Notes on "Tales of love and darkness" by Amos Oz (2003)

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-worldatlarge dangerous and threatening. It didn't like the Jews (Js) because they were clever, quick-witted, successful, but also because they were noisy and push. It didn't like what we were doing here in the Land of Israel either, because it begrudged us even this meager strip of marshland, boulders, and desert. Out there in the world all the walls were covered with graffiti: yids, go back to Palestine, so we came back to Palestine and now the worldatlarge shouts at us: Yids, get out of Palestine.

-new breed of heroic Js was springing up... overstepped every limit as regards relations between a boy and a girl and vice versa. They were not ashamed of anything. [sex] like asking for a glass of water [Grandpa Alexander]... swimming Js. These were different genes. A mutation. "Like the wondrous birth of a butterfly out of a worm."

-wicked Arabs.

-No news is good news.

-parents: the moment they tried to give voice to a private feeling, what came out was something tense, dry, even frightened, the result of generation upon generation of repression and negation. A double negation in fact, two sets of brakes, as bourgeois European manners reinforced the constraints of the religious J community.

-modern Hebrew slang - fright=fart, arm=fuck

-pre-war heirarchy - heroic settlers (fighting and expanding territory), socialist bureaucrats (Histradrut, Hagganah), unaffiliated (terrorists, pious Js and Zion-hating ultra-orthodox communists, rabble of eccentric intellectuals, careerists and egocentric artists, nihilists, Germanic/ Anglophile snobs, Yemenites, Georgians, Kurds... + refugees whom we generally treated with compassion and a certain revulsion: miserable wretches. If only they'd stop nattering on in Yiddish and stop telling us about all the things that were done to them over there, because that didn't reflect too well on them or on us for that matter. Our faces are turned toward the future, not the past. [soap tale from WWII]

-pacificist ideals of Martin Buber's Brit Salom - sentimental kinship between Js and Arabs, total abandonment of the dream of a Hebrew state - such ideals appeared to my parents as spineless appeasement, craven defeatism of the type that had characterized the centuries of J Diaspora life.

-all sorts of thinkers and preachers - ban on Spinoza to be lifted, for a campaign to explain to the P(alestinian) Arabs that they were not really Arabs but the descendants of the ancient Hebrews

-if you bought Arab cheese, weren't you being a traitor to Zionism? On the other hand, if we boycotted the produce of our Arab neighbors, we would be deepening and perpetuating the hatred between our two peoples. Germs were one of our worst nightmares. They were like anti-S(emite): you never actually managed to set eyes on an anti-S or a germ, but you knew very well that they were lying in wait for you on every side, out of sight. What of universal values? Humanism? The brotherhood of man? Shame! Shame and disgrace! Either way, shame and disgrace! The whole of life was full of such shame and disgrace. [ghetto mentality]

-Jerusalem an old nymphomaniac who squeezes lover after lover to death before shrugging him off her with a yawn, a black widow who devours her mates while they are still in her.

-his father wanted us all to be born anew, as blond-haired, muscular, suntanned Hebrew Europeans

-Uncle Joseph- contempt for the hypocrisy of the sanctimonious British, fear of the intrigues of the Vatican, who had never accepted, and never would accept, J control of Jerusalem in particular and the Land of Israel in general, cautious optimism about the scruples of the enlightened democracies, and admiration, not without reservations, for America... infected by vulgarity and materialism and lacked culture and spiritual depth.

-The only Europeans in the whole of Europe in the 1920s and 1930s were the Js. My father always used to say: even in Stalin's empire there are Russians, Ukrainians Uzbeks and Chukchis and Tatars, and among them are our brethren, the only real members of a Soviet nation.

-JKlausner Jesus of Nazareth (Jerusalem 1921), From Paul to Jesus - Jesus died a J and never intended to found a new religion. the J moralist par excellence. Jesus a kind of wonder-working J pietist like Baruch Spinoza, who was also excommunicated. Hebrew word for messiah = someone anointed with oil, a thoroughly prosaic and everyday word, closely related to the word for face cream. "To absorb alien culture and to turn it into our own national and human flesh and blood, that is the ideal I have fought for most of my life" (vs missionary "J loved us all, particularly those who mocked or despised him, and if I filled my heart with love, he would come and dwell within my heart and bring me suffering but also great happiness, and the happiness would shine forth out of the suffering.)

