"As a result of the historic catastrophe in which Titus of Rome destroyed Jerusalem and Israel was exiled from its land, I was born in one of the cities of the Exile," S. Y. Agnon declared at the 1966 Nobel Prize ceremony. "But always I regarded myself as one who was born in Jerusalem." Agnon's act of literary imagination fueled his creative endeavor and is explored in these pages. Jerusalem and the Holy Land (to say nothing of the later State of Israel) are often two-faced in Agnon's Hebrew writing. Depending on which side of the lens one views Eretz Yisrael through, the vision of what can be achieved there appears clearer or more distorted.
These themes wove themselves into the presentations at an international conference convened in 2016 by the Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies in New York City, in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Agnon's Nobel Prize. The essays from that conference, collected here, explore Zionism's aspirations and shortcomings and the yearning for the Land from afar from S. Y. Agnon's Galician hometown, which served as a symbol of Jewish longing worldwide.