Opinion

An everlasting story of the freedom of the Jews

TORRENS TALK

I belong to a couples book group. My husband and I enjoy it not only for the great company, but because it gets us to read books we might not otherwise try. Choosing the books to read has been a challenge to the disparate interests that exist in our group. Still, we have been able to adhere to our pattern of alternating fiction and non-fiction.

Recently, we decided to reread some of the tomes we read when younger and so Leon Uris’ book, “Exodus,” was chosen. While no conscious decision regarding its choice was made because of the upcoming Jewish holiday, it certainly was propitious in its timing.

Next Saturday, April 19, at sundown is the start of Passover. It is a key holiday in Judaism as it is the retelling of the exodus from Egypt, from slavery to freedom, of the Jewish people. It is so important that the story is told every year at the ritual meal, the Seder, so that Jews of every generation will know it: its importance, its meaning, its impact, its place in the pantheon of history.

It also is a story that has been retold in film, “The Ten Commandments,” and in parallel in Uris’ book. For Leon Uris, the exodus was not that of old, but rather the contemporary one of the Jews in the aftermath of World War II. While the book is historical fiction, the fiction lies mainly in the characters chosen to tell the story but the major events that occur are fact.

I found it fascinating that what I read fairly easily when younger was much harder to read now as an adult. Some of it is simply the age and experience difference. Certainly, the political machinations that go on are easier to understand but are, conversely, harder to accept. It is almost 50 years since the book was first printed and yet the issues and the problems in that part of the world have not changed.

But, the rest of why it was hard is because the world is once again seeming to forget what actually happened and to whom. Anti-Semitism is on the rise and support for Israel is thin. From a situation they created, the Arabs have gotten the world to believe that the Palestinian problem, the refugees and all other Arab ills are the Jews’ fault.

The Jews bought the land the Arabs did not want from them and turned desert wasteland into gardens and farmland. The Jews built homes, hospitals and schools in Arab villages and offered them a place at the table in their government and society from the beginning of Israel’s existence. They asked the Palestinians to stay and grow the country with them.

The Arab nations told the Arab Palestinians to flee because the Jews would kill them. Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon would not allow these people into their countries, choosing instead to put them in the refugee camps that still exist today. The Arab nations also adopted Hitler’s solution to the Jews: destroy them and Israel.

It is truly sad that nothing has really changed in more than half a century since the Holocaust and World War II. Hatreds run deep and political maneuvering to keep access to oil is still on-going. It was appalling to see how little even the enmities between Arab countries, their tribal warfare, religious factions and Western nations’ need to control the area have not abated. For the most part, only the names of the players are different.

There is no easy or simple answer to the “Mideast problem.” It is a situation mired in millennia old adversarial relationships compounded by modern day needs. If the need for Mideast oil were taken off the table, it would be interesting to see whether the pressure on Israel to constantly give in to Arab demands would abate and that it would be brought to bear on the Arabs instead.

It took Moses and the Jews 40 years to reach eretz Yisrael. That time frame has long passed since the creation of the state of Israel. The Jews have come home and there they should stay. “Exodus” is a story for the ages but as an event it does not need to be repeated again.

Val Torrens appears Wednesdays in the CK Reporter.

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