THE IMMIGRANTS DAUGHTER: A Private Battle to Earn the Right to Self-Actualization

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I took a few steps around the room. I coughed. I spat. Children were playing noisily outside. I went to the other window; it was open. There was a stormy sea in the distance. The Mediterranean. And how nice is everything else! How nice it is to be alive! Yes, to live. Let him stay there and strike roots. One must die here. The letter proposing to adopt Amram never gets written, because later that day Oved Etsot suffers a relapse of his illness that causes him to be hospitalized again.

His thoughts on living and dying in Palestine, in any case, have not made him a Zionist. Not everything, my dear Lapidot, is up to us.

We have to do all we can where we are. That is as far as he is willing to go. It is still the wet Palestinian winter. At dawn Hinde, who has regained her milk route by outbidding her outbidders, sets out for the Bedouin encampment. Aryeh Lapidot looks on and says nothing; there are things it is best not to know.

Hinde comes home exhausted, drops the empty cans, rests for a second, and spells the sick woman. Aryeh Lapidot and Amram go to look for firewood to bake the pitas that Hinde prepares. Then he collected what had fallen, down to the last stem, and they brought it all to the yard.

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Amram went to sit by his grandfather—who, momentarily lost in thought, had already put down his load—and laid his little head in his lap. There was a premonition of bread in the rain-rinsed air and, more subduedly, inside the shack. The sick woman was asleep. The rain had stopped drumming on the windows and in her ears, though its last drops still dripped from the wooden planks of the walls.

A single drop broke away from a wet patch and hung on the edge of a void. Tongues of flame rose in the oven. Hinde carried out the pitas like an Arab peasant woman, a tin sheet of them balanced on her head. The folds of the tin suggested hopeful rows of sown sesame.

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And there was hope that the bread, enough to last for a week, would come out well, too. There was something simple and sad in how they clung to each other, something worthy of compassion but also mysterious and infinitely precious. Thorny burrs stuck to their hair and loose clothes. When the old woman asked for help with the baking, they rose together.

The Immigrants' Daughter : A Private Battle to Earn the Right to Self-Actualization -

There was in how they stood a great mystery, too. At their posts. The old man and the boy, crowned with thorns, at the posts where life had placed them. The sun was out as before the rain. The world was full of thorns. The final reckoning was yet to come. In the furor that followed, in which he was accused of erasing a line between Judaism and Christianity that even a freethinking Jew like himself should have respected, Brenner had his detractors and supporters of whom Gordon, who stood up for him on the grounds of freedom of expression, was one ; now, in bringing his novel to a close with a provocatively Christian image, he was having, as it were, the last word.

Still, the point was not to portray Lapidot and Amram with Christian haloes but to cast their human steadfastness in a universally sacral light. The entire scene is indeed posed like a painting. Reading it, one easily imagines a shaft of radiance from above, illuminating, in the darkness of the world, the man and the boy at their posts. Aryeh Lapidot emerges in From All Sides as an indomitable figure. Gordon would never have guessed from the novel that Gordon was one of three original thinkers of his age to grapple with the relationship of secular Zionism to Judaism. For Kook, it was a historically necessary but temporary break with tradition, of which it was a sublimated expression and to which it would return. For Gordon, it was a potential bridge from Judaism to a new form of religiosity unlike any that had come before.

When considered today, all three men strike one as having grasped something essential while missing as much if not more. If the Gordon of Man and Nature still has something to say to us, this is not what he had to say to the generation of Second Aliyah youth who found their inspiration in him.

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Rather, it is to remind us of how, in the century since his death, the rift between man and nature has grown exponentially, far beyond anything he could have imagined; what is most striking about his thinking is how anachronistic it now seems. His creed of physical labor, too, strikes one as antiquated in an age of robotics; its greatest relevance is the shock of how irrelevant it has become. Without its social and Zionist dimensions, however, this comes across as labored and derivative.

Although the will to live needs no reasons, the willer to live, the person or people in whom the will to live resides, demands to experience the will to live as rational. Or, to add a subject and a predicate: because the will to live wills to live. Ever since Mendele [who, according to Brenner, was the first Hebrew author to give an honest account of the pathology of East European Jewish life], our literature of self-criticism has outlined our mission: to acknowledge the historic ignobility of our existence, our essentially flawed character—and to go beyond it and start all over.

And at the same time, our literature—our poor, bewildered Hebrew literature! But let logic asks what it asks. Our will to live, which is above all logic, tells us otherwise. It tells us that everything is possible. By what logic can a we become a not-we?

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But Brenner was not alone in this belief. The conviction that the future of Zionism depended on new forms of social and economic organization in Palestine was the essence of Labor Zionist ideology. Brenner, who insisted on a life of monastic simplicity this was one reason that his marriage in to a Jerusalem schoolteacher, with whom he had a son, broke up after a few years , was close to Labor Zionism in his views. His death was one of several dozen resulting from the Arab disturbances of May , the first massive outbreak of anti-Jewish violence in the period of the British Mandate.

Brenner was living at the time with a Jewish family in an isolated farmstead near Jaffa; though warned to move to a safer place, they chose to remain to protect the property and were murdered by an Arab mob. Led by the ex-Russian army officer Yosef Trumpeldor, the outnumbered group had refused to evacuate the settlement it could have left in time. Brenner wrote of it:. A cold calculation would have left no room for doubt [that Tel Hai should have been evacuated].

But the heart, the selfless heart, believed in miracles; it believed the normal laws would be suspended; that devotion was everything; that love for a piece of earth could move mountains. Besides, if we left every place in which there was danger, there would be no place we would not have to leave, no position we would not have to retreat from— but to where?