Avoth Yeshurun was born on Yom Kippur in 1904 in Niskhish (now in Ukraine). His father, Baruch, came from a family of flour mill owners. His mother, Ryckelle (Rachel) was of rabbinic descent. Yeshurun grew up speaking Yiddish. When he was five, his parents moved to Krasnystaw in East Poland. He left for the British Mandate of Palestine in 1925, against the will of his parents who preferred that he remain in Poland. Initially he worked in construction, dredged swamps and picked fruit; later he worked in a brick factory and for a printer. In 1929, he joined the Haganah, the Jewish militia that later became the Israeli Defense Force. In 1934 he married Pesyah Justman. Their daughter Helit was born in 1942. Yeshurun's family, along with Krasnystaw's 2,000 Jews, were murdered in Bełżec concentration camp in today's Poland.
His first book, Al khokhmot drakhim ("On the wisdom of roads"), was published under his birthname, Yehiel Perlmutter. He changed his name to Avoth Yeshurun in 1948, the night before he was inducted into the Israel Defense Forces. In 1952 Yeshurun published a highly controversial poem, "Pesach al Kochim", in which he compared the tragedy of the Palestinian refugees with that of the Jewish Holocaust.
His subsequent books were Re'em (a combination of the Hebrew words for "Thunder" and "Antelope"), 1961, Shloshim Amud ("Thirty Pages"), 1965, Ze Shem HaSefer ("This is the Name of the Book"), 1971, HaShever HaSuri-Afrika'i ("The Syrian-African Rift"), 1974, Kapella Kolot ("A Capella of Voices"), 1977, Sha'ar Knisa Sha'ar Yetzia ("Entrance Gate Exit Gate"), 1981, Homograph, 1985, Adon Menucha ("Mr. Rest"), 1990, and Ein Li Achshav ("I Have No Now"), 1992.
Many of Yeshurun's poems allude to the guilt he felt for having left Europe before the Holocaust, leaving his home and family behind. His poetry is known for its broken phrasing, and combines Yiddish, biblical and modern Hebrew, and slang used by various cultural groups in Israel, including phrases in Arabic, which he often uses ironically in criticism of the marginalization of Arabs and Arabic in Israeli culture.
Avoth Yeshurun died in 1992.
- In 1967, Yeshurun was awarded the Brenner Prize.
- In 1979, he was the co-recipient (jointly with Aharon Appelfeld) of the Bialik Prize for literature.
- In 1992, he was awarded the Israel Prize, for Hebrew poetry.
- "List of Bialik Prize recipients 1933-2004 (in Hebrew), Tel Aviv Municipality website" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-12-17.
- "Israel Prize Official Site - Recipients in 1992 (in Hebrew)".
- "Avot Yeshurun, 88, Poet in Unusual Idiom". New York Times. 24 February 1992. Retrieved 13 November 2008.
- Avoth Yeshurun, The Syrian-African Rift and other Poems. Translated by Harold Schimmel. 1980. ISBN 0-8276-0181-6
- The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself (2003), ISBN 0-8143-2485-1. (Yeshurun was included in the first edition but not in the second edition)