To the End of the Land

While the Parent Imperfect was in Bolivia, the police arrested a 35-year-old man in relation to the recent murders in Mattapan. Most of the victims in this case were young people, but, if this suspect turns out to be the the one who did this (how could it have been a single person?), those who talk about this as an example of youth violence out of control need to change their/our tune.

News of the election, the wars and the next murder has quickly pushed the Mattapan story off the front pages, but it will be a while before the PI lets go of it. Perhaps it affected him the way it did because another story, even deeper in The Globe, had put in his mind the question of how parents deal with violence and its consequences.

A couple of Sundays ago, The Globe “Books” section contained a review of the latest publication of an Israeli author named David Grossman. The PI has been something of a fan of this man’s writing since, as a young reporter, Grossman ventured into Palestine and started talking to people about the Occupation. The result was an important book called, The Yellow Wind. Writing in Hebrew, Grossman was, and remains, very much a part of the Jewish State, a fact which gives even more credence to his powerful critique of many policies of that state.

As he wrote, The Yellow Wind, Grossman and his wife were raising a son, Uri. Soon after the turn of the millennium, Uri faced Israel’s requirement of obligatory military service. One wonders what conversations took place between Uri and his family as the time of service approached. An increasing number of courageous young people refuse to serve in the Israeli Defense Force, but the costs of doing so are very high. For whatever set of reasons, Uri decided to perform his service in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

The decision obviously stayed with Grossman long after his son put on his uniform. Soon after Uri entered the IDF, his father began work on a novel introducing, Ora, a middle-aged woman nearly overcome by fear for her son who is serving in the IDF. As the novel oozed out of Grossman, tensions increased to the boiling point in the Gaza Strip. Taking time out from his writing, Grossman engaged in a very public debate over Gaza strategy with the Israeli Prime Minister of the moment. The fact that his son was in the army must have lent urgency to his activity.

The wheels of fate turned. Of course, Israel launched a violent incursion into Gaza and, of course, Uri Grossman was part of it. On the last day of hostilities, as the IDF, having inflicted “sufficient” damage, was withdrawing, Uri Grossman was killed in action. Grossman’s own goodbye note to Uri, written just after his son’s falling, remains etched in the PI’s mind.

The younger Grossman was one of the last of hundreds of people killed in what could hardly have been called a “battle,” but Uri’s story has stayed with the PI. It took some time, but Grossman eventually found a way to turn back to his book. As he wrote, he dedicated even more time to public opposition to Israeli policy, even as he acknowledged that such opposition seemed increasingly futile. He finished, “To the End of the Land” in 2008, and the English translation is now available. When he finally gets his hands on it, reading this book may help put homework struggles with Vince in some kind of perspective.


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