The story of Tamara, who was born in 1913, sheds light on a fascinating era in the history of the State of Israel. It is also the story of three generations of women in the ancient city of Jaffa, where Jews and Arabs lived and still live side by side. The novel first focuses on her grandmother Simcha, who arrived in Jaffa alone in 1900.
Due to a cholera plague, she is forced to marry a crippled young man who fell in love with her on the boat trip from Russia. The surreal wedding ceremony takes place in a cemetery in order to attract God’s mercy, according to the Jewish belief. She escapes from her groom in the middle of the ceremony and decides never to live with a man for the rest of her life. After seven months she gives birth to twins.
The first born, a boy, is given to her but she returns a dead infant to the midwife. No one can understand what was the cause of this tragedy. The second born is a feeble baby girl who is named Nehama. When Nehama reaches the age of 13, she falls in love with a neighbor’s son, becomes pregnant, and gives birth to Tamara. Unfortunately, she dies during childbirth, and her grandmother, Simcha – a strong, independent woman who is unable to express love and warmth, raises Tamara.
As an adult, Tamara falls in love with a handsome, sensual and eccentric Greek-Orthodox monk who lives in a Jaffa monastery and who has adopted the goal of making as many women as possible happy. The monk’s life ends tragically when he drowns in the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee). Only then is Tamara jolted to full awareness and she links her destiny to that of a man who has loved her since childhood – Yusuf, or Yosef, as he is called in Hebrew – son of a Jewish father and an Arab mother.
The novel meticulously and colorfully reconstructs the reality of the land in the early 20th century, the land destined to become Israel, combining the major events of the era (such a World War I) with their impact on the Jewish settlement of the land and the beginning of the dispute between Jews and Palestinian Arabs – in Jaffa, amongst other places.
“Poignant earthy and engaging.”
“Very rich in tastes and smells and full of colors…the plot is fascinating and full with events and unusual characters…each one is very well beautifully shaped and very interesting.”
Haya Hoffman Yediot Aharonot April 2002
“The intermingling of fact and storytelling has a plausibility not achieved since Isaac Bashevis Singer. This is all quite brilliant. The author almost persuades you that ghosts can, after all, be appeased.”
Independent on Sunday – London, June 2004
Translated to: English, French, Italian ,Dutch and Turkish
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