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"Part of the delight of All Rivers lies in witnessing the gradual transformation of the brokenhearted, orphaned young boy into the spirited journalist who longs to embrace the world at large, and who, in time, does." —Rebecca Goldstein, Newsday
"Immensely moving [and] unforgettable, [with] the searing intensity of his novels and autobiographical tales . . . Will make you cry, yet somehow leaves you renewed, with a cautious hope for humanity's future." —Publishers Weekly
"This is Elie Wiesel at his best, a highly revealing self-portrait of the man behind the world-famed persona." —Herman Wouk
"Remarkable . . . Wiesel writes with poetic beauty and heart-stopping eloquence." —Susan Miron, Miami Herald
"A biblical-like epic of a great man who has turned genocidal tragedy into a life force for world peace. It should be required reading." —Alan M. Dershowitz
"For all those who have never known Elie Wiesel, these memoirs are an introduction to the man, and for many who have met him, there will be discoveries and realizations." —Raul Hilberg, Boston Globe
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We left off on Tuesday, April 2, 1969, after a wedding ceremony in the Old City of Jerusalem; let us stay there one more moment.
We had, in fact, thought of getting married a day earlier, but at the last minute Marion chose to postpone the ceremony by a day: "April first doesn't sound right," she said laughing. "Our friends will think we're not serious."
The day before the wedding is hectic. In Jerusalem one rarely is allowed to rest. Why would anyone call Jerusalem the City of Peace? What an idea! In Jerusalem you are never left in peace, not even on your wedding day. Friends and strangers come knocking at your door without warning, to ask whether you need anything, or whether you would like to meet this mystical merchant in Mea She'arim or that exotic madman near the Wall.
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At 6 on Tuesday the telephone rings. It is Teddy Kollek. The dynamic mayor of the city is inviting me to breakfast. Half asleep, I tell him that just like on Yom Kippur, on his wedding day the bridegroom-to-be is forbidden to eat or drink before the ceremony. "Come anyway," says Teddy, "I need to talk to you. It's urgent." With him everything is urgent, since everything concerns his city. In truth is there in all the world a city that lives more with urgency than Jerusalem?
This time the mayor is wrong -- our talk could have waited. But he is preoccupied with current events. Who isn't? He seems more so than anyone else, more so than appears warranted. He fears a hostile initiative by the U.N. to internationalize the Holy City. He would like to preempt it by creating a worldwide commission or association for the defense of the universality of Jerusalem. That is his reason for getting me out of bed on my wedding day. I tell him that his idea seems good, but that there is no hurry and, anyway, the name of the association would have to be changed; the one he has in mind is too long. I suggest "The International Committee for Jerusalem." He accepts. Can I go back to my room now?
By now it is after 7, and the ceremony is set for 11 a.m. I need to prepare myself. But no, Teddy is not done with me yet. Now he needs names of important people for this committee. Whom does he have in mind? It's up to me to find them. I run to get my address book; he knows his by heart. At 9 o'clock, he finally allows me to prepare for my wedding. My nephew Steve, Bea's son, joins me in my room. I shave and change my clothes. Twenty-five years later, I shall keep him company his entire wedding day.
An unforgettable Passover: In an ultrakosher Jerusalem hotel, my closest relatives celebrate a Seder conducted by my Master and friend Saul Lieberman. Bea is there with her husband, Len, and their two children, Sarah and Steve; Hilda with her son Sidney. I read the story of Exodus, and Lieberman dazzles us with his commentaries. But I have trouble concentrating. It has been a long and mentally exhausting day. I feel the presence of some, the absence of others. Which weighs more heavily? I think of my last Seder at home, far away.
The telephone does not stop ringing. No, it isn't Teddy again. The callers are colleagues. Every one of them has an idea, a project to propose. A paper on American-Jewish literature? If I am to believe my caller, the cultural fate of Israel -- perhaps even the God of Israel -- is at stake. I don't have time? Then how about an interview on that very subject? There follow interviews for radio, for a morning paper and an evening paper. Haïm Yavin, a national television star, a young, earnest man who does not as yet know how to smile, would like me to appear on his weekly show. I'm to take questions from four intellectuals, one of them the poet Haïm Gouri, translator of Night. When? The day after tomorrow. It won't take long, he promises. I ask around; my friends think it is a good idea. Very well, let's do it. The questions are easy, the comments typical. The goal of the writer? To testify. To say "Amen," which signifies: "That is how it is, that is how it was." I quote Malraux: "To leave a scratch on the surface of the Earth." All goes well. No trap, no arrow. Not yet.
