‘Your father said the war was his home’
Israeli author Ayala Yokéd earned her degrees in English literature and Political Science from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, has served in the Israeli military, volunteered on a kibbutz and worked in a hospital. But it is the impact of her being the daughter of Holocaust survivors that served as the nidus for this, her successful book. She has also written ALL SHE CARED FOR.
Miriam accomplishes what too few authors have been able to communicate – that birth of the state of Israel that came to life after World War II, the Gilead for Holocaust survivors to strive to reach. The story of immigrants fleeing to Israel is sensitively related in Ayala’s fine prose. An example: ‘Miriam began working at Glowworm on August 1st, 1952. On that same date, eight years earlier, their neighbor Salman Abou-Nouri, had interred the body of her father in the grave he dug beside that of her mother’s, in the eastern corner of the apple orchard in Alma Atta. (the former name of the capital of Kazakhstan). In the evening, when she returned to her hut, she took the articles her father had published in the People’s Press (a Jewish daily newspaper with a socialist agenda published in Poland before WW II), wrapped them with thick paper, and put them in her handbag,
where she would best be able to safeguard them.’
The synopsis condenses the novel well – ‘Miriam - a young immigrant, struggles to keep pace with the ongoing lives of veteran Israelis. Her parents fled Poland as soon as WWII broke out. Her mother was an intellectual and her father a political activist. Miriam clings to their ideas while trying to find her new self in a new land. She is the focus of attention of her male acquaintances, and while rejecting each of them, is painfully harboring her true feelings to the man she loves. Miriam does not put her past behind her. Living in Israel, a young and not yet developed state, where conditions are rough, stirs up continual nostalgia for her former life, and - in a way, she idealizes her past sufferings. She is ignorant about both Jewish tradition, and Zionist ideology. Now Miriam has to find a way to relate to the people she meets; local Israelis who are still struggling after the War of Independence, and new immigrants who survived the Holocaust and are forever struggling with the horrors of it, so she can find a way to turn this new country into her home.’
Fact based, honest, tender, and involving, this book is a rare treasure by a woman who knows her craft. Recommended.
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