Page 123 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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KOFMAN / PORTRAIT OF THE ISRAELI AS AN UPROOTED PERSON
115
among “the homeless rebels who want to change the world” and
therefore he remains “always in the dark, outside the circle.”
However, what is typical o f Ben-Ner’s many protagonists is that
their deep dissatisfaction with Israel serves as a cause o f their
uprootedness. Unlike Amos Oz and A. B. Yehoshua, whose in­
terest is essentially in pathological psychology and who depict
mostly marginal types, and unlike Ya’akov Shabtai whose protag­
onists belong to a certain social class, Yitzhak Ben-Ner chooses his
characters from all walks of life, from various communities, and
from different places. But whether the protagonist is a lawyer or
a taxicab driver, whether he is Sephardic or Ashkenazic, and
whether the events happen in the village or in the city, they all
bear an eminently Israeli stamp and serve to represent the state
as a whole. Thus, the single incident reflects the historic and col­
lective national experience. Both in the individual’s case and on a
national scale uprootedness seems to stem from unfaithfulness to
true love and true values. The various incidents of betrayal and
adultery, together with the occasional usages o f biblical language
and pathos, allude to the Prophets who viewed the relationship
between God and the nation in terms of a bond between husband
and wife.
A good example of one’s alienation as interwoven with mixed
emotions towards one’s native land is Ben-Ner’s first novel,
Ha-
Ish mi-Sham
(The Man From There, 1967; English translation,
1970). The story revolves around a young Jewish soldier whojost
his arm in World War II, and is homeward bound on a train from
Cairo. He is still in Egypt when the War of Independence breaks
out and he finds shelter in a small Egyptian town. A great part of
the novel is devoted to describing his vacillation between his con­
flicting urges: to go and join his people, on the one hand, and to
remain in the Egyptian town, on the other.
In many works written after the Yom Kippur War there exists
a juxtaposition between Israel in its present condition of war and
discord, loss o f values, and moral decay, and a future dreamland
of milk-and-honey, or an idealized country o f bygone days. For
instance, in “Roman Zair” (Cheap Affair) in Ben-Ner’s short story
collection,
Shekiah Kafrit
(Rustic Sunset, 1976) the protagonist
who is unhappily married, pines for his ex-wife. His longing for
her is directly tied in with his longing for “other days” in a distant
Land of Israel where nights smelled of hay, and he could make
love on a bed of pine-needles. In reality he feels totally uprooted