Friday, April 15, 2005

Good Ones

What the river was showing her now was that she could flow beyond the brokenness, redeem herself, and fuse once more. ...she could let it stop her--or she could acknowledge the rock and have respect for it, alter her course to move around it. looked as if the water were trying to crawl upstream, back across the surface of the rock in dozens of small hands...over the years the rock would be transformed...

From Stones from the River

I just loved this book. It was a story about a story teller that finds the essence of humanity in her own our own story. Hegi reveals a deep understanding about human nature through the experiences of Trudi, the main character.

Being in Israel and in a cultural ulpan, one learns a lot about the Holocaust which was a subject of Stones from the River. The other day we were reading a passage about Yad VaShem, the Holocaust museum complex here in Jerusalem, and somehow I've been deeply changed ever since. Yes, I have seen the images of Jews, gypsies and gay people being shot and dumped into mass graves. I read the Diary of Anne Frank. I knew what happened. But somehow walking home from ulpan that day I began to realized that the people that I passed on the street may be survivors of this horror, or the children of survivors, or the children of people that were murdered in the Holocaust. In the US, I had a tough indifference skin about the Holocaust. Sometimes I thought that whenever Israel or Jews felt like they needed some political push they would use the excuse of the Holocaust. (Not to say that that sometimes that doesn't happen...) ...but oh-my-goodness, this book brought to life the experiences of someone that saw what was happening, wanted to fight against it, but ended up being powerless to the wave of anti-Semitism and hatred.

Of course the book is fiction, but the facts of the Holocaust cannot be denied. The author uses what we've learned from Holocaust research to craft her story. This gives the book power beyond "The Sound of Music".

Friends, Israel is a great place. It's very "first world" - but it hasn't been that way for long. It would take a lot of pressure for a family to decide to come here in the 1930s, 40s, or 50s as Israel itself was having it's own wars (ok, anytime for that matter).

It's nice when a books awakens something deep inside of us and brings about an awareness of the world that we didn't have prior to reading the book. Books are unique in the way the characters become part of us, part of our own experience, as we read.


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