Category Archives: Israel

“FOUR BY FOUR”— The Beach that Isn’t

“FOUR BY FOUR”

The Beach that Isn’t

Amos Lassen

 Shay Kanot’s “Four by Four” is a wild comedy about three colleagues at a Tel Aviv high-tech company who follow their adrenaline-junky of a boss, Motti (Or Zehavi), on a road trip to the perilous Sinai Peninsula looking for a secret beach resort. However, the beach doesn’t exist.  It was made up by of one of the junior executives, Oded (Oshri Cohen), who is trying to impress Motti and get a long sought-after promotion. But Oded is not alone in wanting a raise; so do Tal (Shlomi Koriat), a geek from marketing, and Dima (Avi Dangof), a racist and a quirky Russian programmer.

When Motti decides to go in search of “Oded’s beach”, things go crazy. Oded tries to cancel the excursion as he considers the repercussions of  his lie, but is unable to do so. The four reach Sinai, cross the border into Egypt and get lost in the desert. Then they are kidnapped by hostile Bedouins and only manage to escape with the help of a triple-amputee Eritrean asylum seeker and the daughter of a sheikh who wields AK47-wielding and who dreams of participating in a singing contest on Israeli TV. 

Now in the desert Oded has to confront his friends and admit that he lied and endangered their lives. Just as things seem to be at their bleakest and most hopeless the four manage to get out of trouble. Now all they have to deal with is who gets the promotion?

“Waking Lions” by Ayelet Gunda-Goshen— Saving His Family and His Name

Gundar-Goshen, Ayelet. “Waking Lions”, Little Brown and Company, 2017.

Saving His Family and His Name

Amos Lassen

Eitan Green is a neurosurgeon who seems to have a perfect life. He is married to a beautiful police officer and the father of two young boys. While speeding along a deserted moonlit road after an exhausting hospital shift, he accidentally hit an Eritrean migrant and when he realized that the man was beyond help, he fled the scene. When the victim’s widow, Sirkit knocked at Eitan’s door the next day his wallet and claiming that she knew what happened. Eitan learned that her price for silence was not money but something that would shatter his safe existence and plunge him into a world of secrets and lies that he could never have anticipated. When he hit the man, he felt sorry and this was just the beginning of his sense of guilt that causes his almost personal life to come apart.

“Waking Lions” looks at the moral ambiguities of Eitan’s situation with equal attention paid to the impact of its repercussions on his wife, Liat. Because he felt pressure from his work, decided to clear his head and put puts his new SUV through its paces in the middle of the night as he drove home from a very taxing day working at the hospital. It is that he hit the man and when Eitan got out of the car to see to the man (who he learn later is called Asum), he noticed that his car suffered no damage He determined that Asum was dying and quickly Eitan jumped back into the car and drove off leaving behind no trace that could identify him as the person who accidentally killed his victim. What he did not know was that he had left his wallet at the scene and this caused consequences to ensue.

Those consequences include blackmail. Eitan was forced to act or the accident would become public. He was trapped in a complex and illegal situation and very afraid. He was a man could have made life better for so many yet who found himself unable to think. Writer Ayelet Gundar-Goshen provides a lot to think about here. Would someone with a stronger conscience have confessed to this unintentional killing? The morality of his actions are at the focus of this novel as we see the results of an instantaneous , decision haunt him and his family.

This is a thriller and a social comment on the little publicized issue of marginalized illegal immigrants in Israeli society and we only realize this when we learn that Asum was illegally in Israel and was one of many others who came to Israel from Eritrea. As we think about how Eitan reacted to the accident, we understand the meaning of his dilemma. We pay careful attention to how we arrive at our sense of morality. We see that Eitan is pliable and that his wife is unaware of what he is dealing with. Sirkit is cunning, a woman who does not agree with the ethic of how all live. She is a pragmatic woman who is determined to survive at all costs. What I found to be the most interesting aspect of the book is that

The plot is almost secondary to the political implications of the story that makes us think about integrity and the nature of guilt. Because this is a translation, there will be readers that can have a hard time with the style. As I read, I had the Hebrew edition beside the English translation and could easily see where the difficulties came about. There is a great deal of detail that might cause some to feel that they detract from the overall story. For me, I welcomed them because they reminded me so much of places I visited when I lived in Israel. Beersheba comes more to life on the pages of the book than it does in reality and the fact that it exists as the gateway to the Negev, the desert of Israel with its sweltering heat adds to the pressure that the entire novel holds. I was aware of the situation of migrant Africans who come to Israel as a place of refuge.

Be ready for a story with twists (and those twists have twists) that have the reader turning pages as quickly as possible. We see the huge differences between insider and outsider and while the very complex relationships that exist in Israel are unique to the country, we see a social dynamic that is very similar to what we have here.

“The Israeli Republic: An Iranian Revolutionary’s Journey to the Jewish State” by Jalal Al-e Ahmad— A Future that Might Have Been

Al-e Ahmad, Jalal. “The Israeli Republic: An Iranian Revolutionary’s Journey to the Jewish State”, Restless Books, 2017.

A Future That Might Have Been

Amos Lassen

Jalal Al-e Ahmad was an influential Iranian writer (he died in 1967) who spent his life teaching and as an social critic, activist and writer. He helped lay the groundwork for the Iranian Revolution. In 1963, he made a two-week trip to Israel and upon his return, he penned his article “Journey to the Land of Israel” in which he looked at the history and current political landscape of the Middle East and is a documentation of his visit to Israel. It caused an uproar after being published in Iran. The anti-Western clerics whom he had taught were very upset about what he had to say, especially because he saw a future model for Iran derived from what he saw and learned on that trip.

That article is the basis for “The Israeli Republic” and we see that Al-e Ahmad claimed that Israel and Iran actually mirror one another in various attitudes but especially in attitudes toward religious authority, politics and economic populism. As we might imagine, the fact that he liked these aspects of the country upon Iran’s status quo did not sit well with the leaders of his country. We now have his writing in English for the first time and we see Al-e Ahmad as an idealist and what he has to say can very well change the way we look at the Middle East. We see this once Iranian leader as a polemic and modernist, both qualities that we do not often find in others in Iran.

His “Journey to the Land of Israel” was basically a justification for his trip there as well as an account of what he saw especially and it greatly upset Ayatollah Khomeini, the cleric who held the title of founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

We must look back a bit in history and realize that in the 1950s and 1960s relations between Iran and Israel were growing even though the Shah never formally recognized the Jewish state. Nonetheless there existed military, intelligence and economic ties between the two countries. Iranians were often treated in Israeli hospitals and there existed Israeli advisers and contractors living in Tehran. However, the Muslim powers that were rising like Khomeini saw this as examples of the Shah’s perfidiousness as if to say, he was pandering to the West.

Undoubtedly, Khomeini and Ali Khamenei (a young seminary student who later became the supreme leader of Iran) were upset that Al-e Ahmad praised Israel and even more upsetting was that he dared to do so in print. This was a radical move especially since he did so in language that is traditionally reserved for Muslim religious clerics. Al-e Ahmad said that Israel was a religious state that was led by clerical leaders who were not quite prophets but more than politicians. He dismissed Arab nations as puppets of the West and saw Israel as provocatively posited as the ideal Muslim government.

