1948 by Uri Avnery
Kirkus Star


A Soldier’s Tale--The Bloody Road to Jerusalem
by & translated by
Email this review


A remarkable account of the bloody war for the establishment of the Jewish state, written by a young soldier in the midst of conflict.

Now an octogenarian and prominent peace activist, Avnery was a skinny young squad leader in 1948, when he sent unauthorized newspaper dispatches describing the historic struggle to relieve Jerusalem as it was besieged by Arab forces. Published in 1949 in Hebrew under the title In the Fields of the Philistines, the first part of this present book was an instant bestseller. It is stark in its graphic depiction of bullets, blood, fellowship and endurance as polyglot raw recruits, including many who had just endured the Holocaust, became instant veterans. It was a time when scarcely prepared soldiers went AWOL from training to join their comrades at the front line. They were ill-equipped and outnumbered, fighting tanks with Molotov cocktails and machine guns. The life of a disputed new nation and its people were in the balance, so they attacked the combined armies of the Arab world. Catastrophe would result for one side or the other—indeed, “catastrophe” is now the Arab description of those days. Shortly after In the Fields was published, feeling he could be more honest now that the war was over, Avnery began a second work, based on notes he made in the hospital while recovering from severe wounds. The Other Side of the Coin caused a huge scandal in Israel, and it’s easy to see why. Included as the second part of this English-language edition, it is a more terrible, more literary work, reminiscent of All Quiet on the Western Front. The pungent motif is sudden pain, grievous wounds and nasty death. Disdain for HQ, looting and wanton killing are common. “It is war. That means we have to kill each other.” Deep in the muddy wadis and out in the dry Negev, it was evil and awful, and Avnery has painted a candid, unforgettable picture of it. His remains a powerful, significant voice.

Finally available in English, this skillfully written antiwar text is assuredly a classic.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-85168-629-2
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2008


NonfictionTOTALLY UNOFFICIAL by Raphael Lemkin
by Raphael Lemkin
NonfictionSHATTERED HOPES by Josh Ruebner
by Josh Ruebner