Avrom Bendavid-Val has written a concise, compelling and historically relevant book, regarding the town of Trochenbrod, Ukraine, with his compelling book, The Heavens Are Empty: Discovering the Lost Town of Trochenbrod.
It is a work of non-fiction, written with fantastic prose that evoked vivid word-imagery in this reader’s eyes. The initial description of the street was filled with in depth details that fascinated me.
The town/village had one street about two miles long. It was an agricultural town, and, so, behind the houses and/or shop fronts, were acres of land, owned by Jews. Those Jews had managed to carve out a living for themselves, and live totally unburdened by “gentiles”. From leather goods and tanning, to produce and milk, the Jewish community fended for themselves, and managed to live decently.
The entire town was made up of Jewish individuals, except for one or two adults. This was amazing, in and of itself. Those adults were the ones who lit the lights during Shabbat, took care of the ovens, did the things that the Jews, due to religious traditions and beliefs, were not permitted to do on Shabbat and on the Sabbath.
The street was constantly filled with “mud”, as the reader is informed throughout the pages of witness statements. It was almost comical how often “mud” is mentioned. It left a deep impression, decades later, on those who had lived there, in more ways than one. It also left an impression on me.
From documents and data, to witness statements, the foundation of Trochenbrod is detailed with information that needed to be told. It is a poignant story, often heart-wrenching, yet one that is an important story in the realm of history.
For those of you that wish to understand the history of what once was, and no longer is, The Heavens Are Empty is the perfect book to educate yourself regarding the events that unfolded. Not only were the events horrific and filled with contempt and the murderous rage of thousands of Jews, but they led to the obliteration of Trochenbrod off of the face of the planet, literally.