“For a long time, I dreamed of being free. Of making a separate peace and standing on my balcony and watching the sun set on my city with no greater thought than “this is my city in the dark.” But I can’t stop caring and worrying. I can’t stop arguing. I know that I’m an individual free to make my own decisions and choose my own path, but I feel I’m being defined by something bigger than myself. I know a little of what my grandparents knew. My worries are older than I am—ancient, the old history closing in. Ebb tide. In the afternoon, you swim above the sand in the clear water, but in the evening the sharks come in to feed in the oceans, white with foam.”
“Well, it has taken a long time for Henry Johnson and William Shemin to receive the recognition they deserve. And there are surely others whose heroism is still unacknowledged and uncelebrated. So we have work to do, as a nation, to make sure that all of our heroes’ stories are told. And we’ll keep at it, no matter how long it takes. America is the country we are today because of people like Henry and William — Americans who signed up to serve, and rose to meet their responsibilities — and then went beyond. The least we can do is to say: We know who you are. We know what you did for us. We are forever grateful.”
Over the Shavuot/Memorial Day weekend, I watched an extraordinary film. In its simplest terms, the film might be described (as a New York Times reviewer has written) as follows: “Produced by Nancy Spielberg (sister of Steven Spielberg), the documentary ‘Above and Beyond’ recounts the story of Jewish American pilots who, beginning in 1948, secretly fought for Israel in its war of independence, when the Israeli military was nascent.”
It’s an amazing story. To be sure, it’s not without its discomforts. For starters, the American Jews who participated in this effort were risking their U.S. citizenship. But by the end of the film, one can’t help thinking of the devastating consequences had they not made the choices that they did.
The same NYT reviewer mentioned above also notes that “the movie’s one-sided view of history is bound to start arguments.” Maybe. But if this is a “one-sided view of history,” it’s also an accurate view of history. For instance, the Arab countries’ 1947 rejection of the U.N. Partition Plan that would have created the first-ever Palestinian state is included as part of the prelude to Israel’s War of Independence. Not everyone is cognizant of this pre-history to Israel’s declaration of statehood. Is its inclusion what the reviewer means by “one-sided”?
Regardless, I strongly recommend this film, especially for anyone who wants to learn more about the establishment of the State of Israel and the contributions of American Jews to that achievement. Above and Beyond can be viewed via (some) on-demand cable companies, iTunes, and at screenings. You’ll find more information on the film’s website.
“’Divided by politics, Israelis and Palestinians are united by a love for the same land with its rich indivisible history, and now even shared saints,’ the Pope could have declared, addressing Abbas and Rivlin in Rome, in a speech broadest simultaneously on Israeli and Palestinian television. He could have gone on to challenge members of both nations to consider what else unites them, and to suggest that shared saints is just one manifestation of how the Church could be a constructive bridge to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Pope could have deployed his moral authority in recent days to bring Palestinians and Israelis together, and send out a very real call for conciliation between them. Instead, he lent out this moral authority, and even the solemn rite of canonization, for diplomatic point-scoring.”
Erika Dreifus is the author of Quiet Americans: Stories (Last Light Studio), which is an ALA Sophie Brody Medal Honor Title for outstanding Jewish literature. Quiet Americans was also named a Notable Book (The Jewish Journal) and a Top Small-Press Book (Shelf Unbound). Erika is a contributing editor for Fiction Writers Review and an advisory board member for J Journal: New Writing on Justice, and she wrote the section on “Choosing a Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing” for the second edition of Tom Kealey’s Creative Writing MFA Handbook (Continuum, 2008). Erika is also the editor/publisher of The Practicing Writer, a free (and popular) e-newsletter featuring advice, opportunities, and resources on the craft and business of writing for fictionists, poets, and writers of creative nonfiction.
A high-ranking Nazi’s wife and a Jewish doctor in prewar Berlin. A Jewish immigrant soldier and the German POWs he is assigned to supervise. A refugee returning to Europe for the first time just as terrorists massacre Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. A son of survivors and the family secrets modern technology may reveal. These are some of the characters and conflicts that emerge in Quiet Americans, in stories that reframe familiar questions about what is right and wrong, remembered and repressed, resolved and unending. Portions of the proceeds from sales of Quiet Americans are being donated to The Blue Card. Quiet Americans has been named a 2012 Sophie Brody Medal Honor Title (American Library Association) and recognized as a “Notable Book” (The Jewish Journal) and “Top Book” (Shelf Unbound).
For nearly seven years, subscribers have welcomed The Practicing Writer, a free monthly e-newsletter that helps fiction writers, poets, and writers of creative nonfiction with their craft and business. Always listing paying publication opportunities, always announcing contests and other opportunities that don’t charge entry/application fees. Click here [HYPERLINK TO http://www.erikadreifus.com/newsletter/ ) to learn more, click here [HYPERLINK TO http://www.erikadreifus.com/newsletter/current/) to read the latest issue online, or go ahead and subscribe right now (and get a free writing-contest guide!).