An Israeli journalist explores the interweaving of history and relationships in essays (originally published in Hebrew in 1999) about Israelis who have experienced the odd and extraordinary.
Having spent years writing about Israeli trauma and “how new lives are built on the ruins,” Sarna, founder of the Peace Now movement, here focuses on the inhabitants of a world where history digs its claws deep into the present, and twists. An abandoned Israeli orphan who rose through the ranks of the army to become a decorated commander, worked for the Shin Bet (Israel's secret security agency), and led raids against Palestinian terrorist bases, finally finds that his mother is still alive—having fled Israel decades ago to live as an Arab in Jordan. Two children of emotionally destroyed Holocaust survivors grow safely to middle age, and then, separated by an ocean, kill themselves within two months of each other. A Russian immigrant who may be haunted by the landscape and culture of his mother country crashes his car in the desert and runs away from his companions to disappear for good without a trace. In a parched wilderness near Beersheva, a place “poor as a curse,” a Bedouin boy kills his father—and Sarna argues eloquently for pardoning the parricide. The author has an uncanny gift for rooting out ineffable misery and rendering it visible to the reader, who can become acquainted with what it might have been like to be a seven-year-old Polish Jewish boy when the Germans rolled into the country; or how it might feel to be a Jew in Kurdistan living through first the Turkish, then the British, and then the Iraqi regimes; or what one might think under enemy fire in the middle of a minefield, surrounded by ripped and bleeding comrades, you the only hope of anyone’s survival.
Bleak, blistering, beautiful.