Friday, May 7, 2021
Friday, May 7, 2021
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Excerpted from Oz, Amos: ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’, London:  Vintage Books, 2005 Pp 342-345

“Like a frightening dream crowds of shadows stood massed together silently by the yellow light of the streetlamp, in our yard, in the neighbouring yards, on balconies, in the roadway, like a vast assembly of ghosts.  Hundreds of people not uttering a sound, neighbours, acquaintances, and strangers, some in their night clothes and others in their jacket and tie, occasional men in hats or caps, some women bare headed, others in dressing gowns with scarves round their heads, some of them carrying sleepy children on their shoulders, and on the edge of the crowd I noticed here and there an elderly woman sitting on a stool or a very old man who had been brought out into the street with his chair.The whole crowd seemed to have been turned to stone in that frightening night silence, as if they were not real people but hundreds of dark silhouettes painted on to the canvas of the flickering darkness.  As though they had died on their feet.  Not a word was heard, not a cough nor a footstep.  No mosquito hummed.  Only the deep, rough voice of the American presenter blaring from the radio which was set at full volume and made the night air tremble, or it may have been the voice of the president of the Assembly, the Brazilian Oswaldo Aranha.  One after another he read out the names of the last countries on the list, in English alphabetical order, followed immediately by the reply of their representative.  United Kingdom:  abstains.  Union of Soviet Socialist Republic: yes, United States:  yes, Uruguay:  yes.  Venezuela:  yes.  Yemen:  no.  Yugoslavia:  abstains.At that the voice suddenly stopped, an another-worldly silence descended and froze the whole scene, a terrified, eerie silence, a silence of hundreds of people holding their breath, such as I have never heard in my life either before or after that night. Then the deep, slightly hoarse voice came back, making the air shake as it summed up with a rough dryness brimming with excitement:  Thirty-three for.  Thirteen against. Ten abstentions and one country absent from the vote.  The resolution is approved.His voice was swallowed up in a roar that burst from the radio, overflowing from the galleries in the hall at Lake Success, and after a couple more seconds of shock and disbelief, of lips parted as though in thirst and eyes wide open, our faraway street on the edge of Kerem Avraham in northern Jerusalem also roared all at once in a first terrifying shout that tore through the darkness and the buildings and trees, piercing Itself , not a shout of joy, nothing like the shouts of spectators in sports grounds or excited rioting crowds, perhaps more like a scream of horror and bewilderment, a cataclysmic shout, a shout that could shift rocks, that  could freeze your blood, as  though all the dead who had ever died here and all those still to die had received a brief window to shout, and the next moment the scream of horror was replaced by roars of joy and a medley oof hoarse cries and “The Jewish People Lives” and somebody trying to sing “Hatikvah” and women shrieking and clapping and “Here in the Land our Fathers Loved”, and the whole crowd started to revolve slowly around itself as though it was being stirred in a huge cement mixer, and there were no more restraints, and I jumped into my trousers but  didn’t bother with a shirt or pullover and shot out of the door and some neighbour or stranger picked me up so I wouldn’t be trampled under foot and I was passed from hand to hand until I landed on my father’s shoulders near our front gate.  My father and mother were standing there hugging one another like two children lost in the wood, as I had never seen them before or since, and for a moment I was between them inside their hug and a moment later I was back on Father’s shoulders and my very cultured, polite father was standing there shouting at the top of his voice not words or word-play or Zionist slogans, not even cries of joy, but one long naked shout like before words were invented.But others were singing now, everyone was singing, but my father, who couldn’t sing and I didn’t know the words of the popular songs, did not stop but went on with his long shout to the end of his lungs aaaahhh and when he ran out of breath he inhaled like a drowning man and went on shouting, this man who wanted to be a famous professor and deserved to become one and now he was all just aaahhhh.  And I was surprised to see my mother’s hand stroking his wet head and the back of his neck, and then I felt her hand on my head and my back too because I might unawares have been helping my father shout and my mother’s hand stroked the two of us over and over again, perhaps to soothe us or perhaps not, perhaps out of the depths she was also trying to share with him and me in our shout and with the whole street the whole neighbourhood the whole city and the whole country my sad mother was trying  to participate this time – …Then, there was dancing and weeping in Amos Street, I the whole of Kerem Avraham and in all the Jewish neighbourhoods; flags appeared and slogans written on strips of cloth, car horns blared and “Raise the banner high to Zion” and “Here in the Land our Fathers Loved,” shofar blasts sounded from all the synagogues ,and Torah scrolls were taken out of the holy arks and were caught up in the dancing, and “G-d will rebuild Galilee” and “Come and behold/how great is this day,” and later, in the small hours of the morning, Mr. Auster suddenly opened his shop and all the kiosks in Zephaniah Street and Geula Street  and Chancellor Street and the Jaffa Road and King George Avenue opened and the bars opened up all over the city and handed out soft drinks and snacks and even alcoholic drinks until he first light of dawn, bottles of fruit drink, beer, and wine passed from hand to hand and from mouth to mouth, strangers hugged each other in the streets and kissed each other  with tears, and startled English policemen were also dragged into the circles of dancers and softened up with cans of beer and sweet liqueurs, and frenzied revellers climbed up on British armoured cars and waved the flag of the state that had not been established yet, but tonight, over there in Lake Success, it had been decided that it had the right to be established.  And it would be established one hundred and sixty-seven days and nights later, on Friday the fourteenth of May 1948, but one in every hundred men, women, old folk, children, and babies in those crowds of Jews who were dancing, revelling, drinking and weeping for joy, fully one percent of the excited people who spilt out on to the streets that night, would die in the war that the Arabs started within seven hours of the General Assembly’s decision at Lake Success – to be helped, when the British left, by the regular armed forces of the Arab League, columns of infantry, armour, artillery, fighter planes and bombers, from the south, the east and the north, the regular armies of the Arab states invading with the intention of putting an end to the new state within one or two days of its proclamation.But my father said to me as we wandered there, on the night of the 29th of November 1947, me riding on his shoulders, among the rings of the dancers and merrymakers, not as though he was asking me but as though he knew and was hammering in what he knew with nails.  Just you look, my boy, take a very good look, son, take it all in, because you won’t forget this night to your dying day and you’ll tell your children, your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren about this night when we’re long gone.”


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