Only in Israel
It’s Just a Story?
by Haim Sabato
I met him during Hebrew Book Week in Jerusalem. With all the noise and color there was a festive atmosphere. And happy. I stood in my publisher’s booth signing my novel Adjusting Sights. There were many visitors to the booth. Some congratulating, some commenting, some criticizing, some proposing a subject about which I simply must write. Must. Others suggesting I add a chapter here or delete a paragraph there. I respond to each one. “An interesting idea.” “Something to consider.” Then he showed up.
His face was covered with burn scars. He came over, furious. Grabbed me hard with two hands. “You know. I knew the whole time that you know very well! Now tell me. Right now. ”
“What are you talking about? What do you want? ”
“As if you don’t know what I want. You don’t know? You wrote about it. Twenty-five years I have been searching. Day and night. Without stop. I have been looking for the answer.”
He looked me straight in the eye. A hard look. “Who abandoned us in the tank that went up in flames during the war? Who was it? I spent the whole night reading Adjusting Sights” he glared, “and I know that you know very well. This time you can’t be evasive.”
What could I say to him? I thought. I really did not know. What could I say?
A few weeks later, when my novel The Dawning of the Day: A Jerusalem Tale came out, another reader came to the beit midrash in the yeshiva, in the middle of my morning study. “You’re looking for me?”
“Yes. It’s urgent” he retorted, persuading me to leave my gemara. “I have to talk to you. Now,” he implored, distraught. “I came from the north.” He was all emotion, and looked at me with pleading eyes. I took him to one of the nearby rooms. “How can I help you? I don’t even know you.”
He stood opposite me, looked at me and blurted out, “Please, bring me Ezra Siman Tov. Now. I have to talk to him. He is the only one who can help me. I am torn. I have to make a decision, ” he went on and poured out his tragic life story. “I don’t know what to decide. And I have to give an answer today. Yes or no. My whole life depends on this. I am almost going crazy thinking about it. I lean this way and that way. I think of going full force in one direction, then the next moment I think I should go in the other direction. In the middle of this your book, Dawning of the Day, fell into my lap. Now I know that Ezra Siman Tov from Mahane Yehuda is the one, the only one, who will be able to help me. He will tell me what to do. I trust him. Such a pure soul. Please, I beseech you, bring him to me.”
“But it’s just a story. A story. How can I bring you Ezra Siman Tov. Ezra is only a character in my story.”
“Please, I beg of you,” he repeated again and again. “I just want to see him. Ezra Siman Tov from The Dawning of the Day…. You mean you can’t bring him? You really can’t?”
I was wondering why you titled your translation “It’s Just a Story?” It seemed to me from reading your translation (the only version of the original that I have access to is the short piece on the picture of the front page of Ma’ariv that illustrates your posting) that the point isn’t that it’s “just a story.” Rather, it seems that the main idea is the sometimes blurred line between fiction and reality, whether what was written was fiction or non-fiction. The who approached Rav Sabato about the burning tank incident was ignoring the fact that “Tiyum Kavanot” was a non-fiction memoir and the author wasn’t ‘omniscient’ like the author of fiction. And the main who approached Rav Sabato in the beit midrash was ignoring the fact that “K’Afapei Shachar” was a novel and the character Ezra Siman Tov was fictitious. In any case thank you for translating and posting this –I have never met Rav Sabato but I am a big fan based on his writings.
Amazing how some people get so caught up that they can’t distinguish reality from non reality.
I wonder if the TV ‘realkity’ shows contribute ot this or has it always been this wy.