By what we read here, we are reminded that before the Iranian revolution there was a relationship between Iran and Israel and this is something that is easy to forget when we think about where Iran is now in terms of Israel. Because Al-e Ahmad was a canonical writer who other leaders of the Islamic Republic admired, his feelings toward Israel seems uncanny and very titillating. Today his writings are considered to be curiosities and even a memorial to what might have been. Can we now think about the similarities between Zionism and the Islamic Republic? Al-e Ahmad stressed the characteristics of Israel as an “Islamic utopia” . This, still today, is unsolved. His interest in Israel came from presenting Israel as an alternative model and a mixture of Western industry and native culture but we must also consider that Al-e Ahmad’s view is ambiguous. On one side he sees Israel as the aforementioned utopia and a place where the division between East and West does not exist. On the other side Israel is seen as “the sure bridgehead of Western capitalism” that has a “coarsely realized indemnity for the Holocaust”. The West has sinned and the East pays the price. It is not necessary to agree or disagree with any of this yet it is food for thought on many different levels and the ideas here are great for playing “what if”. What is written here is very modern and for many it may change the way we think about the Middle East. The article by Al-e Ahmad is a record of his idealism, insight, and ultimate disillusionment toward Israel.

 

“FREAK OUT”— A Transformation

“Freak Out” (“Mesuvag Harig”)

A Transformation

Amos Lassen

Matan (Itay Zvolon) is a soldier with an administrative role in the Israel Defense Forces who is sent for a week of patrolling at a remote army base in the north of Israel. As he deals with homesickness and feeling out of place, he becomes an easy target for the other soldiers who enjoy provoking him. However, it is not long before strange things happen at the base, leaving all the soldiers fearful.

The film looks at the Israeli military experience, an experience that is terrifying, darkly humorous and thrilling. Over the course of the film, Matan undergoes a transformation into a man (by army standards). In Israel, the army is a rite of passage that carries substantial social significance in Israeli society and it signifies the transition from boy to man. Violence and killing are intrinsic values in the process of transition from adolescence to adulthood within Israeli society. The movie also deals with the Israeli fear of Arabs and Islamic terrorism, a fear shared more recently in societies in Europe and North America.

The filmmaker, Boaz Armoni, has said that “Freak Out” comes from his own personal experience. The film describes social phenomena and behaviors that he remembers from my military service and he gives us an alternative perspective on Israeli society. It was important for me to create a film that maintains the Israeli feel, inside a genre that is considered ‘inferior’ where I come from. We feel the influences from other horror and thriller movies from the 19 as well as from the early Israeli comedies that marked Israel film for so many years.

Matan is joined by three other IDF combat soldiers as they’re deployed to patrol a remote base in Givat Kfir, the North of Israel, for a week. Their job is to protect a radioactive transmitter hat blocks cell phone signals and the soldiers must be on high alert from any attacks from their Arab neighbors. As time progresses, the soldiers realize the base is not all what it seems.

Matan is something of a nerd and has never seen combat. Up until now, he has spent his army days working in offices on computers as a military assistant. When he’s called up to compulsory patrol service, he’s disheartened to find he’s been put with a group of three wild combat soldiers— Yishai (Eran Peretz), Roy (Ofer Ruthenberg) and Uzi (Assaf Ben-Shimon) who clearly enjoy a laugh and see Matan as easy prey to poke fun at and exploit. Their constant pranks and humiliation upset Matan who repeatedly texts and calls his mother for support. Even though he tries repeatedly to go home and get a different work order, he is forced to stay the week with the rowdy soldiers. Even his superior, Stas (Kye Korabelnikov), who Matan thought was an ally, uses him as the four soldiers leave base to spend a night out on the tiles. Once up on the watchtower, a frightened Matan realizes he’s not alone.

Matan is bullied in a role he’s not qualified or mentally prepared to do and we immediately see that he’s going to struggle to during his seven days of torment. It’s quite upsetting to see this and the humiliation is pretty difficult to watch and when things begin to become ominous, we know it’s not going to end well. A bunker lit in red holds sinister secrets we’re not sure we want to uncover especially after the film’s opening scene. Tension mounts as the fear intensifies and we begin to wonder if anyone survive.

Claustrophobic scenes and the isolation of northern Israel keep us on the edge of our seats. This is a very effective horror thriller in terms of storytelling even if the film unravels a bit towards its finale. It’s a bit obvious where the film is leading, especially when we come to the final third, but the high quality of performances from the small cast make it a thoroughly entertaining movie. What really pulls us into the film is the terrible way that Matan is treated. If I have any complain at all it is that perhaps the

horror angle could have been developed or polished a little better to improve the movie yet the build up is so well paced and executed that we are immediately gripped.

