So what are
we Jews doing in the chaotic Middle East when we could easily have been living
peacefully in our state "Isra Isle", near the Niagara Falls in
America? This isn’t sheer fantasy. It could have happened!
Semel’s novel lies a true historical episode. In 1825, Mordecai Manuel Noah, an
American journalist, playwright and diplomat, bought Grand Island, downriver
from the Niagara Falls, as a place of refuge for his people. But no Jew
answered his call. Noah became a footnote in history and the option for a
Jewish state in North America was washed away to oblivion by the tide of
has created an alternative history, a “what if” option. She takes upon herself
a complex and challenging task, and stimulates new thinking about questions of
memory, Jewish/Israeli identity, the attitude to minorities, women in top
political positions, and the place of cultural heritage.
Isra Isle comes at a time when Israel and
Zionism are under constant attack. It shakes up all the old clichés about who
Israelis are and what they were meant to be and uncovers the refreshing face of
an alternative existence – not only in the past but in the future.
Genre-bending triumph… Poignant and funny all at
once… Semel has surely succeeded, for Isra-Isle—with Jessica Cohen’s sparkling
translation, which delivers all the wit, lyrical power, and tender warmth of
the Hebrew original—offers as haunting and thoroughly entertaining a story
about the ancient and modern quest for home and belonging as one could hope
Jewish Book Council
Singular, thought-provoking novel.
Tantalizing... Sophisticated and surprisingly
Originally published in Hebrew in 2004, the English edition (beautifully
translated by Jessica Cohen) offers an engrossing, if at times confounding,
narrative about Jewish history as it might have been.
Semel takes on a vast, complicated and challenging task… The cultural mix between Native Americans and Jews as a real, captivating option… [and] the rebirth of the Zionist story is an enriching encounter.
IsraIsland connects original [Biblical] chaos to our contemporary state in a skilful, original and sophisticated way.
Nava Semel has written a conceptually fascinating novel that one reads with bated breath.
Galei Zahal Radio