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Five great books set in ISRAEL

27th July 2020

Israel is the latest place for us to visit in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. Five great books set in ISRAEL.

It’s better to die of laughter than of fear’ – Israeli proverb

Raising SparksFive great books set in ISRAEL by Ariel Kahn

Raising Sparks is a magical-realist love story set in Modern Israel. Full of the sounds, scents and flavours of the Middle East, it gives the reader access to the hidden worlds behind the headlines we see.

Told by the voices of teenagers Malka and Moshe, Raising Sparks is a celebration of mystical texts, discovering your own inner power and the highs (and lows) of your first love. As a reader, you will instantly fall for the brilliant and brave Malka as she abandons her Ultra-orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem, to reveal the secret power that lies within her. When she discovers that her ability is to liberate the Divine language – the words that Kabbalists believe created the world, her eyes are truly opened to the wonder and dangers that lie before her.

Betrayals, rituals and a prophecy that she will die young causes Malka to travel across Israel, from Jerusalem to the mystical mountain city of Safed, and to the secular city of Tel Aviv, seeking answers. Hot on her heels is her father’s most promising student, Moshe, who has fallen in love with Malka and is determined to keep her safe but who is also tested across the journey and must choose between his heart, his faith and his family.

Raising Sparks is a brilliant debut by prize-winning writer Ariel Kahn who delivers a book that unlocks the secrets of mystical texts and makes them meaningful for our present moment. It offers a glimpse of a Middle East hidden behind the headlines. For anyone who loves food, colour, and discovering new cultures, and still holds on to the possibility of love. This is a book that should not be missed this summer.

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Scenes from Village Life by Amos Oz

Stories-cum-fiction, this is difficult to define from Israel’s master storyteller….It gives us an unsettling portrait of daily life in Oz’s fictional small Israeli village of Tel Ilan, in the vicinity of Tel Aviv.

”Tel Ilan, a pioneer village, already a century old, was surrounded by fields and orchards. Vineyards sprawled down the east-facing slopes. Almond trees lined the approach road. The roofs bathed in the thick greenery of ancient trees. Many of the inhabitants still farmed, with the help of foreign labourers who lived in huts in the farmyards…”

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The Seven Good YearsFive great books set in ISRAEL by Etgar Keret

Over the last seven years Etgar Keret has had plenty of reasons to worry. His son, Lev, was born in the middle of a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. His father became ill. And he has been constantly tormented by nightmarish visions of the Iranian president Ahmadinejad, anti-Semitic remarks both real and imagined, and, perhaps most worrisome of all, a dogged telemarketer who seems likely to chase him to the grave.

Emerging from these darkly absurd circumstances is a series of funny, tender ruminations on everything from his three-year-old son’s impending military service to the terrorist mindset behind Angry Birds. Moving deftly between the personal and the political, the playful and the profound, The Seven Good Years takes a life-affirming look at the human need to find good in the least likely places, and the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of our capricious world.

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The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan

In the summer of 1967, not long after the Six Day War, three young Palestinian men ventured into the town of Ramla in Israel. They were cousins, on a pilgrimage to see their childhood homes, from which they and their families had been driven out nearly twenty years earlier. One cousin had the door slammed in his face, one found that his old house had been converted into a school. But the third, Bashir, was met at the door by a young woman named Dalia, who invited him in…

This poignant encounter is the starting point for the story of two families – one Arab, one Jewish – which spans the fraught modern history of the region. In the lemon tree his father planted in the backyard of his childhood home, Bashir sees a symbol of occupation; Dalia, who arrived in 1948 as an infant with her family, as a fugitive from Bulgaria, sees hope for a people devastated by the Holocaust. Both are inevitably swept up in the fates of their people and the stories of their lives form a microcosm of more than half a century of Israeli-Palestinian history.

What began as a simple meeting between two young people grew into a dialogue lasting four decades. The Lemon Tree offers a much needed human perspective on this seemingly intractable conflict and reminds us not only of all that is at stake, but also of all that is possible.

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Ode to Joy by Shifra Horn

Following a terrorist explosion on a bus in Jerusalem, Yael, a married mother who narrowly escaped the attack, is haunted by the last image she recalls before the horror: a little blonde child waving to her from the window of the bus, and the sound of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, which was playing on her car radio.

Yael’s husband, Nachum, seems unable, or unwilling to understand what she has been through, and although her friends and colleagues are sympathetic, they cannot share her pain. Still traumatised, she feels compelled to seek out the blonde child’s grieving father, the enigmatic and mysterious Avshalom.

Drawn to him through their mutual suffering and fascinated by his unusual background, Yael begins to fall helplessly in love with him. Avshalom too, cannot deny his own feelings, but his belief that the loss of his wife and child is divine punishment for past sins overshadows any glimmer of hope for their future.

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Fancy more books set in ISRAEL? Check out our database!

Andrew for the TripFiction Team

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