The Human Face of Conflict
Why did you write this book?
I wanted to portray the excruciating ethical and existential dilemmas that torment Israelis on a daily, hourly, basis. In the Middle East, people wage wars over perspectives. I want my readers to sit in Arab back yards and hear the dialogue, to sit on Jewish balconies and hear the dialogue. I wanted to bring my readers into Israeli homes, to experience for themselves the hope, the joy, and the pain.
What are you working on now?
I am at the beginning phases of my next novel.
Can you tell us something about it?
Not really. Only, perhaps, that it is a spin-off of one of the characters.
Why are your three main characters women?
Israel is surrounded by enemy countries, forced for its survival to rely on its necessary male reaction, the military. My book reflects an equally necessary, female, nurturing response, one that accompanies and challenges the all too often, but essential, hard line. In my mind, only with a fusion of healthy masculine and feminine energies, will Israel maintain stability in the area.
Do you think your book is one-sided?
I can only write what I know. My experience, and the extension of my knowledge, is all I have. Israela might well have been titled, Israela: A Perspective. As I say in the
novel, “Wars are fought over perspectives.” Israela is an invitation to openhearted dialogue. Mostly, it is a story of passionate people under the constant threat of war.
What, in your mind, is the major question raised by your book?
How can these two peoples overcome hostility while remaining loyal to their cultures?
What political solutions does the book come up with?
None. Israela is a work of fiction. It paints a picture. It raises questions. I am neither a politician, nor a historian. However, my previous book (Electra: A Gender Sensitive Study of the Plays Based on the Myth, South Carolina, McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers, 1995) develops the same Jungian fusion of male and female principles that I emphasize here.
· Why there has not been peace in the Middle East – and why there may never be.
· Why she used the format of a novel to get her message out.
· What we should know about the everyday existence of ordinary people who live in a nation under siege.
· How similar Arabs and Jews can be and how they can help one another.
· How she wrote a story line of a family torn apart in a country at war.
· How we can start an openhearted dialogue over the conflict.
· Whether two peoples can overcome hostility while remaining loyal to their cultures.
Batya says: “Many history books and political treatises have been written about Israel. They are written, I believe, for the informed. My book is written in fictional form specifically for those who read neither history books nor political treatises. It is an attempt to portray the beauty of the country and the temerity and earnestness of a people who live (like too many others, unfortunately) under the constant threat of war. It is not a history book. It is a story of individuals like you and me, living under threat and searching for the right path.”
Israela tells a story of humanity, passion and conflict in Israel, much like The Kite Runner tells the story of Afghanistan.
A resident of Los Angeles, Casper is the author of a new novel, Israela. Her previous book was published in 1995, Electra: A Gender Sensitive Study of the Plays Based on the Myth.
Batya is a director and actress. She also teaches theater. She has directed several plays in Israel, including Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and Athol Fugard’s Playground, both mentioned in her new book. She earned a BA, summa cum laude, in English literature, and has a Masters and a Ph.D. in theater Arts from UCLA.
Batya taught Hebrew literature and biblical studies at an adult education center in St. Louis and she taught Hebrew to adults in Boston. She also worked as an Assistant to the Cultural Attache of Israel in Boston, as the coordinator of educational programs for exchange students between U.S. and Israel.
Contact: Planned Television Arts
Brian Feinblum 212-583-2718 email@example.com
Selected Excerpts, Israela
If only a rainbow would come down to us from a cloud.
If only there’d be a repair for this world.
If only our gift would not be lost forever.
If only the desert would grow grass, a lawn.
If only we could still sit in the shade of the fig tree.
If only we could not hurt.
And each would love his brother.
If only they would reopen the gates of Eden.
If only East and West would merge.
If only our days here would be renewed as of old.
If only one nation wouldn’t lift its sword against another.
If only we wouldn’t abandon the path of hope.
If only man could be merciful till evening.
If only we had a single possibility of love.
Friday, three strange men in leather jackets come brooding from the mosque. “Life is good here,” they tell us, smiling, looking round my apartment, thanking me for the coffee I offer them, turning round to check that the couch is behind them, before they sit, “We’re prospering.” When they’ve drunk their coffee and admired my daughters, they say, “Yet look what has happened. Israelis own the country.”
“They’ve owned it since ‘forty-eight,” Ibrahim tells them, “Don’t worry. Life isn’t bad for Israeli Arabs.”
