Exodus: Book Four
Summary of Book Four: Awake in Glory
The Biblical quote is from the Fifty-seventh Psalm of David in which he says, “Be merciful unto me, O God.” King David is assailed by enemies; yet God will bring him to glory, for he trusts in the Lord. David’s plea to God is appropriate for this book telling of the extreme difficulties of getting the United Nations to give Israel legal permission to exist (1947-48) and of the War of Independence (1948). Uris calls it the “six-thousand-year-old case of the Jewish people” (p.455) who have been persecuted wherever they go in the world.
The Cold War complicates things. The Arabs play off the United States and the Soviet Union against one another. Despite the power politics, Uris explains “the greatest weapon the Yishuv had was truth” (p. 458). The Jews had developed the land, and they have a moral argument as well. Many Holocaust victims are being held in detention camps with no place to go since they are not allowed to immigrate to Palestine. The U. N. negotiations are described as “a mammoth chess game” (p. 458), but suddenly the Russians, who have persecuted Jews, announce they are in favor of Israel to embarrass Arabs and Britain. When the Jews win their homeland, it can only be called the first of many miracles.
The Palestinian Arabs begin to riot at the decision, and the British prepare to withdraw. The Jews have a legal state, but they will still have to fight to get it. The Haganah mobilizes and begins looking for arms. There is fighting in the cities and countryside. The Arab strategy is to isolate the Jewish settlements and hit the roads and transport systems.
Ari makes a slow recovery from the wound but is asked to command a Haganah unit. Ari is in his thirties, but his troops are young boys and girls from the kibbutzim. Fort Esther, one of the British forts that should have gone to the Jews, is given by the British to the Arabs. This unfair action endangers Gan Dafna as well as Safed where Sutherland lives.
The neighbor village of Abu Yesha, once friendly to Jews, is infiltrated by aggressive Arabs. Under pressure, Kitty and Jordana become friends as they prepare the defense of Gan Dafna. Dov returns to Gan Dafna so he can be with Karen. They declare their love for one another.
The War of Independence begins. As the British withdraw, the Arabs step up their attacks. Ari argues with British Major Hawks who pulls out of Fort Esther and leaves the children of Gan Dafna exposed. Ari talks the guilty Hawks into helping them with a bluff by taking a convoy to Gan Dafna and pretending to leave arms there, so the Arabs will think they can hold out. Ari has an emotional talk with Taha, asking him to get rid of the hostile Arabs in his village. Taha is angry. He and Ari are blood brothers, but when he asks Ari if he can marry Jordana, Ari hits him. They have become enemies, and Ari warns that Abu Yesha will be destroyed.
The Americans will not supply arms to Israel but European countries do. As the Arabs try to break Jerusalem, there are many small miracles such as the victory at Tirat Tsvi where the kibbutz is saved from slaughter by a sudden downpour. Another unexpected victory at Mishmar Haemek gives the Jews encouragement that God is with them. They fight so fiercely because “Beyond Palestine there was no hope for them” (p.493).
Taha lets the fighters come to Abu Yesha; they begin to shell Gan Dafna. The children are trained warriors and continue their school lessons in bunkers. In a daring move, Ari has men climb the mountain to Gan Dafna at night, and they carry the small child down the mountain on their backs, bypassing Abu Yesha. Ari leads the defense of Gan Dafna with homemade land mines and a loudspeaker that broadcasts the sound of bombs to scare the Arabs. When Ari’s friend Zev Gilboa is shot trying to storm Fort Esther, Ari crawls up to him and gives him a grenade so he can blow himself up with the Arabs and save himself from capture. Ari hides his grief, but Kitty thinks he has no tears because he is cold.
Sutherland has evacuated his home during the siege of Safed. The city is saved by a homemade weapon called the Little David that shoots mortar shells and makes a hideous noise. Ari creates the rumor that the Jews have the atom bomb. The Arabs run away, and the victory at Safed is called divine intervention. The Yishuv defeats the Palestinian Arabs in 1947-8. They announce Israel’s independence with its creed of “liberty, justice, and peace, as conceived by the prophets of Israel” (p. 519). Now the neighboring Arab countries, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, invade and try to destroy Israel. When the Jews continue to win despite severe limitations of men and arms, they believe in their divine destiny.
