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Ode to Joy

Shifra Horn
Jerusalem in winter 2002 is the background of  the love story between Yael, a married mother and doctoral candidate in anthropology researching mourning customs of the ultra-Orthodox, and Avshalom, a widower and bereaved father in that community. But their love cannot be consummated.
One morning while driving to the university Yael's life changes: a terrorist blows up the bus ahead of her, which becomes a firetrap. The last image Yael recalls from just before it happens is that of a little girl in the back window of the bus playing peek-a-boo with her. After Yael recovers, she tries to locate the child until at last she gets to the home of Avshalom, who lost his wife and little boy in the attack. It turns out that the little girl she saw was in fact a boy whose hair was not to be cut until his third birthday,according to ultra-Orthodox custom. Meeting Avshalom makes her optimistic about her own life and that of her little son, Yoavi. During her pregnancy she had demonstrated with other "women in black" against the occupation of Palestinian territory, and an anonymous woman had cursed her, saying that her unborn child would be killed in a terrorist attack just as her own son had been. Yael, in love with Avshalom, believes that if she marries him and he adopts her son, the curse will be lifted since the same disaster does not strike the same person twice. But Avshalom does not heed Yael`s entreaties, believing the loss of his wife and son is divine punishment for his past sins. Indeed, brought up on a secular kibbutz, he became religious in order to atone for the role he had played as a fighter pilot bombing innocent civilians in Lebanon.
This novel is a wonderful portrayal of  Israeli reality in the recent past, including the Intifada, the tension between the political left and right, and the dread that constantly disrupts the routine of parents` and children`s lives.

Title Ode to Joy
Author’s Last Name Horn
Author's First Name Shifra
Language(s) English, French, Italian, Dutch
Genre novel
Publisher (Hebrew) Am Oved
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 2004
No. Pages 315 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Himnon La-Simcha
Representation Represented by ITHL


English: London, Piatkus, 2005
Italian: Rome, Fazi, 2005; 2008
Dutch: Amsterdam, Archipel/Arbeiderspers, 2006; Amsterdam, XL, 2007
French: Paris, Fayard, 2007

Shalom Japan
English: New York, Kensington Books, 1996

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