“MAGC MEN”— Father and Son

“Magic Men”

Father and Son

Amos Lassen

Avraham (Makram Khoury), an elderly Greek Holocaust survivor and an estranged Israeli magician, and his Hassidic rapper son, Yehuda (Zohar Strauss) embark on a journey with absurd encounters that ultimately leads them to a final confrontation of father and son. Avraham is jaded and has renounced his religion and he resents his son who is a pious Hassidic rapper. Avraham decides to return to his native Greece to find the man who offered shelter and taught him magic during World War II and he feels compelled to bring Yehuda as his guardian. Arriving in Greece against the backdrop of its recent financial crisis, father and son are forced to confront prickly relationship with the help of a kindhearted prostitute, Maria (Ariane Labed). In reality, this is a not just a road trip— it is also a journey for absolution and reconciliation.

There are enchanting moments of humor and affection and beautiful cinematography as well as excellent performances. (Makram Khoury won the equivalent of the Israeli Academy Award for his performance). The film was directed by the team of Guy Nattiv and Erez Tadmor who also wrote the screenplay with Sharon Maymon. The film brings together the memory of the Holocaust, a journey in search of family origins, a religious conversion, Greece, rap music, magic, a bit of Zorba and a Greek whore with a heart of gold. “Magic Men” strives to win us over, using a range of formulas and giving them to us in a visually and musically attractive package.

Yehuda is a former rapper who chose to embrace a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish lifestyle but has not quite given up his music. Since his return to religion, he and his father have been estranged. Yehuda’s religious conversion catalyzes a break with the father and becomes a symbol of generational rebellion. Unfortunately, the way that this is handled here is superficial and the scenes with father and son are melodramatic and lack depth. Their eventual reconciliation is expected from early on and it is presented shallowly and with too much sentiment.

Avraham’s visit to Greece was to look for the boy who saved him from the Nazis 60 years earlier and taught him to do magic. Through this search, we meet Maria the contented prostitute who gives the film an attractive female presence. The search for the boy causes the plot to become a chain of scenes that are conspicuously trying to please and move the audience. Nonetheless we are moved by the gorgeous Greek landscape.

Makram Khoury’s performance is restrained and precise and it is what really saves the film from its own problematic writing. Zohar Strauss is believable as the son, but his performance is limited by weakness in character development. The basic subject has been handled in other features as well as documentaries.

Directors Guy Nattiv and Erez Tadmor found that their own grandfathers had gone on a similar journey back to Poland. The Greek setting adds a novel twist, and the film has an opportunity to glance at the recent financial crisis in Greece while the hero revisits his past.

The creation of the three main characters is the best thing about the film. Avraham can be intolerant and disdainful of others, but there is something appealing about his independence and adventurous spirit. He is 78 years old and wants to travel alone, but his family forces him to tolerate the company of his son, Yehuda. Avraham is contemptuous of his son’s piety, and although this is never explained, we can’t help but assume that his experiences during the Second World War shattered his faith once and for all. The orthodox Yehuda doesn’t conform to stereotype. He’s not quite as rigid as when we first see him and his insecurities make him endearing.

“MOUNTAIN”— A Visit to the Mount of Olives

“Mountain” (“Ha’har”)

A Visit to the Mount of Olives

Amos Lassen

The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem is the oldest active Jewish cemetery in the world, it proved fertile soil for Yaelle Kayam’s imagination. She took a story from the Talmud about a rabbi who no longer desired his wife and moved it to the area. The cemetery on the Mount of Olives is ironic in that there is so much sadness in all of the beauty that is there and this is a personification of Tzvia (Shani Klein) who lives at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Separated from the cemetery by a wire fence (in accordance with Jewish law), she is the patient and frustrated wife of rabbi, Reuven (Avshalom Polak) and their four children. We are taken into the rhythms and rituals of religious life. There is a recurring shot in which we see Tzvia stretching into life while the call to prayer drifts through the window and her husband conducts the Shacharit prayers. We become aware of the boredom of her mundane life in every frame as the camera hovers behind her as she smokes a cigarette at the sink, or looking out across Jerusalem from the window of her home. As if this is not enough, her husband Reuven is no longer interested in her and fatigue has taken over the their lives.

