A Literary Masterpiece and a Perfect Antidote to Jewish Sentimentalism toward the East European Past

Nov. 14 2017

In his 1940 Yiddish novel “When Yash Arrived” (available in English as Homecoming at Twilight), the Polish-born American author Jacob Glatstein tells the story of a Polish Jew’s return to the land of his birth from the U.S. Dara Horn recommends the book as a way “to repair the damage done to the American Jewish psyche by hundreds of lousy Holocaust novels and school productions of Fiddler on the Roof.” She writes:

American Jews with roots in Yiddish-speaking Europe bear the burden of a past not merely gone but incinerated. The community’s response has been to sanctify these ancestors’ deaths rather than their lives, as though it were our responsibility to recall their murderers’ actions rather than theirs—and thereby to regard these ancestors as holy innocents, trapped in sentimental amber. [As a result, American Jews] are never allowed to view the Jews of pre-Holocaust Europe as adults, as participants in a complex and diverse and contradictory world or, more important, as people who were aware enough to see it coming. . . .

When I call Homecoming at Twilight a masterpiece, the word hardly seems adequate. “Masterpiece” describes Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, a novel about a resort/sanatorium that shelters its diverse guests from the horror about to engulf Europe in World War I. But The Magic Mountain was published in 1924, years after that war ended. Homecoming at Twilight, a novel about a resort/sanatorium that shelters its diverse guests from the horror about to engulf Europe’s Jews, was written before World War II even began. (It wasn’t published until 1940, but it was composed in the mid-1930s.) . . . .

Glatstein’s book is still eerily predictive. From the conversations in this book with and about every type of Polish Jew as they gather at this resort—secular and religious, young and old, Zionists and Communists and Polish patriots alike—we learn just how profoundly all of them sensed their imminent doom, not because they could see the future, but because they could see the past. “They want to destroy us, nothing less,” one character notes of his non-Jewish neighbors early in the book, which, I’ll note again, was written before the first mass murders. “They want to exterminate us, purely and simply. Yes, exterminate us.”

Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewry, Arts & Culture, East European Jewry, Jacob Glatstein, Yiddish literature


Hamas’s Dangerous Escalation in Gaza

June 22 2018

As Hamas has stepped up its attacks on communities near the Gaza Strip—using incendiary devices attached to kites and balloons—Israel has begun to retaliate more forcefully. In response, the terrorist group has begun firing rockets and mortars into Israel. Yoav Limor comments:

What made Wednesday’s rocket salvo different is that ‎unlike previous flare-ups on the border [since 2014], this time it ‎was Hamas operatives who fired at Israel, as opposed ‎to Islamic Jihad or the ‎rogue terrorist group in the coastal enclave. ‎Still, Hamas made sure the attack followed most of ‎the familiar “rules”—only [firing] at night and only at the ‎ communities in the vicinity of Gaza, and apparently while also ‎trying to minimize any casualties, to avoid further ‎escalation. ‎. . .

The first reason [for the shift in tactics] is Israel’s own change of policy ‎with regard to kite terrorism. It took Israel far ‎too long to define the incessant waves of incendiary ‎kites sent over the border as actionable acts of ‎terror, but once it did, the IDF began ‎systematically countering them, including firing ‎warning shots at terrorist kite cells and targeting ‎Hamas assets in Gaza in retaliation.‎

The second reason is Hamas’s own frustration and ‎distress in Gaza. Since the border-riot campaign was ‎launched on March 30, some 150 of its operatives ‎have been killed and the Israeli military has ‎carried out over 100 strikes on Hamas positions in ‎the coastal enclave, all while Hamas has nothing to ‎show for it. ‎In this situation, Hamas is searching for [some sort of victory] by declaring that “bombings will be ‎met with bombings,” as Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum ‎said Wednesday, in order to portray itself as defending Gaza from ‎Israel.‎ . . .

Hamas is banking on Israel opting against a military ‎campaign in Gaza at this time so as not to split its ‎focus from the [developments in Syria], but it is sorely ‎mistaken if it thinks Israel will simply contain ‎kite terrorism or shy away from action given the new ‎equation it has presented. ‎At some point, Israel’s patience will expire.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security