Page 44 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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36
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
wailing jackal and the inimical individual are the threa ts mag­
nified by proximity and tran sfo rm ed by imagination. In the novel
My Michael
a young woman loses her sanity because h e r Arab
playmates in childhood, Aziz and Halil, become dea th-dea ling
guerrillas in he r hallucinatory trances. In the
novel Another Place
the Galilean cooperative is only th ree kilometers from the Syrian
boundary: it symbolizes the stubborn will to regenera tion ; the raw
mountains o f the Golan rep resen t the e ternal th rea t to survival.
These stark realities o f Arab-Jewish relationships appear in
softer outlines in Rachel Ambar’s
House in the Street o f the Messiah
— an actual street in h e r native city Tiberias where, according to
legend, the Messiah will make his first appearance. In tha t stree t a
Jewish family and an Arab family live the ir uneven tfu l lives un d e r
the mandatory regime. T h e peaceful symbiosis is th rea tened by
an unsavory character, Mahmoud, who incites the local popu la­
tion to bloodshed. T he a ttem p t is frustra ted bu t the th rea t o f the
experience hangs over the community like the sword o f Damo­
cles.
A.B. Yehoshua (1936-
), one of the most im po r tan t writers
o f fiction in contemporary Israel, is a visionary who mixes realism
and surrealism with astonishing effectiveness. In “Facing the
Forest,” a story with an unusua l plot, an Israeli s tuden t o f history
and a temporary guard o f the forest, attemp ts a dialog with a
mute Arab who sets fire to the forest which supp lan ted the origi­
nal Arab village. T he Arab listens bu t is filled with hate.
In the story “In the Beginning o f the Summer o f ’70” Yehoshua
has chosen the War o f Attrition as his theme — the war as it is
refracted th rough the m ind o f an old teacher o f biblical literature
who reconstructs in a monolog the alleged dea th and resurrection
o f his son. In form and form a t the story resembles the monolog o f
Camus in
The Stranger
; in con ten t it abounds in thanatic tensions
created by misinformation about the dea th o f a son; in course o f
time, it changes into uncertainty and , finally, into certainty o f the
son’s survival.
T he story is more than the tragedy occasioned by the Jewish-
Arab war. It is, primarily, the tragedy o f the generational gap.
T he older generation is driven by the dream o f Messianic regen ­
eration; the younger generation is sacrificed to tha t dream with­
ou t apprecia ting its cogency. In tha t sense the story is a modern
version o f the in tended sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham . T he sacral
Messianism o f the fa the r is superseded by the p rofane Mes-