From Jerusalem to the Edge of Heaven: Meditations on the Soul of Israel

By Ari Elon; Tikva Frymer-Kensky | Go to book overview

This book began as an issue of an innovative Israeli quarterly review called Shdemot, which is put out by the young intellectuals of the Kibbutz movement and its adherents. Shdemot is characterized by a combination of left wing liberal thought with an intense interest in Jewish classical texts. This combination, which has characterized Shdemot since its inception, is unique in Israel and matches my own interests and inclinations. Many of those who founded Shdemot were also active in the establishment of a Judaic texts program in Oranim, the college of the Kibbutz movement, which has become a fascinating secular quasi-yeshivah. Since joining the faculty of this program in the summer of 1977, I have been active in these circles. I became a contributor to Shdemot, and the editors suggested, at the end of 1989, that I write an entire issue of the journal. We wanted to keep the character of a typical journal issue, which normally includes scholarly, ideological, and literary articles, gathered together from various disciplines. This suited me perfectly, for it let me speak in many voices at once.

Preface to the English Edition

For over twenty years I had been filling notebooks with observations, diaries, scholarly studies, and opinions. Shdemot's proposal, which had a built-in deadline, functioned for me like a gallery's offer of an exhibition to an artist who has to be ready by a certain date. I started to review everything I had written, and little by little the fourfold structure of Alma Dee (the Hebrew original of From Jerusalem to the Edge of Heaven) began to coalesce. I began to realize that my output during these twenty years had concentrated on four areas: One, of course, was autobiographical; another, the political/ideological essays and lectures that I had produced during my fifteen years as an educator and activist in Israel; the third, the fruits of my scholarly endeavors in talmudic literature; and the fourth the military journals I had kept during twenty-odd years of army service. These were the areas that I would cull to create the "gates" into which Shdemot normally divided its issues.

I chose a few autobiographical pieces. This book would not be an autobiography, and I only wanted to provide a brief sketch of the events that had formed me. I was born into an Orthodox, God-centered world and had an intensely God-centered boyhood. During my teens, I lost my belief in God (as I the child had pictured God), and I mourned this loss as I continued to study in Orthodox schools, feeling increasingly isolated and alienated. In 1968 I joined the army. 1968, immediately after the six-day war, was a time of great national euphoria, and I threw myself wholeheartedly into the role of soldier; during my three years of army service, I neither prayed nor read. During these years I was able to ignore

-xii-

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From Jerusalem to the Edge of Heaven: Meditations on the Soul of Israel
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface xii
  • My Own Gate 1
  • Zion Gate 21
  • Ravine Gate (bab El Wad) 53
  • The Dung Gate 127
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