Tzvia is dissatisfied both emotionally and physically at home and finds solace amidst the tombstones of the cemetery as she goes there to read the poetry of Israeli poet, Zelda. The book is old and battered and has obviously been read many times. One night, Tzvia who is reserved and a traditional woman meets a small community of pimps and prostitutes operating out of the cemetery and she forms a strange, silent bond with them. They allow her to sit and observe in exchange for home-cooked food. Suddenly, the routines previously presented begin to shift and change slightly.

We become aware of Tzvia’s shifting moods and mental states by subtle changes and adjustments to the look of the picture – colder colors in the home emphasize her changing moods and handheld camerawork seems to become more evident if and when her spirits and heart rate are raised. Yet, Tzvia remains largely inscrutable, and while Klein elicits great empathy with a woman eroded by the monotony of her life, her inner-self remains a mystery. Her actions themselves are left unknown during the end of the film and whatever impact they might have is elusive.

“Mountain” depicts the unlikely transformation of a married Orthodox Jewish woman who lives and works beside one of the holiest sites in the Middle East into a fully realized woman. The Mount of Olives that is located in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem gets its name from the olive groves that once covered its slopes. The sprawling site has been used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years, and holds approximately 150,000 graves. It is also the site for Christian worship, as several key events in Jesus Christ’s life, as relating in the Gospels, took place there. Ironically this hallowed ground is the backdrop of the film as a religious woman sees the seedy underside of Israeli life involving prostitutes and drug dealers.

We see the prototype religious woman who does all things to keep her home kosher, providing for her children and for her seemingly loveless husband ion Tzvia . Director Kayam has stated that the film was certainly not meant to ridicule gender roles within a religious family. It means to challenge the standard views of an indifferent marriage, and explore notions of female interiority and self-discovery. Having Tzvia and a religious woman was to make her come across as pure and to emphasize the stereotype of the religious woman.

“She is religious, but it comes more from my own experiences,” Kayam said. “The idea of having her religious was meant to make her appear more righteous, more pure. And it has more to do emphasize more of the archetype.

Tzvia is the mother of four kids. They recite their prayers before and after every meal, and are dropped off at the school bus to attend Yeshiva. She is married to a teacher named Reuven. Tzvia spends her days doing wifely chores inside and outside her home, which happens to be surrounded by the ancient cemetery spread out over the Mount of Olives. Reuven pays little attention to her or her female needs  and her stifling monotony gradually worsens and he is very lonely.

Tzvia begins to witness new and bizarre, even seedy scenarios, involving prostitutes, pimps and drug dealers, at the graveyard. These seamy elements affect her profoundly and bring her dead soul to life. She becomes a voyeur to an exotic world, a world which had long been completely foreign to her.

Even though the narrative is apolitical, the deliberate choice of having the film set on the Mount of Olives is radical. This is an honest portrait of the limits of orthodox religion in an effort to explore female interiority.

With a title like “Mountain”, there will be suspicions of it being a metaphor for jump and as we watch we ask ourselves about the vagueness that we see. The conflict within Tzvia is introduced early in the film, when she casually describes her home as a “petting zoo” to a group of Orthodox women passing by—one of many self-conscious moments that doesn’t land as intended. We certainly get a sense of frustrated expectations as we see that Reuven is losing interest in his wife. They do not really communicate and we know nothing about their history— the sparse dialogue leaves their history together a void. This is counterbalanced by lively family scenes and photographic sweeps whenever Tzvia leaves the confines of their home. People from the world outside of the Mountain (tourists, and a good-natured Palestinian groundskeeper, Abed [Haitham Ibrahem Omari]) remain at a cautious distance, until Tzvia sees a clique prostitutes and johns doing their after-hours business among the tombstones. The encounter ignites a curiosity within her, and soon she’s attempting a rapprochement with the lowlifes turning tricks just feets from her home.

