Page 169 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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central characters of the twin stories
Hirbet H iz’ah
(1948-49).8The stories, published back to back, relate in vivid de­
tail a series of incidents involving an encounter between Israeli
soldiers and Arab peasants, as filtered through the lucid con­
sciousness of one soldier who both witnessed and participated in
the events.
The captive who is the subject of the first story is a bedraggled
shepherd who was captured and ineptly interrogated by a boor­
ish Israeli officer. Standing guard and watching the procedure is
a young man “quite convinced of a particular truth but curious to
see by precisely what means it stands to be revealed.”9Despite the
beatings administered to him, the shepherd does not disclose
anything. Someone recommends a summary execution. Finally,
it is resolved that the guard accompany the captive to a detention
center where a new investigation is to take place.
Along the way, the guard-narrator is plagued by the nagging
“tru th” of the injustice, arbitrariness and unfairness of the entire
episode. “Free the captive!,” a voice calls from within. “The truth
is to free him right now!” Despite that conviction which reverber­
ates from within, the narrator hesitates and eventually resigns to
carrying out his assigned duty.
Hirbet Hiz’ah may just as well be the village where that cap­
tive’s wife and small children vainly await his return from the
fields. Those same bored, weary soldiers depicted in the first
story enter the tiny hamlet and proceed to round up its passive
inhabitants for deportation. Again, the narrator, his voice
muffled, persists: “What a dirty war this is,” only to be silenced by
someone who says: “This will be a nice place to live in once the
olim get here.”10The narrator, valiantly suppressing his indigna­
tion and frustration, mutters to himself: “This is a lie. Hirbet
Hiz’ah isn’t ours. We are nothing but colonizers. The machine-
gun doesn’t give us the right to do this . . . We have no right to
expel this people, after all that we ourselves have endured . . .”
His protestations and anguished cries, kept mostly to himself,
turn the narrator into an embittered man but do nothing to alter
the situation.
8 Among them were the illustrious literary critic Barukh Kurzweil, as well as
B.Y. Mikhali, M. Shalev and D. Kna’ani.
9 From “The Prisoner,” translated by V.C. Rycus. In
Israeli Stories,
edited by J.
Blocker (New York, 1962), pp. 152-174.
10 S. Yizhar,
Shiv’ah sippurim
(Hakibbutz Hameuhad, 1971), p. 86.