Monday, April 19, 2010
Exodus by Leon Uris is an essential novel for understanding the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. Uris set out to write the definitive novel about the birth of Israel and the return of the Jewish people to their own nation and he succeeds.
This is a powerful story: dense, complex and somewhat morally ambiguous. I do not really know how to feel about the novel's conclusions. It rightly portrays the Jewish people as a nation that has been forever persecuted and attacked, and they deserved a chance to return to their homeland after the Holocaust. However, the portrayel of the Arab nations is not without serious bias - this epic of biblical proportions chooses to take an "us versus them" stance as opposed to a more multi-faceted view. Yes, the Jewish people deserved a new homeland, but perhaps they should have worked peacefully with the Arabs to establish this, rather than setting up a military state ready to give their own children's blood for their new nation.
The characters are deeply drawn and serve as vivid and compelling anti-archtypes, particularly Ari Ben Canaan and Kitty Fremont. Ari's ultimate realization of the bloody cost of what he has undertaken is one of the most hauntingly realistic moments in the story. So too is the harrowing, brutal depiction of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising - time and again, the characters reveal themselves as true heroes and this is no exception.
The foundation of Israel was built on the statement "never again" and Uris does not shy away from the fact the people are more than willing to defend what they believe is rightfully - and biblically - theirs. A triumphant story that has to be read not only to understand one of the most important events of the twentieth century but also to gain a deeper understanding of why our world can never fully be at peace.