I had to stop and wonder if Tzvia’s glimpses of the lurid, debased outside world are liberating unto themselves, or if the woman’s curiosity is a sad symptom of loneliness in an increasingly loveless marriage or even both of these. She tries to have a cigarette with one of the prostitutes, only to have the younger woman to harangue her worse than she could possibly have imagined. This is something of a confirmation that allows Tzvia to keep coming back, with home-cooked food as she seeks a kind of mute companionship with the underclass.

Despite the film’s obvious theme of the sacred versus the profane, Tzvia’s life has pleasures and monotonies all its own; her four young children make for the culture of a small colony unto itself, and one of the more incisive family details comes when Tzvia has to tell her husband that their oldest daughter is merely pretending to be obedient when he’s around, because he’s not around often enough.

The issues that Tzvia faces are vague and the film withholds bigger connecting concepts that never come. Once again, I am amazed at how far Israeli film has come. There was a time (even when I lived in Israel) that it was almost impossible to get an Israeli to watch a movie made in Israel. That is definitely not true today.

“HOMEPORT”— After Life at Sea

“HOMEPORT”

After Life at Sea

Amos Lassen

Veteran seaman,  Aharon Avitan,  ‘lands’ after 30 years at sea, for the birth of his first grandchild,  looking forward  to living a normal life at last. He is appointed Head of the Marine Department at the Ashdod Port. Almost immediately he clashes with the “Big Man” at the port, Azulay. On one hand, Azulay is a corrupt bully, but on the other he is warm-hearted and open to the troubles of the port workers, who admire him.

The clash disrupts the status quo that has reigned at the port for years.  Aharon is willing to go all the way with this dispute, even if he is forced to “get his hands dirty”. Simultaneously, he falls in love with Yelena, an attractive single mom who works as a customs official.  Yelena too, like many others at the port and in the city, is implicated in Azulay’s tangled web. 

Aharon will eventually have to make a cruel choice only to discover that a much larger force – privatization – has reshuffled the cards. Here is a drama about trying to build a life on unstable ground. 

 

 

“ENDGAME”— A New Film from Israel

“ENDTIME”

A New Film from Israel

Tomorrow will be the last day of your life. Where will you go? Who will you share your last moments with? What will you mourn the most? 

Veronica Kedar’s “Endtime” tells the story of eight friends who choose to spend the last day of their lives together at home. The disturbing situation, the accessible alcohol and the complex dynamics cause everyone to face the meaning of their lives, their most painful regrets and the dreams that will never come true.

What do people do when they only have a few more hours to live? In an evening, with no tomorrow, there are no regrets, no second chances and no guilt. Only tonight exists and the night is young.

“FAUDA”— Picked Up By Netfix

“Fauda”

Picked Up By Netflix

Netflix has picked up “Fauda,” the nail-biting Israeli television series about a deep-cover unit of the Israeli Defense Forces. The streaming site will begin airing the drama’s first season, which played to critical acclaim on Israeli satellite network YES last year, on Dec. 2.

Netflix has also purchased rights to “Fauda’s” second season, which is in production.

“Fauda” follows a close-knit unit of mista’arvim, the commando unit of the Israel army whose soldiers are trained in the language, dress and mannerisms of Palestinians, and whose undercover work is hailed in Israel for scuppering terror attacks and guiding military operations.

The show was the most-watched in YES history and also earned a best drama statue at the 2015 Israeli version of the Emmys.

The series was created by Avi Issacharoff, a journalist and Arab affairs specialist, and actor Lior Raz, and directed by Assaf Bernstein. The show broke barriers in Israel by giving its Arab characters equal screen time and equally complex backstories as its Jewish characters. The terrorists, in this show, are as much fathers and brothers as they are combatants, and are drawn with equal complexity as the Jewish soldiers. Neither side, the show insists, is innocent.

