Page 41 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

Basic HTML Version

A helpless, harm less individual is b rough t into the world in pov­
erty and leaves it in u t te r destitution. What he does is useful; what
he experiences is exploitation.
As a m e tapho r o f aggrieved humanity, Jum a rep resen ts the
innocence o f an Arab Alyosha. Though Shami lacks the vigor o f
Dostoevsky, he creates — like his Russian predecessor — a life o f
innocence against a background o f greed and corrup tion . And in
“In the Sands o f the Desert” he conveys the p roud and passionate
devotion o f the Bedouin to an Arabian mare — a story o f love for
equine grace, “the best, the most beautiful mare of Arabia,”
w ithout the sensationalism and violence o f “Equus.”
What Shami did for the Arab man, Menahem Kapeliuk has
recently done fo r the Arab woman. Especially in the first of three
stories which is also the title o f the collection — in “T he Bitterness
o f the Women o f Holholita”— he concentrated on the d rab life of
the Arab woman in an Arab village. The subjection to the hus­
band, the insults su ffered in silence, the brutality borne with
dejection and despair, the petty rivalries with the second and even
th ird wife in the household — these are the daily measures o f
misery alloted to her. In squalor and degradation she raises her
children and perform s h e r housework — the menial and the
not-so-menial tasks — with inne r protest and ou te r fatalism.
T rad itional Islam favors the man. Hence the fear o f women,
particularly young women, o f “marriages-in-exchange” : old
Arabs marrying o ff daugh ters to ano ther old Arab who, in tu rn ,
would re tu rn the favor and marry off his daugh te r to his newly
acquired father-in-law. In Kapeliuk’s story a girl is on the verge of
suicide because her b ro th e r plots h er dismal marriage to an old
The novelty o f the plot in Kapeliuk’s stories is a refreshing
antidote to the hackneyed intrigues o f love in the European
novel. Though his characters lack the resilience and the indi­
vidual traits which are the hallmarks o f Shami’s stories, they are a
significant addition to the meagre gallery o f Arab women in
Israeli fiction.
Kapeliuk is not the discoverer o f Arab womanhood; he is the
portraitist o f her inner life in fiction. In he r relationship to men —
Arab o r Jewish — she had an earlier discoverer. Yehudah Burla