Recently translated into English (in 2008), this was published just two months after the 1948 war. The story centers on an Israeli soldier's experience on one day on duty in a fictionalArab village of Khirbet Khizeh. The plot itself is unsurprising (a soldier dealing with what they're carrying out) and moves along at a pretty slow pace (taking time to describe the landscape) but the day over which the story takes place, the "narrow focus gives the book its extraordinary emotional force." (X) What I found most interesting about the novel is the protagonist's grappling with the contradictions and issues of exile:
A single day of discomfort and then our people would strike root here for many years. Like a tree planted by streams of water. Yes. On the other hand, what of the wicked.... But they were already there on the trucks, and soon they'd be nothing more than a page that had been finished and turned. Certainly, wasn't it our right? Hadn't we conquered it today?
I felt that I was on the verge of slipping. I managed to pull myself together. My guts cried out. Colonizers, they shouted. Lies, my guts shouted. Khirbet Khizeh is not ours. The Spandau gun never gave us any rights. Oh, my guts screamed. What hadn't they told us about refugees. Everything, everything was for the refugees, their welfare, their rescue... our refugees, naturally. Those we were driving out-- that was a totally different matter. Wait. Two thousand years of exile. The whole story. Jew being killed. Europe. We were the masters now.
There's no resolution. There still isn't any resolution to deal with the right of return and refugees from the '48 war. There still isn't any consensus on whether or not Israel was justified. Even though Khirbet Khizeh is a fictional village, the author is writing from his personal experience. The book is still on school reading lists in Israel, and Khirbet Khizeh 's "haunting lyrical style and charged view of the landscape are in many ways as startling as [its] wrenchingly honest view of modern Israel's founding." A short read and definitely worth it. Rating: ★★★★(★)