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An Ocean Between Us

Nurith Gertz


Rachel and Michael met and fell in love in Toulouse in 1913, just before World War I. Rachel had come from Palestine to study agronomy; Michael, from Russia, was studying electrical engineering. But they were kept apart by historical events, by revolutionary ideology and, no less, by their inhibitions. In 1915, Rachel traveled back to Russia, the land of her birth, but when the war was over she returned to Palestine, whose landscapes she adored, and became a celebrated poet. Michael went back to Russia for good and led a undistinguished life. They never met again, but his love for Rachel endured, preserved in the 29 letters that he wrote to her. These letters and Gertz’s in-depth research are the keystone to this fascinating literary and historical drama, centering around a couple seen as the heroes of a lost generation―their dreams were too great and ended in disillusion.

Rachel later became a famous poetand a cultural heroine. Her poetry as well as her brief life--cut short by tuberculosis--were widely mythologized. Michael did not become a revolutionary, he just tried to survive. He worked as a teacher in the shadow of historic events, and wrote textbooks on electricity that reflected the Communist Party line. He gave up his desire to change the world as well as his love, preferring to leave his relationship with Rachel as a dream.
Gertz weaves a captivating story of frustrated love, with all its twists and turns in France, Russia and Palestine.


It has been some time since I have read a book that was so meticulous, so exquisite that it moved me to tears … that brought me so close to the characters and that gave me such an exact sense of time and of people, in the snow and in the sun, of houses, streets, fields, landscapes, longing. It is a wonder that this novel can make so much out of so little. And with what subtlety and caution emotional baggage is depicted, something that could easily have slid into sentimentality. But the concrete and detailed design keeps this baggage in check. And nonetheless, despite all the restraint, Rachel and Michael make one’s heart tremble. 

Author Amos Oz


I also read Nurith Gertz’s superb book without a break, thrilled and excited … A rare book … A riveting historical-literary drama … A painful and captivating love story, one  which real life could not accommodate. In the difficult and bad times we are going through in a divided and bleeding Israeli society, there is something cathartic and consoling in this literary encounter made possible by Gretz’s book … Rachel the Poetess will always occupy us, and Gretz’s book can be seen as a superb contribution.

Poet Haim Gouri, Haaretz


The choice made by Gertz to focus on the character of Michael, a marginal and forgotten figure, and to write through his thoughts and eyes, is no less than brilliant. Not only because it is a surprising choice, which enables Gretz to enter this field along an unpaved path, but mainly because it concretizes the necessary distance between the biographer and her subject.

Shira Stav, Haaretz


Nurith Gertz has very freely and very responsibly woven one of the loveliest and most profound love stories ever to be written here … Prose that is exquisite and multi-layered … Sometimes I felt as though I was reading the book through a stethoscope that was attacked to the text and helping me understand its unique

Yair Garbuz, Yedioth Ahronoth

A quality book … Gertz has created a powerful statement about the individual life as an ongoing missed opportunity and indirectly also about missed national and universal opportunities … A mature, original work, written in a sweeping style that is loyal to itself and intact at all levels … A work that is free of all redundancies … To write such a complex, convincing work, devoid of any emotional manipulations, control of self and of the medium is essential … Gertz cleaves to the evidence she gathered in her diligent research, to the extent that it seems that the seething whispers of her characters have welded her fingers to the keyboard.

Talma Admon, Maariv


A gripping human and historical account of a kind that is rare in Israel. The superb writing and the precise selection of a gray man who stood for a moment next to Rachel the Poetess make this novel into a book that is a very worthwhile read.

Yiftach Ashkenazy, Mako

Nurith Gertz’s new book is brimming with enthralling materials … The difficulty of choosing, the difficulty of first being infected by passion and then to stand behind it, these are the most central and powerful themes of the book … The romantic and political frustration will speak to youthful hearts.

Tamar Raphael, Time Out


A sensitive book … Gertz has done some deep research here, and for that we should take off our hats to her.

Galit Hatan, Lady Globes


I read it avidly.

Dan Margalit, Israel Hayom


A beautiful book.

Kobi Meidan, IETV

I was swept away into the story, because it is so finely written … The accounts of event in Russia during the 1917 revolution are saddening and appalling … Gertz also depicts doubts well through the eyes of Michael … The most enchanting parts of the novel are those in which the writer bestows her own powers of imagination upon Michael’s character.  

Ofra Offer-Oren, Literary blog


An extremely poetic book … It’s clear that Gertz has done exhaustive research work … There is a lot to learn from the interesting subject which she took upon herself to study.

Hadar Azran, Arutz 7

A moving work … A sensitive author … Much knowledge, devotion, and mainly a feeling heart, have been invested in this book, and it really does reach the heart.

Moshe Granot, Iton 77


For seven years Nurith Gertz worked on her book An Ocean Between Us, and she wore both of her hats: that of the scholar tracking down every scrap of information, and that of the author, sewing the seams of the story stitch by stitch, without having known the characters personally. The result is gripping … Gretz’s prose style is patient. The writing is rounded, feminine, clinging to the words that describe the relations between these people, most of whose relations are based upon words, upon letters.

Maya Guez, Club 50


Nurit Gertz is a wizard at the complicated business of transforming serious and deep historical research into fascinating and exquisite literature.

Yiftach Ashkenazy; Tzlil Avraham, Mako

Title An Ocean Between Us
Author’s Last Name Gertz
Author's First Name Nurith
Language(s) Hebrew
Genre biographical novel
Publisher (Hebrew) Dvir
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 2015
No. Pages 288 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Yam Beini Le-Veinech
Representation Represented by ITHL


Italian: Messina, Mesogea, 2019

Spanish: Buenos Aires, Leviathan, forthcoming

Russian: Moscow, Text, 2019





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