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:
A Tale of Things Remembered, and of People Trying to Forget, in 1950s Israel
The Woman behind a Notorious Suicide Bombing Walks Free. Will America See That She Is Punished?
On August 9, 2001, Ahlam Tamimi and Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri traveled from the West Bank to Jerusalem, where Masri detonated himself in a Sbarro’s pizzeria, killing seven children and eight adults, and injuring scores. When the two passed through an Israeli checkpoint earlier that day, they appeared to be a young couple; had Masri been alone, police almost certainly would have stopped him and discovered the deadly bomb in his guitar case. Tamimi was arrested shortly thereafter and sentenced to life in prison. Ten years later, she was among the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners exchanged for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. She now resides in Jordan.