Himmo, King of Jerusalem – The Closing Scene

Amos Guttman
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In his book, Himmo, King of Jerusalem, Yoram Kaniuk recalled the trauma of the Independence War as he set out to settle his long-open score with it. He fought in that war as a combat soldier with the Palmach, hurt his leg in battle during the ill-fated attempt to seize control of the Old City and was treated in a monastery-turned-hospital which gave him the inspiration for his book, including the character of a critically-injured soldier. The epilogue of his novel is set 12 years after the war. Chamutal finally makes it to Jerusalem and discovers a place where people have ice cream. Life goes on.

In Israeli mythology, 1948 remains a highly charged topic: an idea; a longing; a dream; a promise unrealised; an opportunity missed. Guttman, a Transylvanian immigrant himself, once said that for him, 1948 holds no myths. “I wasn’t interested in what things were actually like back then. In Himmo, I didn’t feel like I was hitting some kind of national nerve. For work purposes, I dropped the ‘the’ people always put before the year .” It is therefore unsurprising that Guttman opted for an altogether different ending: the siege of Jerusalem is broken; the wounded soldiers abandon the makeshift hospital, and the mute daughter of the monastery’s caretaker is seen walking down the waterlogged corridor, holding her amputee doll – Guttman’s ironic way of saying that life has indeed resumed.

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