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Khirbet Khizeh

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  894 ratings  ·  125 reviews
This classic 1949 novella about the violent expulsion of Palestinian villagers by the Israeli army has long been considered a high point in Hebrew literature, as it has also given rise to fierce controversy over the years. Published just months after the end of the 1948 war (in which the author fought) the book as famous for Yizhar's haunting, lyrical style as for its wren ...more
Paperback, 110 pages
Published March 1st 2008 by Ibis Press (first published 1949)
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Nate D
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All-too-typical U.S. meddling mixed with various toxic nationalisms is costing lives once again, and I have just stumbled onto this window back into how we got here, an Israeli account of the original ejection of the Palestinians by an embattled new state, 1948-1949, published the same year. Begun two days ago, in sorrow.

This is a story, told by a soldier in the newly-formed Israeli army, of the expulsion of the confused, unresisting inhabitants of a Palestinian village. It's war, there are orde
Jul 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
About two weeks ago, there was a review of this republished novella on the back page of the NYTimes book review that I couldn't resist. I immediately got the novella and wasn't disappointed. It was published in May 1949 and describes the feelings and moral dilemma of the soldier narrator who is part of an Israeli detail sent to destroy a Palestinian village. As he watches the villagers driven into exile, he becomes more and more outraged, but ultimately remains an observer, not an activist.

Apr 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully written book that poetically delivers the tragedy of dispossession and exile, told by one of whom are forced to carry out this crime. Nothing speaks of the terrible nature of these events like Yizhar's description of empty homes, discarded housewares, and confused livestock. You cannot but feel the agony of the author and share in his frustration as he helplessly comes to terms with what is going on before him.

The Arab is this novel is mostly a passive victim of almost chi
Alex Linschoten
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Extraordinary. S. Yizhar (real name Yizhar Smilansky) published this short book in 1949. The plot takes place during the expulsions and operations of 1948, when soldiers were forcing Palestinian occupants of villages and reshaping the human geography of the territory under their control. Khirbet Khizeh is the name of one such village which the protagonist visits with his military unit and expels its inhabitants. The book is short, but packs an incredible punch. It's remarkable, moreover, that Yi ...more
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reading_asia
First published in 1949 this documents the dislocation of Palestinians from their villages (here the fictional village Khirbet Khizeh) as told by an Israeli soldier on the ground - who seems to be the only one seeing how the palestinians are sent into the same exile, the Israelis just escaped. This is the story of 'Al-Nakba: The Palestinian Catastrophe' or "the War of Independence" as it is known in Israel. And on both sides this is still part of the crisis and the lack of resolution is preventi ...more
Deborah Feingold
Aug 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Painstaking and painful story describing the forced removal of Palestinians from their land in Israel's War of Independence. Reminiscent of Tim O'Brien in its humanization of the "enemy." Protagonist is Israeli soldier who consistently questions and only briefly (and unsuccessfully) tries to rationalize official policy. Author unflinchingly describes brutality of dispossession and like all good war stories makes clear the dehumanization that occurs to oppressor and oppressed alike. Brave account ...more
M Wiegers
Aug 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A must read. Khirbet Khizeh is a short novel written by a former Israeli intelligence officer, personalizing the expulsion of the residents of a Palestinian village in 1948. Timely, in part for its ability to dramatize the rationalizations individuals contrive in order to allow them to perform acts of brutality and violence.

Ibis Editions continues to set a high standard for publishing with moral urgency.
Justin Evans
May 14, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
It's not KK, it's me: that this book is wise I can agree with absolutely. That it is "still-shockingly wise," as the blurb suggests, is a little bit much. Turns out the Israeli occupation wasn't and isn't all that noble a thing. The prose was decent, but not so good that it took me away from the obviousness of the rest of the book. I'm glad this was written, that it's still in print, and that people are reading it. But I think I just expected too much. ...more
Marwan Asmar
Mar 12, 2011 marked it as to-read
A review from the Guardian Newspaper

Rereading: Khirbet Khizeh by S YizharIn his novella of the 1948 war, the Israeli writer S Yizhar sought to preserve the memory of the Palestinian nakba. Jacqueline Rose on a haunting tale that still stirs intense controversy

Jacqueline Rose The Guardian, Saturday 12 March 2011 Article history
Israeli soldiers, 1948. Photograph: © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORB

Near the beginning of Khirbet Khizeh, the extraordina
Daniel Sevitt
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: translated
Picked up this novella in a second-hand store in New York having never heard of it before. Turns out it was quite the thing in Israel back in the 50s.

