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And as a love story, the tension of Liat and Hilmi’s new, vulnerable relationship could belong to anyone of two differing identities — which is, well, everyone.
Hilmi finds a Bible on Liat’s shelves which turns out to have been given to her by the IDF.
The son of an atheist, Hilmi muses that it is just like Hamas merging god with the military. But her arguments don’t sound strong enough to her and she is befuddled.
I suspect Bennett had not yet read the book; if he had, he might have realized that his master stroke did not suppress Rabinyan’s view of the prospects for a relationship between an Israeli and a Palestinian, but rather echoed it.
Ironically, but predictably, the attention made her book a bestseller. In an interview with 972 Magazine prior to the release of the English translation (published by Random House Hardcover & e Book), she described how Bennett’s public statements were a dog whistle to followers of right-wing thugs. They said, ‘you’re not worth the soles of IDF boots’…
Moments like these are an awakening for the somewhat naïve Israeli Jewish protagonist. Like many Palestinians Hilmi turns out to be a devoted one-stater, while Liat believes in two.
Hilmi’s brother comes to visit and argues with Liat against two states until she cries.I found myself wondering if Liat and Hilmi would have fallen in love to begin with if not for their intoxicating difference defined by enmity, coupled with the primordial familiarity of exiles who find each other far from home.Liat and Hilmi are strangers living in New York when they meet, a few hours after the Persian-Israeli Liat had a visit from FBI agents.The moment [Liat] is colored by the colors of [Hilmi] she is afraid of being swallowed up by love. “It’s an idiom of two liquids being mixed together, like you mix together cake ingredients,” and she gestures as if tasting or swallowing.And [Hilmi’s] Arab-ness meets the DNA of her Jewishness. Or perhaps it’s like mixing colors – you start with the vivid blue of Hilmi’s paintings, and end up with mud.He tells about his brief stint in Israeli military jail; her heart sinks as she imagines security prisoners and terrorists.When it turns out that the teenage Hilmi did four months for spray-painting the Palestinian flag on a wall, it’s not clear which is more confusing: Liat’s fear that he might have been a terrorist and her relief that he was not, or the realization that he did jail time as a teenager for spray painting, where military guards forced him to sing Hebrew songs (prompting the education minister’s comments to the media about the book demonizing IDF soldiers). “The meeting with Hilmi and Palestinian intellectuals simultaneously sharpens to [Liat] how embedded she is in the Zionist narrative, and how caught she is inside the imprint, the patterns of the Zionist education that designed, engineered her.” Indeed, Liat does not turn into a pro-Palestinian radical; she digs in to her political positions.But back in the region, as close as Brooklyn to Manhattan, they are now physically separated by the conflict and the freshly built separation wall.The first person (Liat) briefly becomes a disembodied third-person narrator, almost a “ghost,” Rabinyan tells me, in order to imagine Hilmi’s life in Ramallah that she cannot see, and look through his eyes back at Tel Aviv.“[On social media] they wished me all manner of curses, rape and death, all kinds of death…There were phone calls in the middle of the night from people cursing me.” She avoided her phone for days that passed in a fog. they were devotees of their shepherd, sheep who got the sign from their leader.” After the ministry had justified its decision by railing against miscegenation, Bennett then told Israeli media that the book was unfit because it compared the IDF to Hamas, and depicted Israeli soldiers as “sadistic.” It’s true that the book is a story of love.Rabinyan parts the deep tissues of the heart to expose two sensitive, creative people, and look inside.