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All the Rivers: A Novel by Dorit Rabinyan

All the Rivers: A Novel (edition 2017)

by Dorit Rabinyan (Author), Jessica Cohen (Translator)

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Title:All the Rivers: A Novel
Authors:Dorit Rabinyan (Author)
Other authors:Jessica Cohen (Translator)
Info:Random House (2017), 288 pages

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All the Rivers by Dorit Rabinyan



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Thanks to a generous donation to our library, you will be able to read this love story fraught with controversy that was banned in Israeli schools by the Ministry of Education. This “Romeo and Juliet” story is about an Israeli linguistics student on a fellowship in New York, who meets, and subsequently, becomes enamored by a Palestinian painter who is from Ramallah, in the West Bank. Although fully aware of the potential complications and repercussions, she engages in an intense and passionate six-month relationship with him until she returns to Israel. The obstacle of their political differences seems nonexistent in the diaspora of New York City but poses impenetrable obstacles in their respective homelands. Although the couple attempts to put aside their political differences, the Israeli-Palestinian tension permeates every aspect of her relationship. “Through Liat’s narration, the reader is able to empathize with the lovers and ask themselves what, or who, is worth sacrificing our values and cultural identity for.”
  HandelmanLibraryTINR | Sep 20, 2017 |
All the Rivers is the title given to the English translation of a novel by Israeli author Dorit Rabinyan which was banned from Israeli schools. It's the story of a relationship that forms between an Israeli translator working in New York on a temporary basis and a Palestinian artist. The story is interesting, but unremarkable except for their heritages. Liat reacts by hiding the relationship from her family and living under a fear of being seen by someone from back home whenever they are together in public, a fear that extends to being seen by anyone from Israel. Hilmi is unafraid of their relationship and his frustration comes from being sent out of the room when her parents call, even as his insistence in including Liat in an evening meal when his brother visits from Ramallah results in an uncomfortable evening for everyone.

This book did give me an insight into how intractable the division between the Israelis and the Palestinians is, even as Hilmi remains optimistic about the future. They both live with the damage the long conflict has done to them, creating areas where they can't communicate. This isn't a trite story of love conquering all, and even when they are together in New York, their relationship is a very real one. In the end, Rabinyan fails to stick the landing, writing an ending that carefully skirts around any hard decisions on the part of Hilmi and Liat, and one that also avoids making any sort of meaningful comment on Israeli-Palestinian relations. I'm left wondering if this careful circling around of the issues still resulted in All the Rivers being viewed as controversial, what would have happened had Rabinyan refused to allow her characters an easy way out? ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Sep 11, 2017 |
Liat is in New York City for several months, working as a translator and apartment sitting for friends. It is a nice change from her home in Tel Aviv. Then she meets Hilmi, a Palestinian from Ramallah. They have more in common than she ever expected, and she falls in love, knowing it can never last. ( )
  lilibrarian | Jun 2, 2017 |
All the Rivers: A Novel by Dorit Rabinyan is a very powerful story, but also very hard to relate to or understand, and very eye-opening, if you are a Midwestern America, like me. Liat and Hilmi seem to be irresistibly drawn to each other, but at least in Liat’s case, very reluctantly. Is it all a physical attraction? Certainly Liat is attracted by his hair and his ears and his hands and the way he moves. She describes his body and his clothes over and over. He is charming and seems taken with her as well.

I saw this story referred to as a modern-day Romeo & Juliet, but it is not like that. These are not 14-year olds in wide-eyed young love, directly controlled by their parents. These are 30-year old adults, world travelers, with jobs and friends and previous experiences in life. The book description is also misleading. I don’t believe Liat ever considered having to make a decision, to choose, to “risk alienating her family, her community, and her sense of self for the love of one man.” This relationship was always temporary, on and off at that whenever they ventured into political discussions and arguments, and her sense of self was never at risk. They never came close to seeing the other’s point of view or entertaining the idea of looking for a way to remain together. They could have stayed in New York, but they never even considered that. The plan was always for Liat to return home, they were both close to family and homesick, and too molded by politics and history to consider change.

Rightly or wrongly, family and homeland came first. But Liat allowed herself to become angry and hurt when Hilmi did not stand up for her to his brother, while thinking nothing of wanting him to cease existing in her world when she was talking to her family. At times she was just a little too dramatic, and his absent-minded artist persona was hard to take at times.

The writing is strong and beautiful and the story is enticing. Descriptions of the food make you hungry, and descriptions of New York and Israel and Palestine are so vivid you feel like you are there.

Ultimately Liat and Hilmi’s relationship was not a doomed love story to me, but more a fling, an interlude, something that is never meant to be more than temporary: the summer love before you go back to work, the forbidden office affair, or perhaps more close to the royal and the commoner, where duty wins out. But as a story of how cultural rules and history can prevent love from ever really starting, about the pull of family and tradition and how politics and hatred shape lives and the future it was compelling and unforgettable. ( )
  GrandmaCootie | Apr 22, 2017 |
All the Rivers is above all else a romance. Dorit Rabinyan’s novel is about the romance between an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian Muslim who meet when they are both in New York–safely free of family ties and social pressure. They are free to be who they really are and they really are deeply in love.

