Exodus is the story of a nation, built over the blood and sweat of a population that refused to go down in history despite a million atrocities. It’s the story of a young German Jewish girl, separated from her family and a distinguished culture of polished living, sent to foster parents, haunted by the cries of ‘Jew. Jew’ ringing in her ears until she was left with no choice but to face the burden of the truth- she was a Jew and she needed to find her identity. It’s the story of a young boy- a Polish ghetto ‘rat’ who had to grow up too soon when the Germans came and began to round up the Jews for the ‘final solution’- a series of blood-curdling pseudo-scientific experiments and mass extermination programs with no end in site and the Polish people, swept away by hate propaganda watched only in awed silence whilst within the ghettos, the Jewish people organized their own defense using abandoned and out-dated artillery with no outside relief whatsoever. It’s the story of two brother immigrants from the Pale of Russia, who, forced to fled to the promised land of Palestine, put their heart and soul to bringing back to life a barren land they could call home until it was rich with the blood of their labour. It’s the story of an Israeli freedom fighter who was taught to live in war yet longed for peace, watching every day of his life toughen him up from the inside and the out until all that remained inside him was a will to build a nation so peaceful, that Jewish persecution would no longer be a problem. And it’s the story of an American nurse who struggles to understand what defines these people who seem to stop at nothing to fight the world, what makes them love a land so bitter and ruthless and yet their own, what makes them give up everything else and give their lives up for a promise they were never granted but had to seize for themselves.
Exodus is a book that will fill your heart with the magic and love of the stories that induce faith in the minds of people who have nothing else to live with. Broken and beaten- from the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen of the Nazis to the slowly sparkling rage of the Arabs who refused to relinquish the land the Jews built, from the British colonists to Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia- Jewish persecution has been an embittering lesson of murder and suffering as a price for carrying around a dream of deliverance. But when Palestine broke under the surge of the Jews who wanted nothing but a land of their own, the world seethed in flames and wished to extinguish the light that kept these Jews going. They had either lost everything under the siege of the Second World War or had lived for too long with a song on their lips, passed down the centuries, through generations, through all the pain. When Palestine lit up, the Islam world rained down on it and the rest of Europe stood back in fear, abandoning the Jews once more to their own devices.
Exodus is a powerful book written in poetic prose. It can move you to tears with its depiction of cruelty, it can make you question humanity and it can unsettle your soul. The book certainly had a gripping effect on me but the one thing about Exodus that struck me despite the chords it hit was the fact that it was a one-sided account. It cannot be enough to consider the story of Israel without examining it from both sides. The birth of Israel through the eyes of Leon Uris will make you understand, for once, why people seek identities with nations, how they see their lives mirrored in the history of their freedom struggle, why they yearn to belong and how they set out to create futures and establish cultures. Because Exodus is about how nothing else could matter in the face of a brutal thrust for freedom.