THE ANGLO-SAXON JEWS
THIS YEAR IN JERUSALEM
I HAD, AS A YOUNGSTER in Montreal, been active in the Labor-Zionist movement. At the time, we all intended to emigrate to Israel. Only a few actually got to Eretz, but now that I was there at last — if only on a visit — I hoped to find out what I could about them.
My first opportunity came on Monday evening, April l), when I went to the Sheraton Hotel for the annual dinner of the Association of Americans and
Canadians in Israel. At the makeshift bar in the lobby I searched the crowd — mostly, to my surprise, middle-aged — for a familiar face, and soon found one. There was Mr. Leon C'haifetz, who used to write editorials for the Jewish Eagle in Montreal. Mr. Chaifetz’s son Yehoash and I used to be in the same group in Habonim. Friday evenings we shot snooker together. Mr. C'haifetz. who runs a citrus farm near Netanya, told me, “Yes, Yehoash is in Canada again. Toronto. He says he’s coming back, but who knows.” Mr. Chaifetz’s eldest son, Mischa, another who had emigrated to Israel in the excitement of the creation of a new state, was also back in Canada. “We need more Anglo-Saxons urgently,” Mr. C'haifetz said.
It is one of the smaller ironies of Israeli life that immigrants from Canada. England, and the U. S. A., who often left their countries because the AngloSaxons there made them feel unwanted, are, in Israel, called Anglo-Saxons themselves.
Most of the middle-aged and elderly
people in the lobby were, I discovered, retired. Older Canadians and Americans can collect their pensions in Israel. All Canadian settlers can and generally do retain dual citizenship—a possible out in hard times that has antagonized other Israelis. Canadian and American settlers are in fact regarded with skepticism. Many return when they find the going difficult. The Association of Americans and Canadians claims a membership of 10,000, of which 1,500 are Canadian. In recent years, Aliyah (immigration) from Canada and the U. S. A. has dropped to a trickle; it can be measured in the hundreds.
WHY CANADIANS GO BACK HOME
The next afternoon I called on Murray Greenfield, director of the Association. Greenfield, an explosively energetic man of thirty-six, comes from a well-todo Long Island family. “In America,” he said, “our parents did everything for us. We had all the privileges. We're here because we'd like to do something for ourselves.”
Greenfield came to Israel in 1947 to serve with the Hagana: today, his work for the Association apart, he runs two art galleries, dabbles in real estate, and he alone knows how many other enterprises. "Half the Canadians and Americans who come here leave after two-three years," he said. "If they stay longer they're hooked. Why do they quit? They think it's all going to be orange picking and dancing the hora. They go to a kibbutz and want to dance round a tree after one bushel's been picked.” The Association, he told me, backed by the Jewish Agency, helps new immigrants with loans, housing, and employment problems. "Another reason so many go home,” he said, “is, let's face it, most of them come from middle-class homes and coming here means a big drop in their standard of living. Not everybody can take it. Many others miss their close family ties. Momma.
"I'm a big fish in a small pond.” Greenfield said, "and 1 like it. You know, my picture's in the papers here, everybody CONTINUED ON F>AGE 34
CONTINUED ON FAGE 34
continued from pape 19
“In America, what could I do?j Here, I'm building. I count”!
knows who I am. I’m taking part in something. In America who knows ’ me? Who would care?” Greenfield, ! along with Canadian and American j settlers, including novelist Meyer I Levin, is trying to start a reform syna> gogue in Tel Aviv. His group is wor-? ried about anti-Americanism in the country. “This could still become an* independent non-Jewish sort of state rather than a centre for world Juda-jj ism.” ]
Greenfield and I retired to the bar, j the Maccabean Room at the Sheraton j Hotel. He jumped up to greet two; tourists. “Hello Mr. Katz. Hi, Mr.! Firstein.” He turned to me. “Katz is! worth twenty million. Firstein is poor i —he’s only worth ten.” Greenfield \ ordered a round. “In America,” lie said, “What could 1 do? Be a rich j businessman? There’s no challenge, ! no satisfaction. Here I’m helping to build a country. I count."
