Ilana Snyder reviews 'All The Rivers' by Dorit Rabinyan, translated by Jessica Cohen

Ilana Snyder reviews 'All The Rivers' by Dorit Rabinyan, translated by Jessica Cohen

All The Rivers

by Dorit Rabinyan, translated by Jessica Cohen

Serpent’s Tail, $24.99 pb, 288 pp, 9781781257647

In December 2015, Israel’s Ministry of Education banned Dorit Rabinyan’s prize-winning novel All the Rivers from the high school curriculum on the grounds that the story of a romance between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man ‘threatens separate identity and promotes intermarriage’. Far-right Education Minister Naftali Bennett backed the decision, claiming that the book not only encourages assimilation but also compares the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to Hamas. All the attention made the book a bestseller, but Rabinyan became a target on social media, where she was cursed and threatened. She was spat on in the street.

All the Rivers, now available in English, is a suspenseful, engaging, painful story. It chronicles the relationship in New York between Liat, a translator student from Tel Aviv, the secular capital of Israel, and Hilmi, a Hebron-born painter from Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians. When Liat first meets Hilmi, voices are already active in her head: ‘What do you think you’re doing? You’re playing with fire ... What do you need this for?’ Liat experiences simultaneously both attraction and fear. She wants to surrender herself to Hilmi, but she is afraid of falling in love with a Palestinian.

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Ilana Snyder

Ilana Snyder

Ilana Snyder is an emeritus professor in the Faculty of Education, Monash University. With Susan Feldman and Barbara Kamler, she co-edited Something That Happens to Other People: Stories of Women Growing Older (1996).