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April 16, 1965 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1965-04-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Australian Jews Face Dilemma `Emmanuel', Powerful Novel by Nicole Vidal,
wedge between themselves and
their Gentile neighbors.
Deals With Messianic Aspects in All Humans
SYDNEY, Australia—Few coun-
The rabbis and other Jewish

(Copyright, 1965, JTA, Inc.)

tries are as free of overt anti-Semi-
tism as Australia. Yet almost half
of Australia's 70,000 or so JeWs-
the 30,000 living in its most pop-
ulous state, New South Wales —
confront a government decree that
stabs to the very marrow of Jew-
ish community integrity.
The Australian constitution is
somewhat vague on the subject of
separation of church and state; it
forbids an "establishment" of reli-
gion but apparently does not bar
religious instruction in the public
schools. In 1880, a law was passed
opening the way for secular in-
struction in the schools.
For many years, the implementa-
tion of the law was mild and
seemed to offend few, if any. This
law consists of two parts. One part
is the so-called "right of entry,"
giving representatives of all faiths
the right to go into a school and
give a lesson in Scripture to those
children who are of their faith.
Jewish representatives participated
in that practice for the Jewish

But the difficulty has arisen in
regard to the second part, the
general religious instruction,
given by the teacher. In this re-
gard, there has been a change.
The New South Wales Minister
of Education promulgated a law,
last December, setting a new syl-
labus, the first part of which is
based upon the teaching of the
Old Testament and the New
Testament. It was felt that the
prescribed texts and the whole
organization of the program
were now emphatically Christ-
ian. Children were still free, of
course, to refrain from partici-

The Jewish community was al-
most alone in trying to block this
new syllabus; no other major reli-
gious or civic group came to its
assistance. It did succeed in get-
ting the plan modified somewhat,
but only in degree, not in kind.
Jewish community leaders faced
a dilemma. If they accepted the
new program it meant exposing
their children, day in and day out,
to indoctrination in the Christian
faith. If they kept their children
out, en masse, they feared that the
old spectre of Jewish separatism
would be raised against them, and
they would in effect be driving a

leaders, after much soul-searching,
finally decided to urge parents to
keep their children out of the pro-
gram, and a letter to this effect
went out to all parents of primary-
grade Jewish children.
Yet no one has any illusions that
this will solve the problem. One
of the leading rabbis of Sydney
voiced downright pessimism. "The
best I dare hope for," he said, "is
that perhaps one-third of the Jew-
ish parents will withdraw their
children from the program. The
rest will not be willing to incur
the disabilities that they see as
a consequence of withdrawal.
Above all, they want to retain the
good will of their Gentile neigh-
bors; they don't want to be os-

There is some feeling, among
Jews and perhaps a few others,
that the new syllabus may vio-
late the Australian constitution,
vague as it is. But the Jews
shudder at the thought of them-
selves bringing a test case with
all that it would entail in buck-
ing mass • community sentiment.
And nobody else apparently is
concerned enough to bother.

And so the 30,000 Jews of New
South Wales — which . means pri-
marily Sydney where the vast maj-
ority of them live—are being sliced
to pieces by a two-edged sword. On
the one hand the new religious
education program will inevitably
dilute Jewish cultural identifica-
tion and Jewish spiritual values
among at least a certain propor-
tion of the rising generation. On
the other hand, it is splitting the
Jewish community between those
who prize most the Jewish public
"image," and those who stake their
faith and their future on Jewish
religious and • cultural integrity.
Already there have been some bit-
ter recriminations.
And all this under a government
and in a political climate noted
the world over for libertarian prin-
ciples and democratic practices.

Prized Pine

The handsome Idaho white
pine grows in extremely moun-
tainous terrain. The exquisite
lumber it yields—a silver-white
in color — makes it a prized
wood for room interiors.