“We’re not Israeli Arabs,” says the one with the scar over his brow. “You and us all, we’re Palestinian Israelis.”
Well, that’s new, I think, pulling my mind away, semantics. Wars are fought over semantics.
When they’ve eaten my cookies, they say, “The day the Jews were thrown out of Europe was a dark day for the Arabs.”
“Palestine was promised to the Jews before the Holocaust,” I mutter. I can’t help myself.
Ibrahim lowers his brows. His eyes grow dark. The scar over his lip whitens.
“Sweetness,” he says, turning away from the men so they can’t hear him, “how can I talk to you? You have no sympathy left for our people.”
“That’s not true,” I whisper. “I love our people. I love you. I’m just being objective.”
“Don’t be objective,” he tells me. “Be Arab.”
A Secret’s Burden
“I’ve been waiting to hear from you. You were going to tell my sister you know about me. About her.”
He lowers himself into his metal chair, his head in his hands, on his desk. Then, “I don’t understand her,” he says, looking directly at me, a child’s whiny tone to his voice, as though begging me for an answer. “I thought we had the perfect relationship. I thought Ratiba was perfect. Now I find out, she’s not even Ratiba.”
“Why didn’t you tell her?”
His voice hardens. “Your sister married me under false pretenses. She lied to me, to my father.”
“So why don’t you tell her?”
“This is the path she has chosen,” he says. “She’s going to have to live with it.”
“Until she tells me the truth.”
“But I want my sister back.”
Examine Your Views
“Can we women express an opinion?” I said. Then, “Is what you’re saying now your view or the one you’ve been spoon-fed since you were a child?”
Sarima lunged toward me: “What’s the matter with you?” she hissed. The professor focused the full force of his attention on me and glowered. “I warned all of you to scrutinize your motivations before committing yourselves to a point of view,” he said, “any point of view. I told you that until each of us drops our anger, until each of us really sees the other, there will never be peace in this region. Personal relationships are the same as politics, Ratiba, viewed through a narrower lens.”
Building A Wall
“Why are you closing us behind a wall?”
“Because we’ve had enough of your bombs, your killings.”
“How can you determine where to build it? The fence is cutting into our land. You should have asked us.”
“Yes? Whom should we have asked when we had no partner for peace? When you were sending suicide bombers against us?”
“We’ve been here for thirty years,” Oody is saying. “We’ve lived under terrorism, have cultivated arable land into farms and orchards. We’ve erected guard posts, from which we can detect terrorists before they cross the border. Why are we the bad ones? Because the Palestinians don’t want us here? They don’t want us anywhere in the Middle East. Perhaps we should all pack our bags and leave? The last one out should do what Ephraim Kishon, the cartoonist, predicted years ago: switch the lights off behind him.”
Worse things are happening. A group emerges among the settlers, frustrated at the amount of attacks they have to endure. They are accused of plotting revenge against their Arab neighbors, are brought to court, found guilty, sentenced.”
The Israeli Army
“In the army, I served in Gaza. The Palestinians were smuggling explosives and armament through underground tunnels from Egypt into Israel, beneath people’s homes. Our job was to drive around in tanks, to explode those tunnels, to warn the residents that their houses – the houses above the tunnels – would be destroyed. Gaza was nothing but rubble, dust-choking clouds and devastation, the roar of tanks, the smell of disaster. No work. No infrastructure. Little food. Less water. The Arabs hated us. Their hatred crackled in the air, shot at us like bullets from their eyes. Every corner was a turn into death. All that the women and children understood of their misery was that we, the soldiers in Israeli uniforms were the devil. We were there to destroy their lives. Little babies who could barely walk, couldn’t yet talk in sentences, knew whom to hate.
“Whom do you hate/’ their mothers would hiss, stopping deliberately in front of our tanks, refusing to move away. ‘The Israelis,’ they lisped, lisped, before they could even pronounce the letter S.”
