Exodus: Book Five
Summary of Book Five: With Wings as Eagles
The Bible verse from Isaiah at the head of the book says that those who follow God shall renew their strength and have the wings of eagles.
American pilots with old planes form the Palestine Central Airways to bring Jews from around the world to their new homeland in Israel. There is optimism as new settlements open up. Yet the soil is poor, and progress is difficult. The Negev Desert on the Gaza strip is particularly bad, so Ari volunteers to train troops that can survive there and protect settlements. Kitty involves herself in immigration work. She speaks fluent Hebrew and helps the newcomers adjust. After a while she realizes her work in Israel is finished. She prepares to go back to America again.
Barak Ben Cannan finds out he has cancer, but he can die content knowing Israel is secure. He regrets his children Ari and Jordana are not happy because they work for Israel and have no spouses or personal life. Barak tells Ari he has paid a very high price being a soldier; he does not know how to love a woman. He should go down on his knees and tell Kitty he needs her.
Dov Landau has become a celebrated engineer and army officer under Ari with the Negev troops. Karen becomes a pediatric nurse in the army. The two are in love and plan to marry, but Karen puts it off for her duty. Dov has been given a scholarship to America to study, but Karen refuses to leave her settlement and go with him. Kitty visits Karen at the hellishly hot and hostile settlement in the desert of the Gaza strip but cannot convince her of the danger she is in with the fedayeen terrorizing the region. Kitty invites Karen for Passover at the Ben Canaan home, and she accepts.
The story ends with Passover, the feast of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt. Though Barak is buried now, his wife and children gather with Kitty, Sutherland, and Dov. They are anxious when Karen is late. Ari phones and finds out she has been killed by the fedayeen. The party is stricken with grief. Dov vows to make Karen proud of his life.
Kitty finds Ari in the barn sunk in despair. He finally weeps for all his loved ones who died and wonders why they have to keep fighting for the right to live. He sinks to his knees and tells Kitty he needs her. She agrees to stay with him. They go together into the house where the candles are lit for the Seder feast. Sutherland claims to be the oldest male Jew and sits at the head of the table while Dov reads the story of Exodus from the Haggadah—this is the night Jews celebrate their freedom from bondage.
Commentary on Book Five: With the Wings of Eagles
The cold Ari finally breaks down and weeps for Karen Clement because she is, as he says, “this angel,” (p. 598) the symbol of the best youth that the Jews sacrifice year after year to keep the country going. Karen’s story is particularly poignant because she has chance after chance to live a better life. She is the only member of her family to be saved from the Holocaust. She could be a premiere ballerina in Denmark. She could have gone to America with Kitty. She could have gone to America with Dov as her husband, or she could have married in Israel and lived in a city. Why did she put her life in danger over and over?
Kitty has always noticed there is a Jewish obsession with Israel. Karen tells Kitty before she dies that “Israel is the bridge between darkness and light” (p. 589) It is where God wants Jews to be on the frontier to uphold his moral law. For her it is the meaning of her life, and Dov loves Karen because she has saved him with her light and belief that they can live their religion. There is a place where they can be who they are. No matter what they have been through, “We have outlived everyone who has tried to destroy us” (p. 589).
The fedayeen (meaning “redeemers”) were a voluntary militant group of Arabs in Palestine, mainly in the refugee areas of the Gaza strip. They terrorized and sabotaged the Jewish settlements, and Karen is stationed as a nurse at a lonely outpost in the desert run by a few brave Jewish teenagers. She feels loyalty to the others in her team and won’t listen to the pleas of Dov or Kitty. She lives and dies her belief.
It is appropriate to close with a Seder feast celebrating the Exodus from Egypt with Moses. Throughout the book the characters have acted as if they were living in the same story with Moses as part of a living Biblical history. The ritual of Passover connects all Jews past and present in a continuous exodus from bondage into light. Uris concludes, “Young Israel stood out as a lighthouse for all mankind . . . .Israel became an epic in the history of man” (p. 572).