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Exodus v. Exodus

Exodus, Leon Urisís epic tale of Israelís early days, is an inspiring and disturbing commentary on post-WWII politics. The novel provides an in-depth background to a conflict which continues, to this day, to be a constant bone of contention in Middle Eastern politics. Beginning with the treatment of Jewish refugees in post-war Europe and concluding with the Israeli war for independence, this book puts a human face on the masses involved with both sides of the issue.

Exodus, the film based on Leon Urisís novel, focuses on the events directly leading to the Israeli-Arab war. Though assuming a general understanding of the conflict in its audience, the film is effective in humanizing the various sides of the issue and maintains an entertaining story line with appropriate smatterings of love, sex, violence, and human.

The Israeli-Palestinian question has a history going back to the earliest of recorded history in the Middle East. Palestine, and the surrounding area served as the backdrop for the history of the three major religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The hills on which battles are fought today are the same hills walked by Moses, Jesus, and the prophet Muhammad. Thus followers of these three faiths have fought, not just for centuries but for millennia, to control this relatively barren piece of ground. over the ages it has been controlled by several empires including the Romans and the Turks.

All territorial disputes are complicated by issues national pride, the rights of people who have made their homes in the area, and religious/ethnic conflict. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, however, is further complicated because both Moslems and Jews believe their charter on the land to have been granted by God(because the God of Christians, Jews, and Moslems is the same entity by different names, the term God will be used to prevent misunderstanding). Thus the sides involved feel that they are fighting, no just for their own interests, but also in and with the support of God.

The majority of the story is set in the years immediately after World War Two. Europe was still disrupted and devastated by the years of fighting, maps of the world were being redrawn wholesale, and the political systems of the world were experiencing upheaval never before seen. Out of the old, pipe and cigar, world of European diplomacy were emerging two brawling giants, the United States and the Soviet Union. Swiftly the world was redividing with new borders of alliance.

One of the areas of dispute was the Arabian peninsula and surrounding countries. The majority of the land was under British colonial control. Palestine, established as a British mandate by the defunct League of Nations(the predecessor to todayís United Nations, and the brain child of Woodrow Wilson), was home to a full population of Arab Palestinians and fierce and growing number of Zionist settlements.

After the liberation of Jews and other prisoners from German concentration camps a series of British camps were set up to house them. Though in theory free to return to their homes, few Jews were interested in returning to the towns and neighborhoods from which they had been captured. Many emigrated from Germany to the United States, Canada, and other distant nations. They entered these countries both legally and illegally. A natural destination for many was Palestine where they would be welcomed by Jewish settlers who shared their religion, culture, and past. Unfortunately the Palestinians, along with neighboring Arabs, objected to the growth in Jewish population and feared a growing movement for the establishment of the state of Israel. These Arabs placed pressure on Britain to stop the influx of Jewish settlers.

At this point in history, the plot of Exodus begins. A ship, The Star of David, attempts to transport several hundred Jews to Palestine. As was British policy at the time, it was captured the moment it entered the British waters around Palestine and taken to the island of Cyprus, controlled by the British and home to one of the British concentration camps.

Here, two key characters enter the picture. The first, Kitty Freemont, an American nurse whose late husband died at the Normandy invasion and the second Ari Ben Ami member of the Israeli underground responsible for smuggling Jews into Palestine. This is also when the movie makes its first break from the story of the book. In the movie version, Kitty Freemontís husband was a war correspondent killed while reporting on the war.

Kitty meets with the British commander of the island and learns about the Jewish prisoners in the concentration camp. Initially she is resistant to getting involved, explaining that, though she bears no ill will towards the Jews, she doesnít Ďunderstandí them. Later after seeing escapees of the anti-Semitism of the British force she aggress to volunteer at the camp. Thus the American nurse, played in the movie by a blue-eyed beauty in the movie, enters the turmoil.

Ari Ben Ami, a native born Palestinian Jew, sneaks onto the island under the cover of darkness and meets with members of the underground. His mission, in both versions is to stage a spectacular escape from Cyprus which will show the determination of Jews worldwide to establish an independent Jewish state in Palestine. In then novel he hopes to take three hundred children from the concentration camp to Palestine, in the movie its the entire compliment of the Star of David(611 adults and children).

In both, he uses an intricate plot involving the impersonation of a British officer, falsification of documents, and use of official British military vehicles. Ari Ben Ami secures an old ship, and under the guise of transporting Jewish prisoners back to Germany transports his human cargo from the camp to the ship.

This is when the paths of Kitty and Ari cross. Kitty has fallen in love with a young Jewish girl and wants to take her to America to live. Kitty lost her baby daughter soon after her husbands death and transfers her maternal feelings to this girl who appears to have lost her entire family. This girl also happens to be with the group that escapes the concentration camp and boards the ship.

The ship attempts to leave the harbor and is trapped by British naval vessels after the British military discovers the ruse. The stage is set and the ship, renamed The Exodus, initiates a hunger strike, and threatens to blow itself up if boarded by the British. Kitty, as a Ďneutralí volunteer goes aboard the ship to help care for the starving people and find the young girl. The nurse and the Israeli meet and, thought they donít fall in love at first sight, feel greatly attracted to each other.

The story continues, and describes the journey to Palestine and subsequent settlement of the refugees. The children are sent to youth settlement named Dafna, after Ariís late love.

 

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