Page 29 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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BERGER / HOLINESS AND HOLOCAUST
21
to the Holocaust. Danny, as we have seen, hears and transmits
his father’s tales of survival.
Zemsta
assassinates a murderer. The
young Polish Jew felt happy after the murder, because he re­
members the words of the Besht (the founder of eighteenth-
century Hasidism) — “Evil is only the throne of good.” Needing
medical attention, he escapes from his hideout before he can
be taken to a kibbutz for treatment. Consequently, at story’s
end there is an assassin loose and a Haganah agent muses,
“What good can come of it?”
“The Crazy Old Man” deals with a pious European-born Jew
who believes that God gave Israel to the Jewish People as its
last chance for redemption. Accepting the biblical view of divine
justice — we are punished for our sins
(mipenei hataeinu),
the
old man contends that the difference betweeen Jews and goyim
is that the Christians are killers. He lives next to an apartment
where two Israeli agents, both
sabras,
are interrogating two Arab
soldiers. Time is crucial. The Israelis need certain information
which they believe can help save lives. In order not to spoil
their chance at redemption, the old man seizes the agent’s gun
and kills one of the two Arab prisoners. Handing the weapon
back, the old man says, “Let the blood be on my head. I don’t
matter. But you were born here. Take care! The Holy One,
blessed be He, has given your generation the land of Israel.
Be worthy of the gift. Keep your hands clean.” Because the
narrator tells this tale some years after the event, the reader
knows that “hands” were not “kept clean.” In fact, the narrator
confesses that “in the end what we did was useless.” Redemp­
tion, suggests Nissenson, lies beyond human capacity.
“In the Reign of Peace” is a powerful messianic fable which
uncompromisingly contrasts a religious and socialist view of re­
demption. Chaim (life) is a religious
oleh
(immigrant) from
North Africa. His Ashkenazic employer contends that every­
thing about Chaim, his beard, sidelocks, and hat set him apart,
intensifying the existential and psychic distance between the two
types of Judaism. The employer, squinting up at Chaim, who
is standing in the back of a truck, has the “impression that I
was looking at him through the eyes of a goy, just as my grand­
father mut have been seen by the Poles in Krakow. And with
the same hatred.” Chaim is shocked to discover that no one
on the kibbutz believes in God, keeps kosher, refrains from work
on the Sabbath, or expects the messiah.