The Canadian who has made the most distinguished contribution to the new State of Israel is undoubtedly Dov Joseph, the present Minister of Justice. Dr. Joseph is an unpopular but highly regarded figure. One Mapai supporter told me, “I don’t care for him. Few people do. But the truth is he’s been given all the dirty jobs to do, like Minister of Rationing after the war, and he’s done them well.” Reuben Ben Zur felt Dov Joseph was an unnecessarily harsh man. But Uri Avnery, whose weekly stood to be shut down if the new press law were j passed, spoke of Dr. Joseph with surprising warmth. “He’s severe, but a very honest man.”
Dov Joseph, born in Montreal, first saw Jerusalem at the age of eighteen when he volunteered to fight in the Jewish Legion in World War I. He studied law at McGill and Laval Universities, returned to Jerusalem in 1921, and has lived there ever since. Now in his early sixties, Dr. Joseph has served the Zionist cause almost all his adult life, most notably as Military Governor of Jerusalem during the siege. In his book, The Faithful City, a touchy, defensive, yet wonderfully detailed and well-written account of the crucial role he played in the defense of the Holy City, Dr. Joseph writes of his appointment as Military Governor, “. . . it filled me with pride and humility at the same time. The last governor of Jerusalem we had known as a people was Pontius Pilate. For the first time in over 2,000 years Jerusalem once again had a Jewish governor.” And it is surely in this role, which he filled with such distinction, that Dov Joseph will be remembered in Israeli history.
Today, as Minister of Justice, he is in the unenviable position of having to defend a pending press law, drafted by a predecessor, and criticized by the world press. The bill, recently withdrawn for further study, would enable the government to permanently shut down any newspaper twice convicted of libel within two years. It
would mean that any Israeli citizen or foreign resident in Israel who libeled "the state of Israel" abroad would be subject to prosecution in Israel. Another clause, making it possible to libel the dead, would make the writing of honest history all but impossible.
“The law is not my baby. It was on the books before I took over here,” Dr. Joseph said, "but criticism of it abroad is based on ignorance. All we are doing is invoking, with minor changes, an old British law.”
But the British law he referred to was never meant for England. It was a law of the mandatory regime. Clearly colonial in intent, it was meant to suppress a possibly troublesome native press. I asked Dr. Joseph how he would be able to distinguish between "libel of the state abroad" and honest criticism.
“T he difference is clear,” he said sharply.
Dov Joseph is a short, excitable man with bushy eyebrows and a highpitched voice. He had already been visited by a delegation of foreign correspondents protesting the law as an attack on traditional press freedoms. Obviously, he fourni my further questioning tiresome.
"No confusion is possible,” he said. "Criticism is one thing, slander another. You can't expect us to tolerate Israelis ridiculing or spreading hatred of our state abroad.”
“They tolerate it in Canada and England." I said.
"Of course it would not be the same for a democratic progressive state. You would not expect to find such laws there. But we're in a state of emergency here.”
I asked why no civil marriage was possible in Israel.
"If you want to marry a Gentile,” Dr. Joseph said, "you can always go to Cyprus."
"But isn't it a religious interference with—”
"In this part of the world there's a special emphasis on religion."
Dr Joseph would like to see more Canadian Jews settle in Israel. “But each man must decide for himself.” he said. "It's an entirely personal matter . . . However, we do need more Anglo-Saxons, people who have decided to come here. We want to build only with those who want to be here.”
I asked him about friction with American and Canadian Jews.
“There's no friction . . . Oh. sometimes there are little difficulties. Why? Some of them come here, they gave maybe a hundred dollars in Montreal, and they want to know where their university is? But this vulgar group is a minority.” Dr. Joseph stood up. “It seems to me we’ve been talking for a long time,” he said.
