Page 43 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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These soldiers — they are the protagonists o f the novel. They
fight an elusive enemy with feelings o f sympathy fo r the enemy
and with grim heroism; they rail against everyone and everything
be tw een sk irm ishes an d they a re overw he lm ed by “bitchy
T he Arab is the invisible enemy; near and far, unseen and
inaudible. I f he is troub led — as his Israeli enemy is troub led — by
war and by slaughter, nobody hears his confessions and com­
punctions. But the young Israeli is helped to his grim maturity by
the Arab presence.
T h a t presence is Yizhar’s constant pre-occupation in his novel
and stories. In the novel the Arab is the inimical presence tha t
must be destroyed. But the conscience o f some soldiers is in
constant dilemma: to kill o r no t to kill. And tha t dilemma is
depicted with awesome intensity in such stories as “T he Tale o f
H irbet H izah” and , especially, “T h e Prisoner.”
In the fictive work o f Yizhar the ethical imperative emerges in
all its vigor — not as an abstract necessity bu t as a concrete
compulsion in a situational dilemma. This ethical imperative also
dom inates such stories as “On the T ip o f a Bullet” by Isaac O rpaz
o r “Story o f an Olive T re e ,” “Swimming Contest” and “Meeting at
A1 Abridge” by Benjamin Tammuz. And the ethical dilemma
plays a considerable role in the stories and novels o f Mati and
A aron Megged, David S hahar and Yigal Mossinsohn. Even
Moshe Shamir, the advocate o f a G reater Israel af te r the Six-Day
War, yearns fo r peace bu t not at the expense o f independence, an
assurance o f continuity fo r the State of Israel and a determ ina tion
to defend it with all the hum an and non -hum an resources at its
disposal. T he ethical dilemma leads to extremes o f self-sacrifice.
In several novels — in Phinehas Sadeh’s novel
On Man's Condition,
in Yariv Ben-Aharon’s novel
The Battle,
in Ehud Ben Ezer’s novel
Nor the Battle to the Strong
— the protagonists commit suicide: they
cannot face the Israeli realities.
In the work o f Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and Sammy Michael
the po r tra itu re of the Arab has reached artistic subtlety o f a high
order. In the first collection o f stories by Amos Oz (1939-
) —
The Lands o f theJackal
— the con trapun tal cruelties o f the native
land and the native inhabitant are jux taposed with a skill and a
refinem en t tha t have rarely graced previous Israeli fiction. T he