Page 25 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

Basic HTML Version

his friend from the guilt of bloodshed. There is a lot of moral
confusion here, but this is due to the disturbing nature of the
new Israeli reality. It both fascinates and repels.
In the end the issue for Nissenson is not a conflict within
Israeli society, but rather a split in the mind of the American
Jew and, more particularly, the American Jewish writer, with
regard to Israel. His imagination seeks to embrace the new Is­
raeli scene, and with it, the miracle and adventure of Jewish
national renewal. But he needs the unauthentic figure of the
old Jew to counter the violence which necessarily accompanies
this renewal and thus salvage and preserve the Jewish-American
liberal conscience. Here is the tension once more.
But Israel does not only represent violence. It also represents
Judaism. Not the Christ-like piety of Nissenson’s crazy old man,
nor the Judaism of the successful American bourgeois, but the
Judaism of summons and sacrifice, of response to the God of
History. In Israel, the Jewish people, willingly or unwillingly,
enacts its classic role as God’s witness. In America and England
no such response is given or demanded. Hence, Israel has be­
come for the American Jew something like Judaism itself, that
Judaism which we embrace and revere but, like Zangwill’s
meshumad, also run from and seek to revile. This has little
to do with being
; it has more to do with the ex­
istential condition of Israel and its people as that constituent
of the Jewish People which now carries the burden of Jewish
history on its back. One present-day New York writer seems
to acknowledge this. She is Anne Roiphe, herself a product of
alienation, of the radicalism of the Sixties. In her autobiograph­
ical essay she ponders on this aspect of Israel:
All Israelis are, o f course, more Jewish than anyone else. Maybe
one day there will be no Jews in the
— the ones like me
will have assimilated out o f existence and the others will have
taken their credit cards and moved to Israel . . . O f course the
State o f Israel means more than the political protection o f Jews
persecuted in the past and future. It means more than a refuge
from catastrophe — although that in itself might be validation
enough. The State o f Israel signifies redemption, the fulfillment
o f God’s covenant to Abraham. It offers a religious confirmation