Elijah is an anti-war book written by the same author who
fifty years ago published the most daring and critical war stories in Hebrew
literature. This time Yizhar discusses the earthshaking Yom Kippur War in which
he and some of his friends (including the poet Haim Gouri) served as education
officers and lecturers. They did not participate in the actual fighting, but
they did spend time with the soldiers in battle areas on the Sinai front. The
book focuses on the days before the crossing over to the west side of the Suez
Canal, during which the protagonist is busy searching for his son-in-law
Elijah, a veteran paratrooper who earns his living as a farmer and has
disappeared during the unrest of the war. The protagonist travels through the
open spaces of the Sinai Desert with the fighters, watching the regular
soldiers but also closely observing how the battle is run from the headquarters
and the war rooms.
With an amazing
talent for description, Yizhar successfully conveys the confusion, the fear,
the heroism, the sense of chaos and the impending danger of death. He conveys
the poignant moments and the beauty of nature in the mythological spaces of the
Sinai Desert which fill the soul with a religiosity with equal deftness. The
tone and the pace are varied and the plot shifts from moments of intensity to
lyrical passages, from dramatic scenes to comic episodes, from descriptions of
the activities to philosophical passages.
highlight is the description of the unexpected meeting with Elijah in the destroyed
city of Suez, but the work centers around the validity and justification of
war. Yizhar’s conclusion is clear: war is stupid, life is preferable, conflict
over land does not justify the death of young people.
One of the most wonderful war stories I have ever read.
Author Amos Oz
If there is justice in the world, certainly no Hebrew writer could stand in line in front of Yizhar for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Author Eleonora Lev, Haaretz
A deep and sweeping work, the most daring of works written about the Yom Kippur War, and one of the most outstanding works in all of Hebrew war literature.
Avner Holtzman, Yedioth Ahronoth
A great story, and like all of Yizhar's great works it is not pure fiction. All of Yizhar's power is present here, a combination of the documentary and the imagination.
Dan Miron, Haaretz