The End of the Exodus Era

Dec. 31, 2009
daniel gordis , THE JERUSALEM POST

ExodusInsideI no longer recall who told me to read Exodus when I was a kid. But I was transfixed by the book, and a few years later, when I saw the movie, I was enthralled. I probably saw it only once back then (this was long before VHS), but that was more than enough to form a lasting impression of Israel. As if it were lifted out of the Hanukka liturgy, Israel seemed a tale of the triumph of the weak over the mighty, the few over the many, the righteous over the wicked. It was a story imbued with moral clarity, a sense of purpose and mission. It was, quite simply, the Israel I deeply believed in before I ever saw it.

Many years later, at the start of the decade now just ended, we’d moved to Israel. One day, two of our kids were home from school. The intifada was raging; they were young and confused, hurting and frightened. So I decided that renting Exodus was just what they needed.

But almost as soon as we started the film, I could tell that my planned educational moment had failed. They were bored silly by the movie, appalled by its primitive technology. The story line seemed saccharine, insipid. But even more damning, the movie didn’t reflect the complexity of the conflict in which they were living. I made a feeble attempt to get them to stick with it, but to no avail. In truth, even I could scarcely bear the appalling lack of nuance. We didn’t finish watching it; I mumbled some sort of apology for wasting their time, and returned the movie with no fanfare.

IT’S BEEN years since I’d thought of that failed parenting moment, but it all came back with great clarity last week when I read of the death of Ike Aharonovitch, the captain of the Exodus. The ship’s commander, Yossi Harel, had died a year or two earlier. Leon Uris, the novel’s author, had died in 2003, and Paul Newman, who had played Ari Ben-Canaan in the movie version, passed away in 2008. Thus, with Ike’s death, the Exodus era had ended.

To my surprise, I found myself much sadder than I would have imagined.

IkeFor if I grew up on Exodus, my kids have grown up on Munich and on�Waltz with Bashir. I grew up with an idyllic, Ari-Ben-Canaan-like image of Israel, formed from afar. Our children, though, were raised here. And this decade-just-ended, in which they became adults, began with the second intifada, proceeded to the disengagement and then to the highly problematic Second Lebanon War, and is now ending with a Schalit stalemate, a looming Iran and unprecedented international condemnation of the very fighting force that�Exodus unabashedly held in such high esteem. Ike’s death is thus the perfect metaphor – his passing is a reminder that the world in which I was raised is almost totally gone.

Our kids are busy these days. One’s in law school and getting married, one’s in the army and hardly ever awake on the days that he’s home, and one’s working on matriculation exams, thinking about what he’ll do when he gets drafted. In many ways, they know a lot more than I do about this country; they’re no longer inclined to set aside time for their father’s carefully scripted educational moments.

YET I’M actually tempted to try again. It will never happen, but I still imagine some moment, when for old times’ sake, perhaps just to humor their aging parents, the kids sit down with us and watch�Exodus. I’d tell them to cease the sniggering at the old-Hollywood-style love story, to try not to laugh at the images of the noble Arab in his robe and keffiyeh on the rear terrace of the King David Hotel, and to suspend their incessant political commentary on the obvious oversimplification of the conflict.

Why bother? Because despite the oversimplification and the saccharine overdose, Exodus reminds us of a world that used to exist, but doesn’t anymore. It’s a reminder of the days when young American Jews instinctively knew that the story that was unfolding across the ocean in Israel was also theirs – something we can no longer take for granted. It brings us back to those days when American Jews, and their Israeli counterparts, knew that the story was complicated, but also knew, with every fiber of their being, that the Jewish future depended on Jewish sovereignty. It was an era when Jews across the world still believed in the possibility of genuine leadership, when Jewish masses could speak without embarrassment of the fundamental justice of our cause.

Our kids, and most of their close friends, still believe those things. But they’ve learned that most people don’t; in much of the world, those convictions are considered naive, or worse. Exodus is a vestige of an era when the world was different. Moviemaking has changed, and so has the world. Because of that, peace and justice are more elusive now than they were then.

