I’m almost a year into my conversion/giyur, and I’ve been assigned to read Leon Uris’s 1958 novel Exodus for my rabbi, probably to give me more insight into the founding of the State of Israel. He absolutely loves the book, and thinks I’ll be sucked in by the end. I’m three-fourths the way through, and well. . .
I think this book is racist. It’s also badly written, and really melodramatic, but I think there’s really offensive depictions of Arabs and Muslims in this book. Every single Muslim is described as dirty and backward. As a whole they are a degenerate, uncivilized, barbaric, ignorant people that don’t deserve what they have. The novel has the characters go into an Arab owned shop and they notice ten years of dust on the floor. They go visit an Arab merchant and it talks about how dirty and gross the food and the dishes are. There’s a Arab boy who lives on the street who is willing to sell time with his sister for sex, though it says he’s slightly more friendly because he’s a Christian Arab instead of a Muslim. There’s like one good Arab in the entire story that believes it’s good that the Jews will take over, and he dies half way through. Every other Arab is a despicable, violent, raping, betraying coward.
Evidently, Uris had some ideas about all these things, believing that the West’s ultimately enemy was Islam, saying a later work “explores the conflict between the emergent state of Israel and the frightening, mysterious world of Islam with its insatiable drives.”
I know that the book was conceived as a piece of propaganda to get the US to view Israel as a natural ally and Islam/Arabia as a natural enemy, but I feel really uncomfortable reading this in 2022 as a book about the foundation of Israel. I don’t know how or what to say to my rabbi to tell him one of his favorite books is hella racist and orientalist. The fact that it’s a novel and not a non-fiction book makes it harder as Uris deliberately created these scenarios and depictions (based loosely on events). What should I do? Just suck it up and get through and become a ger?