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Khirbet Khizeh by S. Yizhar

Khirbet Khizeh (1949)

by S. Yizhar

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Khirbet Khizeh is an Arab village in the newly formed state of Israel, designated to be cleared by Israeli forces, made uninhabitable, and its occupants exiled. The novel, originally published in 1949 and written from an Israeli soldier's perspective, it was only recently translated from Hebrew. While nearly seventy years since the birth of the Israeli state and the genesis of this story, it expresses a fundamental tension that still exists: a many-times exiled Jewish people find themselves doing the same unto another group. It's a short, thought-provoking read, told by someone who understands the stress, the fear, the boredom, and the conflicts that can arise between duty and conscience in service to the state. I can't speak to the quality of the translation, but I can say it's expressed beautifully in English. The NYT book review intrigued me enough to read it http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/22/books/review/khirbet-khizeh-by-s-yizhar.html ( )
  traumleben | May 9, 2015 |
An anomalously lovely account of the evacuation of a Palestinian village by young Israeli soldiers largely unaware of what they are doing to other people's lives. It is connected in various ways to My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: a Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century by Adina Hoffman, about Israeli Arab poet Taha Muhamad Ali. ( )
  V.V.Harding | Apr 21, 2015 |
"Jews being killed. Europe. We were the masters now", 15 February 2015

This review is from: Khirbet Khizeh: A Novel (Paperback)
I didn't think I was going to get into this work, with its sometimes meandering sentences, but made a determined effort and read it in one sitting (120 p) and it's absolutely brilliant.
First published in 1949, it's narrated by a young Israeli soldier out with his platoon, carrying out orders to clear out the eponymous Arab village, remove the occupants and blow up the houses. Yizhar brings the whole situation to life, with vivid descriptions of the Palestinian landscape and of the soldiers' demeanour:
'there was to be no battle for us today...today we were going on an outing.'
But as the remaining Arabs are heartlessly 'cleared' onto 'transports', the reader sees uncomfortable similarities with the awful situation of the Jews themselves in Europe just a few years previously. As the narrator, himself opposed to the situation, observes:
'the Diaspora...Our nation's protest to the world: exile! It had entered me, apparently, with my mother's milk. what, in fact, had we perpetrated here today?'
Very powerful read, and for readers like myself who weren't around in the 40s, very informative. This edition is enhanced by an afterword by David Shulman which explains some of the Biblical references in 'Yizhar's dense web of allusion', and discusses the situation today between settlers and their Palestinian neighbours. ( )
1 vote starbox | Feb 15, 2015 |
It's hard to say I "loved" this book, because the subject is so tough. That said, it is beautiful, spare, and poetic even in translation. The history of Israel's war for independence in 1948 is complicated, and relying on a novel as a guide has its complications. But the book's focus on one small sliver of that moment makes it effective.

I mentioned the book in my essay "Dueling E-mails," at http://www.thetruthasiseeit.com/2009/01/dueling-e-mails.html

Also, there are two good reviews I can recommend, both of which provide helpful external context:
The New York Times, "Cultural Crossroads of the Levant," by Rachel Donadio,
The Economist, "The good soldier," http://www.economist.com/books/displaystory.cfm?story_id=11010266 ( )
  TTAISI-Editor | Jan 3, 2009 |
Showing 4 of 4
Series: RereadingPrevious | Next | Index Rereading: Khirbet Khizeh by S YizharIn his novella of the 1948 war, the Israeli writer S Yizhar sought to preserve the memory of the Palestinian nakba. Jacqueline Rose on a haunting tale that still stirs intense controversy

Near the beginning of Khirbet Khizeh, the extraordinary 1949 novella by S Yizhar, the narrator describes the dangers, to a soldier, of thinking: "we knew that when the thoughts came, troubles began; better not to start thinking." Khirbet Khizeh is a tribute to the power of critical thought to register the injustices of history. It is published by Granta this month in its first full English translation, first issued by Adina Hoffman for Ibis editions in Jerusalem in 2008. Khirbet Khizeh tells the story of the expulsion of Palestinian villagers from their home and land during the 1948 war that immediately followed the founding of the Israeli state: the war of independence or liberation, as it is referred to in Israel; for the Palestinians, the nakba or catastrophe. By the end of it, 750,000 Palestinians had become refugees. This story, this moment, is, to say the least, still controversial. In July 2009, Israel's education ministry announced that the term nakba, introduced two years previously into Palestinian-Israeli textbooks, was to be removed on the grounds that its use was tantamount to spreading propaganda against Israel. In May last year, a law was passed – widely termed the "Nakba Law" – that withdraws government funding from any group judged to be "acting against the principles of the country", which includes the commemoration of the nakba. The law effectively criminalises the right of the Palestinian people to remember..


» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
S. Yizharprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bejarano, Ana MaríaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
De Lange, Nicholas Robert MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dweck, YaacobTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verhasselt, RubenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zeeman, MichaelAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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True, it all happened a long time ago, but it has haunted me ever since.
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This 1949 novella about the violent expulsion of Palestinian villagers by the Israeli army has long been considered a modern Hebrew masterpiece, and it has also given rise to fierce controversy over the years. Published just months after the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Khirbet Khizeh (the 'kh' pronounced like the 'ch' in 'Bach') was an immediate sensation when it first appeared. Thousands of Israeli Jews rushed to read it, the critics began to argue about it, and a Palestinian journalist in Nablus described it as a sign that the Israeli army had a conscience and that peace was possible. Since then, the book has continued to challenge and disturb. The various debates it has prompted would themselves make Khirbet Khizeh worth reading, but the novella is much more than a vital historical document: it is also a great work of art. Yizhar's haunting, lyrical style and charged registration of the landscape are in many ways as startling as his wrenchingly honest view of one of Israel's defining moments. Despite its international reputation, this is the first UK publication of Khirbet Khizeh.
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"Published just months after the end of the 1948 war that followed the establishment of the state of Israel, Khirbet Khizeh was an immediate sensation. Since then, the book has continued to challenge and disturb, and has even made it into the school curriculum in Israel."--Back cover.… (more)

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