A few minutes before the end, Yavin decides to provoke me: "What do you feel, you whose mind overflows with memories, when you meet Arab children in the Old City?" What I feel now is the blood draining from my face. Fortunately television is not yet in color; the television audience does not see me blanch. I try not to show my embarrassment as I respond: "It does actually happen that I come across Arab boys and girls. They ask me for money or chocolate. But sometimes they ask for nothing; all they want is for me to look at them. They want the Jew in me, thus the victor, to confront their defeat. And then, in the face of their suffering, their humiliation, I lower my eyes."
The telecast elicits praise and criticism. Moshe Sneh, the Communist member of Parliament, stops me in my hotel to tell me that he approves my words. What he says moves me, for to me he represents a living enigma. How could this Polish Zionist leader, this former chief of the Haganah, this brilliant mind, this fervent Jew, become a supporter of Stalin? Public opinion casts him as a renegade, or worse. I would like to spend an hour with him to question him, to get to know him better, and perhaps to understand him. But I don't dare intrude thus upon him. Will he ever return to his own? Will he ever find his way back to his roots? I know that later he instructed his son Ephraim, a young general and future minister under Yitzhak Rabin, to recite the Kaddish over his grave.
Marion and I had intended to stay another week or so in Israel, but we change our plans. Too many people to see, too many places to visit, too many invitations to accept or decline. Here it is just as traumatic to say yes as to say no. Marion reminds me that I am no longer a bachelor and that if I don't wish to become one again on the spot, I had better take her away, anywhere.
Before we leave, we meet with Paula and Noah Mozes, Dov and Lea Judkowski, Ruth and Eliyahu Amiqam (all from "my" newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth). They fall in love with Marion. We pass many pleasant hours. I visit Binyamin Halevy, the Supreme Court justice. We have known each other for some time. His daughter, Ofra, one of the young beauties of Jerusalem, was a friend of Nicolas, my comrade since 1945.
A handsome man, the judge. He has sharp features, contrasting with his warm gaze. He is refined, elegant. I had had several opportunities to discuss with him the two trials in which the Tragedy was central, those of Rudolf Kastner and Adolf Eichmann. Halevy presided over the first and participated in the second. I remember his resounding conclusions about Kastner, the Zionist leader who he said "sold his soul to the devil" in Budapest. And I remember the questions he asked, in German, of Eichmann.
But now I feel like discussing religion with him. For beyond the esteem in which I hold him professionally, he intrigues me as a man. A practicing Jew, he had opened the Kastner trial with his head covered by a kipa. But then suddenly, toward the middle of the trial, he appeared bareheaded. My question: What had precipitated the religious crisis revealed by this act? What had provoked it? A word of the accused, a gesture of the prosecutor, the tears of a survivor? Or perhaps a point made by Shmuel Tamir, former officer of the Irgun and future minister of justice under Menachem Begin?
He does not answer. Instead he asks me a question in strictest confidence. Begin has offered him a seat in the Knesset. What to do? Forsake justice for politics?
Who am I to advise him? The skeptic in me distrusts politics and, even more, politicians. In the end the judge succumbed to temptation. And came to regret it.
From the Hardcover edition.
Posted August 27, 2004
This is the second volume of Elie Weisel's Memoirs. Much of it deals with his public meetings and at times confrontations with political and religious leaders. It also tells about the new phase of life that began with his marriage, and the birth of his son. He writes movingly about the loss of his sister, and his relation to his family. As it is a chronicle of outer events of great diversity it does not have the moving power of his greatest work. Nonetheless it provides much more of the story of one of the great moral spokesmen of our time- and the Jewish people's most powerful Post- Second World War Voice of Conscience.
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