LIKE OUR times, Ike Aharonovitch was complicated. Were it not for Harel, he probably would have gotten the ship sunk and its passengers killed. We, too, are prone to extremes. But his legacy matters because he believed in the Jews, in their still-emerging state and in the fundamental justice of their cause.

None of us would write Leon Uris’s novel today; but that’s no excuse for having no story to tell. Ike’s memory demands that we recapture the narrative – perhaps with more nuance, but with no apology for insisting on the fundamental justice of our cause.

They won’t watch the movie, though. So I’ll say it to them here. We’re in Ike’s debt, and in the debt of his contemporaries. So, as a new decade dawns, our obligation to him is simple. Somehow, we have to find once again the courage and the fortitude to believe, and to bring to fruition the dream his generation lived and bequeathed to us all.

About Daniel Gordis

Dr. Daniel Gordis is Senior Vice President and the Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem. The author of numerous books on Jewish thought and currents in Israel, and a recent winner of the National Jewish Book Award, Dr. Gordis was the founding dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism.

30 Comments on "The End of the Exodus Era"

  • I knew Ike and he was truly unique.

    I made the documentary Exodus 1947 and focused on the secret American involvement in Aliyah Bet. The Americans who participated in the voyage were infused with the same convictions you speak of. When deciding to make the film, I too, was inspired by those same ideas and ideals.

    The voyage of the Exodus is an outlandish story. No embellishment is needed.

    Thanks for remembering Ike.

  • David Maicon says

    Dear Dr. Gordis,

    I have read some of your materials and witnessed some of your lectures. You appear to be a sensible, knowledgeable and ethical person, and would like to hear your views on the following specific topic:

    It has recently come to my attention what is going on on the Eastern part of Jerusalem, around the Maale Adunim section. It appears that huge tracts of land are being clared and prepared to build actually thousands of housing units plus many other commercial buildings and other facilities to make life pleasant and satisfying for prospective occupants, like synagogues, community centers,swimming pools and other conforts that are not as available even in Tel Aviv.

    I have been to Israel on multiple occasions and I remember that all of these hills were dotted by olive groves and populated by thousands of Palestinians. All of a sudden, all of those have disappeared and a new world has been created, similar to what has happened in other areas closer to Jerusalem.

    Can you give us a straight view of what is happening here?

    It gives me the impression that what the world is witnessing here is another case of a land grab, similar to what happened last century during WWII throughout Eastern Europe, and we all know what happened then. I have recently watched a 60 Minute piece in CBS by Bob Simon, hardly a medium critical on Israel and things Jewish, so perhaps you can throw some unheated light at the issue. I, at least, would certainly appreciate it.

  • Philip Reinstein says

    Dear Daniel,

    I’m an oleh chadash (2 years). My three children (34, 31, and 25) are here as well (I planned ahead with many trips to Israel for them all through the years.) I had the very same experience showing Exodus to my wife’s children (14 and 11 – second marriage) last year. They were bored by a movie that lit up my life, and the lives of all the Jews I knew in Toronto at the time.
    It’s not the story that is at fault. It is the Orwellian rewriting of history in Israel. As for the rest of the world, we are the authors of our own misfortune (see Evelyn Gordon’s article in Commentary). But I have no doubt that it would not take more than one Ronald Reagan in Israel to turn the story around here, at home, and by our actions thereafter turn the free world back to our side. We are after all, in the right.

    PS. Tell your publisher to let Amazon put your book on Kindle. I would like to read it.

  • varda livney says

    i enjoyed this posting (and enjoy most of what i read of your writing). my father was an american sailor on the exodus, and i have therefore been exposed to some good documentaries on the subject, which are easier to watch today than the hollywood fairytale version (which in it’s day, as you’ve proved, did what it needed to do).

    two documentaries of note are:
    “exodus 1947” (1996) by Elizabeth Rodgers and Robby Henson, narrated by morey safer,and
    “we were exodus”, (2007) by jean-michel vecchiet.

    try showing your kids those. then get back to me.

