Land Without Jews
THE REPUBLIC OF HAITI was a land without Jews except in myth and memory. There was no congregation and no cemetery, but there were a few visitors. There were some visiting American Jews, two Israelis. There was no community, no rabbi, no shared life-this lack was nothing strange to me. I had lived all my life with no Jewish community, no Jewish leadership except habits dimly revealed in my family, no religious life. These habits, and their presence in my father and mother, must have given me the connection with the past we all need to survive. My father was a man mysterious to me, though reconciliation is a kind of understanding and we reconciled. An avenue of blood was my link with history, and as I came back to him in time, I also go forward with my children into the history of the future.
The barrenness of history without connection became as demanding as hunger or thirst. In Haiti I began to search for the Jew in myself, and it began as something little more than a fantastic paradox-to find Jews in the land without Jews. Even in this desolate Caribbean island, suffering from so much poverty and isolation, its Christianity smudged over by voodoo, there remained an imagination of Jews; for me and, as I learned, for others.
About the Author
Herbert Gold is the author of the forthcoming My First Murder, among many other novels. His non-fiction books include Bohemia and Haiti: Best Nightmare on Earth. A previous memoir by him, “In Bellow’s Company,” appeared in our September 2005 issue.