An Israeli man and a Canadian woman find their love tested by his work in the face of growing Palestinian resistance during the 1970s.
Narrator Lily moves back and forth between her life in present-day London and her romance in Israel a quarter-century ago. She was a 20-year-old student hitchhiking from Jerusalem to spend the weekend in Tel Aviv when she met handsome Ami, who drove an expensive car and owned a house. Lily was smitten, but horrified to learn that Ami, a noted actor until the sudden death of his two brothers, was now an interrogator for the army. He refused to use torture, deplored the Israelis’ treatment of the Palestinians, and himself had an Arab-Israeli friend, but he was also patriotically aware of the country’s perilous situation. As they drew closer, Lily told Ami about her troubled early life on an Israeli kibbutz—her parents were self-absorbed and the workers sadistic—before her family migrated to Canada. (Ravel, born and raised on a kibbutz, now lives in Quebec.) Between brief accounts of London and her ballet dancer daughter, Lily revisits her intense romance with Ami. She got pregnant, they married, and Ami left his job to write plays, but an emergency forced him to resume interrogating, with fatal consequences. Lily’s narrative is both a poignant act of recall and a subtle commentary on the political situation as she analyzes the role the Hebrew language has played. A linguist by profession, she describes the consequences of using the word “land” instead of “state” (as in “the land of Israel”); traces how the original meaning of the word “terrorist” changed; and explains why Israelis prefer “territories” over “occupation.”
More a vivid portrait of a place than a searing love story, but thoughtful and timely nonetheless.