It is a lyrical account of an Israeli attack on a Palestinian village in 1948 that was published to great acclaim less that a year after the end of the War of Independence. It tells a familiar story of young soldiers engaged in actions they don’t really understand with different ideas of the nature of war and the nature of their enemies.

The after
Geoffrey Fox
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Published (in Hebrew) in 1949, just months after the events it describes, this was the first novel to (as the author himself put it) "[lay] bare the original sin of the State of Israel": the forcible, violent expulsion, killing, and razing of the homes of Palestinian villagers whose ancestral lands happened to be on the Israeli side of the 1948 partition line — what Palestinians remember as the Nakba or "Catastrophe." Yizhar (Yizhar Smilansky, 1916-2006) was a Sabra, i.e., a Jew born in Eretz Yi ...more
Apr 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
The principal strengths of this novella lie outside the book itself, relating more to the context and percipience. (It is good for what it is, as a work of literature: a bit dense, very allusive, but readable nonetheless)

One problem I have: because the author thrusts the reader into the situation, it presumes - or demands - a specific moral response. As it happens, I think this moral response is the correct one. But that’s an opinion, not a fact; Khirbet’s framing device spares the reader a bit
Bob Lopez
A tough little book concerning the moral dilemma faced by an Israeli soldier as a Palestinian village is being cleared. The Palestinians are treated inhumanely, with little concern, the aim of the army is to improve the landscape (we can do more, we can do better seemed to be the basic feeling of the Israelis). The novel is relatively simple but wrenching, and I was startled to learn it was originally published in 1949 and remains a standard fixture in Israeli curricula.
Dec 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
A novella written by one of those involved in the '48 ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Poignant reading, particularly in the light of what has subsequently happened to the moral conscience of Israel. ...more
Gaurav Andreas
Aug 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2oth-century
If all that you seek from a book dealing with War/Conflict is a second-hand experience of it, then you couldn't do much better than Khirbet Khizeh. The prose is indelible; the length just right; the emotion precisely conveyed. Though the work is small, it is filled with allusions to Biblical and Jewish verses. Every sentence- be it one describing the pillage, the landscape, the internal emotions of passive dissenters, the resignation of the victims-carries some agony within it.

But one must ask,
Originally written and published in 1949, at the tail end of Israel's war of independence, this novella describes an Israeli army unit arriving at a small fictional Palestinian village and forcibly removing the inhabitants over the course of an afternoon and destroying houses. The author (Yizhar Smilansky, a Sabra from a literary family, who served in the Knesset for 17 years) served as an intelligence officer in such operations, and wrote the story from the perspective of an ordinary soldier. I ...more
S. Yizhar's prose-lyricism made this book a defining start to my year. The portrait of Israeli soldiers before and during an expulsion of Palestinians might have fallen to political idealism and moralistic preaching, but the way in which this tale is written presents a fleshier, more pained experience.

Yizhar is able to make that which is dust into flesh, with landscapes that reflect the pain and destruction inflicted upon its inhabitants. The torment of the inhabitants is understood through the
Raja Christian
Apr 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
S. Yizhar’s Khirbet Khizeh, set in 1948, tells the story of a unit of Israeli soldiers ordered to exile the occupants of the fictional Arab village of Khirbet Khizeh. Following the aftermath of Israel’s gruesome fight for independence, the chronicle follows a young unnamed soldier with a growing conviction that causes him to hate “the entirety of [his] being”(78) as he tries to make sense of what he and his fellow comrades are doing. Despite the narrator’s ever-growing internal conflict he conti ...more
Joe Ruvido
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Khirbet Khizeh is the All Quiet on the Western Front of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It could also be a chapter in The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien had that book taken place in the Levant in that it does not glorify war and paints a dim picture of the consequences of conflict. I won’t delve in to the muddy waters of the issues of territory and settlements in this review, but I will say that I believe that the book and its afterward portray the tragedy of conflict, war, and displacemen ...more
Asim Qureshi
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in May 1949, one year after the Nakba, this account by an Israeli soldier is a truly remarkable account. It details some of the horrors that took place, but I find it more remarkable for the reflections of S. Yizhar. Perhaps one of the most profound reflections comes late in the book, when he says:

“Something struck me like lightning. All at once everything seemed to mean something different, more precisely: exile. This was exile. This was what exile was like. This was what exile looked l
Gabrielle Jarrett
Jun 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Khirbet Khizeh is a victimized village in the Israeli takeover of Palestine, written in 1949. It is a beautiful poetic expression of one Israeli soldier's conflict over "why are we demolishing villages and exiling the people? And how does it end? The valley was calm...Tomorrow, both painful humiliation and helpless rage would turn into a kind of casual irritation, shameful, but fading fast."

