Israel at 62: A Tale of Love and Darkness
am drawn again and again to A Tale of Love and Darkness, Amos
Oz’s memoir of his early life in a young and bewildered Israel, a
country which does not even formerly exist as such until a couple
hundred pages into the book.
Every Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s independence day, I think back to the
passage in which Oz describes crawling into bed at three or four in the
morning, still fully dressed, after celebrating the U.N.’s vote to
create the state of Israel.
As a child, Oz understands the solemnity of the event, its historical
dimensions, from observing the actions of his father, who lies down
next to him and does something so out of character: he cries – tears of
joy. And, in amazement, Oz takes note of his father’s reaction:
“I reached out sleepily to touch his face, just below his high
forehead, and all of a sudden instead of his glasses my fingers met
tears. Never in my life, before or after that night, not even when my
mother died, did I see my father cry. And in fact I didn’t see him cry
that night either: it was too dark. Only my left hand saw.”
Only his left hand saw. We remain in this moment with him – still
our hand searches in the dark, tries to reach back in time to touch the
moment of Israel’s creation, to grasp even a bit of what it must have
been like to live through that time.
Oz does not choose the more reliable senses of sight or sound to
translate the emotional incredulity of one night years ago. He uses
touch; and while we might imagine the sensation of hot tears on skin,
something remains always out of our reach.
Oz, one of our greatest writers, comes close to but cannot pin down
the ineffability of that moment. Emotionally we get it, but putting it
into words is like assembling a puzzle in a dream. But Oz invites us
to try – with all our senses.
So I challenge you to do the same. Celebrate the event that made even
Amos Oz’s father cry with joy. Tonight, as we move from Yom
Israel’s memorial day, to Yom Ha’atzmaut, let’s celebrate with