  • Allan Levine, Ph. D. says

    Dear Danny, Your essay reflecting on the passing of the ship Exodus commander and pilot and Leon Uris and your attempt to use the film educationally for your kids, etc., remind me of when the film was first shown in Israel. As the story is related, Israeli audiences laughed a lot while watching it. Then they gathered with friends and family to talk about their experiences related to those events, and then they also cried, reminisced and remembered what it was like, and how important the events of those days were in the life of the flowering new State and Third Commonwealth, while facing the challenges looming all around them. This is the story to share somehow with your children and family. Surely, there are still some alive who can help to relay the momentous events of that time. Thanks for sharing this with us!
    Allan Levine, Ph. D. (Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, Los Angeles Valley College)

  • Noah Levin says

    Time for an Israeli initiated peace plan.

    Peace plans initiated by other countries have clearly failed.
    ? The roadmap — failure.
    ? Three state solution — failure.

    An Israeli Peace Plan will remove the hostile focus of world press against Israel, the plight of the people of Gaza and the border settlements.

    Whether this sort of Peace Plan will be accepted by Gaza & the West bank is not an issue. The pressing issue at this time is to change the focus of the world press with an Israeli produced peace plan.

    Clearly Gaza and the West Bank are governed by governments with different philosophies.
    Israel needs to now initiate its own three state peace plan on the following lines:

    Israel should put forward a proposal for the immediate independence of the Gaza Strip with Gaza city as its capital on the following terms:
    o Israel undertakes never to attack Gaza providing the following terms are adhered to:
    o The Government of Gaza removes from its constitution any reference to destroy Israel.
    o The Government of Gaza makes it illegal and punishable to allow any schools to teach hatred or killing non believers.
    o The Government of Gaza undertake that it will not have an army for the Gaza Strip for a period (say 20 years) – no bombs rocket tanks etc in Gaza
    o The Government of Gaza undertakes to form its own police force using the usual arms associated with the police force to control Gaza
    o An adjacent country e.g. Egypt in conjunction with an other country or example Britain or the USA takes on the role of a’ Protectorate’ and monitors that no military armaments are brought into Gaza as well as assuring Gaza that it will not be attacked not by Israel

    West Bank
    Israel should put forward a proposal for the immediate independence of the West Bank to be called Palestine with Nabulus or other city as its capital on the following terms:

    o Israel undertakes never to attack Palestine providing the following terms or adhered to:
    o The Government of Palestine removes from its constitution any reference to destroy Israel.
    o The Government of Palestine makes it illegal and punishable to allow any schools to teach hatred or killing of non believers.
    o The Government of Palestine undertake that it will not have an army in Palestine for a period (say 20 years) – no bombs rocket tanks etc in Palestine
    o The Government of Palestine undertake to form its own police force equipped with the usual arms associated with the police force to control Palestine.
    o Israel negotiate a monitory compensation or a housing compensation for the settlement projects.
    o An adjacent country e.g. Jordan in conjunction with an other country or example Britain or the USA or any other country wishing to promote peace takes on the role of a’ Protectorate’ and monitors that no Military armaments are brought into Palestine as well as assuring West Bank that it will not be attacked not by Israel.

    If the Government of Gaza & Palestine so wish they can form a Federation if it is of benefit to the two countries.

