MERCAZ Reads Israel
MERCAZ Reads Israel - Reading books, in English, by Israeli authors
In the midst of the emerging pandemic and in the wake of the World Zionist Congress election campaign, MERCAZ USA, MERCAZ Canada, MERCAZ UK, and the Israel Forever Foundation launched an online book club featuring contemporary Israeli literature that provides insight into and understanding of the lives and concerns of our Israeli counterparts: MERCAZ READS ISAREL, a partnership between .
Our first book club meeting in June 2019 was with author Avigail Graetz. Nearly 150 book club members joined Avigail on Zoom to explore and discuss her book “A Rabbi’s Daughter.” This was followed in September with our second book club meeting, where we drew an equally large audience for our dive into “If All The Seas Were Ink” with author Ilana Kurshan.
In addition to our book club discussions with authors on Zoom, individuals can join our ongoing discussion of our book selections in our book club’s Facebook group.
July 13, 2021 - All The Rivers
All The Rivers, by Dorit Rabinyan (Romance, Psychological Fiction)
Originally “Border Life” (Man Booker International Prize winner)
A controversial, award-winning story about the passionate but untenable affair between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man, from one of Israel’s most acclaimed novelists
When Liat meets Hilmi on a blustery autumn afternoon in Greenwich Village, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Charismatic and handsome, Hilmi is a talented young artist from Palestine. Liat, an aspiring translation student, plans to return to Israel the following summer. Despite knowing that their love can be only temporary, that it can exist only away from their conflicted homeland, Liat lets herself be enraptured by Hilmi: by his lively imagination, by his beautiful hands and wise eyes, by his sweetness and devotion.
Together they explore the city, sharing laughs and fantasies and pangs of homesickness. But the unfettered joy they awaken in each other cannot overcome the guilt Liat feels for hiding him from her family in Israel and her Jewish friends in New York. As her departure date looms and her love for Hilmi deepens, Liat must decide whether she is willing to risk alienating her family, her community, and her sense of self for the love of one man.
Banned from classrooms by Israel’s Ministry of Education, Dorit Rabinyan’s remarkable novel contains multitudes. A bold portrayal of the strains—and delights—of a forbidden relationship, All the Rivers (published in Israel as Borderline) is a love story and a war story, a New York story and a Middle East story, an unflinching foray into the forces that bind us and divide us. “The land is the same land,” Hilmi reminds Liat. “In the end all the rivers flow into the same sea.”
October 21, 2021 - Hope Valley
Hope Valley, by Haviva New David (Fiction)
Hope Valley is the story of two women, one Jewish-Israeli and one Palestinian-Israeli, who come together to form the unlikeliest of friendships. Tikvah and Ruby meet one summer day right before the outbreak of the 2nd intifada, in the Galilean valley that separates the segregated villages in which they live. The valley Ruby's father had called Hope came to symbolize the political enmity that has defined the history of two nations in this troubled land and which has led to parallel cultures with little meaningful interaction between them.
Tikvah, a fifty-two-year old artist from Long Island, is the daughter of Holocaust survivors and was raised in a loveless and lifeless household. Ruby, a world-renowned Palestinian-Israeli artist, returns to her childhood village from a life abroad to be treated for her worsening cancer. At first, Ruby pursues Tikvah's friendship to get into Tikvah's house and retrieve the diary Ruby's father had left behind when his family was expelled from that same house in the 1948 war. But as their friendship grows, they not only open up to each other's narratives and humanity, but uncover secrets from their own lives.
Tikvah's and Ruby's stories show both the strength and fragility of family ties, the power that trauma and fear has in shaping our lives, the strength we muster to face death and suffering, the vicissitudes of marriage and the glorious meaning of friendship. Their lives tap into the primal need for connection, as well as the rich and transformative bonds that can be formed from synchronistic encounters. In Hope Valley we meet two strong women from nations in conflict, who circle each other and, in recognizing each other's pain, offer us hope that fear and resentment can grow into love.
February 3, 2022 - Someone to Run With
Someone to Run With, by David Grossman (Thriller & Coming of Age Story)
David Grossman''s Someone to Run With tells the story of a lost dog, and the discovery of first love on the streets of Jerusalem, portrayed here with a gritty realism that is as fresh as it is compelling.
When awkward and painfully shy sixteen-year-old Assaf is asked to find the owner of a stray yellow lab, he begins a quest that will bring him into contact with street kids and criminals, and a talented young singer, Tamar, engaged on her own mission: to rescue a teenage drug addict.
A runaway bestseller in Israel, in the words of the Christian Science Monitor: "It''s time for Americans to fall in love with (Grossman''s) Someone to Run With."
May 24, 2022 - Best Place on Earth
Best Place on Earth, by Ayelet Tsabari (Short Stories) - tentative
“Tsabari’s characters will step off the page to captivate readers.” ―PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
Confident, original and humane, these stories are peopled with characters at the crossroads of nationalities, religions and communities: expatriates, travellers, immigrants and locals. The Best Place on Earth illuminates the tenuous connections―forged, frayed and occasionally destroyed―between cultures, between generations and across the gulf of transformation and loss.
In the powerfully affecting opening story, “Tikkun,” a chance meeting between a man and his former lover carries them through near tragedy and into unexpected peace. In “Casualties,” Tsabari takes us into the military―a world every Israeli knows all too well―with a brusque, sexy young female soldier who forges medical leave forms to make ends meet.
Poets, soldiers, siblings and dissenters, the protagonists here are mostly Israelis of Mizrahi background (Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent) whose stories have rarely been told in literature. In illustrating the lives of those whose identities swing from fiercely patriotic to powerfully global, Ayelet Tsabari explores Israeli history even as she reveals the universality of war, love, heartbreak and hope.