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Israel in Exile

Israel in Exile: Jewish Writing and the Desert

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Israel in Exile
    Book Description:

    Israel in Exile is a bold exploration of how the ancient desert of Exodus and Numbers, as archetypal site of human liberation, forms a template for modern political identities, radical skepticism, and questioning of official narratives of the nation that appear in the works of contemporary Israeli authors including David Grossman, Shulamith Hareven, and Amos Oz, as well as diasporic writers such as Edmund Jabes and Simone Zelitch. _x000B_In contrast to other ethnic and national representations, Jewish writers since antiquity have not constructed a neat antithesis between the desert and the city or nation; rather, the desert becomes a symbol against which the values of the city or nation can be tested, measured, and sometimes found wanting. This book examines how the ethical tension between the clashing Mosaic and Davidic paradigms of the desert still reverberate in secular Jewish literature and produce fascinating literary rewards. Omer-Sherman ultimately argues that the ancient encounter with the desert acquires a renewed urgency in response to the crisis brought about by national identities and territorial conflicts._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09202-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xx)
  4. 1 Representing Desert Wilderness in Jewish Narrative: Poetics and Politics
    (pp. 1-28)

    The Jewish textual and physical encounter with the desert is surely one of humanity’s most imaginative, spiritual, and in some ways mysterious adventures. The journey that began in Mesopotamia, traversed the Fertile Crescent, descended into the Nile, and culminated in a mysterious encounter with a demanding deity at the base of an unknown desert mountain would have expansive reverberations in humanity’s relation to the sacred throughout the centuries that followed. Site of privation as well as inspiration, the desert was a formidable presence in the moral vision of the Jewish prophets, a paradigm that would later prove intrinsic to some...

  5. 2 Justice and the Old/New Jewish Nation
    (pp. 29-59)

    The desert experience of the ancient Hebrews was a temporal and spatial revolution that is still a catalyst for the modern literary imagination. Let us begin with the fact that the Hebrew scriptures, in their obdurate this-worldly orientation, do not lament the fall which permanently severs human beings from Eden. The exile from Eden ensures that the static harmony God provided for the earth-beings in the garden is permanently disrupted, as history replaces the graceful repetition of Adam and Eve’s communion with the rhythms of nature. Unlike the aspirations that underwrote the European conquest of the New World, the biblical...

  6. 3 Desert Space and National Consciousness
    (pp. 60-95)

    Any analysis of the vital cultural role played by the disruptive signifier of “desert” in the Israeli literary setting, or the Jewish canon itself, would hardly be complete without considering the rich fictional universe of Amos Oz (b. 1939). One of the most widely read Israeli novelists of his or any generation, Oz always proves a highly rewarding writer to examine in relation to the pervasive and permanent antagonism of the settled and unsettled, the occupied and the occupier. He is, after all, the writer theGuardianonce hailed as “the desert conscience of Israel.” With the possible exception of...

  7. 4 Immobilized Rebels on the Outskirts of the Promised Land
    (pp. 96-125)

    One of the most subversive moments in the long series of protests by the people against Moses in the wilderness occurs in Numbers 16, where a confrontational Dathan and Abiram reverse the leader’s privileged representation of the immediate past and the future that beckons: “Is it not enough that you brought us from a land flowing with milk and honey to have us die in the wilderness, that you would also lord it over us?” The pair’s appropriation of the exalted terms assigned to Canaan, their backward elevation of Egypt as the redemptive land, dooms them to be consumed by...

  8. 5 Sinai of the Diasporic Imagination
    (pp. 126-158)

    Whereas modern Hebrew writers often make strident political uses of the desert in ways that resonate in the Israeli national scene, a significant number of Jewish writers in the Diaspora have discovered the luxury of moving in the universal tropes and renderings of “exile.” Where Israeli writers are dutifully compelled by urgent social necessities and the imperatives of political specificity and concrete Zionist realities, much different renderings of the mythic past emerge from Jewish writers situated in other cultures. In diasporic explorations of the primal landscape where God and the Jew called to one another, terms such as exile, exodus,...

  9. 6 Wilderness as Experience and Metaphor
    (pp. 159-176)

    What now seems most noteworthy about Yizhar’s unprecedented plea for an authentic “homeland” rather than a tourist site (which was subsequently quoted by an approving David Ben-Gurion) is his emphatic valuation of Israel’s most hostile spaces as essential assets that were to be cherished as if somehow key to a healthy nation’s cultural future. Or as one young starry-eyed Sabra of the same period wrote in a letter describing a school trip meant to strengthen a sense of connection between the new Zionist generation and the rural landscape: “How we rambled and roamed among the ruins . . . and...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 177-192)
    (pp. 193-202)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 203-210)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 211-212)