A Tale of Things Remembered, and of People Trying to Forget, in 1950s Israel

Born, like David Ben-Gurion, in the Polish town of Płońsk, Mendel Mann (1916-1975) fled to the Soviet Union after the outbreak of World War II, eventually joining the Red Army. He came to Israel in 1948, and became a prolific writer of poetry, essays, short stories, and novellas in Yiddish. In his possibly autobiographical short story “The Encounter,” published in a 1966 anthology, he describes a chance meeting with a familiar-looking woman in the Israeli town of Ramat Gan around the year 1954. What follows is an exploration of the psychic after-effects of the Holocaust. Herewith, an excerpt from the opening scene, in Heather Valencia’s translation:

“Please don’t be offended at my speaking to you again. I wouldn’t have done so if you hadn’t just been passing by while I’m still waiting for my bus. I do know you.”

I said these words with an urgency and certainty that surprised even me. She put her shopping bag down on the pavement and looked at me silently.

“I traveled across Ukraine with the Soviet army, and somewhere in a shtetl in Volhynia I met you. It was a strange encounter. Don’t you remember the Russian soldier who talked to you in Yiddish? Have you forgotten a night journey in a truck with two armed soldiers?”

She wrung her hands and her lips began to tremble. “I don’t know you. I don’t want to know you!” she shouted. Her vehemence made me certain that she was the woman I remembered.

At last the bus came. I was grateful to the driver for saving me.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Arts & Culture, Holocaust survivors, Israeli literature, Yiddish literature

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf