By Blida Grad
OUT OF BONDAGE. ISRAEL, by Elizabeth Rivers (Peter Owen, 16s.).
THIS is a very interesting and and lively account of a visit to Israel. The author, who is also an artist and embellishes her book with fine photographs and sensitive drawings, describes her experiences in the new state of Israel, this strange community of Jewish pioneers in a hostile Arab world.
Two facts stand nut most vividly from the book : the country itself is overflowing with religious associations, Mount Thabor and Capharnaum, Nazareth and Bethlehem-it is still the Holy Land. But the young Israelis who are shaping its future know neither Christ nor Moses ; they are hard. efficient, austere in their habits, for they are building up their twentieth century homeland. There is no longer a Moses to strike water out of the rock, and Yahweh has withdrawn into a darkness far more inaccessible than that which once covered Sinai when the People received the Law. Instead. there is plenty of machinery, incessant work, communal settlements where privacy is almost unknown and a lack of charity and gentleness that struck the author particularly. The Arabs, full of resentment at the foreign settlers in their midst and clinging to their traditional way of life, are drawn with great sympathy ; and the clever intertwining of the religious associations of the past with the breathless secular activities of the present gives the hook a poignant charm. Jews and Arabs wander through its pages, arguing, conversing, speaking of their life and work.
The political problems of this strange new state of Israel are no more than a lightly sketched-in background, yet when I had finished reading I realised the magnitude of the difficulties. "The Jews have suffered, but they have made the Arabs suffer. Now the bitterness is there," says one of the characters in the book. The Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed once and for all after the Resurrection -is it really possible to build up a nation without its heart ?