  • Gerald Pragier says

    In the spirit of your article, take a look at this link:
    http://www.road90.com/watch.php?id=V8B8RekAJJ
    which is a 30-minute Air France movie made in 1951 to promote tourism from the US (yes the US!) to Israel – apparently the fastest (20 hours), safest way to get to Lydda Airport that will leave you with “extra days” for sightseeing!
    The mind boggles – can this really be the French national airline propagandising for Israel? And there are some gems: old Arab slums of Jaffa “being demolished for health reasons” or “we found some camels in the Arab parts of the country” and the best, describing the view from Har Zion, “one can see the ruins of the ancient Jewish Quarter of the Old City…heaps of rubble from synagogues demolished by the occupying Arab forces”.
    Allenby Street is the main thoroughfare of Tel Aviv and one can visit orange groves in the desert as well as the Negev, through which Moses led his people to the Promised Land. Railway lines are being extended (they still are…the one planned from Petach Tikva to Tel Aviv and on to Bat Yam, will eventually deliver passengers, I wager, no further than Geha Junction…).
    The “most beautiful city of Israel is Haifa” and Jerusalem is visited only right at the end – almost as an afterthought – following Tel Aviv, Rehovot, Haifa, Acre, Nahariya, Tiberias (pictures from the verandah of the old Galei Kinneret hotel), Nazareth and all points between.
    The fact that Jerusalem is a divided city is not mentioned anywhere (why confuse potential American tourists?). The film shows close-ups of the Temple Mount and a long-distance shot of Bethlehem, “only a few miles away”.
    Maybe we could get Air France to make an updated version of this film?

  • Kate Scott says

    Dear Daniel,

    Thank you for this wonderful evocation of a world now gone. I too am of that generation who believed “with every fibre of their being”. Even though I am not Jewish, I too marvelled and was inspired by ‘Exodus’; I read the book, questioned Jewish friends, studied Jewish history and tormented the local library with requests for Jewish authors.

    I remain to this day, convinced (despite all Israel’s complications and internal difficulties) of the moral justice of a Jewish state. Israel and her people are forever in my prayers.

    Warm regards
    Kate

  • Lynn says

    I had the same reaction to “Exodus” in my home here in the US. What was so powerful to me as a child was so excruciatingly boring and dated to my teenage children that they simply left the room. The same reaction occurred when I tried to show them “2001: A Space Odyssey.” And you know what? They were right. Both were slow, cinematically primitive, schmaltzy.

    For better or for worse, they are used to action, profanity, tension and violence of a different sort. They don’t need to see it on film, they see it on the news every day (if they even watch or read traditional news outlets). They are inured and accept war and struggle as part of their world. How sad.

  • Barry Brian Jankelowitz says

    Dear Daniel,
    I receive your mailings from time to time, and had such empathy for your article on the Exodus. I was born in 1948 and as a man of 61 remember so clearly watching the movie in black and white at the Vaudette Bioscope ( as the cinema was then called ) in a small gold mining town called Krugersdorp in South Africa. I never felt quite as strongly as you did because I still live in Johannesburg, but having returned from a short visit to Israel, I too agree that as you put it so beautifully we Jews remain true to ourselves and believe in the fundamental justice of the cause of an Independant Israel.
    Yours sincerely,
    Barry Jankelowitz
    Yours sincerely,
    Barry Jankelowitz
    JOhannesburg South Africa

  • Edmund Winter says

    Daniel Gordis writes: “our obligation to him is simple. Somehow, we have to find once again the courage and the fortitude to believe, and to bring to fruition the dream his generation lived and bequeathed to us all.”
    With all due respect to him, and I also grew up with Exodus inspiring my love for Israel and belief in the justice of our Jewish cause of statehood, but it is not the obligation of his or my kids’ generation to reclaim or adopt the Exodus myth and the dream it inspired.
    They must find their own “Exodus” to inspire them with the justice of Israel’s cause.
    My generation can inspire them with our example, but for the dream to live on and be fufilled each generation must find its own inspiration.

  • Kathleen Coenen says

    I too saw Exodus when I was a child, and felt the loss of Ike,and I too have children who are not impressed with the old technology and one who when she is home from college sleeps until I go to work in the afternoon at the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City. I still dream the dreams and believe in Israel as you do and as our Executive Director, Todd Stettner, who was involved in the airlift of so many people to Israel and so many others in our community do. I am looking forward to your visit to Kehilath Israel Synagogue. This was another of your very good articles that touched me deeply. You and they are “The still small voice” (s) who cannot be stilled.

