Page 42 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 19

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J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
to the other side—the world of the Nazis and the fascists; it lurks
in the heart of every man, even a kibbutznik.
W e might very well wonder as to the source of this somber view
of man. Ostensibly the kibbutz preached the brotherhood of man
and taught positive and humanistic values. U topian in outlook,
it made voluntarism a cardinal princip le of faith. The children
of halutzim, raised in a non-competitive environment of the
kibbutz, were cared for w ith lavish love. They should have grown
into a healthy, self-confident and optimistic race of men. W h a t
went wrong?
W e may assume that the hothouse environment of the kibbutz,
the socialist Zionist youth movement, the Jewish school w ith its
galaxy of rationalist humanist ideals, did not prepare the youth
to stand up to the cold test of the outside world. The thirties
and forties were terrible years in which to grow up, dominated
as they were by the rampant success of political evil in Europe
and by the desperate, b itter struggle w ith the British and the
Arabs. To this we might add that element of harsh realism which
always constituted a part of Zionist thought as well as the disillu­
sionment following the fa ilu re in the late thirties of the havlagah
(the moralistic self restraint policy which opposed indiscriminate
reta liatory measures against the A rab te rro rists) .
W ith the Israeli W a r of Liberation, the group emerged as a
major literary force. By then it took on a definite leftist tinge.
Most of its members were either members of the Mapam or were
published by S ifriyat Poalim, Mapam’s “Workers’ L ib rary .” But
more important than their leftism was their preoccupation w ith
the Israeli W a r of Liberation which rea lly began immediately
after the close of the European W a r. The Arab-Israeli war became
the almost exclusive theme of this school during the first five years
o f Israel’s existence and remains one of its major themes to this
day.
Moshe Shamir’s first novel, Hu Halak Basadot (“He W a lked in
the Fields”), was published shortly before the outbreak of the
W a r of Liberation. It became the first best seller o f Israeli litera ­
ture and was shortly produced as a play by the then avant garde
Chamber theater. A lthough popularity does not necessarily attest
the authenticity of an artistic work, the success of Sham ir’s novel
indicates that Israeli youth—it was they who bought the book and
flocked to see the play—identified themselves w ith U ri, the hero
of the novel.
S. Zemach, one of Israel’s ablest literary critics, has these unkind
words for Sham ir’s hero: “U ri is a rather unpleasant, tiresome
and empty-headed chap. He is always flaunting his ego and his
animal instincts. He mouths phrases about comradeship and col­
lectivism, but his mind is closed to the other (see, for example,
how he parts w ith Mika [his g ir l]. He does not have a single