The Afterword by David Shulman, (2007) the Israeli activist from Ta'ayush - the Arab-Jewish Partnership is
Oct 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Khirbet Khizeh is a Palestinian village being "evacuated" (forcibly seized and pillaged) by the Israeli army in the late 1940s. Narrated by a soldier who is both tied up in war crimes and sick to his stomach questioning the procedures, it is unsettling how the nationalism and boredom of these young soldiers plays out in predictable horrors of war (animal abuse, dehumanization, following unethical orders). And the ramifications of this incident are still very much happening today. Turmoil and exi ...more
Ahmed Mehrez
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
P.11: If this lying around continued, I feared that we would start to quarrel.

P.37: To abandon a village just like that! Man! If that was me instead of him, you‘d find me here with a rifle in my hand. For God‘s sake! I swear!...A great big village like this, and not even three real men!

P.37: One jeep—what are we here, just a jeep and a few men, and we take a whole village. Only the devil can understand them!

P.38: Look how many of them there are!? said the young guy. ?If they only wanted to, they
Lillian | lilreadsbigbooks
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
5 stars because I’m glad this was written and I’m glad I read it.

“She stifled her words with a desperate shriek, beating her chest with her free hand. She had suddenly understood, it seemed, that it wasn’t just about waiting under the sycamore trees to hear what the Jews wanted and then to go home, but that her home and her world had come to a full stop, and everything had turned dark and was collapsing; suddenly she had grasped something inconceivable, terrible, incredible, standing directly b
Eva Kristin
I appreciate that this novel created a lot of fuzz when it came out in 1949, but in 2017 it didn’t have a lot of effect on me. It could be the complicated poetic language, or the page long sentences that threw me, the result is that it just didn’t move me. Maybe it’s too short; I didn’t get to know anybody enough to really care about them. War is bad, and soldiers grow callused. I already knew that.
Aug 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I regret that I can't read this in the original Hebrew, as the afterword uses examples of how the images and language used in the original text have layers that I'll never see, and I think I'm the poorer for it. For all that this is relatively short, it's a striking retelling of a village being cleared and demolished, from the point of view of one if the soldiers doing the clearing. It's a compelling read, that's going to stick with me. ...more
Micah Winters
Sep 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brief but immensely and damningly haunting tale of an unsettled colonizer consciousness - ultimately a drama of existence within seemingly intractable tidal waves of oppression. Its notes resonate out from the Israeli conquest of Palestine, lending color and humanity to all such atrocities, which we too often reduce to the antipoetic plane of geopolitics.
Hannah M. J.
Dec 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thought-provoking, disturbing, and necessary dialogue on the moral ambiguity of war from the perspective of a young man who’s beginning to ask himself the bigger questions.

I picked this book up on a whim at a used bookstore, and I am so glad I did. This is one of those books that I know I will remember.
Pito Salas
May 26, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aborted
I didn't finish this. It was an interesting premise. Once I got the idea it was a little slow for me to stick with. I understand this is considered an important bit of literature in Israel. Not sure if it's like a high school reading assignment or considered serious literature. I didn't see it myself. ...more
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Read a few years ago for a class called “Yearning for Zion” which was about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This powerful novella, while technically fictional, is so based in truth and real events, that it is one of the best writings on the Nakba from an Israeli perspective.
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Yizhar Smilansky (Hebrew: יזהר סמילנסקי‎, 27 September 1916 – 21 August 2006), known by his pen name S. Yizhar (Hebrew: ס. יזהר‎), was an Israeli writer and politician.

Yizhar Smilansky was born in Rehovot to a family of writers. His great uncle was Israeli writer Moshe Smilansky. His father, Zev Zass Smilensky, was also a writer. After earning a degree in education, Yizhar taught in Yavniel, Ben S

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