Yeshurun, Avot (1904–1992) By Lachman, Lilach
Avot Yeshurun was a renowned Hebrew poet who remained split between two cities throughout his life: his childhood village Krasnistav and the city of Tel-Aviv, where he lived until his death. Born on Yom Kippur, 1904, in Neskhyzh in the Ukraine, Yechiel Perlmutter (his original name) grew up in Poland. At the end of the First World War , he experienced displacements and exiles, and by 1925 arrived in what was then Palestine. After the Second World War, he discovered that his whole family had been destroyed, and his world collapsed: ‘Hebrew literature will set the prayer’, he said, alluding not only to the breakage the Jewish people underwent but to the disaster that left its mark on the twentieth century and threw the entire lyrical tradition into question. The story of his name change (in 1948) from Yechiel Perlmutter to the Hebrew name Avot Yeshurun (literally: ‘the fathers will see’, but the poet paraphrased it as ‘for the fathers mirror in us’) is retold in his poetry and prose as a narrative of abandonment and betrayal, endowing him both with a subjectivity that is incomparable in Israeli modernism and with the authoritative speech of the witness.