Abraham Ben Yehoshua was born a Sephardic Jew. His father’s family was originally from Salonica and his mother’s from Morocco, but the families had resided in Jerusalem for five generations, and Yehoshua considers himself simply an Israeli. His family was educated; his grandfather was a rabbi and his father, Yakov Yehoshua, was an Orientalist who wrote twelve books about the history of Sephardim in the Old City of Jerusalem. Historians have a certain prominence in Yehoshua’s work, as many characters return to the past in their efforts to understand it.
The young Yehoshua fulfilled his military service as a paratrooper from 1954 to 1957 and then started to publish fiction. He soon became known as one of a “new wave” of Israeli writers whose emphasis on individuals and their relationships contrasted with the social concerns of earlier writers.
In June of 1960 he married Rivka Kirsninski, a psychoanalyst, with whom he eventually had three children. He studied Hebrew literature and philosophy at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, graduating with a B.A. in 1961, and he graduated from Teacher’s College a year later. He taught in Paris from 1963 to 1967 and served as dean of students at Haifa University in Haifa, Israel, upon his return. He was promoted to professor of literature at Haifa University in 1997, where he worked until his retirement. Throughout his career he also served as visiting professor at many institutions, including St. Cross College, Oxford, Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and Princeton University.