Press & Reviews
- Fascinating Authors Interview
Q. What excites you most about your book’s topic? Why did you choose it?
A. I love the secrets that the characters keep from each other. I love how one character knows the other is keeping a secret from him, and still keeps his from her. I love the way all the characters keep secrets, holding their truth from others. I didn’t choose that. It developed on its own.
Q. How long did the book take you from start to finish?
A. I spent a couple of years thinking about it first. After that initial period, the writing took about 3 years.
Q. What aspect of writing the book did you find particularly challenging?
A. The book developed quite organically, the challenge for me coming later in the writing process when I tried to juxtapose the flow of the theme with the plot. (Yes. They are different.)
Q. What surprised you the most about the book writing process?
A. I didn’t start out to write a novel. My original intention was to trace the modern history of Israel, to see how Israel had reached its present situation; yet, fictional characters kept popping into my head together with twists and turns of plot. That surprised me immensely. Finally, I gave in and enjoyed myself. Today, I believe that the finished version of Israela provides a much clearer portrait of Israel and its people than any historical treatise I could have provided.
Q. Did you have any favorite experiences when writing your book?
A. Yes. Originally, Israela had a different title. I wasn’t that keen on it. I had all but finished the novel, when I woke one morning with the name “Israela” in my head. I knew immediately that, that was my title, yet the moment I had that name, I needed to sit and write in Israela’s unique voice. I am convinced Israela wrote her own script.
Q. What do you hope your readers will gain from reading your book?
A. I hope they will gain a sense of Israel from the inside, as a living entity with people of passion who feel love, hope, anguish, despair, betrayal just the way they do. I want my readers to sit on Arab balconies and hear the conversation; to sit in Jewish back yards and hear the conversation; to go to the souk (outdoor market) and hear the dialogue – or worse, the lack of dialogue, so that, by the time my readers reach the end of Israela they will no longer be dependent on the international media to tell them what to think because they will be asking their own questions.
Q. What projects are you currently working on?
A. I’m at the tentative, beginning stages of my next novel.
Q. Is writing your sole career? If not, what else do you do?
A. No. By education, I am a theater director and teacher. Theater was always my first great love.
Q. Did you do any research for your books, or did you write from experience?
A. I did a great deal of research into dates and facts of wars, news bulletins, etc; but the stories in Israela were written from experience, memory and dream.
Q. How did you come up with your title?
A. My book is about Israel, but it is mainly about three Israeli women, their lives and their loved-ones. Once the name, Israela, popped into my head, it seemed a natural choice. She developed into her own character, perhaps even the central character of the book.
Q. What books have influenced you the most?
A. I grew up reading Russian novels. Of all the novels I have ever read, I think Crime and Punishment, War and Peace and The Brothers Karamazoff made the strongest impression on me. I spent my adolescent years reading books about World War 11 and the holocaust. I couldn’t get enough of them, at once repelled and fascinated by them. Among contemporary novels, I love the works of Amy Tan, Meir Shalev and Barbara Kingsolver. Books such as The Kite Runner, Reading Lolita in Teheran, and The History of Love also come to mind.
Q. Who was your publisher and why did you choose them?
A. Tate Publishing, a Christian publishing house. A friend suggested I contact them, that they would appreciate my subject matter. I think he was right. They’ve been wonderful to work with.
Click below to read Carrtalks Interview of Jewish Writer:
Merle Carrus, The New Hampshire Jewish Reporter
Israel becomes a character in the story as we follow the lives of three women growing up in Israel after the the country’s independence in 1948. In this beautifully written book by Dr. Batya Casper (Tate Publishing, 2011), we explore the debate between the Israelis and the Arabs as they struggle to live side by side. I found Casper’s way of presenting each side’s p.o.v through women’s eyes really made me feel I was in their shoes as they try to figure out how to live in peace. It helped me realize why, after all this time, the Arabs and Israelis cannot find a way to get along. Her descriptions are poignant, and her viewpoint is objective.