With both Arabic and Hebrew dialogue, the show also found its way into Palestinian audiences’ hearts, and its plot twists, hostage negotiations and close-combat battle scenes were rehashed on Arabic social media at a level never before seen for Israeli television.

The Netflix deal was brokered by Hadas Mozes Lictenstein from ADD Content Agency and Danna Stern from Yes DBS Satellite. According to the deal, Fauda will be dubbed a Netflix Original Series — the first-ever Israeli series to receive such a label.

The show will be aired in its original languages of Arabic and Hebrew, with English subtitles.

Issacharoff and Raz were on hand in Los Angeles for a screening and premiere party on Nov. 28.

“The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping: A Novel” by Aharon Applefeld— A New Life and a New Place

Applefeld, Aharon. “The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping: A Novel”, (translated by Jeffrey M. Green), Schocken, 2017.

A New Life and a New Place

Amos Lassen

Erwin is a Holocaust survivor who does not remember his trip across Europe after the war probably because he slept through it and other survivors carried him as they were headed to refugee camps in Naples, Italy where they had no idea what the future held. Once in Naples, Erwin had to struggle to stay awake and when he did manage to do so, he became one of a group of boys who were being trained by a representative from what was then Palestine. The idea was to get them ready for their new home in the Middle East.

The members of the club were held in a detention camp in Israel and from there were assigned to a kibbutz where they learn how to work the land and speak their new language. Even in this new environment, a part of Erwin desperately clings to the past. He has memories of his parents, to his mother tongue and of the Ukrainian city where he was born—and he knows that “despite what he is being told, who he was is just as important as who he is now becoming”.

After being wounded by snipers, he has to spend months recovering from surgeries and he has to learn how to use his legs as if he is walking for the first time. It was not enough to exercise his body, he also uses his recovery to also exercise his mind

and works at learning Hebrew by copying Biblical passages (I did the same—it must be a trick that Hebrew teachers used on their students. Erwin was able to learn that way; I simply discovered that the Hebrew of the Bible was a different than the Hebrew spoken when I lived in Israel) as well as attempting to write in his new language (as well as his mother tongue) in hopes that he could succeed as a writer, something his father wanted so badly to do but was unable to achieve. He is encouraged to write by his friends and fellow survivors and by his mother

who visits him in his dreams. When he tries to walk again with crutches, we see that he will succeed just as he will succeed with his writing. Erwin joins Aharon Applefeld’s gallery of memorable characters that reflect the mind of modern Israel.

I have always loved Applefeld’s use of metaphor and find it amazing that he is able to be so universal while writing from such a small country. Through Erwin we see humanity and understand that it was his painful experiences and self-determination that lead him to become the writer and the person that he becomes. We also see through him what becoming a writer entails and that the values of the past are as important as the present. Prose (in this case Applefeld’s) comes from personal experience that can become universal and we understand that struggle is struggle wherever it takes place. to create dazzling, masterly fiction with a universal resonance. It is Erwin’s (and Applefeld’s) own experiences in attempting to find an identity that makes up this novel of redemption and regaining what was lost to history. We see and, in effect, become part of the process of becoming… (a writer). The details of the past often become the issued of the present and here it is Erwin’s being a survivor and a refugee that act as catalysts for who he is to become. What I find so amazing here is that when I moved to Israel, I did so with the idea of building a nation and never thought of myself as a refugee but I suppose that is exactly what I was. Like Erwin, I searched and longer for an identity that would tie me to the land and to the people. The difference is the Holocaust here and it was such an important part of Erwin’s past that he had to find a way to transfer that memory into “translucent prose”.

There is great sensitivity in that prose and we really understand the difficulties of responding to post-Holocaust living. The prose is powerful that it is sure to be not easily forgotten just as the Holocaust stands in our past.