Page 49 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 19

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p iceh and ler
— I
sr a e l i
o v e l ist s
4 3
to Judaism. It again underlines the dubiousness of the title to
the land and the fact that there are others who have a claim to
this land and to whom its barren soil is perhaps more familiar.
The band of frightened, pygmy-like soldiers can also mean
modern man in general, or the modern Jew (Israeli or other)
who seeks an address or a name for himself and never quite
knows whether Ziklag is really Ziklag.
The time is symbolic, too. Baruch Kurzweil has pointed out
that it takes place during the Ten Days of Repentance. The seven
days may also refer to the first seven days of creation.
As I understand the novel, Yizhar seems to be indicating that his
generation is a generation of men and Jews who have lost their
spiritual moorings, that the ideological baggage the Zionist-
Socialist education has given it was much too light for the
dangerous journey it was expected and had to undertake, and
that something more profound, more rooted in the past w ill have
to be evolved to cover “the great emptiness” of which Kubi, the
mine-laying poet, constantly speaks.
Baruch Kurzweil’s b rillian t analysis of this novel says as much
but contains the major flaw which marks much of Kurzweil’s
work. He constantly implies that the answer lay in some return
to Jewish orthodoxy, to be sure a refined, existentialist-philo­
sophical orthodoxy, and he insists that the problem of loss of faith
is essentially a Jewish-Zionist problem. If only those superficial
Zionist educators had had German university educations, he
seems to say, all could have been saved. The point is that Yizhar
is speaking about the failure of western ideology and not about
parochial Jewish matters. I f Zionist-Socialist ideology failed, it
did so because the West failed.
This exp lain ’s Kurzweil’s inability to understand Yizhar’s
uncompromising pacifism. “I was never a soldier,” says Kurzweil,
“but I believe there are certain things worth dying fo r”—and
then he cites the ideological heroism of Stendahl’s and Tolstoy’s
war heroes. But it is precisely because Kurzweil never was a
soldier and never had the terrible experience of modern battle
that he is unable rea lly to comprehend Yizhar and his genera­
tion. There are very few ideologies, and perhaps none of the
old ones, that can survive a routine and vigorous modern
shelling or bombing. Tolstoy’s and Stendahl’s heroes were able
to retain ideals because their wars were child’s play in com­
parison to any modern war—even the tiny, almost soap-opera
war between Israel and the Arabs. Moreover, the modern soldier
has been denied all sense of his individual contribution to the
battle. W a r has not only been brutalized but depersonalized
as well.
Nor can I completely agree with Kurzweil dubbing Yizhar’s
novel “the great disappointment.” It is true that Yizhar’s char-