Sit in Israeli coffee houses and walk along the beaches...
experience life as it is today while listening to voices from the past.
Our main characters are Orit, a child rescued from the Holocaust and brought to Israel, then adopted by parents who are sympathetic to the idea of Arabs and Israelis co-existing happily; her half-sister Ruti, also known by the Arab name Ratiba, who takes this idea so much to heart that she marries an Israeli Arab and hides the fact that she is Jewish from him and his family; and their cousin, Elisheva, who comes to Israel as Allison, and as an adult works in a hospital caring for the sick and the dying.
Ruti's son, Hamzah spends his army service searching through Arab homes looking for explosives and suicide bombers. He says, “There was never a time I didn't find them. The tragedy is that in the long term, when they wake in the middle of the night to see the ‘evil’ Israeli soldiers in uniform in their home, their guns at the ready, they look into our eyes, and I know that at that very moment I have created a second generation of suicide bombers.”
Casper also brings to life the character of the State of Israel so that, between the chapters of the story, we hear from Israela herself. These sections are written in italics, and it is as though you are listening in to her private thoughts. At one point she says, “It was not me who first separated Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau. That would be far beyond my abilities. Do the stories of their Bible not clearly warn them how not behave? What not to repeat? Why don’t they see that? It was not I who misinterpreted the Koran into an imperative for murder. Would Allah not have preferred his people to live in peace? Does Elokim, my G-d, want anything but peace for His children?... So they have Allah and we have Elokim, and we are at war.”
Become immersed in the lies, secrets and alienation
All are trying in their own way to make sense of the world they live in, seeking to deal with the sadness and despair they are experiencing. Elisheva is at the memorial service for her father, thinking back on the synagogue and religion of her youth, and she thinks, “I wonder now why loving God is a commandment and why to love your neighbor like yourself is the second most important principle of faith, a rule like not crossing the road on a red light. I wonder why protecting the stranger in our midst is almost as important in the scriptures as honoring our father and our mother, as not coveting our neighbor’s wife. Because if the strangers in our midst were friendly, we would not need a law to protect them."
In a local book group that read Israela this week, the consensus was that this story reflected the reality of life in Israel, presenting a realistic view of the social history of the country. In the story, the character Orit has a series of dreams interspersed with news bulletins. Casper told me in an interview, “All the news bulletins are factual, as are the stories of Arab/Jewish intermarriage. There are, in fact, a growing number of such cases.” Casper says that her interest in writing Israela “was to show a truly loving relationship between two good people.” Other than the actual story line, all of the scenarios in this story are based on fact.
- Judyth Piazza, CEO and Editor of TheSOP.org
Dr. Batya Casper is a director and teacher of theater, trained to manipulate conflict for dramatic effect. "What a glib endeavor compared to the blood and tears of real life," she says. Casper has lived in Israel intermittently since early childhood. She has watched friends and family struggle, question, sacrifice their children.
She has lived in numerous countries, including England, Scotland, South Africa, Israel and the United States, and brings a worldly perspective to her writings. Batya is a director and actress. She also teaches theater. She 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 in English literature summa cum laude, and has a Masters and a Ph.D. in theater Arts from UCLA
Batya moved to Israel in 1956 " just eight years after the State of Israel was formed. She has lived there intermittently since early childhood. 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.
Hear the entire interview with Batya Casper and Judyth Piazza below:
- Beyond the media: A family fragmented by the Israel Arab conflict
"I carried this book with me for weeks. I so didn't want to rush through to the end. Like taking a long slow walk, this book was a journey taken with a wise voice as a companion. Thank you Batya Casper for sharing your sensitivity, beauty, compassion, balanced perspective and wisdom on one of the most difficult of seemingly endless conflicts that is Israel's."