A boy's vision and delusion, his
belief implanted in him by his
mother that he was the Messiah,
and his eventual realization that the
messianic idea may be in any man,
is the basic idea in "Emmanuel,"
a powerful novel by Nicole Vidal,
issued by Viking Press in a very
good translation by Eric Earnshaw
The author who was born in Ton-
kin, Indochina, where her father
was an engineer, was forced by the
Japanese invasion to take flight
with her family, traveled through
Hong Kong and Beirut, spent four
years in Egypt with her mother
and in 1953 went to Tahiti with her
father. Since then she has lived
in France.
Her novel is about Emmanuel
ben Daoud, whose mother con-
ceived the idea, even before his
birth, in Cairo, that her son would
be the Messiah. She injected the
idea in him and the life he led,
the great ideals he imbibed, the
influence he exterted upon his fel-
low humans, contribute to a canvas
that makes the Vidal novel an out-
standing narrative.
* * *
Many emotional elements enter
into this story. Emmanuel's older
brother Issac had left for Palestine,
there to fight for a Jewish State.
In the interim Emmanuel befriend-
ed an Indian sage, Ahmed, and from
this Moslem he acquired much wis-
dom. In fact, it is Ahmed who ex-
erts the greatest influence upon
Ahmed encourages Emmanuel to
proceed with his studies, to be
linked with his family. But when
Emmanuel is about to recite the
blessings and the prophetic portion
at his Bar Mitzvah, he becomes
panicky, his mental paralysis im-
pels him to run from the syna-
gogue. He runs to Ahmed who
deals with him calmly and convin-
ces him to regain his composure,
eventually to recite the prayers
and the assigned selections.
* * *
Then Isaac returned from Pales-
tine with a friend, Jonathan. They
ridicule Emmanuel when he re-
veals his belief in being the Mes-
siah, and his brother concocts a
scheme: if Emmanuel believes in
the Messiah, let him accompany
the two back to Palestine, there
to join in the struggle for the re-

birth of Jewish nationhood.
To the consternation of his moth-
er, Emmanuel yields. Jonathan and
Isaac hate him, assign him to a kib-
butz without making known the
boy's "delusion." But while in the
kibbutz, Emmanuel makes some
friends, resorts to philosophizing
about life, about Jewish and human
values — all, quite evidently, the
results of his friendship with
Ahmed who had begun to think
of him and deal with him as with
a son, and to teach him along eth-
ical paths.
* * *
Emmanuel's stay in the kibbutz
is described along with the author's
references to the developing strug-
gle between Jews and Arabs, be-
tween the future Israelis and the
British. Emmanuel readily joins
in defense, in constructive work.
In the course of Kibbutz life, Jon-
athan's girl Deborah falls in love
with him. It is the cause of an in-
ternecine fight that leads to Em-
manuel's assertion that he does
not believe he is the Messiah, but
that as he tells Jonathan, to assu-
age the latter's hate and suspic-

Geneva Paper Urges
Syria Grant Rights to
Jew Accused as Spy

GENEVA (JTA) — The daily
newspaper, Tribune of Geneva,
called on Syrian President Hafez
Monday to restore legal guaran-
tees recognized throughout the
world in the case of Elsie Coheh.
the Syrian Jew who has been
charged with spying for Israel.
The paper said that two French
lawyers were not permitted to see
the accused during the trial.
Asserting that President Hafez
had promised to grant the law-
yers an audience, the paper de-
dared: "Now the Syrian head of
state can decide if the case against
Elsie Cohen will develop according
to internationally honored rules
ensuring that justice will not be
made a mockery. The rules de-
mand that any accused, whatever
his crime, may benefit from legal
advice, and that freedom of law-
yers be respected by any tribunal,
ordinary or extraordinary."

16—Friday, Apri 16, 1965

"It is painful for any Jew to
think that he has only two hands
to help his brethren, and only
one heart. The thought makes
him dream desperately of being
the Messiah, in order to gratify
his urgent longing to put things
right. The fact is, Jonathan, that
every Jew dreams- of being able
to alleviate the suffering of his
fellow Jews, and restore the
reign of justice."

During an eventual truce, after
Israel's emergence into statehood,
Emmanuel asks for a four-day
leave and goes to Cairo. Again he
t, goes to Ahmed. The Indian Mos-
lem sage urges him to go back to
Palestine (then already Israel),
admonishing him: "I want you to
live your human life without for-
getting your divine future . . "
Ahmend reminds the would-be
Messiah that he had told him that
the Messiah could be in every man.
He tells him: "The Messiah is not a
man, it is an era that will soon
come to pass, an era in which man
will no longer be content with the
status of a humble believer in a
power that punishes or rewards
him. The day is approaching when
he will realize that he is himself
God, that power and strength
dwell within him, that he metes
out his own justice and reaps what
he has sown . . . "
"Emmanuel" is a well written
story, with an exciting theme, good
descriptions of an era in pre-Is-
rael Palestine, factual references
that are properly interpreted by
the translator. Nicole Vidal's is an
effective novel and it ably inter-
prets and portrays the sentiments
of Egyptian Jews, the hopes of a
pious family, the struggle for free-
dom by modern youths.


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