  • Herbert Kaine says

    The word “nuance” used to be a useful word. Now its definition has been changed to be an apology for terrorism and evil. Waltz with Bashir and Munich are for our generation what Volkischer Beobachter and Der Sturmer were for the generation of ouor parents. In fact, the modern movies are worse because they are poison created by Jews for Jewish consumption. I was happy to see that Waltz for Bashir did not win prizes at Cannes, and while I economically support Israel in terms of buying produce and manufactured goods, I boycott Israeli films. Paul Blart, Mall Cop is a better film than any produced in Israel in the past 30 years

  • Daphna Oren says

    As has been pointed out by another poster, and highlighted if not explicitly so by R Gordis, every child born must find his own inspiration to carry on what inspired those before us. In a Waltzing with Bashir world, every individual is still mandated to find and make his own raison d’etre. If our heroes no longer present as Paul Newman or speak like Abba Eban, then we take the lessons in history from those like Tom Segev, and recognize that despite the hardly immaculate conception of a new state in the world landscape, a belief in the Jewish light ahead of us – always ahead – can guide us forward.

  • Jonah says

    Dear Mr. Gordis,

    Three times in this piece you use the phrase “fundamental justice of our cause.” Your argument, it seems, is that the Exodus Era is over because American Jews and international perception have turned on Israel, and we no longer understand the importance of its existence or care about its future in the same way that your children—who have or will serve in the IDF—do.
    In reality, I think it is not our beliefs that have changed but Israel’s cause. As an American Jew, I believe strongly in the fundamental importance of the Jewish state. But that belief becomes harder to maintain when Israel is not the same as it was in the idealized world of The Exodus—which, by the way, is the Israel that I still grew up with just a decade ago in American Jewish day school. The Exodus Era was marked by an Israel that served as a haven for Jews everywhere, a sign of our perseverance even in the face of unequaled oppression, and truly an “or la’goyim”, a light to the nations.
    But when African refugees are sent back to Egypt and migrant workers are deported with their children, when Arab citizens of Israel are still flagrantly unequal, when we cling to the idea that Palestinians have less of a right to the land than we do, the cause of the “Exodus-era” Israel no longer seems to be true. When Jewish religious extremists have taken control of the country’s religious apparatus and women are spit at and arrested for davening at the Kotel with a tallit, it is clear that Israel’s cause has changed—and also that my beliefs as a Conservative Jew are safer in America than they are in the country that is supposed to a home for Jews of all stripes.
    Jews in general, and Israelis specifically, are quick to jump on the defensive, calling any criticism of Israel and the “justice of its cause” misguided, at best, and anti-Semitism, at worst.
    As you say, “peace and justice are more elusive now than they were then.” But I urge you not to place blame for that on American Jews who have lost “the courage and fortitude to believe,” but rather to look at whether Israel today is giving us something that is worth believing in.

  • Zvi Lipkin says

    The Exodus Era may have ended. But the Altalena is still there and running the Israel Government.

  • Miriam Edelstein says

    This is a reply to Noah Levin. Good luck! Those conditions you mention have less chance than snow in July!

  • mark g. says

    Danny,

    I too grew up inspired by the movie Exodus, a 10 week trip to Israel in 1961 when I was 9, and growing up in Brooklyn with friends whose parents had tatooed numbers on their arms.

    The underlying “truths” of Exodus were and still are true. While it may not be fashionable to “talk Zionism” – even for your kids, the period surrounding the creation of the State and the ensuing years of frenetic building and ingathering of exiles was – and always will be – a truly heroic period in the history of the Jewish people.

    Very few old movies that deal with history seem timely today. But the essential truths that Uris and Preminger tried to relate are still the underpinning of all that is good and right about how Israel came into being and set us on the road to arrive at where we are today.

    I for one still watch the movie on occasion and am still moved by the story. No apologies. No revisionist thoughts. Just pride at what the last generation accomplished despite all odds. V’af al pi chayn, v’lamrot hakol, Eretz Yisrael.

