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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
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