Page 123 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 33

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BELLMAN / THE LITERARY CREATIVITY OF MEYER LEVIN
113
equivalent of an old-time Eastern European ghetto. In 1925 he
found himself in Palestine, and somehow began to identify closely
with the land and its diversified settlers, halutzim gathered from
afar, bent on developing a radically different kind of Jewish
life. Again in Palestine in 1927, he settled in a new farm collective
near Haifa, the kibbutz of Yagur, living and working with his
new-found brethren, and writing about his new old-world experi­
ences.
Never able fully to relinquish his American cultural ties, he
was ultimately to become a man with two countries: the United
States and Israel. Out of his associations with Yagur, the kib-
butzniks, and Eretz in general (for years he has maintained two
homes: one in New York and one in Herzlia-on-Sea) have come
some of his most sympathetic writings. In addition to
The Set­
tlers
and portions of
The O ld Bunch, In Search
and
The Obses­
sion,
he wrote a novel of life on a kibbutz,
Yehuda
(1931),
The
Story of Israel, Gore and Igor
(1969—actually, a tasteless comic
extravaganza) and other works.
But his
camera eye
and
travelling leg
capabilities became par­
ticularly valuable during and not long after World War II, when
he was privileged to witness—rather, made himself an active,
participating witness of—certain extraordinary events. These in­
cluded the Battle of the Bulge and the German surrender; the
liberation of the surviving Jews from the Nazi death camps; the
illegal exodus of many of those survivors
through
an under­
ground-railway network,
via
illegal ships,
to
a forbidden entry
into British-held Palestine; and the struggle for the establishment
of the State of Israel. He worked for the U.S. Office of War In­
formation (as he tells us in
In Search)
as filmmaker, and then
served as a war correspondent for the Overseas News Agency and
the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, seeking out Jewish survivors of
the Holocaust and the war, documenting their stories. Then he
became a filmmaker in his own right, producing two feature films
about Jewish survival against impossible odds,
My Father’s House
(1947, filmed in Palestine) and
The Illegals
(1948, filmed in
Eastern Europe).
His war correspondent experiences as he followed the American
armies through Hitler-ravaged Europe and the upheavals which
preceded the collapse of the Nazi war effort make unusually
gripping reading and must be compared with the best that any