Books: Shoah satire crosses line into nasty territory

By Michael J. Feuer

“My Holocaust” by Tova Reich (HarperCollins, $24.95).

About a year after Yigal Yadin and his team discovered the startling ruins of Masada — the last holdout of a group of Jewish Zealots who in 70 C.E., who preferred collective suicide to Roman oppression — my parents were invited to tour the mountaintop with an expert guide.

For Yadin, the unearthed cisterns and synagogues offered surely the most thrilling validation of his career as historian and archeologist. Walking amid this first-century village, inspecting the architecture and annotations, remembering the details of King Herod’s reign, reading remnants of scrolls (from Deuteronomy!), and trying to imagine the awful last days of Jews for whom “live free or die” was a code 17 centuries before New Englanders made it fashionable, was awe-inspiring, to say the least.

Then a busload of American Jewish tourists, probably a Hadassah group, arrived. These characters were straight out of central casting: plaid shorts, baseball caps, loud blouses, cameras dangling, big mouths. As if scripted by Woody Allen or Larry David, one of the tourists looked around the dig atop this hill overlooking the Dead Sea — a hill bursting with history and Jewish civilization that evoked deep ideological questions about the meaning of freedom and survival — and in perfect Brooklynese offered this epiphany to her tour mates: “You know, it’s nice. But the Grand Canyon’s a lot betta.”