Flesh of My Flesh

Sexual Violence in Modern Hebrew Literature

By Ilana Szobel

Subjects: Literary Criticism, Hebrew Language And Literature, Israel Studies, Violence, Women's Studies
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary Jewish Literature and Culture
Hardcover : 9781438484556, 280 pages, July 2021
Paperback : 9781438484563, 280 pages, January 2022

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


Introduction: "A Great, Oppressive, Suffocating Blasphemy": Sexualized Violence as an Insidious Trauma

1. "Lights in the Darkness": Prostitution, Power, and Vulnerability in Early Twentieth-Century Hebrew Literature

2. Sepharadi Jewry in Pre-State Israel: Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexual Violence in the Work of Shoshana Shababo

3. "Do Not Bandage the Wounded": Wounded Soldiers and Nonconsensual Relations in Israeli War Literature

4. "Subduing the Terrible Sound of Silence": Memoirs of Incest Survivors

5. "The Girl with the Billy-Goat's Hoof ": Parental Abuse, Metamorphosis, and Poetics in the Poetry of Tsvia Litevsky

Conclusion: "Silence Cries Out"


Examines representations of sexual violence in modern Hebrew literature, focusing on the ways in which sexual aggression relates to Zionism, gender, ethnicity, and disability.


Finalist for the 2021 Best Book in Israel Studies presented by the Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies and Concordia University Library

Flesh of My Flesh looks at one of the most silenced and repressed aspects of Israeli culture by examining the trope of sexual violence in modern Hebrew literature. Ilana Szobel explores how sexual violence participates in, encourages, or resists concurrent ideologies in Jewish and Israeli culture, and situates the rhetoric of sexual aggression within the contexts of gender, ethnicity, disability, and national identity. Focusing on writings of incest survivors, Sepharadi authors, wounded soldiers, and Hebrew authors such as Shoshana Shababo, Gershon Shofman, Hayim Nahman Bialik, Yoram Kaniuk, Amalia Kahana-Carmon, and Tsvia Litevsky, Szobel unveils the various roles of sexual violence in destabilizing hegemonic notions or reinforcing norms and modes of conduct. Thus, while the book looks at poetic and social possibilities of action in relation to sexual violence, it also exposes the Gordian knot of sexualized gender-based violence and the interests of patriarchy, heteronormativity, nationalism, racism, and ableism.

Ilana Szobel is Associate Professor of Modern Hebrew Literature on the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Chair in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and core faculty in the Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University. She is the author of A Poetics of Trauma: The Work of Dahlia Ravikovitch.


"In Ilana Szobel's multidimensional, urgent, and sensitive study, Flesh of My Flesh, the representation of sexual violence and trauma in modern Hebrew literature is insidious and political … Flesh of My Flesh makes an exciting and important contribution to Hebrew literary studies. Its dynamic theoretical landscape—charted by paradigms and concepts from feminism of color, psychoanalytic theory, disability studies, and many more—invites Hebrew literature into a conversation with other literatures, other national and language traditions." — Hebrew Higher Education

"Szobel's research brings to light valuable insights into the past, present, and future of gender, nationalism, erasure, silence, representation, and their impact on sexual violence. It's urgent in its truth-telling, and essential in its revealed realities." — Lilith

"Well written, original, impressively researched, and replete with newly examined materials, this is a very interesting and, at times, spellbinding study. Szobel is an excellent close reader of texts, who is also extremely well versed in current theoretical and critical writings." — Nili Gold, University of Pennsylvania