The port of Eilat, at the southernmost tip of the country, is Israel’s gateway to Africa. But it means more, much more than that. Eilat is Israel's frontier town. It represents to this country what the opening of the west meant to America a hti u’r d years ago. "Sometimes,” Reib i lien 7ur once said to me, “I think if we didn't have three children, if we ''ere young again, my wife and I would throw up everything and move to Eilat. Thee you can feel the spirit that made Israel.”
Eilat is a rough, dusty boom town
on the edge of a desert. Its buildings have a temporary look. Walking through the town for the first time 1 felt that I was in an industrial suburb on the approaches to a great city. But there is no city yet. Only hard-working Eilat, with a population of six or seven thousand; and where it stops abruptly, the desert. The people who have come to settle in Eilat get special tax concessions. On one side of the Gulf there’s Sinai: Egypt. On the
other side, the frontiers with Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Before the Sinai campaign life in Eilat was dangerous. Arab gun positions in the Gulf prevented ships from entering the port. Today the guns are silent, but they are still very, very close—so close that when a tanker steams into the Gulf you have to wait a while before you can tell for sure if it’s headed for Eilat or Aqaba, only five miles away.
On the short flight out from Tel Aviv we first flew over the green cultivated belt so recently torn from the desert; then Beersheba. Between it anti Eilat there’s only sand and rock. A desolate, ghostly landscape of dunes, parched red mountains, desiccated valleys, and hills laced together by dusty riverbeds. Occasionally there’s a stubborn clump of bushes, a pathetic waterhole, and a lonely cluster of shacks. Just before Eilat there’s Beer-Ora and the copper mines, still profitable, that go back to King Solomon's time. In Eilat itself there's the busy port and the oil pipeline to Haifa, “Israel's dryland Suez Canal.”
I stayed at the biggest hotel in town, the Hotel Eilat. It was built with funds donated by Canadian Histadrut and is managed by a young Canadian. Harvey Goodman, thirty-one, was brought up on Clark Street in Montreal, just round the corner from where I used to live. He has been in Israel for ten years. “All Jews should come here,” he said. “We’re hated everywhere.” I protested.
“Come on. How can you feel comfortable in Canada—with them? They don’t want us. Me, I've always been nervous in their company.”
“Aren't you curious about Clark Street? Wouldn't you like to see it again?”
“The ghetto? Yiddish mommas? The hell.”
Goodman felt that Israel had changed for the worse recently. “We’re becoming a nation of schnorrcrs. What we ought to do is work harder, like we used to, and say the hell wfith American Jews.”
A round-shouldered man approached Goodman timidly. It was only a day before Passover; the man was a monitor from the rabbinical council come to see that the special dietary laws were being observed at the hotel. “1 could do without him,” Goodman said, “I'd like to toss him into the sea. The bastards who come here from America don't keep kosher at home, but when they're in the Holy Land they expect us to do it for them.”
The monitor laughed anxiously. “What does he say?” he asked in Yiddish.
“Come on.“ Goodman said to him. “Let's go.”
1 went to watch the bronzed young fishermen haul in their nets. The catch was good. The nets were heavy with gasping, struggling Blue Fish. The
fish kicked up a violent spray. Soon the sea was red with their blood. Inside the hotel somebody put a Frank Sinatra record on the player. As the fish lay expiring on the beach, Sinatra’s voice came over the loudspeakers:
“I can't give you anything but love, baby.”
The bartender at the hotel was a Jew from Tangier. “One day,” he told me, “I served a Spaniard here. A rich man. He told me that in Madrid he was an antisémite. He said, I didn't believe these Jews could ever build a country so I thought I'd go and see for myself. Well, I've seen the country, he said, and it’s marvelous. It wouldn’t surprise me if you people had the atom bomb in five years and took over the Middle East in ten. But you’re not Jews; you’re different. You’ve fought for your land, you've spilled blood for it. and you have pride. The Jews in Spain would only fight for their families and their business. You're different here, he said,” the bartender repeated with pride.
