Page 160 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
bors. The Jewish atmosphere prevails throughout, and at times
there is mention of specific foods, the names o f which magically
conjure up the warmth, intimacy, and beauty of the traditional
Jewish home.
ISRAELI THEMES
When Shoffman writes in and of Israel, however, it is as though
the wanderer has literally come home. Gone is the pathos of
estrangement; in its place is a fascination with landscape, youth,
and history. One notices a note of calm acceptance and apprecia­
tion, a restful longing for beauty:
Crowding in the strange shelter. Eyes fixed on sandbags.
Mothers sit, children on their knees . . . young men and
women in khaki trousers. Among them is prominent a pret­
ty young girl, tranquilly weaving her braids . . . she knows,
apparently, that beauty, the basis of existence, is not subject
to destruction. It is good to stand near her; near her there is
safety. By her merit we all merit existence.
She steps to the entrance, I after her. How quiet it is outside!
A sublime, unearthly calm. And how clear the heavens are
now, how deep and tender! . . .
Nor does Shoffman omit or forget a continuum greater than
his own. In the sketch “Ben Gilboa ve-Gil’ad” (Between Gilboa
and Gilead), for example, there is a fusion of time, land, and
people. In this miniscule portrait of life in Palestine in the 1940s,
Shoffman captures the ancient spirit and modern freshness of the
land and its people in a flux of seemingly changeless time:
Everything about flickers, is seen and not seen, here, in this
blinding light, where past and present mingle. One’s eyes
are endlessly drawn to the mountains of Gilboa on the right,
with their bare, gashed curves, here! . . . From those peaks,
they shoo t down upo n Be t-A lpha below; they , the
Philistines-Arabs, as among them lie Saul and Jonathan.
Mountains of Gilboa, how close you are, and yet how distant!
Shoffman’s stories, therefore, encompass the Jews as a nation
living a full life on its own soil, or else as a community practicing its
own religion and developing its own thought, language, and
customs on foreign soil. On the other hand, Shoffman is the first