Israel in Exile: Jewish Writing and the Desert by Ranen Omer-Sherman
By Ranen Omer-Sherman
Israel in Exile is a daring exploration of ways the traditional barren region of Exodusand Numbers, as archetypal web site of human liberation, kinds a templatefor sleek political identities, radical scepticism, and wondering ofofficial narratives of the state that seem within the works of contemporaryIsraeli authors together with David Grossman, Shulamith Hareven, andAmos oz., in addition to diasporic writers comparable to Edmund Jabes andSimone Zelitch. unlike different ethnic and nationwide representations, Jewish writers on the grounds that antiquity haven't built a neat antithesisbetween the wasteland and town or kingdom; really, the wilderness turns into asymbol opposed to which the values of the town or state might be demonstrated, measured, and occasionally came upon wantin
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Indeed, this is a crucial dimension of the ancient/modern Jewish text’s idiosyncratic relation to space. World literature and the texts of religious antiquity express a common mistrust of the desert and have produced sharply etched negative images of its essential hostility toward settled human culture. 16 Christianity’s desert howls with evil spirits that threaten God’s hegemony (Williams 11) and Islamic deserts are often haunted by dangerous spirits called djinns that subvert human will and destiny.
Most importantly, when considering the contemporary moral imagination of secular writers, it is important to note that desert translates as one of the Hebraic imagination’s most pervasive symbols of universality. ’ Therefore it was given in the wilderness, publicly and openly, and in a place to which no one had any claim. ”19 If we consider this early rabbinic approach to the spiritual logic of scripture, we ﬁnd that an idealized notion of “wilderness” often forms the central prism that guides the dominant approach to social iniquities.
The resulting vacuum gave rise to a quest for the purpose and meaning of life. The previous sense of belonging, which these writers had neither experienced as youngsters or read about in the works of their senior colleagues, only heightened and exacerbated their distress. Consequently, the quest for the lost harmony—on a personal as well as on social and metaphysical levels—became a central feature of young Israeli ﬁction. indd 22 12/8/05 3:04:15 PM Representing Desert Wilderness 23 This quest, together with the search for the meaning of life, the attempt to understand “where we came from and where we are going”, begot a surge of religious yearning.