Liat is a translator, Hilmi is an artist. They explore New York and each other. It is a wonderful romance in so many ways and Rabinyan is beguiling when she writes about their attraction to each other. Their love has an expiration date, though. May 20th, the day Liat returns to her home in Tel Aviv, leaving Hilmi and all the contradictions behind. That expiration date haunts their romance, creates an artificiality because, at least for Liat, there is no chance of their love ever connecting to her real life in Israel. It’s almost as though New York is some sort of Brigadoon for star-crossed lovers.

I enjoyed this book a lot and, of course, it made me cry. I came to like Hilmi so much more than Liat, perhaps because we never are exposed to his inner dialogue and Rabinyan is radically honest in exposing the visceral bigotry that Liat feels toward Arabs, including Hilmi. He talks in his sleep and the sound of Arabic sounds menacing, even to her sleeping subconscious. That she asks him to disappear from her life for ten minutes while she makes a call, hiding him from her parents while he told his mother about her after their first day together. Though she does not name it, you sense she feels ashamed of him, as though she is dating down. He’s lucky to have her, while she really should do better for herself. She takes him for granted and sometimes treats him more as a pet than as a man she loves.

Rabinyan makes no effort to pretty up or hide Liat’s crabbed and limited sort of love; she makes Liat stunted by bigotry. Hilmi is never just Hilmi, he is Hilmi the Arab always. This was, I think, the place where the story is most true and courageous. Love does not conquer all–certainly not the kind of bone-deep nationalism that makes Liat assume that their love is wrong and impossible. If Rabinyan’s intent was to demonstrate how bigotry cripples a person, she succeeded. Liat is made small. Sure she loves someone she is not supposed to, but not enough to risk herself. Her love is compartmentalized, dying on the vine, because she won’t allow her love to challenge her nationalism.

In American literature and film, we have an unfortunately common trope, the Magical Negro. The Magical Negro is an unrealized character whose existence in the story serves to teach the white character some valuable life lesson, to help them understand themselves better. Their agency is limited and in the end, they usually die or go away, because they are not real people, they are the avenue of change that help the person who really matters to learn something. Hilmi is a Magical Arab and I guess writing that sort of character makes sense in a country that practices an even more explicit form of segregation and systemic oppression than we do. Hilmi is allowed to be angry, but never gets to stay angry. Instead he shrugs it off and is preternaturally cheerful and forgiving. He stands alone in a room and dances. He cares for Liat when she is ill with beautiful tenderness. He is spontaneous, artistic, free-spirited. When he exerts his agency and returns to Israel, he grows a garden for the people who will rent his house after him…and he never asks Liat to risk one thing. He is showing a more transcendent love in sharp contrast to her love with limits.

So, All the Rivers broke my heart. I wanted love to conquer prejudice, social pressure, family dynamics and everything else. It could not even conquer Liat. She limited love, accepting the strictures of a divided society, and never once questioned those values. It’s as though, for her, loving a Muslim Arab is a sort of annihilation of her Jewishness. We get a hint of why in an argument with Himli’s brother who points out that soon there will be more Arabs than Jews in Israel and it will be even more explicitly oppressive, a minority with its foot on the necks of the majority. Perhaps if you believe your existence relies on never accommodating the Other and perhaps, if your country’s policy is to continue to expropriate their land, drive them behind ever shrinking walls and constrict their lives with checkpoints and military threat, you can never let them be fully human, can never let them express their hopes, or consider even for one moment you could love them as an equal.

All the Rivers will be released April 25th. I was provided an e-galley for review by the publisher through NetGalley.

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/9780375508295/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Apr 11, 2017 |
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All the rivers/ run into/ the sea yet the sea/ is not full   because all/the rivers return/ to the rivers./ Believe me.  It is the secret/ of tidal flows./ It is the secret/ of wistfulness.

--Avot Yeshurun
For Hassan Hourani (1974-2003)
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"One day, in the cold of early New York winter, a chance encounter brings two strangers together: Hilmi, a Palestinian born in Hebron, and an Israeli woman called Liat. A promising young translator, Liat plans to study in New York for six months and then return home to Tel Aviv. Immediately drawn to the charismatic, passionate, and kind Hilmi, Liat decides that their connection will be -- can only be -- an affair, a short-lived but intense memento of her frozen winter away from home. But their passionate fling deepens into love, and Liat and Hilmi find themselves caught between their desire for each other and their duties to their families; between the possibility of creating a life together and the fear that Israelis and Palestinians are supposed to be enemies. And as the weeks and days slip by, Liat and Hilmi must decide whether their love is worth risking the disapproval of their families, their friends and even their government. Written by one of Israel's most acclaimed contemporary authors, All The Rivers is a powerful, deeply intimate Romeo and Juliet story for our times"--… (more)

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