From medieval to pop culture: an old-world new text, the Golem of Prague--a traveling monster/hero

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Author: Gila Aloni
Date: Spring 2016
From: South Atlantic Review(Vol. 81, Issue 1)
Publisher: South Atlantic Modern Language Association
Document Type: Column
Length: 8,065 words
Lexile Measure: 1500L

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In my attempt to retrace the path of an ancient story that harkens back to the Middle Ages and has survived to the present day--the fable of the "Golem," a huge, ghoulish automaton with supernatural powers that was summoned to the aid of the Jews to fight villains (1)--I reached Israel at the beginning of July of 2014 in the midst of a new outbreak of conflict between Israel and Hamas (2) in Gaza, this time referred to as "Operation Protective Edge" by international media. (3) By the time of my departure in early August, a cease-fire of sorts had come into effect. Needless to say, no magical superhero had rushed in to the rescue, or to prevent the suffering of innocent civilians on both sides. The cease-fire held only for a few days, but "Operation Protective Edge" lasted a full fifty.

As a result of this coincidence, my efforts to piece together an article about the Golem tale as a mnemonic device that recorded events as it traveled throughout history were framed by an episode of warfare that is now added to a memory of the area's long history of conflict.

Hence, these lines composed for a special issue on "Text as Memoir" are themselves a memoir, caught in a moment of history in the making, and capture yet another aspect of the complexity of the Middle East. The diaristic nature of this paper hopes to avoid taking any political standpoint or bias for either side. It aims simply to capture moments, indelible snapshots of life.

Thursday, July 17

The war ("Protective Edge") still rages. How long is it now--19 days since it started? Where was I when it began? ... Ironically, when the first siren sounded I was at the port of Old Jaffa, a place where Jews, Muslims, and Arabs live and work shoulder-to-shoulder.

Yesterday, an old man was killed on his way to the shelter. But it wasn't a missile that killed him. He was hit by a car....

After several days stuck in Turkey because the air space over Israel was declared a no-fly zone (I struggle to grasp the concept of "shutting down skies" where no foreign flights come into the country anyway), my friend Yael's child was finally able to fly back home.

I was at the cinema today watching a movie when at a certain point an alarm suddenly went off. It was part of the sound track, but we were all ready to jump up and run to a shelter before we realized it was not "real" ... These days, the slightest sound triggers the nervous system....

Sunday, July 20

I am driving through Tel-Aviv listening to Israeli Radio and a reporter is reading from Gazan Youth's "Manifesto for Change":

F*** Hamas. F*** Israel. F*** Fatah. F*** the UN. F*** the UNWRA. F*** the USA! We the youth of Gaza have had enough of Israel, of Hamas, of the occupation, and of the violations of human rights and indifference of...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A450903891