In all the bars 1 had been to in Israel I had never seen anybody who had had too much to drink, so running into Bernard, a local fisherman, was something of an occasion. Unfortunately, we did not hit it off. Clapping me on the back as he ordered another round, Bernard said, “I'm not personal, but I always speak frank. I don't like Canadians . . . Canada is a big country, it's as small as Liechtenstein. Understand?”
“I understand. Goodman doesn't like Canada either. They hate him there.”
“You know why I live here?” “Don’t tell me. It's because you’re a new kind of Jew,” I said, glaring at the bartender.
“I’m not Tolstoi, I’m not Christ,” Bernard said. “I’m just a stinking Jew, but I like my smell.”
“You smell just like a lousy fisherman to me.”
Bernard slapped me on the back. He slapped me very hard.
“I'm not personal,” I said, “but I always speak frank.”
“I’m a Jew,” Bernard bellowed. “Like Freud. Like Einstein.”
"The hell you are. You’re not a Jew like Freud or a fisherman like St. Peter. You're a fisherman like a fisherman, Bernard.”
“I’ve never liked Canadians.” “Well, I'm a Canadian.” I took a big gulp of my drink. “Like Maurice Richard.”
“You’re a stinking Jew. Like me.” “I'm a Canadian Jew. That means I’ll fight for my family and my business, if I had one, but not for my country.”
“1 didn’t say the Spaniard was right,” the bartender said. “I only work here."
“You tell your rich Spanish friend that the Jews in Canada have not only fought for their country—some of them even fought for Spain.”
“You’re an assimilationist,” Bernard said.
“The truth is," I said, "I’m one of the Elders of Zion.”
I ended an altogether unsatisfactory evening in Eilat’s one nightclub, The
End of the World, described, in the Visitor's Guide, as “exotic.” A busload of Swedes had got there before me. They sat around drinking beer as two young Israeli folksingers, wearing Yemenite shirts, sang “Take Me Back to the Red River Valley” in Hebrew.
Early the next morning 1 flew back to Tel Aviv.
The “Anglo-Saxon” kibbutz of Gesher-Haziv lies in the foothills of the Galilee, only a mile from the
Mediterranean and five miles from the Lebanese border: it is at the opposite end of the country from Eilat. Before flying to Eilat 1 had arranged with a taxi driver in Tel Aviv to meet my return plane and drive me to the kibbutz, eighty-odd miles away. As 1 would be traveling on the eve of Passover, which is not unlike the Christmas rush in Canada, 1 wanted to be sure of getting there on time. “How much do you want?” I asked the driver.
“Are we getting married? Do we need a rabbi? We’ll settle a price tomorrow.”
We settled there and then for Israeli; about $17.
“In Canada,” the driver said as we started out the next morning, “you must have your own airplane."
“I’m afraid not.”
“But many Canadians have private planes,” he said, affronted. “Say, one in ten.”
“Not even one in ten thousand.”
“You think I’d charge more?” His was the usual old, battered American car with shattered windows and dented fenders. The driving in Israel is atrocious. “Next to Japan,” the driver said proudly, “we have the highest accident rate in the world.”
Gesher-Haziv, at first glance, suggested a summer camp in the Laurentians. A main dining hall, other administration and communal buildings, and shaded paths leading off to the cabins. The kibbutz was founded in 1949 by a group of Habonim members, drawn from Canada and the United States, in association with forty sabras. It was built on the site of an old British army rest camp.
A reserved, intelligent man in his mid-thirties, Bill Kofsky has been at Gesher-Haziv since it was founded. His wife is American: they have two children. In Gesher-Haziv, children live with their families. This is a radical departure in kibbutz living and the experiment has been closely watched by other communal farms. “Originally,” Kofsky said, “it was felt that if we were going to create a new man for a new society it was necessary to protect the kids from the ghetto mentality of their parents. We might unconsciously taint them. It was best to leave them to their teachers. But some-
how," Kofsky said, fondling the child on his lap, '‘it just didn't work out . . . Other kibbutzim would like to follow us, but it means rebuilding, they'd have to add extra rooms to the cabins, and there isn't always the money to do it."