I’m small. Tiny, actually, compared to those who live in my neighborhood. My eyes are brown. Tresses hang low over my shoulders hugging my frame in different shades of greens, browns, reds. I am delicate, but I am surrounded by giants who desire and hate me, who grab at parts of me, who want to cut me up into separate halves, like the women with the baby in Solomon’s proverbial tale. They want to possess me, annihilate me, rename me. I am long waisted, narrow. Looking at me, then, you’d think I was fragile. And I’m really rather shy. Yet people have been shouting over me since my birth which was a long, long time ago. They’ve fought each other to the death, killing each other, over and over, in my name. For centuries, they’ve built me up, torn me down, serenaded me, adored me, even. They’ve mauled me, scorched my skin and my hair. They’ve dug into my deepest entrails, hiding things there, only to dig them up again later, which by all accounts is abuse of the worst kind. Then, over and over, when I least expect it, because it usually happens after a particularly painful struggle, they decorate me in flags, celebrate my existence, dance and sing around me as though I were still a young bride, which I’m not. Abusive husbands are like that. One moment they’re beating you up until you are nothing but a bunch of crushed bones, the next they’re making love to you, begging you to forgive them, to feed them, not to leave them. As though I had some place else to go. You’d think I’d have learned to expect this kind of treatment by now. But, no, it always catches me by surprise.
Today, more than ever, they pour casts over my stomach, ugly casts that feel like iron braces over my still-fertile womb, casts that are expanding at an alarming rate, threatening to cut off my circulation, so I can barely breathe, so now I’m nothing more than an old woman in a chastity belt. So far I’ve survived that too.
People claim they have God-given rights over me, which makes me feel that, despite my age and the many beatings I’ve taken, I must still be quite beautiful or desirable or even rich in some unique way. Still, I never asked for this attention. I wish, I pray to God, my God, Elokim, my companion and lover, I pray that my suitors – those that desire and those that hate me – leave me in peace.
For centuries, I was barren, used only as a desert track for dreamers to cling to, for prophets to get lost in and find their vision, for nomads to wander through on their way to some better place; used as a meeting point for smugglers and thieves.
Today, I hear agents of violence, and I remember the future. I rumble with fear. In my heart, I call to their mothers, “Take your sons to our houses. Bind them to your chairs, gag them, blindfold them if necessary until they grow calm. Then teach them, for they have forgotten, about peace, about the blessed life, about a future – a present – without pain.”
Beneath their prayers, in their morning cups of coffee, beneath their love-making and their child-rearing, and in their sorrow, especially in their sorrow when burying their dead, I hear the simmering of heating souls, I smell the charge of armies, of lives exploding uselessly into smithereens. I sit in mourning over a disaster still to come.
“Of course, ‘tis common, all that lives must die,” she says. ‘That’s the equanimity we feel for the pain of others. Don’t you see? When it is our own loved one, when the death is particular to ourselves, Lishy, we are catapulted into an experience of loss so painful, it defies the boundaries dividing this world from the next. If we could only experience the deaths of others with the same pain we have for our own dead and departed, we would not be able to tolerate violence. Don’t you see? There would be global forbidding of the shedding of blood. Human beings around the world would put a stop to it. Wars would be abolished – too much pain. The lion would lie down with the lamb.”
Orit stops talking.
For a moment or two, neither of us says a word. The refrigerator purrs in its corner. Then, “You know,” she says, her voice soft, self-effacing, almost shy, “I don’t mean to sound grandiose or anything, Lishy, but that is the real task of the actor – to bring universal suffering home to the audience with the poignancy of the personal, to bring it to them, that is, with the unique gift that is Shakespeare.”
I sit next to my friend, overwhelmed by her passion. I love her so much.
· There are 21 separate countries that represent the Arab world. Israel is the only Jewish nation among them.
· Arab nations declared four separate wars against Israel: 1948 War of Independence, 1956 Sinai War, 1967 Six Day War, 1973 Yom Kippur War. Israel won all of the wars.
· April 25, 1982: Israel withdrew from the Sinai pursuant to the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.
· Israel no longer occupies Gaza. In August 22, 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza leaving behind enough hothouses and equipment to supply the entire country with organic food, food which Israel had exported to Europe, and which could have gone a long way to help the Palestinians prosper.
· Geography: Israel lies just along the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Lebanon.
· Israel is 20,770 square miles (about the size of New Jersey).
· The climate is mostly hot and dry, especially in the desert areas.
· It is best known for its natural resources: natural gas, phosphate rock, clay and sand
· As of 2010, population is 7,473,052. Annual population growth rate: 1.584%.
· In 1948, 11% of the Israeli population was Arab. In the 1950s, due to the large Jewish immigration of that period, the Arab population fell to as low as !0%. Today, Israeli Arabs comprise nearly 18% of the Israeli population. This percentage includes the Arabs of Jerusalem who were annexed into Israel as a result of the ‘1967 war.
