Israel in Exile: Jewish Writing and the Desert by Ranen Omer-Sherman

By Ranen Omer-Sherman

Israel in Exile is a daring exploration of ways the traditional desolate tract of Exodusand Numbers, as archetypal website of human liberation, varieties a templatefor smooth political identities, radical scepticism, and wondering ofofficial narratives of the kingdom that seem within the works of contemporaryIsraeli authors together with David Grossman, Shulamith Hareven, andAmos ounces, in addition to diasporic writers similar to Edmund Jabes andSimone Zelitch. unlike different ethnic and nationwide representations, Jewish writers when you consider that antiquity haven't built a neat antithesisbetween the wilderness and the town or state; relatively, the barren region turns into asymbol opposed to which the values of town or country could be verified, measured, and occasionally stumbled on wantin

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In particular (often resembling the discourse of early Zionists), the English travel writers extolled the Bedouins, whose timeless poverty transformed them into uncorrupt and mythic embodiments of the virtues of abstinence and self-denial that were rapidly decaying at home in the seat of empire: Even tonight, when they considered themselves well off, these men would sleep naked on the freezing sand, covered only with their flimsy loincloths. I thought, too, of the bitter wells in the furnace heat of summer, when, hour by reeling hour, they watered thirsty, thrusting camels, until at last the wells ran dry and importunate camels moaned for water which was not there.

The inevitability of the postlapsarian journey from garden to city is interrupted by the desert experience that follows deliverance from Egypt, which in turn ushers in a generation of quietude and communion. indd 31 12/8/05 3:04:33 PM 32 isr ael in exile itself a window onto eternity, as Abraham Joshua Heschel’s The Sabbath suggests, an ascent out of the limits of temporality that promises to expand human consciousness in its rigorous observance, the nonlinear desert wanderings, which at times embody God’s displeasure with his people, are poetically open-ended.

2:15–3:31), David from Saul (1 Sam. 23–26) and later from Absalom (2 Sam. 15–17), and Elijah from Jezebel (1 Kings 19:1–4). These leave redolent traces in the modern Hebrew writer’s imagination that we begin to explore in this chapter. Nevertheless, from the moment that Abraham departs from Ur, the Torah (Five Books of Moses) rapidly advances the story of how its people overcome the condition of homelessness—with the exception of the liminality of the forty years of wandering. Though these years conform to the biblical paradigm of anticipating a new home (a variation on the promise made earlier to Abraham and later to David), Exodus contains too many moments of apostasy and backsliding to conform to the usual scheme of linear fulfillment.

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