon's Temol Shilshom (Only Yesterday) masterfully depicts twentieth century Palestinian Jewish life and responds critically to Second Aliyah narratives popular in his day which lauded seasonal workers and stressed their critical role in Yishuv development. Agnon found the Second Aliyah image contrived; his novel presents an alternative view of the period. His protagonist Isaac Kumer, like other Second Aliyah workers, proves unable to resolve the ongoing tension between Zionist commitment and his lingering feelings of familial obligation. When he fails to participate in the grand redemptive narrative that would enable him simultaneously to persevere as a Zionist and aid his family, he is punished, "sacrificed" as a self-absorbed immigrant whose preoccupation with his own needs prevents him from conceiving a grander Zionist vision that would address the needs of European Jewry. In the wake of the Holocaust, Agnon encourages a broadening of the vision to meet the survivors' needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-129
Number of pages24
JournalIsrael Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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