· Capital: Jerusalem – it’s also a major travel city (aside from Tel Aviv).
· Life expectancy: 80.96 years (78.79 for males, 83.24 for females).
· Literacy rate: 97.1% (98.5% for males, 95.9% for females – 15 & over can read/write).
· The government is a parliamentary democracy.
· Independence Day: May 14, 1948.
· GDP: $219.4 billion; Employment rate: 6.4% ; 23.6% live below the poverty line.
· War of Independence: Involved Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Syria, each entering in 1948
and exiting just one year later. Israel entered 140,000 strong, Egypt and Syria had the most at 300,000 each. Israel lost the most, some 6,373 troops.
· Sinai of 1956: Israel, Britain, Egypt, and France, entering and exiting in 1956. Egypt entered with 300,000 troops and left with 297,000, Israel lost 231 and France 10.
· Six Day War: Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Syria. War literally lasted 6 days, taking place in 1967, with Israel losing the least amount of troops this time at just 776.
· Yom Kippur War: Once again it was Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Syria. Syria lost 8,000, Israel lost 2,688, and Egypt and Iraq each lost 5,000.
Q&A With Batya
1. Batya, you tackle an important issue of the day, the Israel-Arab conflict, in your new novel, Israela. What inspired you to write about this?
It was 2003. I was sitting at my kitchen table at the end of the second Intifada, the Arab uprising against Israel. Like so many of us, I couldn’t get the images of buses, restaurants – of people bursting into flames, out of my mind. I was thinking of the pain Israelis had lived through, were living through, and contrasting that with the black-and-white condemnations of Israel that I hear so frequently in the US. I understand people around the world being infuriated when they hear stories of Arab oppression, believing perhaps, that the Israel problem is a mirror of the American civil rights issue. Israel is an incredibly complex place, a tiny country with a passionate people of complicated cultural heritage who are battling not only to accommodate conflicting cultural heritages, but to appease those who have no interest in compromise. No answers are simple. I wanted to portray for my readers the Israel I know – a country the size of New Jersey, its simple beauty, and its people who take every political decision seriously, cognizant at all times that each path chosen affects the survival of themselves and others. I wanted to flatten the playing field, to de-demonize both sides of this age-old enmity, to portray Israelis and Israeli-Arabs as human beings living side by side under constant hostilities and bouts of war; living under the shadow of the Hamas , which is to Israel what Al Queda is to the US and the rest of the free world.
2. So, you wrote a book about ordinary people and what they endure while living in a war zone?
Yes. I was agonizing over the constant threat that hangs over our lives. How can we leave this world to our children? I thought - a world in which civilizations are rushing toward hell in the proverbial hand basket? In which death, for some, is truly chosen over life? How can we sustain our love of life? Our liberties? The equal rights for all that we hold in such high esteem? More to the point, I wondered, is it true that equal rights for one group preclude those of the next? Are we violating that value? How? Can we stop that? And where do we draw the line? I realized that horrors such as these are as old as history itself.
3. Why did you choose to use the medium of a novel to get your message out, instead of a play or a non-fiction book?
I didn’t want to write a history book or a political treatise. They have been, and are being, written all the time. In my opinion, such works of scholarship – while wonderful - are written for those who are well acquainted with the area, and who have already picked their “side” on the political chessboard. I wanted to write for those who read neither history books, nor follow politics, but who don’t know what to make of the frequent news bulletins. I wanted to create a story of individuals trapped in a drama of epic, if not tragic proportions. I wanted to sit my reader on Israeli balconies and in Palestinian backyards. I wanted them to hear the conversations of Arabs and Jews. I wanted them to taste the hunger of all the good people who live in that land, for peace, for a good life for their children; and I wanted them to feel the threat of fundamentalists breathing down their necks. All of their necks, whether it be by means of guilt, as with the Israeli Arabs, or with open violence. I wanted my readers to understand from the mouths of Arabs and Jews, how contradictory their histories and their cultures are, so that they - my readers - will be able to ask for themselves whether and how two such people can live together in this fragmented corridor of land no larger than New Jersey, surrounded by enemies.
4. Even though the American news media covers the Israel-Palestinian conflict, what do you feel is missing from the attention given to this problem?