The I 20 founders of Gesher-Haziv lived in tents for the first year. The next year, while they were still clearing fields and as yet had no income, they lived in temporary shacks, and the following year they borrowed money to build their permanent dwellings. “That was how our financial troubles started," Deborah Shlossberg. a Canadian, told me. “We're still paying interest on these houses."
When the young, unproven kibbutzim went out to borrow money they quickly ended up on the black market, where interest rates are as high as thirty percent. Gesher-Haziv, in past years, has had to borrow for houses, equipment, and against the occasional crop failure. “The result," Kofsky told me, “is that we now' put in a fifth of our working day just to pay off interest."
Debts aside, the problems of GesherHaziv are enormous.
"First of all,” Kofsky said, “there's the big turnover in people. Let's say a new guy comes out here with a wife and kids. Maybe we build a house for him, we certainly clothe and school his kids. It takes a new guy six months before he's any good in the fields, and all that time we lose the labor of another man, the guy who's training him. Well, O.K. But maybe six months later the guy ups and returns to Canada or moves to the city ... Or let's say, we decide to go in for cotton. We train a guy, he becomes our cotton expert, and a year later he moves off and w'e're in trouble with cotton.”
The truth is that Gesher-Haziv, like so many other kibbutzim, has been unable to make a financial success of agriculture, an industry somew'hat dependent on the availability ofcheap labor at harvest time. So this kibbutz, like the others, is feeling its way into industry (wealthier kibbutzim arc known to run big factories) and will even hire casual labor — a definite break wfith kibbutz dogma. One AngloSaxon kibbutz, Urim, has built a knife factory: Gesher - Haziv is going to manufacture turkey sausage, and is hopefully building a tourist hotel on the edge of their land, (HAVE AN UNUSUAL HOLIDAY-SEE LIFE ON A KIB-
Kibbutz members arc also distressed by their decline in status. “At one time," Deborah told me, “you could walk into town just as you are, and people would point you out with envy and pride. There goes a kibbutznik . . . But not today. Today we're looked on as characters. We don’t dare go into town without dressing up and putting on make-up.”
Despite the problems, Bill Kofsky has little interest in the Canada he left behind him.
“What's happened in Montreal? It's gotten bigger, that's all. All my friends are in Israel anyway.” He laughed, embarrassed. "1 guess we must seem very chauvinistic to you here. We're curious about everything in this country, it's ours, and we want to know all there is to know'. The names of the different flowers and birds; and all the history.”
The day after the seder GesherHaziv celebrated the Omer. Chaverim, guests, and children crowded on to tractor wagons, fitted out with flowers for the occasion, and started out on a humpy ride that took us through all the lands of Gesher-Haziv. As the group sang rousing songs we passed wheat and cotton fields, the banana plantation, workshops, and even the cemetery, finally pulling up at a field where the first wheat of the year was to he ceremoniously cut. The festivities had a forced, folksy air, I’m afraid. The Habonim Youth Group, wearing Yemenite shirts, mounted a platform to perform harvest dances to the tune of a flute. The rustic gesture clashed somewhat with their University of Syracuse sweatshirts, Bermuda shorts, and the whir of cameras with which they avidly took moving pictures of one another.
Two young boys shared the room next to mine. One of them, a twentytwo-year-old from California, had given up his American citizenship to become an Israeli.
"Why? Because I’m a Jew. I feci better here with my brothers the Yemenites. I have more in common with Iraqi and African Jews than 1 do with the Irishmen in my home town.”
"Why didn’t you settle in a Yemenite kibbutz, then?’’
“I just sort of ended up here. Besides, the Yemenites hardly ever form kibbutzim. They’re the kind who like the jingle of money in their pockets.”
