Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 175
A Beggar in Jerusalem by Elie Wiesel analyzes and tries to articulate, or at the very least make sense of, the history of suffering by the Jewish people. The protagonist of the novel is aimless and feels an existential crisis that is rooted in horrific memories of World War II, particularly survival's guilt after the Holocaust.
A Beggar in Jerusalem ponders the Jewish people's place in the world. Before and after the Holocaust, Jews were considered unwanted guests in various countries. In Europe, they were persecuted, which led to genocide. Post-Holocaust, the Jews were discriminated against and even made to feel unwanted in the UK, the Middle East (the Jewish ancestral region), and other parts of the world.
This provoked a sense of collective alienation among the Jewish people, akin to a macro-level version of being an unwanted orphan. Wiesel tries to understand the history and causes of Jewish suffering, and he concludes that existential remedies and enlightenment among Jewish people can be found through humor and embracing their outcast branding to create Jewish unity.