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Exodus: Book Three

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Summary of Book Three: An Eye for an Eye


The Biblical quote is from Exodus where God tells Moses he shall give life for life, but an eye for an eye as a law of reciprocity. This teaching of returning what you get is the theme of this chapter when the Jews are stretched beyond their negotiating skill and defensive army to guerilla activity in the Palmach, and terrorist activity in the Maccabees.


In Haifa, Ari offers to show Kitty Palestine and to set her up with an interview in Jerusalem for a nursing position with immigrating children. They visit Tel Aviv where Haganah headquarters holds guns and ammunition underground. Avidan, the leader, complains to Ari about their lack of weapons and their defensive policy; he has a hard time restraining the men who want to fight. He asks Ari to assess the military strength of the settlements for the coming war.


Dov and Karen take the bus to their new home in the Youth Aliyah village of Gan Dafna on the northern border, named for Ari’s martyred fiancée, Dafna, whose figure holding a gun is the statue in the courtyard. Dr. Lieberman runs the village, a German Jewish doctor who becomes Kitty’s friend.


Kitty is attracted to the magnetic quality of Jerusalem, the holy city for Christians, Jews, and Muslims. She meets Harriet Saltzman, an American Jew who has funded and runs many youth camps with money from America. She hires Kitty and sends her to Gan Dafna where Karen is. David Ben Ami shows Kitty the great historical sites of Jerusalem. He is an archaeologist and scholar who hopes to live through the war and preserve the history of Israel. In Jerusalem, Ari secretly meets his uncle Akiva who helped found the terrorist group, the Maccabees, thus splitting the Jews into those who want to negotiate and fight defensively (Barak and the Haganah) and those who want revenge and violence. Akiva says he cannot live long because the British are cracking down on them, and he begs Ari to ask his brother Barak to make peace with him. They have not spoken for 15 years.


Ari takes Kitty to meet his family at the settlement Yad El, a paradise made in the desert. His parents like Kitty, but his sister Jordana does not like a foreigner to be in love with her brother. She thinks Kitty is a stylish and empty American, while she is a Palmach warrior and scorns feminine wiles, though she is a beautiful redhead. Barak refuses to make peace with his brother. At Gan Dafna, Dr. Lierberman explains how the village rehabilitates the traumatized children from the Holocaust and makes them into enthusiastic nationalists.


Ari speaks to his Arab friend, Taha, now the leader of Abu Yesha. The tension is growing between Arabs and Jews, and even the foster brothers fear they will be torn apart by the violence. Taha has inner turmoil about his secret love for Jordana, who is in love with David, and besides, as a Jew, she is out of his reach.


Kitty takes Karen as an assistant nurse to keep her from becoming a warrior like Jordana. Dov secretly plans to join the Maccabees but meanwhile tries to learn what he can in school. Ari takes Kitty for a climb up Mt. Tabor with Palmach members on an outing. At the mountain top they dance and sing around an all-night fire. Lovers like David and Jordana meet there. Kitty is impressed that these Jews not only fight but also celebrate and love with earthy gusto. She and Ari are attracted to one another.


The British in London are in a quandary over the increasing Arab violence in Palestine, and in the Jewish response to it with the Maccabees and illegal immigration.  The pro-Arab faction in the British government gives a green light to squash the Jews in Palestine. Meanwhile retired Brigadier Bruce Sutherland has bought a villa near Safed, the seat of the mystic Kabbalistic Jews. He is friends with Kitty and Dr. Lieberman. He advises the Haganah as the war approaches. His former aide, Major Caldwell, a Jew-hater, gives veiled threats to Sutherland to leave the country, but he refuses. At Fort Esther, the command gives Caldwell a Maccabee prisoner to take with him back to Jerusalem. Caldwell cannot contain his hatred for Jews and throws the prisoner, a 14 year old boy, out of the car into a hostile Arab village where he is immediately murdered. Caldwell has made a mistake, however, for he is seen by the Maccabees who get their revenge by executing Caldwell and publicizing his action to the world press. London decides to forego violence as a way to control Jews and gives the matter of a Jewish homeland to the United Nations in 1947.


Kitty tries to remain neutral and out of politics, though Sutherland tells her there will be a war for Israeli independence. Karen’s father is finally discovered and Kitty goes with her to Tel Aviv to meet him. He is mad and unable to recognize Karen. He was tortured by the Gestapo when he refused to help them, and he lost his sanity when he found his wife and sons were dead. Meanwhile, Dov escapes from Gan Dafna to join the Maccabees in Jerusalem. He sends Karen a letter lying to her that he has another woman and she should forget him and go to America. Karen is plunged into grief for her father and Dov.


Ari takes Kitty to see the Sea of Galilee, and she is awestruck by the place where Jesus walked. She begins to feel Palestine really is a holy land. She and Ari almost make love at their hotel, but Kitty backs out at the last minute, afraid of falling in love with a man who is so cold and more committed to Israel than human relationships. He would never really need her.