I keep thinking of Ireland. For 500 years the Protestants fought with the Catholics in Ireland. Uprisings, random rockets and constant battles would be reported on the media, yet other than for a few platitudes and black-and-white perspectives, few of us ever really knew what they were fighting for, nor, if truth were told, did we care to find out. And so it is with the Israel/Arab conflict. The media conveys its messages in short, pithy sound bites, picking from their computers those tidbits of information that will have the most sensational effect, then they chew those tidbits to pieces, in hour-long debates. In Israela, I try to show the history, the traditions, the fears and prayers and the fight for the “good life” under war that Israelis experience, often on a daily basis.
5. What do you believe is the solution? How can peace be brought to the Middle East?
The truth? I don’t think peace can be brought to the Middle East, that is – not between Israel and her neighbors. There is too much hatred. It is too widespread and too embedded into the culture of the Middle East. The question is harder than the one you pose, much harder. It is, how can Israel endure? How can its people go on sacrificing its children to war knowing there will not be peace? There are 21 Arab lands but only one Jewish state. Israelis have nowhere else to call home, and without a home, they will fall prey as before to the hostility of host countries.
6. Your family moved to Israel in 1956 – 55 years ago. You have lived on and off there, and now visit from California twice a year. Almost since the birth of the Jewish state (1948), you have witnessed historical events there. But has anything really changed?
A great deal. For the first time since antiquity we are witnessing the miracle of having three generations of Israelis together in their own land; for the first time, Israelis are able to control their destiny and defend themselves. Fortunately, the grandchildren of the original 1948 generation have experienced neither life in the Diaspora, nor the holocaust. They do not remember the necessity of a homeland. They don’t remember the wars that caused our map to change and change again. They, like the rest of us, are impatient for peace. Reality has its own strange laws. History has been rewritten, and it is the rewritten version that is their guidebook.
7. You have lived in many parts of the world, including Scotland, England, and South Africa. What have your international experiences taught you about life?
If I have learned anything at all, I have learned that other than for the terrorists, the suicide bombers, and those radicals who idealize warfare, hatred and death; other than for them and the people who’ve been inculcated by them into a mindset of hatred, people everywhere are the same. Human beings want peace and prosperity for their children. They want to have love and meaning in their lives. And they want food on the table. The Palestinians need their state too. They also deserve peace. If only the fundamentalists who call themselves leaders would stop robbing their people’s resources, robbing their freedom of thought, and the finances necessary to build them a home
8. In your new book, Israela, you take an interesting approach. The story is divided into three stories being told at the same time. You share those connected tales in a way in which the chronology of years does not evenly match up. Why did you choose this method?
I play with two major themes in Israela: time, and names (which are souls), hence the Nietzsche quote at the beginning. In Israela, each of us comes into our present tense when we no longer look to the future for our lives to begin, and before we start looking backward, and so it is that the three main characters have different present tenses. They simply come into their own at different stages of their lives. Also, in the second book of Israela, Ratiba goes from her earlier days, 1966, in which she’d fallen in love with Ibrahim, (past tense), to her newly married status and her childrearing (present,) until she reaches middle age and the birth of Hamzah, her son, 1982. These scenes are interspersed with those of Elisheva’s nursing days, and Avrohm, her patient’s, stories, all of which take place in 1982; for it is then, while lying on his deathbed in Elisheva’s hospital ward, that Avrohm records his life. Ratiba’s son, Hamzah, is conceived as Avrohm dies. Avrohm’s soul, as evidenced by the timing and by the physical similarity that they share, has passed into the newborn child. In this book, souls recognize no borders. I also play with names. The most obvious, of course, are Avrohm and Ibrahim, Jewish and Arabic words for their shared biblical ancestor, father of both religions. I also refer to Isaac and Isma’il and their biblical stories. In Israela, Isma’il and Isaac are the Best Men at Orit’s wedding. Will they relive the biblical story that set us all off on the wrong foot in the first place? Will they be compelled by irreconcilable hostility to repeat it? Or is this an opportunity to change that story altogether, to move on to the next historical chapter? For sure, the novel offers no answers.
9. One of the compelling stories in your book features two sisters who grow apart when one sister turns her back on her Jewish heritage to marry an Arab. How challenging was it for you to write in the mindset of such a woman?
It was challenging. First because I truly believe there is little of myself in Ratiba. Second, because I was afraid I’d be accused of writing something I know so little about. Then I remembered that writers of murder mysteries or star-crossed lovers are not necessarily murderers or lovers themselves. I decided to write her as a human being, as all of us are, and everything I wanted to say fell into place. Good metaphor for life, no?
