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Khirbet Khizeh

4.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-9659012596
ISBN-10: 9659012594
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Years after the tragic events it describes, Khirbet Khizeh retains its disturbing relevance... Conveying in vivid microcosm the moral ambiguities attending Israel's establishment in 1948, Khirbet Khizeh resonates as both historical experience and art." --The Times Literary Supplement

"An exhilarating masterwork. Ibis (a genuine beacon of hope) publishes an ecumenical list of elegant books from 'Levantine' authors, whatever their background. They have surpassed themselves with a terrific translation of S. Yizhar's classic novella.... Khirbet Khizeh endures to bear a bitter witness that transcends allegiance or affinity.... Readers should rush to share its still-shocking wisdom." --The Independent

"The translation, like the afterword, makes it clear that [with the English publication of Khirbet Khizeh] we are confronted not with a political-humanistic pamphlet so much as with a literary work of extraordinary power." --Ha'aretz

About the Author

Yizhar Smilansky (27 September 1916 - 21 August 2006), better known by his pen name S. Yizhar, was an Israeli writer and a great innovator in modern Hebrew literature. His pen name was given to him by the poet and editor Yitzhak Lamdan, when in 1938 he published Yizhar's first story "Ephraim Goes Back to Alfalfa" in his literary journal Galleons. From then on, Yizhar signed his works with his pen name.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 134 pages
  • Publisher: Ibis Editions (April 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9659012594
  • ISBN-13: 978-9659012596
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #649,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By L. S. Evensen on September 12, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This writer was already reknowned when he wrote this book - his novel "The Days of Ziklag" was greeted as a masterpiece when it came out. This book is a small vignette in sparkling language both Biblical and demotic. The author voices his doubts and foreboding, not about the lofty notions of Zionism but how the taking of the land actually was carried out. He also speaks lyrically of the beauty of the land. He makes it clear that the soldiers look down on the people they are displacing, but otherwise it would be unbearable to carry out their orders. They disdain the Palestinian villagers for not fighting back; ironically this same disdain was displayed toward those who survived the concentration camps who came to replace those villagers.
It is interesting to note that this book, very popular when it came out, was high school reading in Israel beginning in 1964. However, this history seems less familiar to many Americans.
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Format: Paperback
We bought this book in Tel Aviv in January 2013, just days after viewing the exhibit and film "Alone on the Walls" about the heroic but ultimately failed struggle of residents of Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter against the assault by overwhelming forces of the Arab Legion and other Arab armies. A few dozen young men with small arms and lots of ingenuity, aided by women, children and the elderly, managed to hold off the siege for 150 days, from December 1947 to final surrender in May 1948. It is a powerful, moving story, documented by a photojournalist who, in disguise, accompanied the Jordanian troops and was able to get close to the attackers and, after the defeat, to the defeated.

But the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, like all wars, was morally complicated. This famous book by a prolific and highly respected Israeli novelist probes actions of Israeli forces that cannot inspire pride, and that help explain the deep pain and anger of Palestinians today.

Published (in Hebrew) in 1949, just months after the events it describes, this was the first novel to (as the author himself described it years later) "[lay] bare the original sin of the State of Israel": the forcible, violent expulsion, killing, and razing of the homes of Palestinian villagers whose ancestral lands happened to fall on the Israeli side of the 1948 partition -- the expulsion that Palestinians remember as the Nakba or "Catastrophe." Yizhar (Yizhar Smilansky) was a Sabra, born in Eretz Yisrael (in Rehovot) in 1916, 31 years before there was a state of Israel. He writes with an understanding of his Israeli character's psychology from the inside, which makes his portrait of a young Israeli soldier sharply, shudderingly convincing.
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This is a trgaic story, beautifully written and translated. It would be easy to confine this book to the history of tradgedy, but David Shulman's Afterword draws a direct parallel to the present day and Israel's current occupations.

With few words Yizhar paints a vivid picture of the Palestinian landscape and the figures within it. He is able to contrast the beauty with the hatefulness of the soldiers, often in the very same sentence. He brings to life that which has been buried and covered up. Perhaps it is no surprise that Yizhar wrote this in 1949 immediatly following the events, or similar events, that the story describes. The story prophetically anticipates the future also, yet it has an immediacy and a finality. A brilliant story and a great partner to Kressmann Taylor's Address Unknown.
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This novella written in 1949 and set during Israel's War of Independence deserves to be read much more widely than it is. The author, who had served in the war, based this book on his own observations of forced relocations of Palestinians from Israel proper. Although this book was part of the regular school curriculum in Israel for 20 years, it has faded into the background. The book is set on an afternoon in a fictional Arab village of Khirbet Khizeh. The narrator's unit has been sent there to forcibly evacuate the old men, women and children who have remained. S. Yizhar paints the scene vividly. The narrator's anguished feelings over their mission, which seems to have little to do with fighting a war, is superimposed with the future he imagines for the village that will be erased from knowledge. As he agonizes over the villagers' subdued but anguished responses, he is met by indifference from his fellow squad members who want to get their mission over as quickly as possible are happy that they do not have to deal with the transporting of the villagers somewhere else. The afterword by David Shulman serves 2 complimentary roles. It helps explain some of the Biblical references that infuse the original Hebrew text. Shulman also talks about his own experiences in the West Bank of today, trying with other Isrealis to protect Palestinian's rights while begin attacked by the right wing settlers, and how that relates to Yizhar's story.
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This is an exceptional, short novel. Written in Hebrew and wonderfully translated. The writing is sparse and emotionally powerful. Shortly before the establishment of the State of Israel, young Jewish paramilitary groups roamed the countryside of what would become Israel forcing Palestinian residents out of their villages, clearing the land for settlement. This novel, written in 1949, is a story of moral ambiguity, contrasting the excitement of the forthcoming Jewish state with moral qualms about the destruction of the livelihoods and lives of longstanding residents. I recommend it as great literature and as a slim corrective to the usual depiction of the events surrounding the forming of the State of Israel.
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