Now it is too late – he died two years ago.
My father’s account may not be as lyrical, but closely mirrors the events depicted by Yizhar:
At that time our unit was heavily involved in the capture of Lod, a town near Tel Aviv. . . . The entire Arab population was ordered to leave. I vividly remember the long lines of refugees – men, women, and children – fleeing toward an uncertain future.
At one point, my unit was searching those who were being evacuated for weapons and valuables. The atmosphere was tense, and some of my comrades mistreated civilians. Not surprisingly, my mind flashed back to my own experiences as a ten-year-old boy fleeing our home in Poland. But here the roles were reversed. When one of our men struck a Palestinian with his bayonet, I was stung by the memory of my father being struck the same way by a German soldier. It shook me to the depths: what is it that makes people treat each other like this? (My Search, page 73)
I don’t know how my father would have responded to Khirbet Khizeh, but it struck me that his autobiography, My Search, reads as a sequel to the novel. It portrays a young man insatiably seeking an answer to the questions raised by experiencing, and then participating in, violence. “I long to once experience in my life, in my heart, the answer to the deepest need of humankind,” he wrote at the time. “Even if I can experience the answer for only one minute, that will be enough for me.”
My father’s refusal to simply move on after the war cautions me to read Khirbet Khizeh not only as a literary masterpiece, but as a challenge. His search challenges me not to drown out the pain it portrays and the questions it raises, but to live in response to them.