Christians, Jews, Journeys, and Salvation. Intertextuality and inversion in Laish by Aharon Appelfeld and Crusade by Amos Oz

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This article offers a comparative study of two Modern Hebrew novellas: Crusade (1971) by Amos Oz and Laish (1994) by Aharon Appelfeld (both works were written in Hebrew by writers who are Israel Literature Prize laureates). The study is based on revealing both the similarities and the distinct points of difference between these two works, which share similar details in their plot outline. In doing so I am trying to decipher the aim and purpose of the obvious ties woven between the latter novella and the early one that serves as its model. Both works tell about a caravan making its way from Europe to Jerusalem, encountering hardships and obstacles on the way. In Oz's novella it is a Christian caravan on a crusade aiming to arrive at Jerusalem but never leaving the European continent; in Appelfeld's work the story is of a Jewish caravan wandering for years on the soil of Europe on its way to the port of Galacz, aiming to leave Europe on the way to the Land of Israel. Both authors make their point by using covertly the image of the "Wandering Jew," but differ about the conclusions that can be drawn from the encounter between that symbol and Jewish fate. In Crusade, by using the image of the Wandering Jew, Oz signals both Jewish weakness in exile and Christian religious fanaticism, the encounter between which is disastrous for the Jews. Oz thus points to what he perceives as an insoluble problem on account of its mythical roots. Appelfeld uses the image of the Wandering Jew quite differently and for another purpose. In Laish Appelfeld is producing "a realization of a metaphor," so to speak, when he turns the entire Jewish caravan into the actual exemplification of the Wandering Jew. Contrary to Oz's novella, where unequivocally there is no hope for the wandering Jew, who continues to symbolize the Jewish people in exile among the nations, the use of the myth of the Wandering Jew as frame and form in Laish is quintessentially dialectic. Therefore it also enables its deconstruction. In the hidden dialogue that takes place between Appelfeld's novella and that of Oz, the latter's work is in fact disputing with the earlier one trying to refute its deep pessimism. Although the caravan's way in Laish is not a simple and easy one, the implications of the emergence of a "Zionist" solution, which in turn shatters the Christian "Wandering Jew" myth, hints at a real possibility of salvation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-240
Number of pages22
JournalOrbis Litterarum
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Ahron Appelfeld
  • Amos Oz
  • Europe and the Jews
  • Holocaust as covert theme
  • Jewish-Christian relationship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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