About the Book
At the age of twelve, Eva Salomon becomes disillusioned about all the “isms” raging through her world. Crushed by her father’s rigid Jewish orthodoxy and by the cruelties of a burgeoning Nazi regime, she renounces all belief systems, and even belief itself. Five years later, when she and her father leave Germany for Palestine, she’s still a skeptic, yet hopeful about a fresh start in an unborn country. But her yearning for unfettered freedom soon puts her at odds with collective pressures in the new-old homeland.
Eva finds love with a man who is anything but “kosher.” Duncan Rees is a British constable in the Palestine Police Force. As a gentile, he’s taboo even in the secular circles of a society forging its new nationalist identity. What’s more, he represents the British Mandate government, a regime seen to increasingly impede Zionist dreams for a Jewish state in the contested country. And so the relationship hits obstacles right from the start.
Set during complex upheaval of Palestine in the 1930s and ’40s, Eva Salomon’s War tells of the struggle to find a faith that doesn’t blind, a love that doesn’t lie and solid human truths in the midst of ideological ferment.
“With grace and a good deal of insight, Gabriella Goliger paints a vivid picture of the life of Eva Salomon and her uprooted family during the early 1930s in Breslau, Germany, and then in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem during the years leading up to 1948. This is the story of one woman’s difficult and at times painful journey, a journey of rebellion and love, of survival and of ‘becoming.’ Eva, with her traditional Jewish background, may be small in stature, but she can, at times and in desperation, be daring and large in spirit. The story takes place inside a broader world of danger and turmoil, and brilliantly reveals the complex relations experienced by the British, Jewish and Arab populations of Palestine. The smells and sounds and sights of the streets and the varied people who populate them during this historic period are brought to life in the strong, assured writing we have come to expect from Goliger.” — Frances Itani, author of That’s My Baby
Jerusalem, January 10, 1947
IT’S FRIDAY AFTERNOON and the hour of long shadows. Of slanting light that brings out the tarnished gold of Jerusalem stone. As the sun sinks, its amber rays fire the minarets in the heart of the Old City, burnish Suleiman’s walls, wash over towers, crosses, and domes, glint on gun turrets, and glance off the upraised bayonets of the sentries on the Hill of Evil Council. Throughout the town, both old and new, the day’s decline brings a flurry of activity. Jews rush home to prepare for the Sabbath. Arabs flock to the call of the Maghreb prayer. British officials crowd into the bar of the King David Hotel to toast His Majesty with tumblers of gin. Citizens of all three communities hurry their separate ways to reach the safety of their enclaves before the vehement darkness of a Palestine night descends.
In front of a billboard at the corner of Mamilla and Princess Mary Roads, a woman lingers. She wears a fawn-colored tweed jacket with padded shoulders and a sheepskin collar and a smart, emerald-green wool suit underneath. A gold scarf is tucked around her throat for a splash of contrast and to fend off the stiff January wind. Her trilby hat is angled stylishly, the brim sloping across her brow and tilting towards the sky. She balances on pumps with two-and-a-half inch heels, the highest she could find at the shoe shop on Ben Yehuda Street. She’s young, though not in the first blush of youth. A small woman—barely four foot eleven—who dresses to give herself extra inches.
Pausing before this billboard on her way home from work has become a habit. The hoarding, plastered with notices in three languages, is an island of sanity in a city coming apart at the seams. Despite the tensions, sporadic curfews, the possibility of an explosion rending the air any moment, there’s much entertainment on offer. Film stars smile or scowl down from gaudy posters. Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Judy Garland, Danny Kaye. They promise romance and laughter, tears and thrills. Yes, the cinema scene continues to flourish, with British and American films in half a dozen theatres, along with a steamy Arabic love triangle on at the Rex. For the serious minded, there’s a talk about Spinoza at the Hebrew University and another on Roman-era pottery at the Museum of Antiquities. Friday night is dead in the Holy City, but by Saturday eve the place will perk up.
What most absorbs the woman’s attention are the announcements about music. Jazz at Fink’s Bar. The monthly record concert at the YMCA (still accessible, though in a fenced-off security zone). A string quartet in the auditorium of Rehavia High School, which will perform Eine kleine Nachtmusik and other Mozart selections. She adores Mozart. Instantly, the lilting melody capers through her mind and she shifts from foot to foot, carried away into dreams of brighter times, another, more vibrant city. Tel Aviv! Tea dances at a seaside café, twirling in the arms of the man she loved. She inhales the tobacco and bleached-cotton smell of him. She feels her cheek against the solid oak of his chest. She hears the bass beat of his heart and conjures his tender gaze and for long moments can forget the aching void in her heart.
Also among the welter of announcements on the billboard are some political notices, which the daydreaming woman has resolved to ignore. There’s a stern proclamation from the General Officer Commanding of the British Forces in Palestine and Transjordan. It warns against leafleting by outlaw groups. “Anyone caught . . . severe prison sentence . . . information rewarded . . .” Etc. Right below—under the very nose of the G.O.C., so to speak—is a freshly pasted manifesto from the deepest layer of the Jewish Underground. A densely printed page, thick with shrill phrases.
“The Imperial oppressor . . . The treasonous capitulation of the Jewish Agency lackeys . . . The perfidious proposal to partition the Eternal Homeland. Armed struggle . . . Blood and fire . . .” And so on.
The trilby-hatted woman doesn’t read further, because she knows what the manifesto says and she’s fed up to her marrow with overblown rhetoric. Let the street corner philosophers in Zion Square argue over the militants. Are they heroes or terrorists? Will they hasten redemption or trigger calamity? Pave the way for the new Hebrew state or set the whole world against the Jews, while dragging the entire region into a vortex of violence? Let the heavyweights in Café Atara foam and spar and call each other names. Nothing changes.
But why doesn’t the woman get a move on? It’s time to leave for the light is fading fast. Behind the billboard, beyond the street corner, lies an ancient cemetery: a wide expanse of gnarled trees and overgrown bushes, where the Jerusalem darkness always seems dense as bricks. Yet she dallies a bit longer to fish out a pack of cigarettes from the depths of her handbag. To recapture the filaments of her nostalgic dream and to avoid the chill absence that awaits her at home. She floats away on her clouds of what-once-was and what-might-have been, while the streets empty and the last shutters clatter down over the shops. Soon the townsfolk will have vanished behind their closed doors, their own four walls. Soon clusters of soldiers will be out on foot patrol, exchanging rude jokes to buttress their spirits. An armoured car—a behemoth with a gun-barrel snout—will rumble down the hill from the parking lot beside the King David Hotel. The zealous young men of the Underground will emerge from cellars and alleys. Some of them have barely begun to shave. They are armed with home-made bombs and the fieriest of convictions. Soon the game of the hunters and the hunted will begin.
And that oblivious, day-dreaming woman in the trilby hat?
She is me.