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August 30, 1985 - Image 24

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-08-30

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

24 Yrid4,-Atifitist •36;19eig

-THE 1A140[T-144i Uiit;

For some, like Oz, the
kibbutz may end up being
a sanctuary. For others, like
the fictional Yonatan
Lifshitz, it may be a straight
Jacket.

Israelis' Thrum Image
Eroded In U.S., Scrys Oz

American Jews' perception of Israel
is becoming "slightly more sober and
definitely less ecstatic," said Amos Oz.
"When I lectured to Jews in the
United States 10 years ago in the
marvelous days of Golda Meir," he said,
"I spoke before audiences that were
devoutly loyal to Israel. Israel, right or
wrong, they thought. This is not the
case anymore."
A decOe ago, said Oz, Americans
believed in "the Israeli John Wayne, the
Jewish Tarzan who toiled in the field of
the kibbutz by day, made wild love in
the evening and picked up his sub-
machine gun and dashed out to smash
the hostile Arabs before calling it a day.
We are now left with a healthier realiza-
tion of what Israelis are all about."
A growing awareness of the complex-
ities of the Middle Eastern situation has
helped erode this myth of a new super
race in the Holy Land. Israelis have
done wonders with the land. They have
made a nation out of a hodge-podge of
immigrants. But they have not yet
forged a peace.
Oz is relieved that Americans haVe a
new view of. Israelis. For one thing, it
helps foster more realistic political solu-
tions for the Middle East. And for
another, American assumptions of the
ever virile, never tiring Israeli is "a par-
ticularly difficult bit to do every day
and every evening and every night.
There's hardly a niche for a touch of
sleep in this schedule." — A.J.M.

phrases and a forever dulling lack of ex-
pectations. For Yonatan, not for Amos Oz,
the kibbutz is not redeeming. For Yonatan,
not for Amos Oz, it is not a place to which
one flees, but from which one escapes.
Yonatan Lifshitz shares center stage in
Oz's new book, A Perfect Peace, with four
other characters: Rimona, Yonatan's slow-
witted wife; Yolek, his father, an aging
Jeremiah of a Zionist leader; Hava, Yona-
tan's mother, who can move from shrew-
ness to shrewdness in an instant; and
Azariah, a wanderer, who shows up at
Yolek's door one night drenched and
desperate, seeking a haven in a crazy and
drifting world.
In his last work, In The Land Of Israel,
a masterful collection of diatribes, wailings
and confusions about the Jewish State
that came out of interviews Oz conducted
from Dan to Beersheba, Oz charted the na-
tional psyche of Israel. In A Perfect Peace,
he is again exploring the same terrain. In
both books, Oz assures us that for all its
failings, for all its energies that can send
it in a thousand directions at the same
time, the Israeli temperament has a death-
defying cohesion, one powered by an
almost mystical centripetal force that
carves some sense of nationality out of a
wildly disparate set of citizens.
The Yonatan of A Perfect Peace furtive-
ly plans to leave the kibbutz where he was
born 26 years ago and perhaps settle "in
a rented room high up in a skyscraper in
some foreign city — no doubt in America;
no doubt in the Middle West of the
movies..." He ends up fleeing not to the
New World, but half-way to the ancient
city of Petra, "the city half as old as time,"
in the Jordanian desert.
Crossing the border in the middle of the
night, Yonatan stumbles about in the
dark, frightened by the wail of the jackals
and the black shadows of nightbirds, half-
hoping that bloodthirsty Atallah Bedouin
would discover and kill him. The "perfect
peace" of this death would "turn him into
just another rock in the stony desert." He
would be "without a single thought or
longing; cold, inanimate and forever still."
The death for which Yonatan so longs
never comes. Yonatan panics in the Jor-

danian night. Shooting his rifle wildly in
every direction, he runs blindly back to the
Israeli frontier. He eventually lives in the
Negev with an eccentric prospector.
Discovered by an old army buddy, he is
taken back to the kibbutz.
Yonatan returns to a kibbutz whose
changes belie his notion that the place is
static and stifling. Alliances have e
affections have altered; valences have gone
haywire. In the months before his
tore, Yonatan bad befriended Math, do
drifter in search of a home. He let him

sleep in his living room. He played chess
with him and listened to his long, ram-
bling, often disjointed monologues about
Israel and the Middle East and man and
the universe in which he perpetually
quoted Spinoza and incorrectly cited
Jewish history. Like everyone else on the
kibbutz, Yonatan was thoroughly bored
by Azariah's soliloquies.
When Yonatan returned, his Azariah
was still in his home, but he was a different
and wiser Azariah. He still loved to dis-
course, but he was no longer boring. He
was a workhorse in the tractor shed, which
he now headed. He comforted others. And
he strolled about the kibbutz with one arm
around the waist of Yonatan's wife,
Rimona, "his green eyes glinting with the
unspoken arrogance of a male who has
taken another male's female and might do
it again any time he wants."
Yonatan, Azariah and Rimona continue
to share the bungalow. The men sleep in
the living room and Rimona — now preg-
nant, but by whom is unclear — sleeps in
the bedroom. There is a strange conjugal
contentment in the arrangement.
Yonatan's mother, Hava, who before
had few good words for her son or daugh-
ter-in-law, is now doting and fiercely pro-
tective; her husband, Yolek, after taking
on Azariah as would a mentor, or, even, a
father, is lapsing quickly into senility. He
has been succeeded as kibbutz secretary
by Srulik, a private and quiet man whose
new authority gives him an inner stature
he never had. It also makes him suddenly
appealing to Hava, whose idea of romance
seems to be to gravitate from power to
power, from the declining power of her
husband to the new, rising power of Srulik.
Lurking behind all this is an allusive
shadow from some 6,000 miles away: Ben-
jamin Trotsky. Trotsky had left the kib-
butz in 1939, six weeks before Yonatan
was born and a few days after he had shot
at Yolek, the kibbutz' bull and, finally, at
himself. He was as good a marksman as
he was a suitor of Hava. Trotsky moved
to Miami and became a hotel tycoon. Over
the years, he seems to enjoy sending oc-
casional letters "in a strange-Hebrew" to
the kibbutz claiming he was Yonatan's

,

real father.
High above Park Avenue, with the noise
of the hotel strikers still rising from below,
Oz said that A Perfect Peace is a novel of
triangles. "There is Rimona-Azariah-
Yonatan. There used to be Trotsky-Yolek-
Have. There is evolving a tiny triangle be-
tween Hava, Yolek and Ikulik. But, of
course, that has to be taken with a grain
of salt,"
But even more than a book of triangles,
A Perfect Peace is a book of Israel. It ex-
pkges the jealousies that fester between

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