A rather predictable Cook’s Tour of the Holy Land.
Orange (former Middle East correspondent for Tikkun) rehearses the tragedies of recent years—Baruch Goldstein’s attack on a mosque in Hebron, the murder of Rabin, etc.—and the attempts of well-meaning politicians to speed the peace process by the Oslo Accords. We eavesdrop on her conversations with politicians and other journalists. We meet a Palestinian grocery store owner and hear his thoughts on the intifada. We learn of her Israeli-born artist friend Yehuda’s nervousness about driving in East Jerusalem. We share a picnic lunch with a newly Orthodox, Moroccan-born Jew who has moved to a settlement near Tel Aviv. Occasionally, Orange’s invigorating prose brings to life the cast of characters we encounter, but too often she degenerates into comfortable stereotypes of Torah-obsessed rabbis and land-obsessed settlers. But even more uncomfortable than these lapses into cliché are Orange’s indulgence of her personal exploits—her romance, for example, or her concerns about her daughter Eliza’s inability to learn Hebrew (eventually Orange learns that Eliza is dyslexic). This marriage of memoir and current-events reportage is a stormy one, and she would have done well to stick with one or the other. Furthermore, readers may wish that Orange’s editor had taken a red pen to some of her attempts at profundity—such as her reflection, sparked by some musings about prisoners, that “our” relation to time may be “self-indulgent.” Orange’s account may remind readers of David Hare’s one-man play Via Dolorosa; that play, too, tried to introduce the audience to all perspectives, Israeli and Palestinian, and drew on conversations with both talking heads and ordinary Joes. But even Hare’s fiercest critics will find Orange less appealing.
A desultory, episodic, and most unsatisfying peek at contemporary Israel.