If you are interested in a real survival story, but find the television "survival" shows distasteful, you have reached the right place! This is a historical biographical novel encompassing continents and timeframes, telling thought-provoking stories presented as in an epic movie, a screenplay including fiction and reality, with dialogues among characters who once lived but are no longer with us. The background is composed of historical events which took place between the 18th and 20th centuries in Europe, America and the Middle East. This is a story of human dilemmas interwoven with the tragedy of a nation that re-emerged into the history of nations.
The book tells in a nutshell important aspects in the modern history of German Jewry and sheds light on deep processes of metamorphosis in its culture. There are heart-wrenching family stories of life and death, of love, and thoughts about the meaning of human life. Plots taking place in Silesia and in British Mandatory Palestine (now the State of Israel) unfold parallel to each other, but meet against all odds in a bloodstained world.
The book presents a picture somewhere between reality and imagination, while in the background we see the rise of the prominent political and social ideologies of the 19th and 20th centuries: Nationalism, Zionism, Liberal democracy, Socialism, Capitalism, Communism, Faschism and Nazism.
Four Jewish families from Silesia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland/Ukraine are portrayed in short, very personal portraits. Through them, an impressionistic picture is formed, depicting a surreal historical situation. This is the story of the Jewish people in modern times, intertwined with the process of Emancipation from the 18th Century up to the events of the 20th Century. A paradoxical, tragic world of Jews who tried to assimilate into their environment, and the more they tried, the more they became targets of hatred, and the more they assimilated, the more they kept their Jewish identity despite everything.
In this story, I connected the "old" world with the "new", depicting my family's dreams of "ancient Canaan" in the Land of Israel and of "new Canaan" in America. The story encompasses fascinating human experiences: Jewish soldiers fighting at the fronts of great empires which collapsed, pioneers building their homes, while the furnaces of Auschwitz blazed. Stories of escape and remarkable, post-modern, meetings: between an author and the characters of his story.
While writing this book, questions arose in my mind: what is the meaning of the past, and what can be learned from it? Is there any hope for the future, and what can and should be done in the present? Does God exist for atheists like me as well?
During the research for this book, I felt the need to discover the meaning of individual and group identity. Writing the book resurrected ghosts from the past and formed new bonds with branches of the family that were lost and miraculously discovered. In addition, writing the book became a catalyst to promote a humanistic educational project which might become a reality in the future, despite the harsh winds blowing in Israel and worldwide. The question of whether these "ships of hope" will survive in the stormy seas around us is of course outside the realm of this book, and only time will tell the outcome. The possibility of making my proposed educational project a reality is not in my hands any more, but rather depends on external forces, but the reason for my proposal is presented in this book.
The publishers of this book, the Ofir Bikurim publishing house, have taken responsibility for all the technical stages of publication, including the editing by Zohar Goldfarb. The book can be purchased in Israel in bookstores, at the publishing house or via the accompanying website.
The website accompanying this book was created for those readers who are interested in seeing additional photos, documents and maps, which were not included in the book. In addition, the website contains a family album, family trees and archive material that was instrumental in writing the book. In its final form, the website might have, in addition to the Hebrew and English versions, also Polish and German versions. [I would like to thank Eliahu and Varda Stern of the Sigalon company for creating the website.]
Dr. Eli Manneberg was born in Tel-Aviv in British Mandatory Palestine, and became an educator in the State of Israel. At first he taught history in high school, and later was a lecturer in education at Tel-Aviv University, and in the School of Education of the Kibbutz Movement at Haifa University. He moved with his family to the Galilee and became one of the founders of Moshav Ya'ad, a village in the Segev retion (today's Misgav region). He founded an experimental community school (grades K-12) and became its principal. In this capacity he received many prizes for professional achievements, among them the Israeli Education Prize, awarded by the President of Israel in Jerusalem, and the Misgav Regional Council's "honorable citizen" award. After 12 years as principal of the Misgav regional school, he went on to serve as a Superintendent of High Schools (in regional, agricultural and boarding schools) in the Israeli Ministry of Education. His academic fields of specialization are: history, ethnography, pedagogy, curriculum development and educational entrepreneurship..