Jewish Life

"To the End of the Land" by D.Grossman


"To the End of the Land" conflates love, family and war in a poignant way that reminds us that love is not all you need. It is lushly written but at times confusing. The book vacillates backwards and forwards over a thirty-year period.

The prologue of the book, an integral part, is dramatically different from the rest. Its stark prose foreshadows melancholy for the protagonists. Only later do we correlate this moodiness with uncertainty about the future of the state of Israel. Grossman gives us equal doses of beauty and pain that sometimes leave the reader hesitant to continue.

A love triangle emerges among three teenagers: Ora, Ilan and Avram. They meet in an isolation ward, delirious with fever, during the Six Day War. The bond they develop is so powerful it influences the rest of their lives. The boys ignite a powerful friendship, Avram is immediately smitten with Ora, and Ora is attracted to Avram’s intellect yet beguiled by Ilan’s green eyes and intensity. As the Yom Kippur War erupts, Ora has finished her military service. Ilan and Avram are soldiers. Ora has had dalliances with both men. Avram is captured by Egyptian soldiers during the war and tortured. Following the war Israeli intelligence interrogates him harshly, suspicious that Avram may have revealed secrets. He returns to Ilan and Ora a broken man. Ilan and Ora will be a couple for the next 20 years. They commit to healing Avram.

During Avram’s recuperation Ora helps ascertain his virility. She gets pregnant, and he refuses to see her again though he can’t resist meeting her once or twice over the next 20 years. She and Ilan raise the baby whom they name Ofer.

Most of the book describes Avram and Ora at 50, as Ofer re-enlists in the army at the end of his service in 2000 during the Al Aqsa Intifada. Ora anticipates losing Ofer to the conflict and decides to hike the Israeli wilderness to evade military emissaries who might come to her home with bad news. She picks up Avram on the way and they go through much anguish repairing Avram’s mental health while rekindling their relationship. As the terrain flourishes and changes at their feet Avram learns about Ofer and Ora travels an emotional landscape as well as a terrestrial one.

This review was provided by Pamela Wiener, a member of Temple Israel.

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