Stealing Home: Israel Bound and Rebound

By Haim Chertok | Go to book overview

"ALSO A JEW": A CLIFFIE IN BEERSHEBA

without the self-righteous anger, the righteous passion of those faded years of Vietnam--who could have imagined how soon they would dim into nostalgia?--unhitching from the allure of America would have been inconceivable. As for Israel and aliya, they would have remained a dormant, inoperative, romantic twitch. The irony seems to me fine-tuned: whereas my own commitment to Jewish traditional observance flickered never so low as during activist years as an overage Student for a Democratic Society-- though we kept and maintained a kosher communal kitchen for that year in City Island, we also more or less "skipped" the High Holidays--a radical delegitimization of mythological America was crucial before I could ever seriously entertain cutting out. Yet at the decade's decline into grim 1969, at the very logical moment when S.D.S. was violently imploding, adangle at our loosest ends, I with my wife and children turned not away but deeper into the clinging interior to the west.

That trip carried us along glittering, parallel tracks. It took us fully five years more to perceive that nowhere over the American rainbow would they converge in a manner which we could satisfactorily live with or justify. And yet then the final nudge, that adventitious jaunt in 1974 as the token Jews of Fresno to accompany Mayor Wills and the official party to Israel, stunned me when I fully realized just how primed I had grown to chuck my familiar, complacent American life, which since '69 I had persuaded myself I was accustomed to--indeed, grown reconciled with and even somewhat fond of.

-26-

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