Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Review of Apeirogon by Colum McCann

"An absorbing tale of hope and love against very great odds"

I recently finished reading an amazing novel by Irish author Colum McCann. Apeirogon is rooted in the unlikely real-life friendship born of tragedy between two fathers - one Israeli and one Palestinian. Together, through their painful stories, these two men seek to forge a path towards empathy, compassion, and hope for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

I never got around to writing a review of this very worthy book so I'll leave it to my good friend, Ranen Omer-Sherman. The following review is posted with his permission.

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While there may never be a truly definitive study of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the award-winning Irish writer Colum McCann’s astonishingly good Apeirogon surely succeeds more than most when it comes to creating an empathic, morally and aesthetically imaginative portrayal of the extent to which this tragedy has wreaked havoc on innocent human beings on both sides.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

RSVP Funeral


My mother-in-law died last week, but not from COVID-19. These days, that phrase needs to be added when talking about the death of an elderly person, especially one in frail health. Coronavirus has impacted all of our lives, especially the elderly, but this was not the case here.

As my family discovered last week, the pandemic also affects the ways we mourn.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Review of ‘The Drive’ by Yair Assulin

Service in the Israeli army is mandatory for all Israelis when they turn 18. Exemptions are given for religion (Arab Israelis, yeshiva students, observant women), pregnancy, or conscientious objection. In addition, as much as one-third of Israeli males and 44% of females avoid being drafted into the military for medical or psychological reasons, according to recent media reports.

In the novel The Drive by Yair Assulin, translated by Jessica Cohen (New Vessel Press, April 2020), the unnamed protagonist is in the middle of his compulsory military service but things are not going well. He feels that the army is suffocating him, that he is enduring three years of slow death.

His parents find their son’s depression difficult to understand. His father admits that army service is not easy, but everyone needs to get through it and there is no choice. Still, the young soldier has no desire to continue and after many arguments with his base commander, schedules an appointment with an IDF Mental Health Officer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

A Somewhat Unconventional Thriller


Valley of Thracians: A Novel of Bulgaria by Ellis Shuman is a somewhat unconventional thriller. Set in Bulgaria, it’s also part travelogue, and the “hero” is an elderly gentleman with a limp. Not your typical “noir” setting or private “I”! But that doesn’t make it any less suspenseful. From page one, I was hooked!

Shuman describes the cities and culture of Bulgaria with vivid detail– I wish I could describe settings that well! His main characters are fascinating and believable — a grandfather in search of his grandson who went missing after joining the Peace Corps and is presumed dead, and a mysterious female friend the grandfather meets in Bulgaria, who seems to good-naturedly want to help him. But does she have something to hide?

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Historically and Culturally Significant Adventure Thriller

If you are like me, I do a lot of my traveling via books! Certainly, the setting for many fiction novels takes us to exciting places; however, Ellis Shuman who has spent time there, has taken special care in including much more than the usual, in writing Valley of Thracians.

So if you are like myself, as an average American who had no real "perception" or knowledge of this country, then I highly recommend you consider this much more than an exciting adventure thriller--consider it a significant historical and cultural novel from which you will learn much... While enjoying the familial love of a grandfather who refuses to believe his grandson is dead...

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Political Leaders Behaving Badly


Our leaders have failed us at the time we need them most

During these difficult days, I no longer leave my home to go to work. I no longer shop, travel, go to movies, or eat out at restaurants. I am maintaining social distance from my grandchildren and have given up family dinners. I am staying in my house.

I am adhering to these restrictions because I must trust the leadership of my country to get us through this crisis together to better times ahead.

Unfortunately, our leaders have not earned that trust.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Review of ‘Saving Israel’ by Boaz Dvir


In the years following World War II, leaders of the Yishuv in Palestine were tasked with two major challenges. Transporting displaced Jewish refugees to their new homeland was impeded by the British blockade and obtaining weaponry for the Haganah was restricted by international embargoes. As statehood approached, an imminent Arab invasion threatened the entire Jewish community.

Desperate to get around the British, clandestine operations were launched to airlift weapons and aircraft. The story of efforts to save the Jewish state before its birth is told in Saving Israel: The Unknown Story of Smuggling Weapons and Winning a Nation’s Independence by Boaz Dvir (Stackpole Books, January 2020).

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Review of ‘Exile: Portraits of the Jewish Diaspora’ by Annika Hernroth-Rothstein

After being confronted with anti-Semitism for the first time as a youth, and realizing this was from being an isolated incident, Swedish journalist Annika Hernroth-Rothstein began wondering how Jews manage to survive, and in many cases thrive, in the diaspora. She set forth on a personal mission “to show ... and highlight the history, culture, and lives of [her] brothers and sisters all across the world.”

The result of the author’s “journey into the radically unknown and comfortably familiar” is her richly detailed investigative memoir, Exile: Portraits of the Jewish Diaspora (Bombardier Books, January, 2020). For the author, and for readers who join her on her travels, the book is a profound, enlightening experience.

Hernroth-Rothstein’s first stop is the island of Djerba, off the coast of Tunisia. Isolated in its self-imposed ghetto, the Jewish community there is actually growing because the Tunisian Jews “understand the rules and limitations to which they must adhere.” They have survived because they “have created an impenetrable core the provides great comfort and relative safety.” The author wonders if this “might be the future of the Jewish diaspora: to refuse modernity, hide from the outside world, and plant your feet firmly in the past.”