The Great American Hebrew Novel

In her epistolary novel Shanim Tovot (“Good Years”), Maya Arad tells the story of Leah Zuckerman—an Israeli who, like herself, spends most of her adult life in northern California. Michael Weingrad reviews the book, which he finds “brilliant and moving.”

The great miracle of this novel is the way that slowly, naturally, over decades, it leads to the emergence of an older woman who can reflect with wisdom on her life and its failures and successes. Arad’s protagonist begins the book seeming shallow, flirtatious, and endlessly self-exculpatory, a little bit like an Israeli Lorelei Lee from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She certainly uses her sex appeal to get herself out of jams, jams that are often a result of that sex appeal in the first place.

But Arad brilliantly peels back layers of Leah’s character, showing her complexity and depth as well as the extent to which her reliance on the attention of men has been a means of defense and a response to trauma. By the end of the book, the details that we have accumulated along the way are reassembled and made clear for us by Leah herself, who now understands her own life: as a Holocaust survivor from Romania, an immigrant to Israel at the age of eight, a girl mocked for her foreign ways, a teenager preyed upon because of her looks, and, finally, as a would-be American trying to justify her existence to the Israeli schoolmates who may have been partly responsible for her exile in the first place.

Arad’s Leah Zuckerman is as American as Augie March or Huck Finn, repeatedly knocked down by life yet always confident that her fortune and happiness are around the corner. And she is deeply, richly Jewish, a wanderer and storyteller, who ultimately finds her life’s true meaning in her granddaughter. Shanim tovot is easily one of the best works of Jewish American fiction produced this century.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American Jewish literature, Hebrew literature, Israeli literature


Ordinary Gazans Are Turning against Hamas—and Its Western Sympathizers

In the past few days, difficult-to-confirm reports have emerged of unrest in the Gaza Strip, and of civilians throwing stones at Hamas operatives. A recent video from Al Jazeera showed a Gazan declaring that “God will bring Qatar and Turkey to account” for the suffering of Palestinians in the current war. Being an agent of the Qatari government, the journalist turned away, and then pushed the interviewee with his hand to prevent him from getting near the microphone. Yet this brief exchange contributes much to the ongoing debate about Palestinian support for Hamas, and belies the frequent assertion by experts that the Israeli campaign is only “further radicalizing” the population.

For some time, Joseph Braude has worked with a number of journalists and researchers to interview ordinary Gazans under circumstances where they don’t fear reprisals. He notes that the sorts of opinions they share are rarely heard in Western media, let alone on Al Jazeera or Iran-sponsored outlets:

[A] resident of Khan Younis describes how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread. The incident, hardly imaginable before the present war, reflects a widespread feeling of “disgust,” he says, after Gazan aspirations for “a dignified life and to live in peace” were set back by the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

Fears have grown that this misery will needlessly be prolonged by Westerners who strive, in effect, to perpetuate Hamas rule, according to one Gazan woman. Addressing protesters who have taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire on behalf of Palestinians, she calls on them to make a choice: “Either support the Palestinian people or the Hamas regime that oppresses them.” If protesters harbor a humanitarian motive, she asks, “Why don’t we see them demonstrating against Hamas?”

“Hamas is the destruction of the Palestinian people. We’ve had enough. They need to be wiped out—because if they remain, the people will be wiped out.”

You can watch videos of some of the interviews by clicking the link below.

Read more at Free Press

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion