Eva Salomon’s War
By Gabriella Golliger
How does one preserve a people’s history? In the beginning, elders, designated storytellers, were responsible for transmitting the sacred history from one generation to another. As the tribe grew and expanded, the need for storytellers was outstripped by the need for consistency, for officially sanctioned history. That process helped with the evolution of written history.
However, in the beginning, it was not history. It was the record of the fables and interpretive narratives. Sometimes those narratives were declared sacred, the Torah for example. Eventually even the Romans realized that there was a need for a recording of events that was more than just storytelling. History, the theoretically neutral recording of events over time, developed as a means of connecting new generations to the exploits of their ancestors. The art and science of history has become an important aspect of a people’s ability to reflect upon its past glories and previous mistakes.
Our people’s history is no different from that of other peoples. The Tanach is an early example of oral memories finding their way into written form. We have evolved over the past 2,000 years into a people that very much appreciates the power of historical record. It is common during debates over events in Israel to remind individuals of the historical antecedents and proclaim the importance of historical context in understanding today’s chaos.
We have also been at the forefront of accepting historical fiction as a powerful tool for the transmission of history. Leon Uris’ Exodus and Mila 18 and Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War and War and Remembrance are novels that had an impact on the general knowledge regarding the creation of the State of Israel.
Eva Salomon’s War by Ottawa author Gabriella Goliger fits this paradigm. This novel invites us to witness the events of the British Mandate period, specifically from the mid-1930s until the creation of the State of Israel. We follow Eva, her father and sister from Germany to pre-state Palestine where we are immersed in the German Jewish immigrant experience.
Eva’s father, a rigid religious Jew, tries to recreate his previous life in Tel Aviv. Eva’s sister, Liesal, lands on a new agricultural settlement, a kibbutz. She is confronted immediately with political rhetoric, socialist responsibilities, agricultural duties and the threats from Arab neighbours. Eva starts out in her father’s house but cannot abide by his rigid lifestyle and, like her sister, begins a new life. However, for Eva, it is an urban life.
Through these three main characters, we are introduced to all the main issues of the Mandate period and some of the significant issues that are still on the agenda today. Immigrants come in many sizes and one type of integration story does not fit all. The trials and tribulations of the Salomon family are a vivid reminder of that reality. As Liesel evolves in her understanding of the strengths and deficiencies of the kibbutz movement, we begin to recognize that theory and ideology are not enough to feed both the body and the soul.
As the central character, Eva draws our greatest attention. She is headstrong, she is determined and she is committed to beginning a new life that is unlike the one she experienced in Germany. But, that transition is not easy. She needs help and through her we are introduced to many other characters, each of whom reveals to us the varieties of Jews setting the land.
Perhaps the most powerful storyline is the love affair between Eva and Duncan, a British police officer. Serving in Palestine before, during and after the Second World War, Duncan gives us a non-Jewish set of eyes through which to see ourselves and the conflicts confronting the Yishuv.
Each character is well defined and their struggles are wonderfully emblematic of the pre-state era. One of the most powerful scenes is when Eva is kidnapped by the Irgun and harshly interrogated as a collaborator because of her relationship with Duncan. Love versus loyalty to people, a theme that continues to resonate in our people’s psyche to this day.
Eva Salomon’s War will introduce the uninitiated to a chaotic and confusing time in the life of the Jewish people and the Jewish state. But, it is so filled with wonderfully drawn episodes of history, that even those familiar with the period will be glad they refreshed their memories.
There will be a book launch celebration of Eva Salomon’s War on Sunday, October 14, 7 pm, at Temple Israel.
RSVP author Gabriella Goliger at email@example.com.