Gesher-Haziv is not strictly AngloSaxon. German, Austrian, Rumanian, Indian, and Israeli-born Jews live there as well. You are invited in everywhere for coffee and delicious cakes, happily baked by women unable to do other cooking at home. Ready as kibbutz members are to discuss their way of life, I was struck, after a time, by their complete lack of curiosity about the world outside. There I was, recently arrived from Tel Aviv, London and Canada, yet nobody asked me a question about it. The kibbutz, it seemed to me, was a very insular affair. What had begun as a social experiment, a break for freedom, appears to have settled as a haven. Life is hard, but comfy. The members of Gesher-Haziv have left the ghetto behind, not to create a new society hut merely another, more compatible, closed community. A big family.
Harvey Goodman, manager of the Eilat Hotel, said, “It’s got to be one thing or another. Either we develop a more enlightened Arab policy or go to war and teach ’em a lesson. Next time we could take Cairo, set up a pro-Israeli government and move out again. They hate us, you know. They sit by the radios in their villages, listening to venemous broadcasts from Cairo. They stone our police cars and even tear down Israeli flags.” Goodman explained what he meant by a more enlightened policy. “Educate 'em. We could integrate them and teach them that it’s not such a bad thing to be an Arab in Israel.”
“Or a Jew in Canada?" 1 asked.
“No sir. Never. You’re always a Jew there . . . You know, there's actually no such thing as an ‘Arab.’ What, for instance, has an Arab in Cairo in common with a Bedouin from Iraq?”
“What have I got in common with a Yemenite Jew?”
“Jerusalem,” he said quickly. “All that the Arabs have in common is the fact that they’re Moslem.” Goodman explained that the Arabs required passes to travel in border areas because security was all - important. “Look here, the Americans could force them to sign a peace treaty with us any time they want to. They won’t, though. We’ve been betrayed by the oil lobby in Washington.”
“Why don’t the Arabs themselves want peace?"
“Because they need to maintain a war feeling within their own countries in order to keep the people’s minds off their own miserable state.”
“You know what this country needs? A war. Some blood spilled. That would revive love of the land among the young."
There arc close to a quarter of a million Arabs living in Israel today, and the attitude toward them is full of irony to a Diaspora Jew such as myself. The prejudices, so freely expressed, are resoundingly familiar.
Bill Kofsky said, “The trouble with the Arabs is they don’t mix. They're private, they stick to their own people and areas. Another thing, you know, is they have loyalties outside the country.”
Among Israel’s many accomplishments is one the country doesn’t celebrate. If it has created a new kind of
Jew, the Israeli, it has also made a new Arab, the ghetto Jew. The Diaspora Jew was forged by conditions. Somewhat similar conditions are making the Arabs in Israel the "Jews" of that young country.
Gesher Haziv hires Arab labor at harvest time because it is the cheapest in the country. One morning, at breakfast, a guest asked the young Californian, “Have you still got twelve-year-old Arab girls working for you in bananas?”
“They’re not girls.”
"Do you still yell at them?”
"You have to yell at them: they're like dogs. No, I don't mean dogs, that's a bad word, they're like children. If you tell them to put down a sack of manure here they put it down there. So I've got to yell and shove them. They're not dogs. I’m not prejudiced. I mean you can't say I discourage them, but you just can't use the kind of psychology you and I learned stateside on the Arabs.”
Reuben and Shushana Ben Zur told me they had once hired an Arab to work in their insurance office. "It didn't work out. He was no good. They're all lazy, you know."
Nobody denies that the refugees in (iaza are in a wretched state. But most Israelis feel, certainly with some justice. that Nasser will not absorb the refugees into Egypt because, maintained in their present state in Gaza, they remain a useful political issue.
A lawyer I met at Ben Zur’s house told me that he had served on the Gaza Strip when Israel occupied the zone. "Don't forget they’ve been there for fourteen years. Many have died out and others are not proper refugees at all. They were born in Gaza, they've never even seen Israel. The figure of one million is an inflated one too. When a man dies they don't hand in his ration book, but go on claiming his food.”
