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Monday, October 27, 2003

Don't be

I'm reading from the depths i call by Lea Fuchs Chayen.

From her introduction:
"In writing this book, I was trying to do my minimal duty as a survivor, to the past, present, and future generations of my nation. . . I am writing my own personal story and that of those who were near me. As I write, I relive everything. I am there again, feeling the cold and desperation - even the smell of Birkenau is with with me every now and then. I try to describe things as accurately as I can."
I've only read a chapter so far, but two things have struck me deeply. One is in the details of Chayen's family: there were her four older sisters, then a brother, then her. That's the exact same pattern as my family, and I too was that youngest girl.

In recounting the march from ghetto to cattlecar, Chayen passes along the street named after her grandfather:
"I thought how strange it was that I had always felt that I didn't belong to this place, always knew that I was an unwelcome outsider. We were constantly told, 'You stinking Jew, go to Palestine.' "
That's pretty bitterly funny, isn't it. Now they they want us out of Palestine. Illustrious American publications print declarations that Israel is a failed experiment, that it came too late, that there is no place in this world for Jews to be both Jewish and safe. The Jew among nations is condemned, not only from the halls of the United Nations to Malaysia, but at Oxford and in the New York Times.

It's hard to believe that we're living through this - all the while going to work and the grocery store, celebrating birthdays, living a normalish life. My friend asked me the other day if I thought this was how it was for the German Jews, if they knew it, but were just too busy with their lives to do anything much about it. I don't know, but I hate this feeling of watching my self live, and wondering from what point, what place, what condition, will I look back on this. I know what it looks like now, going into it, but what will it look like from the other side looking back? What - from now- will sustain us - then?

UPDATE: Mortime Zuckerman's "Graffiti on History's Walls" is the cover story of the new issue of usnews. (It covers much of the current controvery of anti-Zionism, so might be a good item to print out for future reference.) In conclusion he says,
The insight of Amos Oz, the liberal Israeli writer, is pertinent. He is haunted, he said, by the observation that before the Holocaust, European graffiti read, "Jews to Palestine," while today it has been changed, to "Jews out of Palestine." The message to Jews, Oz says, is simple: "Don't be here, and don't be there. That is, don't be."
Didn't I just have that same haunting observation? Must be going around.