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  • Jeffrey Levine

Tevye in the Promised land  - Book Review


What a Story. Even in Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye is the one of the original Soul Doctors and these series of Books are filled with Soul Doctor stories.

This is a book review of not one but three books that cover the adventures of Tevye in a fictional historical context of Tevye making Aliyah after he was forced to leave his village in Ukraine. We all know the film, the play, the book by Sholom Aleichem. The Author Zvi Fishman has written an amazing work where one becomes connected the settling and building up of Israel covering the period 1908 to 1939. It is pity that he has not written a fourth and fifth book covering all the developments to 1967 and beyond. (Fact Check – Zvi lives in Jerusalem, I have met Zvi a few times. He is a true Character, tries to be funny on Facebook, He is more serious in real life, posts occasional some mildly pro Israel Posts – Ok he does not mince his words. It is a worthwhile experience just to go buy the books from his Warehouse in Jerusalem. I heard that the Trip Advisor is putting this on a Top 10 to do in Jerusalem – Visit and but Zvi’s Books

from his Warehouse. Warning - you may get photo posted on Facebook)

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008210807054

In these books, Tevye is Forest Gump and he is everywhere, in the heart of the action and intimately knows all the main characters of the Yishuv. This is woven together by his interaction and the interaction of wider family with leading Zionist characters.

While it a captivating read, it is not an easy read, with so many hardships, tribulations, and death. We seem to have this romantic view and take it for granted to good that we have in Israel today, but do know or remember the sacrifice made these early pioneers in establishing the state. It was not a bed of roses under first a Turkish rule and then British rule and this is a strong undercurrent of the cruelty that both showed to Jews in Israel at that time. It also showcases the internal politics and fighting between the different groups. One poignant chapter is of an attempt by Ben Gurion and Jabotinsky to understand each other’s approach and positions and reach an understanding and bring peace between the camps

The writer is biases towards the Religious Zionist, often portraying Ben Gurion with his shortcomings. One of the main themes brought was how to respond to both large scale Arab Terror, and the slow trickle of the occasional murder of Jews. It is both ironic and sad that just like in 1920, 1930 this situation has not really changed. The Arabs in their terror were cruel and barbarian. The same exists today. There was a policy of restraint and appeasement. The same dilemmas exist today, and we see thus clearly in how we evaluate our response to both the occasional terror of the Palestinians and the situation in Gaza.

I would recommend all our political leaders to read these books to gain a sensitive insight into these issues

The writer is very knowledgeable and did an incredible amount of research. To many of us, these pioneers of the state are just street names. How much or how little do we know of these people for example Rechov Greenberg, Rechov David Raziel, AL Azarov, Rav Kook Street and many more. In these books you learn first-hand about their philosophy, writings and poetry. Yes, poetry had a major impact on these Yishuv. You will learn about many pioneers who do not have that many streets named after them but made a valuable contribution to the forming of the State, Rabbi. Segal, Yair Stern, Ben Shlomo who was the first young man to be hung by the British who inspired so many with his bravery in death there were a total of nine hangings by the British, not to mention their cruelty and inhumane treatment of those arrested, randomly ad without trial and due process. This is described in all is glory in these books.

By far the most important personage in the view point of the author was Rav Kook. The book takes us through the development of Tevye being a Jew in the old country, where a Rabbi was how to say it nicely just a Rabbi and Tevye was let's call it Haredi. We see the transformation and expansion of Tevye views when he meets Rav Kook. Tevye and his family developed a close and intimate relationship with Rav Kook and through this we as readers can a new or greater insight into his scholarship, leadership, derech and inclusiveness and fight for what is right and the way to lead when dealing with the authorities in this case the case mainly the British overlords

There is much write and learn from these books, but I will end by saying that I learnt so much about our recent history, I felt as I was living in those times interacting with those people and in imagination was Tevye trying to contribute to our dear country

I would recommend these books for those in need of chizuk, a better understanding of the lead up to the state and how we better understand today's dilemmas by looking at the past.

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