"Aren't you quibbling?” I asked. "If the Jews are entitled to come 'home' after two thousand years then surely the son of an Arab refugee is a Palestinian too?”
"All right. Conditions in their camps are deplorable. However, the conditions I lived under in Dachau were worse.”
There wasn't much I could say to that.
"Ours is a small country,” he continued. "We must have a homeland ready ... in case of another Dachau. There's plenty of room for the refugees in Arabia."
On the Mediterranean shore, at the foot of Gesher-Haziv, lies the abandoned Arab village of Haziv. The fishermen of Haziv fled during the war. In 1949, members of the kibbutz took stone and marble from the village for their own use. Still later the Israeli government asked for the village to be blown up as it was being used by smugglers. The order was never carried out. Today an enterprising young man lives in the village. He has made a museum and hopefully built a hostel and opened a nightclub. Haziv is mentioned in the Old Testament: Arab fishermen lived there even then. Wandering through its ruins two thousand years later one cannot help but feel guilty. This land belongs to the Arabs too.
The Arab settlements I visited were
characterized by children with rickets, old men with trachoma, and ignorance and squalor everywhere. Take Akko (Acre), for instance. Once a Phoenician port, later a famous Crusader stronghold, the Arab town of Akko is surrounded by a seawall and towering fortifications. Barefoot kids scamper over the crumbling ramparts, leathery old men fish off the stone steps. Occasionally there's the surprise of a cool, beautifully made square with a fountain in the middle but. for the most part, there are only stinking narrow streets, a honeycomb of slums that must go back to the Middle Ages. Old sacks have been stretched across the streets of the marketplace, offering shade to vendors and buyers alike. Donkeys, chickens, and other animals wander sleepily through the maze of stalls. The barefoot kids flit freely through the muck of decaying refuse and turds. The wares the vendors have to offer are pathetic. Rusty keys for ancient locks, faded cotton dresses and old boots reclaimed from who knows what junk pile. Flics are everywhere.
Bill Kofsky has little patience with Akko. “You think they're poor?” he said. "Those guys own property everywhere. They have plenty of money.”
I've heard the same said of the poor Jews on St. Dominique Street.
"They don't have to live like that," Reuben Ben Zur told me. "A lot of them bury their money in jars.”
One afternoon Ben Zur drove me through the mountains of Galilee to Nazareth. The 58,000 Arabs w;ho live in Nazareth, many of them converts to Christianity, are among the most advanced in the country The souve-
nir shop we stopped at dealt in the usual bogus articles (water from Mary’s Well). The Arab proprietor also sold little bags of earth; half of them labeled "Earth from the Holy Land, Nazareth,” the printing superimposed over a cross; the others reading “Earth from the Holy Land, Israel," a blue Star of David fixed above.
It w'as with this shrewd irreverent Arab that the land of Israel came full circle for me. His ability to make the best of a hostile world, his gift for survival and self-evident humor, seemed profoundly Jewish to me. In Spain, during the Inquisition, the Jews were obliged to worship Christ in public; in the Yemen, they learned to praise Mohammed: for centuries, in countries all over the world, the Jews have learned to bend to foreign monarchs, alien traditions and deities, but in private they continued to honor Jehovah and the laws handed down to Moses. So this smiling Arab, this enterprising man who could turn a nice profit whilst flattering these Jews and Christians presently in power; this seemingly obsequious merchant who surely laughed at the vulgarity of our taste behind our backs, struck me as more Jewish than the sabra. I could identify with him.
A British correspondent told me a story to illustrate the absurd heights sabra chauvinism can reach on occasion.
"We have a saying in Hebrew,” an official once said to him, “that if Mohammed won’t come to the mountain the mountain must come to Mohammed.”
"That’s funny,” the correspondent
said. “The Arabs have a similar saying."
