With a new introduction by the author. The Israeli novelist David Grossman's impassioned account of what he observed on the West Bank in early 1987 - not only the misery of the Palestinian refugees and their deep-seated hatred of the Israelis but also the cost of occupation for both occupier and occupied - is an intimate and urgent moral report on one of the great tragedies of our time. The Yellow Wind caused a sensation upon its original publication. Now with a new introduction by the author, it is essential reading for anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of Israel today.
Written 2 decades ago as part of a reporting assignment, this collection of articles is based on a 7-week encounter of the author with the Palestinian refugees and Israeli settlers in the
This book earned international acclaim but, not surprisingly, was controversial at home. Grossman came out of this experience with the message that the occupation of one people by another degrades the moral and political life of both the occupier and the occupied. And this message would underlie what Grossman would later become, an outspoken peace activist.
Written 20 years ago, the actors might be different, but the message has not changed, and the questions remain. Essential reading for those who would like to understand even just a bit of this complex issue, from the perspective of those who actually live there.
“One morning, soldiers came to the house and notified her that she had fifteen minutes to get all her belongings and her daughters out of the house, after which the house would be leveled. Sometimes, when I hear about the destruction of houses in the West Bank, I wonder what I would remove from
In 1987, Israeli novelist David Grossman spent three months on the West Bank, journeying to Palestinian camps and Jewish settlements, talking to university students, army reservists, villagers, prosecutors, everyday people, ordinary people living divided, exiled lives. As he explains:
“I wanted to meet the people who are themselves the real players in the drama, those who pay first the price of their actions and failures, courage, cowardliness, corruption, nobility. I quickly understood that we all pay the price, but not all of us know it.”
The ‘Yellow Wind’ refers to “the wind that will come from the gate of Hell (from the gates of Paradise comes only a pleasant, cool wind) – rih asfar, it is called by the local Arabs, a hot and terrible east wind which comes once in a few generations, sets the world afire, and people seek shelter from its heat in the caves and caverns, but even there it finds those it seeks, those who have performed cruel and unjust deeds, and there, in the cracks in the boulders, it exterminates them, one by one”.
It is an emotional, painful read and as with Grossman’s fiction (at least with To The End of the Land, the only other of his works I’ve read) well written.
Grossman is an Israeli novelist who goes on a quest of sorts to understand the people impacted by the struggle. An Israeli himself, he seems to take Israeli "mainstream" opinions for granted, and never mentions them in this book. He does interview Arabs in refugee camps, West Bank university students, Israeli settlers, Palestinians working in near-slavery conditions in Tel Aviv. These interviews are terrifying and heartbreaking and soul sickening, and in his reactions to some of the stories Grossman, perhaps unintentionally, reveals his own gaze -- the way his own history in the occupations colors his perception. With the exception of the final essay, this is not done reflectively, which makes me doubt it was intentional. This is clearly a book written by an Israeli for Israelis.
But it strives to be honest and let the interviewed tell their own stories and build a picture of how trapped and locked in everyone is in the occupation -- occupied and occupiers alike. None see clearly through the veils of their own righteousness, even Grossman, who is struggling to remove his.
Don't read unless you're ready to complicate your own understanding of the Middle East. And may I recommend a hefty donation to Seeds of Peace at the end as a palate cleanser.