- Dresser After Dark
In her gripping debut novel, Israela, Dr. Batya Casper accomplishes what very few contemporary novelists manage to do. She provides an educational and eye-opening account of a country’s political history - in this case, Israel - while developing memorable characters whose painful struggles and rich cultural traditions resonate with readers long after they finish reading the book.
In a story about Arabs who save Jews from disaster and Jews who heal Arabs.
“In a valiant effort to bring the temerity and heroism of everyday Israeli citizens into the spotlight, Dr. Batya Casper has written a gripping novel about the daily struggles that keep Israeli families on a never-ending emotional roller coaster. Israela sheds light on the centuries-old conflict through the lives of three women in Israel whose daily struggles and moral dilemmas give rare insight into Israeli history and culture. It is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to understand the dynamics of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
- Lou Aronica, New York Times bestselling author
"This perceptive, poignant novel offers a fresh and essential outlook on Israel. With memorable characters and an abundance of drama, Israela is gripping reading."
News of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to make headlines all over the world, but what is life really like in Israel for the people who live there? In a recent interview, Atara Orenbouch, a young mother living in an Israeli border town, said that although emergency alarms still go off, the situation has improved. She emphasized however that although the Israeli people in her neighborhood are not being injured physically, they are all injured psychologically and emotionally.
Orenbouch relives the moment when she had 20 seconds to stop her car and decide which of her two young children to take out of the car and into the shelter with her. And deciding whether to save her baby or her three year old is an example of the gut-wrenching choices many Israelis are forced to make every day.
In this tale of everyday people torn and desperately searching for the right path.
In a valiant effort to bring both the temerity and heroism of everyday Israeli citizens into the spotlight, Dr. Batya Casper has written a gripping novel called Israela. Casper wrote the book to bring awareness to the agonizing daily struggles that keep Israeli families on a never-ending emotional roller coaster.
Israela sheds light on the centuries old conflict through the lives of three women in Israel whose daily struggles and moral dilemmas give rare insight into Israeli history and culture. It is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to understand the dynamics of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Although Israela gives readers an excellent opportunity to learn more about Israeli history and to experience the beauty and tradition of Israeli culture, it is also about humanity - sisterhood, loyalty, longing for acceptance, and survival.
In her gripping debut novel, Israela, Dr. Batya Casper accomplishes what very few contemporary novelists manage to do. She provides an educational and eye-opening account of a country's political history - in this case, Israel - while developing memorable characters whose painful struggles and rich cultural traditions resonate with readers long after they finish reading the book.
Israela is intense and follows the interwoven lives of three complex, interesting women; however, it is not gratuitous. Israela tells the story of the life of Ratiba, a journalist who keeps her Jewish heritage a secret in order to marry an Israeli Arab, and how that secret influences her life choices.
It is also the moving journey of Ratiba's sister, Orit, an actress who Ratiba must shun in order to preserve the secret of her past. The reader is drawn in by Orit's believable voice and sympathizes with her as she longs for truth and a relationship with her sister. In a parallel storyline, Ratiba and Orit's cousin, Elisheva is a nurse who works to save the wounded and dying, and is forced to make some difficult choices of her own.
Israela is the mingling of the ancient history and the present day realities of two politically and culturally diverse people-the Israelis and the Arabs and a tension that dates back to biblical times. It gives the reader an excellent opportunity to learn more about Israeli history and experience the beauty and tradition of Israeli culture.
Israela will delight readers with history, mythology, traditions and the vicissitudes of the human heart.
Although Israela tells a story of culture, it is also about humanity--sisterhood, loyalty, longing for acceptance, and survival. Israela is highly recommended for book clubs because, despite its particular historical significance, each character deals with themes that are universal: family loyalty, the rigidity of religious division, the cruel effects of war, and the power of love and redemption.
