Accessibility links

Book Review: Love Story Set Amid Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


Setting a love story in a land of conflict can sometimes transform the novelist, as Canadian-Israeli writer Edeet Ravel discovered.

She says politics was not on her mind when the idea for the love story came to her.

"I was driving in my car and the first sentence came to me, which is 'a long time ago when I was 20, I was involved with an interrogator'," she said. "And once that sentence came to me I had the characters, their names and some sense of what happened to them."

Ms. Ravel says the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon cast its shadow across the novel and its characters.

The book describes, in eloquent prose, a love story between a student of English literature and a former actor who is an Israeli army interrogator of Palestinian prisoners. Although he is opposed to his government's policies, he continues his work, which casts a shadow over their relationship. He is later killed mistakenly by an Israeli army sniper when he tries to defuse a crisis involving the son of a Palestinian friend.

Ms. Ravel says it is a tale of conflicting trust and misguided suspicions

"Yes, I see that as such a basic issue," said Edeet Ravel. "I did not write this as an issue book and it was not a novel meant to convey a message. I really wrote it very intuitively, but I do believe trust is probably the most important aspect of the conflict that we have to deal with."

Ms. Ravel also uses the novel to probe the impact of language on political conflict. Is the barrier being constructed by Israel a security fence, as Israel describes it, or a wall as the Palestinians call it?

"How do we use language to interpret and even create reality? And of course language can be used politically in all sorts of ways," she said. "Of course writers are always obsessed with words. But in this novel, I was really interested in showing that aspect of just how we live. We look at the world through language among other things and how do we really deal with this particular conflict through language."

The novel, Ten Thousand Lovers, is set in the 1970s in Israel. Ms. Ravel says she drew on her childhood in Israel for descriptions of that period. But when she started writing the book 2.5 years ago, she traveled from her home in Canada to Israel to research different aspects of the book. The experience, she says, opened her eyes to life outside the realm of fiction.

"I wrote the novel," continued Edeet Ravel. "I was not at all involved in any sort of political activities. I did not read non-fiction very much. I mostly was involved in literature and teaching. As I did research for this novel, I met many people and became politically active. And, I started feeling I have to do more than write, I actually have to go to Israel and Palestine and do whatever I can there. The book drew me into the situation, you could say. The book drew me into this world of politics."

Ms Ravel now spends part of the year in Israel working for Checkpoint Watch, which monitors Israeli treatment of Palestinians at checkpoints and barriers set up around Jerusalem and the West Bank.

XS
SM
MD
LG