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August 11, 1989 - Image 27

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-08-11

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

in my point of view.
"Israel is ruling 1.5 million
people with no rights and
they call that democracy?" he
asks.
Shammas wants an Israeli
passport. He will serve in the
army. He would take an oath
to support Israel if everyone
else — including Jews living
there — do the same.
He says 99 percent of all
Arabs in Israel share his view.
"They were born there. This
is their land. They want to
stay."
If a Palestinian state was
established, very few would
actually live there, he says.
"To say even 5,000 is exag-
gerated. That's 0.7 percent of
Israeli Arabs — hardly a
block on Sixth Avenue in New
York.
"You know, Israel to this
day pretends Arabs living
there don't exist.
"Look at me. I was born and
raised in Israel. I published
many books there. I'm still
not considered Israeli. But
you (American Jews), you can
buy a ticket and fly there and
from the moment you step
foot at Ben-Gurion Airport,
you can become an Israeli."

T

hough Shammas, who
travels everywhere with a
Hebrew typewriter, seems
immune to the comments of
most critics, he waited impa-
tiently for the review of one
person: his mother.
Not long after it was first
published, Arabesques was
translated into French.
Shammas got a copy to his
mother, who when she was 17
had worked as a French
teacher.
She was the first person I
asked to read Arabesques," he
says. "I wanted her approval.
"So many tiny little secrets
were revealed for the first
time. I was a little worried. So
I gave her the book. And I
waited and waited. I kept say-
ing, 'So, what do you think?'
"I found out she was
reading a page a week. She
was conducting the perfect
reading."
And yes, she liked it, Sham-
mas says.
Shammas is far from where
his mother lives today. Often,
he is far from his temporary
home, Ann Arbor.
He recently traveled, with a
group of authors including
Leon Wieseltier, to Budapest.
He visited Section 301 of the
New Public Cemetery, where
hundreds of Hungarian
citizens murdered by the
Communists during the 1956
Hungarian revolution are
buried.
For many years, the New
Public Cemetery had been a

field with shallow graves and
tombs identified only by
bushes. Because of internal
and international pressure, it
recently was renovated.
In The New Republic, Leon
Wieseltier wrote of his visit to
part of the cemetery where
hundreds of victims of the
uprising are buried. Heavy
columns mark their graves.
"The variety of the columns
honored the diversity of the
victims. The delight of their
shapes, their surprising
aestheticism, was an addi-
tional slap in the face of the
murderers and their 'culture'
. . . The wounds of the chisel
were still fresh on the wood;
no winters have yet hardened
the memorial, and the
memory, too, was as fresh as
the pairings that still clung to
the carvings."
Shammas remembers well
the columns, especially those
belonging to young men
whose births were listed as
1941 and who died in 1959.
He was curious because the
executions had occurred in
1958.
Later, Shammas discovered
a peculiar habit of the killers:
it was forbidden to execute
men younger than 18. So the
captured 17-year-olds were
kept in prison until they were
old enough to die.
"Can you imagine it?" he
says. "They hanged them on
their birthdays."
Shammas cannot speak for-
a moment. Then he cracks
open the silence with words
that spill out like tears.
"All those lives lost. All
those lives! It's such a
tragedy."

I NEWS I

French Honor
Jewish Victims

Hackensack, N.J. (JTA) —
Years of futile petitioning and
bureaucratic opposition end-
ed late last month as a plaque
commemorating 87 murdered
Jews was placed at the site of
the Natzweiler-Struthof con-
centration camp in
Strasbourg, France.

One of those participating
in the ceremony was Stephen
Draisin, a New Jersey lawyer
who discovered during a visit
to the camp that the only
religious memorial within
the site was a large wooden
cross.
Although most camp in-
mates had been members of
the French Resistance,
alongside Soviets and other
victims of the Nazis, Draisin
learned that in 1943 a group
of 115 Jews were transported
to the camp from Auschwitz.

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

27

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