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Lying Fallow [Shmita]

Esti Halperin-Maymon

In a religious settlement, among the identical houses, inhabited by similar families, inside a closed and conservative community, a forbidden relationship is growing between a teacher and one of her female students.

Tamar is a 27-year-old teacher of language and literature in a religious girls’ seminary and, according to her strictly Orthodox community, is an aging spinster. All the other women of her age are married with children, and she is scorned for being different. She lives in a small apartment next to her parents’ home and spends her free time marking her students’ work and clinging to memories of her love for Michal, an old classmate. Naomi, a lovely, much-courted 17-year-old student, lost her mother in a terror attack and her world seems to be falling apart. Soon, she will be engaged to Avishai, a handsome and much admired young man in the settlement. All the girls are in love with him, but is Naomi? She wonders whether he understands her and can make her happy.

An implicit lesbian connection springs up between Tamar and Naomi. The essays Naomi submits to Tamar, and Tamar’s remarks about them are the code through which the two signal their attraction for each other, their refusal to live by the norms of their community, and their fears.

Lying Fallow [Shmita], Esti Halperin-Mymon’s debut novel, is seductive and profound. It calls on the reader to realize the power and price of being different; to contemplate the disturbing fact that identity–personal, communal and sexual–is fluid; and to acknowledge a fundamental otherness within the human condition that cannot be overcome, except at brief moments of grace. 


The settlers may be in the headlines, but literature has hardly dealt with them. Lying Fallow  offers a fresh, one-off look at an unusual love relationship that grows between two Orthodox Jewish women. The tension between the community and the individual reverberates on every page. This is an intriguing and exciting glimpse into a world that has not yet been discovered, and into the forces that drive it. Lying Fallow is a sensitive and profound novel.

Author Ayelet Gundar-Goshen


I read Lying Fallow, Esti’s first novel, in one breath … A brilliant book … Halperin-Maymon cleverly weaves together two non-mainstream groups … She gets readers of all stripes to empathize with both settlers and lesbians, two groups fighting for their place in Israeli society.

Emily Amrousi, Israel Hayom


Esti Halperin-Maymon is a true writer, and that is no trivial matter. She knows how to develop a story, she controls the reader’s attention, and there is a certain authority in her tone … Her Hebrew is taut and she weaves together the chapters of her book in a poetic way that is unusual in first novels. She seems to have been born with the skill. She [simply] knows how to write.

Yael Geller, Yedioth Ahronoth


A very complex book…It makes a bold statement…Good and interesting.

Rona Speizman, Radio Kan Tarbut

A moving story about the difficulty in being an individual in a community … A book that concerns all of us … Surprising and touching. 

Nili Leibovich, Radio Kol Hakinneret


It broke my heart … Astonishing … A lovely book.

Meira Barnea Goldberg, KAN 11 TV

Title Lying Fallow [Shmita]
Author’s Last Name Halperin-Maymon
Author's First Name Esti
Language(s) Hebrew
Genre novel
Publisher (Hebrew) Kinneret, Zmora-Bitan
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 2017
No. Pages 239 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Shmita
Representation Represented by ITHL
Congratulations to Zeruya Shalev and Shifra Horn for receiving the 2017 Adei Wizo Prize.

Ayelet Gundar-Goshen's "Waking Lions" is longlisted for the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award
Ayelet Gundar-Goshen's "Waking Lions" is longlisted for the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award! The books on the longlist are selected by 400 libraries worldwide. Titles are nominated on the basis of ‘high literary merit’ as determined by the nominating library.
The second edition of the Letters of Israel festival will take place in Paris from September 8 to 18, 2017
After the success of its first edition, the Lettres d'Israël festival is gaining momentum, with an enriched program: meetings, conversations, readings , Theater, major authors and discoveries. Zeruya Shalev, Orly Castel-bloom, Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, Iris Argaman, and many more will participate. Click here for the full program:
Call for application: Artists in Residence Programme in Austria. Please note the deadline: September 18th, 2017.
In co-operation with KulturKontakt Austria, the Austrian Federal Chancellery makes available 50 residencies to visual artists / art photographers / composers / video and media artists / writers / literary translators and arts and cultural educators in Vienna and Salzburg for the year 2018. For more details:
Yizhak Mayer: "Meet the Author" Event
Ambassador Yizhak Mayer, author of the moving book “Silent Letter” will hold a “meet the author” event in Netanya. For further info about the event: And for more details about the title click here:
ITHL director on Grossman's win
"Grossman winning is not only his own achievement, but the achievement of the Hebrew literature as a whole", - Nilli Cohen on the first Hebrew author to receive Man Booker International Prize. Click here for the full article in Hebrew.
Chana Bloch dies at 77
Chana Bloch, a revered poet and translator from Hebrew and Yiddish, has sadly passed away earlier this month. Among her many remarkable achievements is the wonderful translation of a collection of poems by Dahlia Ravikovitch​ (W. W. Norton & Company). Chana will be greatly missed.
Yitzchak Mayer's personal website goes live
English edition of Yitzchak Mayer's amazing "Silent Letter" is about to come out with Mosaic Press. Learn more about the author's incredible life story on his brand new website.
Dayan on feminism and writing
Following the release of "Transitions" in English, Yael Dayan talks to Lilith Magazine about her past aspirations and present pursuits. Click here to read the full interview.
Gundar-Goshen's Op-Ed for Time
To mark the US publication of "Waking Lions" Ayelet Gundar-Goshen talks about the refugee crisis, internal walls and people behind them in the op-ed for Time. Click here to read the article.
MHL - New webzine starting soon!