Page 31 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 36

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23
RIBALOW / ISRAEL IN AMERICAN FICTION
at the St. Nicholas Arena in New York where New York Jews
rejoiced over the birth of Israel. Various Zionist political parties
are important to individuals in the books. The same holds
true for other isolated works of fiction, novels and stories alike.
Michael Blankfort, a Hollywood script writer and novelist, has
produced two interesting books about Israel, one based on his
own experiences in Israel,
The Juggler
(1952) and the other
on historical research,
Behold the Fire
(1965).
The Juggler
13 is
about a Jew who comes to Israel sick in spirit and unable to
adjust to a life of freedom in the new State. He had earned
his living as a juggler, a neat bit of symbolism, for as Blankfort
puts it: “Of all things a juggler! What brought a man to be-
come a juggler, an artist in the meaningless skill of suspension
and balance? . . . Jew in exile, never knowing when the hand
of man that threw him high would let him fall to be broken.”
The juggler is Hans Muller, whose wife and child have been
murdered by the Nazis and he becomes violent in Israel. He is
chased by an Orthodox Jewish detective and in the hunt there
is melodrama. Blankfort finds the space in the book to reflect
philosophically on what it means to be a Jew in Israel.14
Behold the Fire
is a fictional version—not the first—about
the NILI spies. They were Zionist patriots who organized them-
selves as spies for the British so that they might loosen or free
themselves from the yoke of the Turks, following World War I.
Aaron Aaronsohn, an agronomist from Zichron Yaacov, his
sister Sarah and a friend, a poet named Absalom Feinberg,
were important figures in this group. Sarah was caught by the
Turks and tortured so badly that she finally committed suicide.
Clearly the raw material for an exciting book, and Blankfort
has written a very good one. It has been too long forgotten,
for it captures the aggressiveness, innocence and idealism of an
entire generation, one that made possible the creation and
strengthening of the State of Israel.
VIVID SHORT STORIES
Hugh Nissenson has earned a reputation as a short story
13 The novel was transformed into a successful Hollywood film, sometimes
shown on late-night television.
14 My essay in
Mid-Century
deals more fully with this novel.