  • Noah Levin says

    In reply to Miriam Edelstein’s comment. I am aware that an Israeli initiated peace plan as outlined in my letter it has no chance of being immediately accepted. All the previous peace plans were failures as well.An Israeli initiated Peace Plan however can do no harm and may remove the focus of the hostile WORLD PRESS against Israel, the plight of the people of Gaza and the border settlements. You comments ‘Those conditions you mention have less chance than snow in July!’ is very apt. We do have snow every now and then where I reside in Melbourne Australia.
    Noah

  • Neal Gendler says

    Thank you,Daniel, for a piece that certainly speaks to this American on two levels. One is that I grew up with people of the “Exodus” age and World War 2 veterans as the adults and lament the rate at which that generation is disappearing. I’m 65 and still find it difficult to realize that I’m much older now they they were then.
    The other level is my own interest in the story, from seeing my mother being engrossed in it shortly after Uris’ book was published, to seeing the movie — and seeing again in cable, which has been running it a number of times. Are its romance subplots quaint and the script antiquated? Sure — but I still love it. It’s fun to see Israeli streets and scenery as they were decades ago — and to know I can sit on the veranda of the King David just as Paul Newman and Eva M.S. did (n fact, at a table at the very spot).
    I’m a daily JPost reader with multiple visits to Israel, so I’m hardly naive about the reality of Israel.
    But I still believe in it.

  • Phyllis says

    Your article struck a chord in me as just yesterday I was thinking of the theme song from “Exodus”. I believe Pat Boone wrote it. The lyrics say something that is now poliitically incorrect to so many people.
    “This land is ours…” Who today would dare write that! But isn’t that theme at the core of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict?
    I have never been to Israel and it is my dream one day to see this beautiful land which I believe is our land. Jews, do not give up! Amongst my friends are so many gentiles who believe in Israel and the right and might of the Israeli Jews and Jews everywhere to have a homeland. I wish all Jews would feel passion and pride for
    Israel.

  • Jack Chomsky says

    As is so often the case, Daniel, you have expressed in words that which seems to be beyond words.

    My favorite turn of phrase from your article: “None of us would write Leon Uris’s novel today; but that’s no excuse for having no story to tell.”

    And that is everyone’s challenge.

    I think that the pundits and statisticians underestimate the commitment to and affection for Israel of American young people.

    It’s best to remain hopeful — and to work for things to be hopeful for.

  • Roslyn Kornbluth Rosenblatt says

    I was 19 in 1953 when I was part of the 3rd Jewish Agency Summer in Israel program led by Eli Kalm who had served on the Exodus. We flew to Paris, spend a week with people from the JDC who were working with survivors in DP camps, then took the SS Jerusalem to Haifa, accompanying Herzl’s body to Israel for reburial. Moshe Sharett was on that voyage.
    All the sailors were survivors, numbers on their arms, full of stories of their efforts to survive and determined to make Israel work. There was NO CHOICE. There was nowhere else for them to go.
    The summer was filled with visits with relatives living in Israel, survivors trying to build new lives, liitle food, no meat,and many deep emotions. People were generous with the little they had, offered us showers,(little water),and caring. I communicated in English, French, Yiddish and Spanish.
    When I returned home to Canada and tried to share my experiences, people really did not want to hear the horrors. When Exodus by Leon Uris was published in 1953, I felt that my sanity had been restored as readers, and there were many, finally got to hear the story.
    I mark that publication and the movie as the first real awareness by the Galut Jewish masses of the need to truly support Israel. It was historic.

  • David Levine says

    I, too, loved the book and the movie “back when”. A close friend of the family, David Opatoshu, played the part of Barak Ben Canaan.

    When the film was being shot in Spain he took his family with him and asked his mother if she would like to go, as well.
    “I vouldn’t go dere!” she exclaimed vehemently.
    “What’s wrong, Mom?” David asked. “You haven’t forgiven Franco?”
    “Franco-Schmanko!I haven’t forgiven them for de Inqvisition!” she replied.

