Saturday, March 17, 2012

RISE, A Novel of Contemporary Israel

Pages: 385
Date: 17/03/2012
Grade: 4
Details: Received from author

After having lived abroad for thirty years Lilah Kedem, an important and celebrated photographer, returns to Israel the country of her birth and youth which she left after her brother was killed while in the Israeli Army. Seeking to reconnect with both her estranged husband, an opposition politician, and her son who is in an elite unit of the Israel defence Forces, Lilah slowly tries to find her footing in her homeland.
Not long after Lilah’s return a new wave of sectarian violence erupts in Israel when a new organisation calling itself The Sons of Gideon conducts brutal attacks on Palestinians and Israeli’s who refuse to condemn non-Jews, which of course leads to violent counter attacks by Palestinians.
With violence getting very close to Lilah and the rekindling of her friendship with Michal who is married to an Israeli of Arab descent Lilah soon finds herself involved in the birth of a new organisation. An organisation named Na’aleh, Rise, for which she quickly becomes a figurehead. And with the attacks by The Sons of Gideon becoming ever more violent, Lilah decides to use her photography to unmask the people involved. If she can capture them on film, they may well be arrested and stopped.
Eli Zedek is an Israeli security operative put in charge of tracing and stopping The Sons of Gideon. Soon Lilah and Eli’s paths start crossing and although they are going about it in different ways and from different motivations their objectives are the same, to put an end to the senseless violence and give Israel a chance to flourish in peace.

This was a fascinating read. While parts of the story and events in it could have come straight from the headlines that make the news all too often, other parts painted a different, much less widely known, picture. Together those parts provided a much more balanced and probably honest picture of life in Israel.
While everything I read in this book was very interesting and the book was easy to read I’m not sure I can call it a great novel. There is no doubt that this is a good book, with a worthy message and deserving a very wide readership. However as a work of fiction it fails in some respects.
It seems to me that the author wanted to get his message of tolerance, hope and peace across to his readers so badly that it went at the expense of character description and development.
This book appears to be more about the politics than the characters. As a consequence I have a very good idea about what the various characters think about the world they live in but not a lot about their emotions as a result of living there. I also felt that the book went on a bit too long and instead of ending on a high, with a resolution to all that had gone before, it ended on a question mark that had been newly introduced.
Having said all that, I am very glad I read this book and would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the problems Israel, like so many other countries, faces. Sometimes getting the message across is more important than writing beautiful prose and if there is one thing Yosef Gotlieb succeeded in with this book it is getting that message across to me.

On a side-note, it is amazing how books sometimes find you at just the right time.
It feels very right that in a month in which Cavan Libraries starts its participation in Dialogue Through Literature, a project aimed at bringing readers from the border counties in Ireland closer together, and my book club will be discussing Bear in Mind These Dead for this project, I should be reading a book about Israel and the sectarian violence in that country. Like I said in my review, Bear in Mind These Dead may be a book about the victims of violence in Northern Ireland, it is also the story of lots of other peoples trying to live their lives in the middle of a war between neighbours. And maybe, if it is possible for the violence to recede in Ireland, the same could also happen in other parts of the world. As long as there is hope there is life.

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