Dov takes the Maccabee oath of an eye for an eye. After the murder of Caldwell, there is a rampage of violence, and Dov proves to be adept at being a terrorist. When the British kill 100 people in the Zion Settlement Building including the old Harriet Saltzman, it unites all the Jews, both Haganah and Maccabees. They wreck the British railway and oil pipelines. They kill the British commander of Palestine, catching him with his Arab mistress.


Akiva and Dov are captured, put into the impenetrable Acre jail, and sentenced to be hanged. This makes them a symbol of Jewish resistance and causes worldwide disgust with British policy. Sutherland helps Karen to see Dov in jail, and he finally breaks down and weeps at her loyal love. Ari plans an attack with Haganah and Maccabees to rescue them and release all prisoners in the jail. They succeed, but Akiva and Ari are shot escaping. Dov is hidden in a kibbutz, but Akiva asks to be taken to a secret spot where he can die in peace. Ari buries him and tells the others to keep his death secret.


Kitty is about to leave Palestine with Karen for America, when a Haganah driver is sent to take her to a secret place. In an Arab village, Ari is hiding, wounded and dying. Kitty saves his life but refuses to love him because she is afraid of his fierce coldness. As the Israeli war begins, Kitty suddenly decides to stay after all. She is in love with the land and these people who never give up, so certain that God is with them.


Commentary on Book Three: An Eye for an Eye


This book deepens the character studies of the main characters. Kitty’s love-hate relationship with Ari and Palestine ends with the skeptical outsider being brought in, even against her will. Though she still preserves her freedom from Ari, the land and Jewish people have captured her heart. She admires them for their strength, accomplishments, courage, and devotion to one another. There is also a theme sounded throughout the book that there is truly something mystical about the holy land, and that despite hardship, perhaps it is not fanciful that the Jews are God’s chosen people, for they survive on daily miracles.


David Ben Ami is soft and cultured, a scholar, contrasted to Ari’s more rugged and loner character. David believes in divine intervention for the Jewish cause, while Ari is a military realist. Ari is called cold and calculating, even a “machine” (p. 320), but Kitty notices his gentleness with Karen. The action builds up the reason for his distance from daily human comforts. He feels responsible for everything going on around him and seldom takes rest or thinks of himself. He is sought out for his daring strategy and his wily ability to win against the odds, seeming to be a modern Odysseus or David. Kitty knows there can be nothing left over for her.


Kitty continues to try to manipulate things so Karen will come with her to America. She insists Karen become a nurse, not a warrior like Jordana. Dov shows a nobler side when he tries to get Karen detached from him so she will go to America. He feels he poisons her life, but his resolve is shaken when she comes to the jail to pour out her love. The boy who has gone through the Holocaust without shedding a tear, breaks down and weeps and wants to live. Karen represents all that is good. He regains his humanity.


The feud between Akiva and Barak dramatizes the different Jewish positions as the tensions heat up. They are the same tensions in Israel today. There are those who believe they must never let their military guard down, and those who want to negotiate. Barak feels that Akiva is a traitor for splitting his own people. The revenge scenario of the Maccabees escalates both British and Arab retaliation.


Uris avoids stereotyping by showing alternate opinions within each group, the Jews, Arabs, and British. There is a conflict within the British government over Jewish policy in Palestine, for instance. Cecil Bradshaw is the middle-east expert who believes British interest lies with the Arabs. General Tevor-Browne, on the other hand, is pro-Jewish. The Colonial office does not have the courage to reverse its policy. They allow the extremist General, Haven-Hurst, to remain in Palestine with his aggressive program of stopping Jews.  Bruce Sutherland is the “good” Englishman who befriends the Jews and finally identifies with them.


The incidents of violence between Jews and British are inspired by real incidents. The Irgun, led by Menachem Begin began blowing up British offices in 1944. The same year the Lehi assassinated Lord Moyne, the British minister in Cairo. 1000 Irgun members were arrested and imprisoned. When Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin, mentioned in the book, restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine, the Haganah broke with the British and joined with the Irgun. The British held people without trial. The Irgun retaliated. The killing of the commander who had a mistress in the novel is suggested by General Sir Evelyn Barker who was having an affair with the wife of an Arab nationalist. In 1946 Winston Churchill began to call for the Palestine question being given to the United Nations to decide.


The incidents show the Israeli military genius at getting the British to back down even though the Haganah was not in a superior position in terms of manpower or weapons. The Jews are shown to have an indomitable spirit and a faith in God. They feel they serve God by fighting for their homeland. They are fiercely loyal to one another and to the holy land and think nothing of spilling their blood for it. Their opponents, on the other hand, fight for political reasons. 


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