It is one-day autobiography of S. Yizhar, a member of a Jewish terrorist group. It’s the day in 1948 when his Jewish militia attacks the Palestinian village of Khirbet Khizeh and deports all its Muslim and Christian inhabitants. Yizhar brings to life the landscapes and people of the village, as seen by an intruder, the boredom and camaraderie and casual intimacy of infantry life, and his growing unease at what he is called on to do. The bright, vivid setting contrasts with the terrible normality of the eviction and the internal, personal realisation of the narrator.
S. Yizhar (pen-name of Yizhar Smilansky) recorded the events in Hebrew right after happened. However, the book was translated into English in 2008. Yizhar wrote: “Words rang in my ears. I did not know where from. I passed among them all, among those weeping aloud, among those silently grinding their teeth, those feeling sorry for themselves and for what they were leaving behind, those who railed at their destiny and those who quietly submitted to it, those ashamed of themselves and their disgrace, those already making plans to sort themselves out somehow, those weeping for the fields that would be desolate, and those silenced by exhaustion, eaten away by hunger and fear. I wanted to discover if among all these people there was a single Jeremiah mourning and burning, forging a mouth of fury in his heart, crying out in stifled tones to the old God in Heaven, atop the trucks of exile …”
The author, his mind ringing with thoughts of how Jews were exiled by their persecutors, blurts out a protest, one of his comrades retorts: “Are we killing them? We’re taking them to their side. Let them sit there and wait. It’s very decent of us. There’s no other place in the world where they’d have been treated as well as this.”
Benny Morris, an Israeli historian, has calculated that of 369 Palestinian towns and villages in what became Israel, at least 41 were forcibly evacuated, and in at least 228 the residents fled under attack by Zionist forces. However, Palestinian records shows that more than 400 Palestinian villages and towns were cleansed off the native Muslims and Christians through mass-killing and Jewish terrorism. According to some estimates – the European Jewish thugs demolished over 600 mosques and al least a dozen churches.
Professor Yizhar Smilansky (1916-2006) was elected to Knesset (1949-1966). After the Yom Kippur war debacle, the Israeli society start returning to religious fanatism – which bothered Yizhar very much. He voiced warning against the polarization of Israeli society along religious, ethnic and political lines – but his warning was never heeded.
Yizhar was a dedicated Zionist, a Hebrew-speaking sabra born on Palestinian soil to a pioneering Jewish family. Yet his stories were brutally candid about acts of casual cruelty. Jews were perennially cursed by exile, says one character; how could they now “send other people into exile”?
Canadian professor M.D. Rotstein (Concordia University, Montreal) paid glowing tributes to Yizhar on later’s death.