10. In your book you write poetically of what Israel stands for and what it needs to be. What does Israel mean to you?
I am still of the generation that remembers the dreams and sacrifices our parents made for the creation of the state; I know that Israel was given by the nations of the free world as a homeland to the Jews. I also remember why. Israel, I believe, has realized her dreams to a level that way exceeds her early expectations of nation building. The challenge remaining is how to find a meaningful and mutually acceptable language with the Palestinians – not with those who openly deny our existence, and claim Israel as their own, but with those who want to live in peace. Despite everything, Israel’s challenge is to live in harmony, if not with the hostile nations that surround her, at least with its Palestinian neighbors.
11. What do people fail to realize about how people try to live their lives in a country that is always on the verge of violence? - The temerity, the incredible soul-searching and earnestness with which Israelis struggle over political and social issues; for they do struggle. Soul-searching is a national pastime. Daily, often hourly, while fighting to defend their country, mourning their lost ones, and celebrating life with those they love, while maintaining their right to live on that land, they struggle to maintain their humanity.
12. What are some of your most frightening memories of your time in Israel?
All wars are frightening, especially for children. It is not fun to crowd into shelters, to hear sirens and planes roar overhead, to wear gasmasks, to hear rockets fall. The intifadas were scary too. People literally left their homes in the morning, not knowing what bus or coffee house would burst into flame, or whether they’d see their loved-ones again. My teenage niece visited me during the Intifada. I was teasing her about dating, telling her that she’d be married in a few years. She said she was as likely to be dead as married. Israelis evacuated Gaza on August 22, 2005. Before then, Israeli soldiers would roll into Gaza with their tanks warning civilians that they planned to destroy their homes, homes that stood guard over the tunnels through which Arabs smuggled bombs, rockets and explosives into Gaza. Arab women and children lived in terror. To them, the “evil” Israelis were the source of all their troubles. Wars are terrifying for them too.
13. One of the themes expressed in your book touches upon the notion of how individuals live with secrets and how doing so can tear apart the very things they’d hoped to protect. Tell us about that.
For that, I think you’ll have to read the book. Israela is about lies, secrets, and alienation. It is also about heroism, about Arabs who save Jews from disaster, and Jews who heal Arabs.
14. Batya, how did you use your experience as a director, actor and theater teacher to write your book?
I believe that the purpose of theater is the dramatization of the human being’s deepest concerns and the confrontation of those concerns with society. Conflict is the heart of theater; without conflict there can be no theater. My deepest concerns lie in the unending conflict of Israel and its neighbors. It is these concerns that I try to evoke by means of my characters.
15. Your book demonstrates how Arabs save Jews and Jews heal Arabs. Is it just a fairy tale or can we make this a reality?
No. It is not a fairy tale. All those scenes of Arabs saving Jews, and Jews healing Arabs, are true – except for the story of Hamzah – which brings us back to my original point: Good people are everywhere.
16. Why did you write this book?
Wherever I go, I hear condemnations of Israel, mostly from people who are ignorant of the area and of the excruciating ethical and existential dilemmas that torment Israelis on a daily, hourly, basis. Everyone has their perspective; wars are fought over perspectives.
17. What surprised you the most as you researched and wrote it?
I originally launched into this project out of my own need to trace the trajectory of modern Israel since its inception, to see how, if, and where, this tiny state has gone wrong. Consequently, in its original form, it contained a great deal of history, material that has since been deleted, for much to my surprise, Israela took me into areas I had not foreseen. It became a work of fiction. Thinking, talking, passionate characters emerged, as did imaginary actions: acts of love, betrayal, heroism, secrets and surprising twists of plot. Israela took on a life of her own which, it now seems to me, provides a far clearer picture of the country and the people who live there than any history lesson I could have provided.
18. What do you think will surprise readers most?
Biblical names appear and reappear in this story as part of recurring family constellations, perhaps suggesting openness for realignment, for new possibilities. The aspect of the book that surprised me the most however, is that Israela, quite late in the writing process, found her own voice. It might surprise my readers to know that.
19. What’s the most important lesson or message readers will get from it?
I hope they’ll gain a sense of the soul searching, the temerity, and the courage that Israelis manifest on a daily basis; the feeling that Israel is not a place of ruthless domination, but of people like you and me who are forced, by the circumstances of their lives, to make painful decisions, decisions they question daily and struggle to live with.
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