-Agnon observant J. In Hebrew, fear and faith are synonyms. Oz learn "to rein in and polish pain" from him. Agnon: If you have no more tears left to weep, then don't weep. Laugh.

-grandmother: It's so ugly, it's almost beautiful. He's become so clever, he can't understand anything anymore. It hurts so much, it almost makes me laugh.

-grandfather: if only we Js girded ourselves with courage, boldness, iron resolve, etc., if only we finally rose up and stopped worrying about the Gentiles, we could defeat all our foes and establish the Kingdom of David from the Nile to the great river, the Euphrates, and the whole cruel, wicked Gentile world would come and bow down before us. Communists - nearly all Js from simplest families, the dredgings that clung to the bottom of the pot, Lenin and Trotsky It's all in J hands, the Americans, the Bosheviks, all these newfangled bombs are all in the hands of J scientists, and they're bound to know what to do and what not to do. For peace we have to defeat all our enemies so they'll come and beg us for peace. We'll give it to them. We are a peace-loving people. We even have such a commandment, to pursue peace, so we'll pursue it as far as Baghdad if we have to, as far as Cairo even.

-2m Js settled in America in fewer than two score years between 1880 and 1917

-Tchernikhowsky - the soul of a baby who has never known sin. Not like a sad J baby. Like a goyish baby. Full of foie de vivre, naughtiness and energy.

-Europhile Js - adored it contributed to it, trying to break through its cool hostility, to make friends, to ingratiate themselves, to be accepted, to be loved...

-Hitler: The final J goal is denationalization by the bastardization of other nations, lowering the racial level of the highest with the secret aim of ruining the white race. The universal poisoner of all races, international Jewry.

-his uncle David (remained in Latvia and died): P noisy rabble, a segregationist armed nationhood that ironically they apparently learned from the worst of their foes

-kibbutzim - dangerous Bolshevik cells, anarcho-nihilist, permissive, parasites who fattened themselves at the public expense and spongers who robbed the nation's land

-1845 British Consul James Finn and wife Elizabeth both knew Hebrew, consul wrote books about the Js for whom he always harbored a sympathy, London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Js. Believed fervently that the return of the J people to their homeland would hasten the salvation of the world. Built his home and Industrial Plantation to provide poor Js with work and train them for useful lives... now a religious J girls' school Beit Bracha. The old house has shrunk over the years, as though its head has been pushed down into its shoulders with an ax blow. It has been Judaized. The trees and shrubs have been dug up, and the whole area of the garden has been asphalted over.

-grandfather: what is hell? paradise? it's all inside. A little wickedness and people are hell to each other. A little compassion, a little generosity, and people find paradise in each other.. not universal love. Leave that to Jesus. Love is a blend of extreme selfishness and total devotion. a paradox. you catch it, like a disease.

-the more anti-S increased in Poland in the 1920-30s, the stronger Z and Hebrew education grew, and the stronger became the pull of secularism and non-J culture... the violent hatred of Js that filled the streets of Europe in the mid-1930s.

-Stalin wanted to put an end to J existence by force, for Js to become good Komsomolniks who would inform on one another. The Polish attitude was one of disgust, like someone who has bitten into a piece of bad fish and can neither swallow it nor spit it out. They oppressed and humiliated us, so that we would gradually all go off to P. They even encouraged Zionist education.

-[aunt] the fear in every J home, the chilling gear that perhaps we really were not clean enough, too noisy and push, too clever and money-grubbing... this makes you as fawning and dishonest and full of tricks as a cat... Even in Israel, J mobs can be a bit of a monster. Most Js in Europe against P in 1930s - religious Js, Bundists, Yiddishists, Communists, assimilated Js. Belief that we could explain to the Arabs that our return to the Land represented only a blessing for them, economically, medically, culturally. [when emigrating] I had a fleeting thought, why did I have to go to the Land of Israel at all? Just to be among Js? This Greek girl was closer to me than the entire J people.

-[mother] if you have to choose between telling a lie and hurting someone's feelings, you should choose sensitivity over truthfulness. always prefer generosity over honesty.

-parents not religious. Father believed in a vague providence, a "presiding spirit of the people" or in the wonders of the "creative J genius" and art redeeming the world by melody and song.

