Page 155 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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CHYET / LEWISOHN: THE CHOICE IS THE MAN
147
contrary, it affirmed and reaffirmed those values; “our hands are
the only clean hands in the world.” His conception of Zionism was
of “a movement of the creative word and the persuasive act, a
movement founded by men of letters, fostered and spread by
them . . Still, it would be a mistake to conclude that his Zionist
professions were entirely innocent of ambiguity.
ISRAEL AND DIASPORA
Lewisohn’s first journey to Palestine, in the 1920s, produced
not only
Israel,
but also the short story entitled “Holy Land”
(1925), which on one level at least may be read as a cautionary tale
asserting that Jews alone could hope to survive the fierce realities
of the Land and reclaim it for a viable future; neither the Arabs,
hopelessly primitive, nor the Christians (at any rate Western
Christians), constrained to shape for themselves a purely mythic
Holy Land, had any genuine stake in a living Palestine. On an­
other level, however, — a level suggested by the fact that Jewish
characters, the narrator perhaps excepted, are at most secondary
or even tertiary in the story — one may ask whether Lewisohn was
not expressing an inability
of his own
to identify with the Land (as
distinct from the Diaspora effort to revive the Land). The Yishuv
is at best tangential in “Holy Land.” In fact, for all the Zionist
ardor he articulated from 1925 on, Lewisohn
never
fashioned a
story which represented the Yishuv as a tangible presence rather
than as something seen, whether physically or spiritually, from
afar. A rthur Levy, in
The Island Within
(1928), documents his
newfound Jewish identity by going off to aid the Jews of
Rumania, not Palestine; Dr. Weyl, in
An Altar in the Fields
(1934),
believes “we . . . bitterly need . . . [an] ancestral land and speech,”
but is nonetheless on his way back to Cincinnati; Gabriel Weiss
and his mother, in
Trumpet ofJubilee
(1937), seek refuge not in
Palestine, but in the United States, and when Gabriel finally
announces his intention of leaving America tojoin “in the defense
of Eretz Yisrael and of mankind,” it is near the end of the novel —
but it is with his life and experience in America that
Trumpet of
Jubilee
has dealt; the Dorfsohns’son, in
Breathe Upon These
(1944),
has settled in Palestine, but the Dorfsohns themselves appear
p e rm an en t ly located in America; Je rom e Goodman , in
Lewisohn’s last novel,
In a Summer Season
(1955), is proud of his
son, who is preparing himself for
aliyah,
but Jerome himself,