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The Unlikely Blessings of Living on Borrowed Time in a Leased Land 411

Palestine is brutally shattered by the military might of Arabic troops,

while their romance with Zionism, and the ideology of Jewish

exceptionalism it endorses, is ruthlessly disrupted. As they fail to

actualize their Jewish exceptionalism by attaching it to a divinely

ordained land, they can only sustain their romance with Jewish

exceptionalism by suturing their loss with other ideologies that can

better articulate their long-held notion of Jewish exceptionalism. It

is in this void, caught in between a broken romance, a deferred

dream, and an alternative dream or romance that is yet to be

invented, that the Alaskan Jews

both the first-wave and the

second-wave immigrants

find themselves trapped between two

losses: the loss of a grand dream that makes them exceptional, and

the failure to imagine an alternative dream to supplant the broken


This strenuous work at articulating an ideology of Jewish

exceptionalism to suture the contradictions and ambivalence of the

Jewish experience of being always already excepted, first by the Nazi

Germany that has excepted them, then by the Arabs who have

destroyed their newly established nation, and finally by the U.S. that

has exiled them, throws them into a chronic state of melancholia.

Different groups react differently to their losses. The majority of

Jews simply resign themselves to their fate, trying to take for granted

the statelessness that is considered by some to be their diasporic

destiny, as they busy themselves either applying for permanent

residence in the States or seeking to move to another land.

Landsman’s Uncle Hertz chooses to go native,

a la mode

of Kurtz in

Joseph Conrad’s

Heart of Darkness

, and works single-handedly to

obtain Permanent Status for Alaskan Settlement. In other words,

other than those who resign to a fate as wandering Jews, many

Alaskan Jews choose to attach themselves to the fantasy of the

nation-state, believing that their problems would be solved either

through assimilation into the US or by the establishment of a Zionist

state in Palestine.

Exceptionalism and faith in Jewish redemption become strange