  • Bob Yermus says

    No arguement – the pace is slow, the storyline is on the sappy side… There are, however, several different exchanges of dialogue that make the viewing worthwhile – several years ago when screening Exodus as part of a ‘kiruv’ program, I would ask the audience to pay attention to these: when Kitty comes to take Karen from the ship, and discovers that Ari lied to her about Karen being on the ship, and Ari’s response; the elderly chess-player who laments that Jews dying is nothing new; when Ari and Kitty drive to his kibbutz and he shows her Emek Yizrael, sharing a bit of Jewish history and pointing out the importance of differences between peoples; when Ari’s Arab friend (actor John Derek – the character’s name escapes me) comes to warn of the impending Arab invasion, and explains why he cannot stay to fight; Ari’s Uncle Akiva (portrayed by David Opatashu; Lee J. Cobb played Barak)- describes Ari in his fight for an independent Israel. I use these in conversations at times in order to make a point (of course, this only works with people who have seen the film).

  • Marilyn (MIchal) says

    I agree totally with your frustration at how the world views Israel now as opposed to 50 years ago when the movie was made. I believe we should examine how the growing thirst for oil, especially in America and the West, during those years has enabled terrorist supporting regimes to grow richer and richer on the dollars we send them and continue to support not only bullets and bombs but also the hatred and lies that poison so many minds.

    Three suggestions for each of us to do:

    1)Focus on looking for alternate sources of energy (including writing to our representatives in Washington and helping to organize our efforts so that they count),

    2)Continue to write and speak the truth about the justness of Israel’s cause, including trying to enlist those of Israel’s neighbors who themselves see the injustice of the lies that are being spread in order to justfy murder and bloodshed,

    3)Pray to Hashem and continue our constant struggle to improve our own personal behavior.

  • Dianne Roded says

    Your first paragraph completely describes my reaction to the movie. I went with my father on a Friday afternoon after school and it changed my life. Of course I was a child and did not understand the complexities of the situation. It made me a proud Jew who believed in the dream. Unfortunately dreams are often better than the reality but hopefully we can come up with an equitable solution to this seemingly endless state of war and hostility.

  • Alan Goldberg says

    I remember seeing Exodus, and it made my tie to the Jewish State more solid. As a secondary generation American Jew, it made me feel closer to the birthplace of my Zadie.

    Zadie was born in Jerusalem in 1889. He never referred to himself as a Sabra, even though he could have. He was born under the control of the Ottoman Empire, and considered himself a Palestinian Jew. As an obedient grandchild, I did not contradict his viewpoint. But after watching Exodus, I knew I had a special relationship with the land of Israel.

  • Dear Daniel,

    I found myself agreeing with your column, until I discovered my thirteen year old son watching the movie on TV last week. While it is true that our internet link was down, so he had “nothing else to do”, he was enthralled by the movie. In fact, this was not the first time he had watched it on his own. He has grown up in Israel and experienced many of the traumas inherent in today’s state from the Second Intifada to the Disengagement to the Second Lebanon War. While doubtless his political opinions fall right of center and he has been educated as a religious Zionist, his genuine identification with the film and some of its core values belies the fact that children of our era cannot be captivated by the simplistic fantasy created by Uris and Hollywood. Even a critical or more complex thinker living in and aware of a more complex world can be swept away by simple truths and powerful stagecraft.

    All the best,
    Meshulam

  • Jennifer Manley says

    Dear Mr. Gordis,

    The end of the Exodus era wasn’t in 2008. I think it ended this past Monday, Nov. 15th, when my Great-Uncle, Eli Kalm passed away. He was Chief Steward aboard the Exodus. You can see him in many photographs standing about the H in Haganah. He stood there so his mother would see him in the newsreels back home and know that he was alive and well.

    Thank you for sharing this story. I too fell in love with Uris’s story of the Exodus when I was a child. And then of course, I was enthralled with the real story too – since my beloved Great-Uncle was a large part of it.

    Best,
    Jennifer

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