Novelist and movie director, Tzvi Fishman, knows how to tell a story. Before making Aliyah to Israel, he sold four original screenplays to Hollywood, published his first novel with Dell Publishers in New York, and taught Dramatic and Visual Writing at the New York University Film School. Among his many books is the wonderful family-saga, “Tevye in the Promised Land,” which brings Sholom Aleichem’s famous milkman, Tevye, to the Holy Land to become a pioneer builder of the Land. The novel, enjoyed by young readers and adults alike, concludes at the end of World War One, as British troops, along with Tevye and the Hebrew Brigade, oust the ruling Turks from Palestine. The saga’s new sequel “Arise and Shine!” continues the great Zionist adventure up to the Arab Pogroms of 1929, and according to Fishman, the next novel, “The Lion’s Roar,” of the planned five-book series, has just been published as well. The pentalogy, Fishman says, will climax with the establishment of Medinat Yisrael and Israel’s War of Independence.
“Arise and Shine!” is a great joy to read. In a style Fishman calls “histortion,” combining history and fiction, the story includes colorful portraits of Rabbi Kook, Yosef Trumpledor, Zeev Jabotinsky, Ben Gurion, and “Yair” Avraham Stern, head of the “Lechi” Jewish Underground, just to mention a few. The infamous Jewish gangsters, Meir Lansky and Bugsy Siegel, also play a part in the exciting drama, and Tevye interacts with them all.
Fitting the Jewish People, the book’s main characters are not mere action heroes, but deep ideological thinkers, motivated by the two-thousand-year dream of re-establishing the Nation of Israel in its Divinely-promised Homeland. Like the heroes of ancient Israel, the skillfully-painted characters are larger than life, pulsating with a reborn Jewish valor which remained dormant throughout centuries of exile in alien lands. The revolutionary ideology of Zionism’s leading personalities, combined with the always compelling storyline, make the reading a fun and fascinating way to learn about Modern Jewish History, and about the charismatic figures who shaped our Nation’s miraculous revival. Just as the Jews in the last century underwent a dramatic transformation from being a scattered and helpless people in foreign lands into becoming a powerful, sovereign Jewish State in the Land of Israel, Tevye the Milkman undergoes a similar rebirth in this always gripping adventure, as he becomes a fearless freedom fighter, dedicated to liberating the Promised Land from the British. Interspersed throughout the fast-moving narrative are the passionate writings of Uri Zvi Greenberg and Avraham Stern, which sparked a spirit of rebellion among the Nation’s youth. An inspiring dose of Rabbi Kook’s enlightening teachings, which recognized G-d’s guiding hand in the historic events of the times, is also to be found. In the fierce rivalry between David Ben Gurion and Zeev Jabotinsky, the reader will become acquainted with the socialist and Revisionist theories that divided the Zionist camps. Unexpected romances, and the author’s sense of humor, add spice and richness to this delicious literary chulent. It turns out that the aging Tevye still has the roar and bite of a lion, and as his children and grandchildren grow older, they take the torch of Hebrew liberation from him - and the rifles - to battle the Arabs and the British in the fight for Jewish independence.
Unlike the supposedly “official” accounts of the period, documented by historians with clear-cut leftist ideologies, Fishman’s point-of-view is unabashedly rightest. This in itself is a refreshing discovery, offering readers a chance to hear the “other side” of the Zionist story, without the distortions and propaganda which filled the textbooks put out by Labor Party governments in Israel. For instance, while the political Left has traditionally taken credit for the establishment of the Hagana, its founder and initial commander was Ze’ev Jabotinsky, a leading proponent of “Greater Eretz Yisrael” and later founder of the Revisionist and Betar Movements.
Though I have studied a fair share of Zionist history, I am saddened to say that my children have only the superficial knowledge that comes with preparing for Israel’s bagrut high-school examinations – a knowledge that is forgotten as fast as it is learned. In “Arise and Shine!,” the events that constitute the triumphs and tragedies of Modern Zionism, with its bold cast of characters, come alive on the page, making the novel a truly “novel” and exciting way to learn about Jewish History. I recommend the book highly.
Both “Tevye in the Promised Land,” and its 2 new sequels, “Arise and Shine!” and “The Lion’s Roar” can be ordered at Amazon Books, and in Israel.