A record of life in the “other Israel,” a place not found in travel brochures nor, usually, in headlines.
“A fact almost unknown outside Israel is that the Jewish state includes a large minority of one million Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship,” writes English-born counselor Nathan. This minority, about a fifth of the population, lives mostly apart from the Jewish majority, leading parallel but almost always poorer lives. When, at the age of 56, she decides to relocate from Tel Aviv to Tamra, a sizeable Palestinian town in Galilee, Nathan’s Jewish Israeli friends warn her that she will be killed, raped or kidnapped; the movers refuse to return to retrieve her empty moving boxes, and of course no one comes to see how she’s doing. The fact, Nathan writes, is that she’s doing just fine living solo among the disenfranchised people of Tamra, salt-of-the-earth types who fear traveling in Jewish areas as much as their Jewish compatriots fear traveling in Arab climes. Nathan writes affectingly of the lives of the people of Tamra, most of whom have little experience beyond the town limits and retain something of the old-fashioned ways, some of which Nathan has made her own: “Since living in Tamra,” she writes, “I find myself appalled every time I return to Europe or America to see the virtually pornographic images of women, and even children, crowding high street billboards.” Nathan’s defense of her newfound neighbors is earnest but not overbearing, though she overplays the theme of the unusualness of her situation as a single Jewish woman among Palestinians. We understand, enough to wince when a Ha’aretz reporter comes calling and Nathan proudly observes, “I was the star of a freak show, and she was intrigued to see my act.”
Complementing Donna Rosenthal’s iconoclastic study The Israelis (2003), Nathan’s book offers an optimistic—if unlikely—vision of a multiethnic nation without divides.