CULTURE

New Yehoshua novel in Greek

Israeli writer Abraham B. Yehoshua was in Athens last week and met with the press at the residence of Israeli Ambassador to Athens Ram Aviram and with the public in a lecture hosted by the Athens Concert Hall. The occasion for the visit was Kastaniotis Publications’ launch of the Greek translation of his latest novel, «The Mission of the Human Resource Man,» which comes after the publisher’s releases of «Mr Mani,» «Open Heart (The Return from India)» and «Journey to the End of the Millennium.» Translated by Maggie Cohen, the novel relates the drama of a female foreign worker in Jerusalem whose body is found after a suicide bomb attack and never claimed. Blocking out death The writer explains that he began writing this novel during one of Jerusalem’s darkest times, at the onset of the second Intifada. The negotiations, he said, and the feeling of a possible resolution, brought about the phenomenon of having civilian victims. «Until then we knew how to honor the dead of battle,» said Yehoshua. «We could not honor these dead as heroes. Also, the victims cannot seek revenge because the perpetrator is already dead, and this created an unhealthy atmosphere.» Life, he explained, has to continue and death no longer interests anyone. It was within this context that the writer wanted to reveal his feelings and empathy. Isn’t the appearance of being unmoved by death simply a way of shutting it out? «Both sides are tired,» said Yehoshua. «The Palestinians have reduced the number of attacks and the Israelis are starting to move out of certain areas. What we have now is not peace, it is fatigue.» A deeply political writer, Yehoshua stresses that identity is an issue that Israelis have been struggling with for some 3,300 years and it continues to concern them. He adds that surely the conflict with the Arabs is part of the Jewish identity. The author also avers that the real problem is Jerusalem itself. «It is one square kilometer that encompasses all the disputes. If this is not solved, there will be no peace in the Middle East. Jerusalem belongs to the world, to all religions. You can’t separate these things with walls, they are all linked.» On the issue of the state’s relationship to religion, Yehoshua answered, «Religion is a personal matter.» ‘Vatican’ in the East His dream, he says, is for someone to be considered a Jew (or a Greek for that matter) without the need of religious reassurances. «Beyond all the disputes between the religions, the only solution is to create a type of Vatican in Jerusalem, the cradle of monotheism. Christian Europe must also have a say in the solution to this problem,» Yehoshua added. How popular are these opinions today? «In 1967, myself and some friends, Amos Oz and others, were in favor of the separation of the two states. Two to 3 percent of Jews agreed with us. Now, 80-85 percent agree with us and the number is similar in Palestinians. Writers can see things differently than politicians, can see both sides. And people listen to them because they believe that that is where the truth lies.»