“Do they, really?"
The term sabra (literally, cactus) does not apply to all native-born Israelis; it is reserved for the children of Europeans. Sabras are the elite. The others, the majority, arc called yaldei haaretz, children of the country. The former command the army anti are sent abroad on scholarships, the latter are the white-collar workers anti skilled laborers of the future.
As far as one can generalize, the sabra tends to be proud, but humorless. If he is also fiercely nationalistic, he has many real accomplishments to boast of. But I'm afraid I didn't find his callow frontiersman's vanity — “We're a new kind of Jew here” — compatible with a state wherein tourism is the second-largest industry. The intrepid self-sacrificing men who put up wall-and-tower kibbutzim by night are one thing; those who scoff at ghetto Jews and yet erect kosher mo-
tels to exploit them on their land are another. Yet the sabra is so belligerently sure of himself. Again and again the visiting Jew is told, “There is only one choice for you. Come here or assimilate.” Before you can even reply, they add, with the disdainful air of a man producing the last ace in the deck, “You can't even assimilate if you want to. They w'on’t have you.” The term assimilationist, as used by most Israelis, is synonymous with the cringing turncoat, the bootlicker.
Am 1 an assimilationist? Yes. Yes, indeed.
Perhaps it would be more instructive for a Gentile to visit Israel. Maybe for somebody who from childhood has been clothed in all the assurances of belonging to a majority group, a sojourn—a self-inflicted stripping—in a land w'here he would be a member of an oddball, maybe even suspect, minority, might broaden his understanding. As for me, after the initial thrill of living in a Jewish state had palled, 1 began to miss the clash with other societies. At first it was wonderful to w'alk the streets where everybody was like you (ostensibly, anyway), then 1 began to miss the goys. Some of my best friends are goys. I would not want to live in a country entirely made up of Jews. It would bore me. I want to live among people who can inform and enrich me w'ith experience that is foreign to me.
The Israeli interpretation of assimilation is false. Extreme. It does not mean a repudiation of your background. It means honoring your heritage in a society that is full of diversity.
This is possible in Canada.
Of course there’s antisemitism in Canada. But the larger truth is that Canada, not Israel, is my native land. There may be more Jew's in Tel Aviv, more sun in Rome, better restaurants in Paris, but the inescapable fact is 1 w'as made in Montreal. Only a part of me, vital as it may be, was forged by Jewish experience. If I have been brought up on the Torah, touchiness, Rabbi Hillel, eating your way out of trouble and a bar mitzvah, I was also raised on McIntosh apples, mountain lakes, self-apology, looking to London and the Happy Gang. I have no desire to be ingathered by Mr. Ben-Gurion. I think many of his assumptions about Diaspora Jews are arrogant, illinformed and in bad taste.
Yet one must remember the Canada Bill Kofsky, Shmul Shimshoni and others, put behind them. They were raised on Adrian Arcand, university quotas, and other antisemitic spectres. The fact that they left Canada to settle elsewhere is a judgment on their country, and let’s not overlook for a minute that they found something in Israel that Canada was unable to give them. A sense of purpose. Like the sabras themselves, these young Canadians feel they are contributing to the development of a new society. They are doing something with their lives. In Canada, you won’t get able, intelligent young men to go out and develop the Yukon for the sake of the common good. You won’t even get many bright young men to join the army or the civil service. We Canadians are out for ourselves, you and I are looking after Number One. It isn't so in Israel. And the visitor, if he comes from a flabbier, more prosperous society, is soon shamed by the sense of dedication that is common to Bill Arad, Kofsky, Tuvia Shlonsky, Shimshoni and so many others I met.
1 suppose the spirit in Israel is something like what we had in America a hundred years ago. We didn't build the Just City. Neither, I expect, will they. Like us, the Israelis stand to be ruined by success. They needn’t fear the Arabs as much as more Desert Inns — a youth leaning against his MG, spitting out sunflower seeds. ★