- Mihir Shah
Israela, by Batya Casper, Ph.D. is a mesmerizing read that gives audiences a glimpse into the complexities of life in Israel. Using an intriguing three-person narrative format that revolves around the central characters, the author allows the reader to step into each character’s predicament, thereby fully grasping the emotion and conflict surging within. More importantly, Casper’s well-researched and thorough revelations about Israel portray the constant turmoil that its residents, both Arab and Jew, face on a daily basis. Beyond race and ethnicity, Israela is Israel’s story—the story of humanity.
Ratiba, a journalist who goes against her family and culture to marry an Israeli Arab; Orit, whose career in theater is plagued by her desire to reunite with Ratiba; and their nurse cousin, Elisheva, are the central characters of Israela. For readers, it doesn’t take long before it becomes apparent that their parallel universes will collide and their fates are intertwined.
Discover for yourselves how this is a story of one multi-faceted family, of love and violence,
of individuals desperately seeking answers, seeking peace under war.
Skillfully written, Casper blankets the characters in a cloud of secrecy and delivers surprises at the most unexpected of times. When each character’s individual conflict merges into one resounding cry of hope and heroism, the book takes on a special meaning that transcends individualism and emphasizes the selfless nature of human beings turned heroes.
The plot essentially explores the relationship between the three characters. Hamzah—Ratiba’s son and Orit’s nephew—who lands at Orit’s house, bridging the gap between Orit and her long-lost sister. In Hamzah’s own words, he tells his mother that Orit is “the aunt who took me in, who loved me almost as much as you.” Interestingly, Elisheva, Ratiba’s cousin, encounters Hamzah in a life or death situation. Will her experience as a nurse allow her to tend to her nephew? Can Hamzah ultimately succeed in bringing together his estranged family?
Casper’s Israela provides a panoramic view of the character’s thoughts and actions by employing multiple shifts in narration. Interesting and informative, Israela is a must read!
- Gary Golden, Ph.D.
Reaction to Israela - This is the most even handed view that I have seen of a polarizing conflict since it portrays the humanity of the competitors for some of the most sought after real estate in the world. It reveals the character, values, flaws, and heroism of ordinary yet often noble citizens in their struggle to exist in a capricious environment where bad things often happen to good people who dare to hope for peace and dignity in harsh and combative circumstances. The complexities, idealism, and passion of the story's characters are revealed in a fascinating and suspenseful tapestry viewed through the eyes of women rather than politicians or warriors whose views more often get published. The story Dr. Casper tells is powerful and the reader may feel optimism that springs from the personal character and humanity of two peoples who are locked in an apparently intractable battle for survival. The descriptions and metaphors employed by the author are as colorful as the characters themselves. It is humanity, not factions that experiences tragedy and triumph as the story unfolds. This is a most enjoyable read, and I highly recommend it.
With unique insight and moving writing, a new book, Israela, takes us to the land of Israel and the daily battles that are waged in the name of religion and politics. The book moves beyond the headlines of war and takes us into the homes and lives of everyday people. Israela dramatizes the impact of the long-term conflict in the Middle East between Israel and its Arab neighbors, showing how ordinary people struggle to live amongst violence and the fear of terrorism and war.
Author Dr. Batya Casper, who first moved to Israel in 1956 – just eight years after Israel was formed as an independent, democratic, Jewish state – brings an international perspective to the conflict between Arabs and Jews. Currently, she lives both in California and in Israel. She has seen, first-hand, for more than half a century, the violence and hatred inflicted on the people of this region.
Batya, who has enjoyed a career as director, actress, and teacher of theater, uniquely presents her story through the eyes of three people, each forced to confront the toll that their historical feud has taken on their lives.
The story spans many decades and takes place in Israel. The lives of three women interweave with the story of their country. Ratiba, an Israeli journalist, turns her back on her heritage to marry an Israeli Arab. Orit, an actress, lives alone and longs for her lost sister. Elisheva is a nurse who dedicates her life to the wounded and the dying. As their lives unfold, the three women find themselves making choices they would never have envisioned.
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