Reminiscent of a painting by Chagall, this portrait of a pioneer village in Israel is strong on atmosphere, color, myth, and symbols but weak on narrative drive. Baruch, a grandson of the pioneers, is the memorialist of a village built in a mountain valley after the settlers had cleared the original mosquito-infested swamps. In his 30s and the rich owner of a cemetery--resting place to the pioneers as well as to Americans wishing to be buried in Israel--Baruch has recently become the owner of a fine seaside villa, a move that prompts recollections of his own. He recalls how his grandfather and two friends left Russia in the early 1900's and came to establish a socialist community. When the trio met the beautiful and brave Feyga Levin, they founded the famous Feyga Levin Workingman's Circle, whose constitution became a village legend. Though Baruch's grandfather married Feyga, the village never forgave him for his obsession with a woman he'd left behind in Russia. The village is peopled with characters like Pinnes, an inveterate rationalist and teacher; Rilov, the watchman and terrorist who spends his days in the sewer; Uncle Efrayim, who disappears carrying his beloved Charolais bull on his shoulders; and Baruch's grandfather, who becomes as legendary a horticulturist as his beloved Luther Burbank. The animals are equally remarkable: Zeitser the mule, ``who had unshakeable principles and a Platform that bent reality like clover stem''; pelicans that brought mail from Russia; and Bulgov the house-cat, turned into a killer by corrupt human society. Evocative, even lyrical, with the underlying magic realism adding to the mythic stature of the villagers and their accomplishments, but there it ends. A portrait, with footnotes, interesting and well-written--nothing more.