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Reviews epic novel on history of Jews up to 1948 creation of Israel.... More...
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Paper Abstract:
Reviews epic novel on history of Jews up to 1948 creation of Israel.

Paper Introduction:
James A. Michener, in his epic novel The Source, has written a history of the Jews from their genesis to the creation of Israel in 1948. Michener shapes this history into the form of a novel by anchoring the past with the present through the work and relationships of a group of archaeologists on a dig in 1964 in a fictional region of what is today Israel. Michener grounds the story in this dig and in the changing eras which are represented by the finds on the dig. Through this method, Michener creates intrigue and tension among the archaeologists, in personal, professional, political and religious terms. The fact that the archaeologists live in the modern era allows them, and the author, to comment on, and argue about, the significance of the events which make up the history and evolution of the Jewish people.

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. The next chapter focuses on the 15th century B.C.E., and continuesthe themes already established. The law need not be abrogated; what was needed was some new leader to refight in the twentieth century the battles that great Akiba had fought in the second. Michenerwrites: The Judaism that King David inherited was often a cold religion, rigorous and even forbidding, but it was saved by the outcry of human passion which David was now uttering. was a human heart approaching the end of its allotted years; and between the two there was a passionate dialogue. Michener's grounding of the story in the 1964 dig is lesscompelling for this reader, simply because it breaks up the narrative flow,rather than adding to it. At timesthe author's attempts to tie ancient man of the region with subsequentgenerations of Jews seem preposterous: "For the past seventy thousand yearsthe cave had been continuously occupied by Ur's ancestors, one generationafter the other, leaving behind them brief mementos of their short and uglylives" (87). It is important to keep in mind that the book isnot truly an objective investigation, but more an homage, a tribute to thepeople and culture of the Jews. The author's detailed portrayals of the lives andcharacters of fictionalized people in each era precludes such in-depthanalysis. The treatment of thesehistorical figures, however, is obviously fictionalized, for the authordoes not have knowledge of the details he presents. Work CitedMichener, James. The dig is a fictional mound seventy-one feet high which has beenformed of many settlements in the history of Jewish history anddevelopment. Through this method, Michenercreates intrigue and tension among the archaeologists, in personal,professional, political and religious terms. The culmination of the book occurs with the miracle of the creationof the Jewish state of Israel and the victory of the Jews over the Arabswhen the British pulled out of Palestine. Thus the study of the era of 9831 B.C.E. The main themes running through the book are both human and divine.They have to do primarily with the relationship of the Jewish people withtheir God, and with their relationship with non-Jews. It is especially about theevolving, often difficult, and always mysterious relationship between theJews and their God. The book is a compelling, fictionalized story of the grand, terrible,and inspiring history of a people, their God, and their struggle to surviveand prosper. . . There are fifteen major finds of artifacts, which correspond tofifteen eras, and to the fifteen chapters of narratives which make up thebook. If they had tried to battle every enemymilitarily, they would have likely perished long ago. The law must be humanized, brought up to date, . The jews are a people who intensify theirrelationship with their God, yet at times defy him for their own purposesand pursuits. Michener grounds the story in this dig and in the changing eras whichare represented by the finds on the dig. The book is, therefore, an historical novel which takes greatliberties as it weaves the past and the present, creating characters wholive in the present as well as in the past at each stage of the developmentof the Jews and their culture and religion. The fact that thearchaeologists live in the modern era allows them, and the author, tocomment on, and argue about, the significance of the events which make upthe history and evolution of the Jewish people. For better or worse,the most fascinating sections deal with the conflicts between Jews andChristians and Moslems who want to oppress the Jews. begins with reference to arather primitive grain sickle from that period. What this study will attempt to do is present the framework ofMichener's book and his methodology, and focus in greatest depth on theoverriding themes which Michener presents with respect to the nature andevolution of the Jewish people and culture through history. Michener brings together a motley group for the dig---an Irish Catholic from the United States, an Israel-based Arab, a GermanJew and his Jewish/Israeli fiancee, and a rich American who finances thedig. The erection ofa monolith by Ur's family is the highlight of this era, representing a kindof crude effort to connect with the power and mystery which would becomethe God of the Jews. However, such imaginative flights always serve the purpose ofadvancing the book's major theme: the Jewish people have lived in acontinuum of tragedies, have stuck together, have survived, and havecreated a powerful and expressive culture at the same time. The people and their God, the passion of humanity and the austerityof the law---these associations, full of conflict and struggle, are whatmake up the history of the Jews as portrayed by Michener. New York: Fawcett Crest, 1983.