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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 380

The characters of A Beggar In Jerusalem are:

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David ben Sarah: David is the first-person narrator of the novel. He often directs his rhetorical questions to the reader. In the book, David tells the story of his army friend Katriel, who did not survive the Six Day War. He tells Katriel's story because of his promise to the latter and his belief that Katriel's indomitable spirit lives on in him. Throughout the book, David uses madmen and beggars as allegorical figures to support his main theme: that the Jews have an important role as the heralds of mankind. In the story, David is attracted to Malka, Katriel's widow. Through her, he understands that love is a double-edged sword: it is as much a hindrance as it is a solution.

Katriel: Katriel is David's former army friend. In the book, Katriel is said to be missing in action (MIA). We get glimpses of Katriel's character from David's stories. In the book, David portrays Katriel as an honorable, self-sacrificing man. He and his wife Malka endure the loss of their son Sasha with courage and dignity. Katriel was a loving husband and father throughout all twenty years of his married life. In fact, his primary focus was his family. In the book, we learn that Katriel signs up to fight in the Six Day War because of his father's expectations. David admits that he envies Katriel's intrinsic ability to "magnify the human element in a world without humanity."

Malka: Malka is Katriel's widow. In the book, she shadows David until he finally sees her. Malka represents the perfect woman, one who is virtuous, powerful, and beautiful. To the beggars, she is the epitome of grace and beauty, a divine inspiration. Meanwhile, to Katriel, she is his long-suffering wife, one who patiently endures the vicissitudes of life without flinching. Both share a transcending love until they are parted by tragedy.

Moshe, Itzik, Shlomo, Zadok, Velvel, and Dan(the beggars): In the book, the beggars invite David into their inner circle. They accept his vulnerability and see him as someone who understands the "madness" of the Jew. This "madness" is defined as the ability of the Jew to transcend suffering with defiant laughter. Fittingly, the beggars christen Malka the queen of madmen and beggars.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 590

David ben Sarah

David ben Sarah, a wanderer and first-person narrator of the novel. A survivor of the Holocaust, the forty-year-old David is rebellious and skeptical of any value in a world that has lost its innocence. He is filled with memories of his childhood and spends much of his time exchanging tales and testimonies with a group of beggars in Jerusalem. At the outbreak of the Six-Day War, he joins a tank unit commanded by an old friend. Soon after meeting Katriel, another member of the unit, David makes a pact with him that if one of them should survive the war, he will bear witness for the other. David’s tale, then, is a process of bearing witness for Katriel, a man whom he envies for his compulsion to magnify humanity in an inhuman world.


Katriel, a teacher who goes back into the army to fight in the Six-Day War at the insistence of his father, a blind rabbi from Safed. Tall, slim, and quiet, Katriel knows how to tell tales and how to listen to them. He loves life and the mystery of life, despite the death of his child Sasha. He is distinguished by his power to affirm the dearness of life, and in this lies his importance to David. At the time of the war, he has been married for twenty years. the one thing that most disturbs him during the war is that he has had to kill others. When the war is over, he is missing in action, leaving David to tell his story.


Malka, Katriel’s wife, a strong and beautiful woman. She met Katriel...

(The entire section contains 1653 words.)

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Critical Essays