Article by Danny Trom
In Communist Romania, Jews were traded for pigs, calves or cows. This is how Sonia Devillers’ grandparents – as she recounts in Les Exportés (Flammarion, September 2022, not yet translated into English) – were able to pass to the West. A picture of blood and guts emerges from Romania: after being slaughtered by hand, the surviving Jews were worth just about the price of the animals for which they were exchanged.
But what is the State of Israel? Danny Trom’s book The State of Exile proposes an answer to this apparently simple question: the State of Israel is not, cannot be, the nation-state of the Jewish people but a state “for the Jews”. Proceeding from the political experience of the Jews of Europe, it remains inscribed in the exilic configuration of the Jews, outside of which its very foundation would disappear.
How can we understand the composition of the new government formed by Benjamin Netanyahu, which gives pride of place to religious Zionism and to a nationalism itself increasingly tinged with religious references? How can we understand it historically and circumstantially? Danny Trom looks back at this event, which marks a break in the history of Israel and of Zionism itself.
We know the Christmas movie genre and its more or less serious sub-genres invented by Hollywood. Danny Trom, after having seen ‘Gremlins’ (1984), the horror film directed by Joe Dante and produced by Steven Spielberg, analyzes what could be a specific sub-genre to be identified, the Jewish Christmas movie…
The impromptu arrival of the Netanyahu family one day in the winter of 1959 under the roof of Ruben Blum’s family causes the life of the young history professor at a provincial university in New York State to falter. But how can we understand this explosive event that American novelist Joshua Cohen stages without giving us the key?
“Avenge us”. To the supplication that arose from the murdered Jews and appeared everywhere after the war – on the walls of ruined synagogues or on small pieces of paper left by those who made it their last wish before perishing – Abba Kovner, poet and fighter, wanted to respond. He sought to extend the partisan struggle against the Nazi state with a large-scale revenge action. He made plans that either failed or were not carried out. The legacy of Abba Kovner is that of a dead end, according to Danny Trom: the dead end of a revenge thought to be necessary and unattainable.
“I have no other country,” writes the Israeli Ehud Manor in a poem quoted by Nancy Pelosi before the U.S. Congress. “There is no Israel for me” says the narrator of Michel Houellebecq’s novel Submission. Danny Trom proposes, from a combined analysis of these two statements, a distinction between several experiences of the political relationship to one’s own country: that of having only one country, that of having no other, and that of having an alternative, even if it is impractical. The question arises here: is not every citizen of his state in Europe now in a position to feel a Jewish experience?
Mendy Cahan is an actor, singer, and collector of books, all in Yiddish… He has stored 90,000 of them in an unlikely location in the Tel Aviv bus station. The piles of accumulated books seem to hold up the walls. And it is in this piece of Eastern Europe stuck in a zone of the Middle East that those who frequent this place gather to revive a Yiddish language that has become a minority in the middle of Hebrew. Visit the Yung Yiddish and meet its creator.
After reading Philippe Sands’ essay ‘East West Street’, Danny Trom returned to the Galician town, once Polish and now Ukrainian, to follow in his family’s footsteps. The footsteps of Lemkin and Lauterpacht, the two heroes of Sands’ best-seller, overlap with those of Trom’s grandfather. Lemberg was a land of crime and the epicenter of emerging international criminal law, but also a place where Zionism was dreamed up in Yiddish. Why does Sands occlude this fact? Now war is raging in Ukraine – and thus in Lviv, formerly Lemberg. In what way and how does the tragic situation in the Ukraine involve the Jews? Ukraine addresses this question to both the Jews and the State of Israel. Danny Trom, to resolve this matter, revisits his story with an epilogue, from which he draws a common position for both Europe and the Jews.
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Thanks to the Paris office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation for their cooperation in the design of the magazine’s website.