Yaakov Malkin wrote a novel and then a play, and also books and pamphlets about whether he was an Israeli or a Jew or both or neither, only self-defined as a secular humanist. At Tel Aviv University he was a professor in film and television studies, and he made his learned disquisitions on everything to do with Judaism sound just as up-to-date. He was an intellectual with the difference that he thought rationality was irresistible so in the end things must turn out out for the best.
Yaakov was born in Warsaw in 1926 and had childhood memories of Poland. In the 1960s when I was researching Next Generation, my book about Israel, I got to know Yaakov and with him his father, Ber, who liked to wear a button-hole and kiss the hand of ladies — I once found a flattering mention of him in one of Isaac Bashevi Singer’s books. Father and son could lecture about anything and everything to do with the arts and humanities. Yaakov’s wife, Felice, originally from Philadelphia, is an artist, and knowledge of the history of painting supplemented Yaakov’s knowledge of the history of literature. These were foremost creators of Israeli culture, a Western off-shoot responding to the novel setting of the Middle East. Aged 93, Yaakov died in Jerusalem. R.I.P.