THE HARVEST by Meyer Levin


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With no less in mind than to make an entire reconnaissance of the founding of the State of Israel, Levin has produced an ungainly, speechifying work, hefty enough to strain a vertebra, but one that nonetheless follows history's beat closely and knowingly enough to make for genuine narrative momentum. Curtain goes up on Mati Chaimovitch leaving Palestine in the Twenties to study in Chicago; at book's end, he's directing the infant Israeli Air Force against the first Arab onslaught upon the newborn state in 1947. In between is Balfour, the White Paper, Ben-Gurion, Chaim Weitzmann--all variously draped around the branches of Mati's family of charter chalutzim (pioneers). There's charismatic brother Menahem, the Haganah leader who, while on secret mission to Budapest near the end of World War II to negotiate with Eichmann for the release of thousands of Hungarian Jews, is himself sent to (and destined to survive) Auschwitz; sister Leah, a stolid Golda-type; Mati's Jewish-American Princess wife from Chicago who, from a ""corned beef sandwich Jew,"" becomes a strong and brave chavera in the besieged Homeland. Levin's scenes often wrest from fact some of the terror of reality: the stranding of a ship of illegal immigrants in Istanbul harbor or the gruesomeness of Babi Yar. Without the history, though, the book is bland; the Chicago material (with too much made of the Leopold and Loeb stuff Levin already has done in Compulsion) seems automatic. And some may complain that Levin's Israeli history is very mainstream: all Haganah, no Irgun. Yes, the virtues here are mainly encyclopedic--you wonder why there isn't an index--and even if you can't remember a single character's name ten minutes after finishing it, The Harvest bears its fruits of facts with enough clarity to reach its intended audience.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Simon & Schuster