----------------------- 1 . Michener, in his epic novel The Source, has written ahistory of the Jews from their genesis to the creation of Israel in 1948.Michener shapes this history into the form of a novel by anchoring the pastwith the present through the work and relationships of a group ofarchaeologists on a dig in 1964 in a fictional region of what is todayIsrael. Still, the peace process trudgesalong, so that the possibility of ecumenism cannot be said to be dead. Still, the aim of thebook is to humanize and particularize the jewish people, and as long as wekeep in mind that this is a novel, we will not be misled into thinking weare reading true history. What I received fromMichener's book was not so much an education, than, as it was anexperience, an emotional, human experience of particular Jews created byMichener and embodying all of the strengths and weaknesses which makes thepeople of this great culture both admirable and sympathetic. It is enough that Michener has told the story ofan amazing people's history in such compelling terms. This allows Michener to have the archaeologists dig downthrough the mound and explore the eras which the layers and their contentsrepresent. . Instead of such amilitary option, the Jews had a religious one. James A. . The Jews are persecuted and/or slaughtered by, it seems, almost everyother people and religion in the region, century after century aftercentury. However,the book should be taken on its own terms, so that the best way to look atit is to focus on it as a history of a fascinating people told in afictional framework. This reader was already aware of the great strength and endurance ofthe Jewish people and the fact that their faith and unity under their Godwere what allowed them to survive to this day. had oncemore set up the monolith to Baal and the accompanying monument to El-Shaddai, and he wrestled with the stones and would have thrown them down,but he was alone and was not powerful enough to do so" (232). It is also clear that he is against any effort to modernize Judaismto such an extent that the power which sustained the Jews through thecenturies would be torn out of that religion and culture. For example,considering the case of a modern-day public official, Ilan Eliav, and thedemands of younger Israelis for modernization of the law, Michener writes: He was a Jew, aware of the unique history of his people. They are the victims of Christians in the Crusades, of Moslemsunder Muhammad, of the German armies of both the Byzantine and modern eras,of Nero after Caligula, of the Spanish---yet they not only survive but comeback stronger and stronger, always trying to stay close to God by obeyinghis law. Using this group as a focus, the author gives the history of the Jewsan added fascination which some readers may feel it does not need. Epher, for example, "found that his people . The horrors the Jews face andsurvive are clearly meant to show that they are indeed a chosen people, hatthey would not have survived had they not been, had they not believed so,and had they not remained unified under a faith and a set of laws whichguided them through those horrors to this day. In the next chapter, for example, heshows the yielding to temptation of Joktan, who forgets the "solitary altarunder the oak tree" and instead focuses on a public sex act between aprostitute/goddess and a pottery maker, an act which is part of a cult'sceremony. We are drawn into the story precisely because we come to root for thegood underdog, as Michener portrays the people, but the modern-dayinterruptions distract us from this identification with the Jews as theystruggle through history. Again, each succeeding section deals with a new era which correspondsto a particular artifact's discovery on he modern-day dig, and a change inthe culture and environment around the site in that historical era.Michener mixes completely fictional characters with historical figures,such as Herod, Titus, and even King David. Where were the Chaldeans andhe Moabites, the Phoenicians and the Assyrians, the Hurrians and theHittites?" (1 77). (318-319). simplified, adjusting it to modern life as he had once adjusted it to Roman (1 77). Serving as parentheses to these narratives are two chapters on themound itself, called the Tell. God returns their loyalty to him through amazing events which he isbelieved to arrange, such as the time he saved the Jews from Caligula bywilling his assassination, after the outmanned Jews bravely confronted asuperior army with passive resistance. And, in most cases, the enemy eventually perished: "The law wouldcontinue, for only it could keep Israel alive. The argument of the Jews, and ofMichener, is that they would not have survived in any form had not they hadsuch a stern set of laws, believed given to them by their God, to follow. . The scope of this study prevents an in-depth look at all of the erascovered in the book. The Source. . Also, throughout the book, the historicalnarrative is broken up, unfortunately, by interchanges---from political toromantic---among the archaeologists. . Each of the fifteen narratives of the fifteen periods begins withexamination of the artifact from that period which is discovered at thedig. Immediately Michener placesus in that era with the fictional characters he has imagined to help himportray and personalize the circumstances of that distant time. . Their laws, their one God,their belief in themselves as an anointed people---all these factors werethe source of their survival. . . Michener is an advocate ofthe Jews in this book, to be sure, but he has created a cast of characterswho are fully human and not saints. The question exploredfictionally in these conflicts is whether or not the three religions can co-exist to a more peaceful and ecumenical degree than they have in the past.Although this question cannot be answered by any man or woman, or any book,Michener seems to be generally hopeful about such ecumenism. . This stands in stark contrast to,say, the Canaanites, who brought their deity more and more down to earth.The Jews increasingly saw their God as a universal God, as the only God, incontrast to other early religions which had a number of gods who ruled overspecific aspects of life and death. To be sure, Michener's homage to the Jews is not unbroken by eventsin which the people betray heir higher calling. Perhaps he istoo optimistic in this area, considering the wars which have taken place inthe Middle East since the book was written, and the continued hatredfueling conflict between Jews and Arabs. The Jews through the centuries, as portrayed fictionally by Michener,increased their reverence for their God. Again, they have not onlysurvived their enemies, Hitler and the Nazis, but they have emerged fromthe Holocaust as a living symbol of God's relationship with man. Again, this feature was a powerfulforce in unifying the Jews, a unity which was utterly necessary if thepeople and their culture were to survive in hostile circumstances.Generally, the Jews in history did not have a powerful military force tofight against their many enemies. they had survived persecution . In the section onlevel XII of the dig, Michener writes that the Jews were now believers inYahweh, and increasingly devoted to following his will for them, eventhough they strayed from he path through "human weakness" (318). . Remote and removed, there was Yahweh; here . We see in most of the sections of the book these connected themes ofthe law and the survival of the Jews in circumstances which threaten theirphysical, cultural and religious survival. only because their stern rabbis had kept them faithful to the law, and if now this law raised certain difficulties, that was nothing new; it had always done so.

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