Saturday, July 21, 2007

Follow-up on "Yiddish Policemen's Union"

Every generation loses the messiah it has failed to deserve.
— Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policemen's Union

I'm almost finished reading the book and the Temple Mount does play a central part as this blogger reports:-

The Yiddish Policemen's Union is also — along with everything else — Chabon's contribution to two overlapping subgenres: the post-9/11 novel, and the Bush Regime novel. The conspiracy that Landsman eventually uncovers is an unholy alliance between a group of Orthodox Jews determined to reclaim Israel and an evangelical cabal that reaches all the way to the president of the United States. Near the end of the book, Jewish terrorists blow up the Muslim shrine on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. In the ensuing confusion, with rival Muslim groups unsure who perpetrated the outrage, the U.S. government will come in on the pretext of restoring order. The evangelicals behind the plan believe that this will hasten the Second Coming of Christ.

and this quotation, as the one at the top of this post, from the NYRofB:-

In design, the proposed Third Temple is a restrained display of stonemason might, cubes and pillars and sweeping plazas. Here and there a carved Sumerian monster lends a touch of the barbaric. This is the paper that God left the Jews holding, Landsman thinks, the promise that we have been banging Him a kettle about ever since. The rook that attends the king at the endgame of the world.

Another comment:-

In actuality, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is a much more serious book than it pretends to be. By allowing his Jewish homeland to blossom far from the conflicts of the Middle East, Chabon frees himself of the need to parse and confront the polarizing effect Zionism and the politics of Israeli nationalism have had on contemporary Jewish identity. As he wistfully puts it:

‘…the traditional complaint, tantamount to a creed or at least a philosophy, of the Sitka Jew – Nobody gives a damn about us, stuck up here between Hoonah and Hotzeplotz – strikes Landsman as having been a blessing these past sixty years, and not the affliction they had all, in their backwater of geography and history, supposed.’

There’s a sleight of hand at work here. Chabon’s making us comfortable, inviting us to snuggle into the sentimentality of his conceit.

By the time the Temple Mount turns out to play its rather large role in the story, he’s carved room for himself to explore the explosive debate constantly rumbling in that Dome’s shadow from an angle that gives the less fundamentalist voices in Jewish culture the upper hand. The Zionists in the book are fanatics, mobsters and thugs opportunistically exploiting messianism and seizing onto the bête noir of the Promised Land out of sheer political necessity. They’ll do anything – slaughter their own people, destabilize the world – in order to get what they want.

Chabon lays it all out late in the book while Landsman and his boss and ex-wife (and the only woman he’s ever loved) Bina Gelbfish discuss the possibility of the U.S. Government’s secretly supporting these radical Zionist factions in Sitka:

…they think the idea of a bunch of crazy yids running around Arab Palestine, blowing up shrines and following Messiahs and starting World War Three is a really good idea.

Strong stuff.

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