Irreverent fear

Chanoch Daum breaks the unholy silence surrounding the religious settlers' community.

lo marshe book 88 2224 (photo credit: )
lo marshe book 88 2224
(photo credit: )
Elohim Lo Marshe (God Won't Allow) By Chanoch Daum Yedioth Ahronoth/Sifrei Hemed 213 pages; NIS 88 The first reaction this book causes is embarrassment. The back page promises "a revealing monologue, comprising four apologies, which reveal the process the author went through on his departure from religious observance, the departure from his community [the settlers], his life in the shadow of a dominant father whom he tried to please and finally the revelation of his use of psychiatric drugs." The implication that Chanoch Daum lives in a world where intimate revelations are the minimum price one has to pay for attention didn't bode well. The former Ma'ariv and current Yediot Aharonot columnist's apologies are in the form of four very personal letters. The first is addressed to his father, Yehezkel, who died when Daum was 18. It took the 31-year-old Daum 56 pages, but put into a few sentences, Daum's father was very dominant, and he tried - and always felt he failed - to please him. This includes when he almost starved and froze in yeshiva and nearly died in the army. Daum always feared disappointing his father and therefore took the path expected of him. His father never noticed Daum junior's distress and continued with his community duties as rabbi of Ramat Magshimim, their hometown in the Golan Heights. The description of his miserable life at the yeshiva also includes an almost homosexual experience, which the TV news wouldn't bother placing at the top of its lineup anymore. Then comes the apology - to Daum's community, the religious settlers. Since he became a successful columnist, his exposure to the outside world has led him to conclude that religious life, with all its strict demands, and the separateness of the settlers' ideological world required too many sacrifices of him. And because he is still, at heart, a little boy anxious to impress his father, Daum, who now lives in Alon Shvut, will turn on his computer or sneak a cigarette on Shabbat only when all his family members are asleep. Then Daum moves to God, and this apology quickly turns into an indictment against Him in particular and religious observance in general. This part is a little bit more convincing, as Daum elaborates on his struggle with the demands of religion that sometimes quench his genuine longing for true belief. But then comes the worst. In what seems like a desperate attempt to prove to his new nonreligious and left-wing friends that he is afraid of nothing, Daum writes a very intimate letter of apology to his wife. "You married a settler, a yeshiva student who planned to become an educator. But it all crashed in the course of the deep changes I am undergoing. Is it really fair, is it permitted, isn't it an unfaithful thing to do to a beloved wife?" He adds details about the psychiatric drugs he takes for obsessive compulsive disorder, noting that in his community, this is a secret that should be allowed to be revealed. His beloved wife was apparently unaware that these details would be included in the book, and learned, together with the rest of the world, a few interesting facts about her husband. Couples, if their relationship is solid, can overcome even more than this. But as readers, don't we deserve a little more than an exercise in "how to make peace with your father, your community and your God and surprise your wife" for our literary leisure?