Ari is ordered to destroy Abu Yesha. He gives the villagers, who are lifelong friends, notice to evacuate. Taha stays with many of the men. David Ben Ami offers to take command so Ari won’t have to do it. It is a tragic fight no one wants. Taha and the Arabs are killed and the village destroyed.
David and Jordana sleep together for the last time. He becomes a leader to raise the siege of Jerusalem, finding a secret ancient Roman road to bypass the Arab blockade. Jews rebuild it secretly at night so they can enter Jerusalem. David is killed, but the city is liberated. The Israeli army goes on the offensive and defeats Egypt to free their country in only ten days. The war has created thousands of Arab refugees, but Barak Ben Canaan writes a document for the United Nations to defend the Jews: “Israel today stands as the greatest single instrument for bringing the Arab people out of the Dark Ages” (p. 554). Israel promises to be a just state, a democracy with equality for all.
Commentary on Book Four: Awake in Glory
The narrative increases in action as many battles are described, each one seemingly impossible for the Jews to win. The Jews have superior discipline and military strategy to make up for other lacks. Ari invents many bluffs to fool the Arabs, for he knows their superstitious ways, how they are afraid of the dark and of noises. Once again, though, Uris tries to be fair to the Arab situation by creating characters like Taha and the village of Abu Yesha who have been friends to the Jews. They are overridden by Arab leaders who do not care about the people. Uris shows that the backwardness of the Arabs and the destitution of the fellaheen or peasants are due to the Arab feudal social structure. The average Arab is manipulated and inflamed to fight. The Jews believe, as Barak’s paper to the United Nations on the refugee problem shows, that they are the best hope of the Arab people, able to teach them how to farm and irrigate the desert, how to lift them up and join the modern world. The Arabs had a glorious civilization in the past, but now they live in filth and disease. They kill their own enlightened leaders (such as Kammal, the muktar of Abu Yesha, Barak’s friend murdered by Arabs for trying to help his people modernize). In his paper Barak accuses the Arab leaders of not leading their people to prosperity. They use their religion as a way to divide and control. The Arab people suffer, ruled by sheiks who still hold slaves. They do not bring education or freedom to their people. In a way, this anticipates the argument of the leaders of the Arab Spring today.
Yet, the Jews suffered from world opinion with the tragic Arab refugee problem after the war in 1948 when thousands fled or were forced from their homes by the Haganah. The treatment of Abu Yesha in the novel represents this phase of the war when the Zionists tried to get rid of Arabs inside the territory of their new country. Uris defends the Jews, though he points out it was a tragedy that no one wanted. Today, historians are harder on the Jewish forces for their expulsion of Palestinians from their homes, though it was a wartime situation. Israel promises justice for all but does not hesitate to expel Arabs. The Jews point out that the Arabs had vowed to annihilate them, but that was the policy of the Arab governments, not the average Arab villager.
Uris admits, though the Haganah tried to remain restrained in its fighting, the Maccabees as a terrorist group, have no control of their violence. They commit a heinous crime and slaughter Arab civilians, an actual event that took place in Deir Yassim in 1948. The Maccabees (or Irgun and Lehi) join the Haganah but prove to be the weakest army unit for they only know terrorism.
The Jews are so many Davids fighting Goliath with their wits alone. Besides the many bluffs and daring paramilitary tactics of the Jews, they also had a code from the Bible to send messages by lantern. Typically, the message was the number of a Biblical verse that contained a hidden meaning. The Jews have homemade weapons such as the Davidka, or Little David, an actual weapon that shot mortar but was not very accurate. Its value was that its terrifying noise drove away the Arab attackers. David Ben Ami’s dramatic solution to raise the siege of Jerusalem points out both Jewish creativity and their tragic losses. David is a scholar, an archeologist, hoping someday to be a professor preserving Jewish culture. His plan wins the day, but his promising life is cut down. Jordana’s grief is like Ari’s. She does not weep, but she dries up. As Barak says, they are forced to give the cream of their youth as a sacrifice for the country. All of the young lovers are separated by war and death. All the brilliant minds, the university professors, the professionals, become soldiers and leave their own lives behind for the greater good.