-socialist education - young David daring guerrilla fighter in national movt to liberate from Philistine yoke, but in old age colonialist-imperialist king - Bible collection of pamphlets on current affairs - prophets fought for progress and social justice but kings and priests represented iniquities of existing social order

-in religious school old Sephardi aristocracy thrust aside by more assertive Ashkenazi newcomers

-[teacher Zelda] "poor in spirit" belong to Jesus, but a lot of poverty of spirit among us Js in Jerusalem too

-mentality at end of WWII - Germans killed all Js, what will British do?, after they leave, hordes of bloodthirsty Arabs, millions of fanatical Muslims would be bound to butcher the whole lot of us

-[2003] maybe I should write an article to explain to neighbor that getting out of conquered territories will not weaken Israel but actually strengthen us. That it's a mistake to see the Holocaust and Hitler and Munich everywhere.... I decide to put off writing the article.

-Js attach no importance to outward appearances (unlike Arabs) but only to inner cultural and moral values

-P Arabs argued that if Js not stopped, would swallow up the whole of the land, eradicating every trace of Arab life, covering it with their red-roofed European colonies, corrupting it with their arrogant and licentious ways, and very soon they would take control of the holy places of Islam and would overflow into neighboring Arab countries. with support of British imperialism would do what whites had done to the indigenous populations in America, Australia and elsewhere. Us state as bridgehead to flood in like locusts.

-[Oz as child] little chauvinist dressed up as a peace lover - "There's going to be a war soon in Jerusalem? And we'll beat them all!"

-Arabs look at us, not see bunch of half-hysterical survivors but a new offshoot of Europe, with its colonilaism, technical sophistication and exploitation, that has cleverly returned to the Middle East - in Zionist guises this time - to exploit, evict, and oppress all over again. And when we look at them, we do not see fellow victims either; we see not brothers in adversity but pogrom-making Cossacks, bloodthirsty anti-Semites, Nazis in disguises, as though our European persecutors have reappeared here in the Land of Israel. 343

-perhaps Ben-Gurion and his friends in comfortable Tel Aviv might give up this adventure of a Hebrew state in favor of some modest compromise with the Arab world.

-Azzam Pasha, sec-general of Arab League warned of bloodbath in attempt to create Zionist entity Iraqi PM Muzahim al-Bajaji said only pre-1917 Js could stay only on condition that they woke up from the poison of Zionism and became once more a religious community that knew its place under the protection of Islam and lived according to the laws and customs of Islam. [preacher] we Arabs would not permit the Europeans to dump their rubbish on us. Palestine not a midden for all the refuse of the world.

-Arabs wanted whole territory to become an Arab state under British protection. Stalin's support for partition probably hoping for many years of bloody conflict allowing SU to acquire foothold close to oil fields and Suez Canal

-muezzin "like a hair-raising lament, the howl of his prayer penetrated our sleep

-fantasized being soldier to liberate in blood and fire everything that the effeminate, Diaspora-bred worm of Jacob had not dared to wrest from the hand of the foe. Menachem Begin was my chief childhood idol (but came around to the opposite view eventually after laughed at Begin's use of 'arm' during public speech - I seem to have begun to run away from resurrection and redemption. I am still running.)

-[kibbutz Ephraim] - Begin and all his noisy crew divide everything up into obsequious Diaspora-J and manly Hebrew. They don't notice how D-J the division itself is. Their whole childish obsession with hollow machismo and weapons comes straight from the ghetto. Begin made of cardboard. Anachronistic. They don't understand the weaknesses of power. Power is the opium of the ruling classes, the temptation of the Devil. Arabs see Js as aliens from outer space who have landed and trespassed on their land, gradually taken over parts of it...

-Ben-Gurion article 1961 - equality between human being impossible, only a measure of fraternity. Spinoza - never lose your calm in good or in evil, in victory or defeat. BG a visionary peasant, honest and cruel

-Jules Verne Michael Strogoff - tears cooled sword intended to blind him - defeats his foes thanks to his "feminine side" which rose from his soul without impairing his "masculine side"

-[mother just before suicide] in lover steer clear of tyrants, find one looking for friend, not because they fell empty but because they enjoy making you full too.