This beautiful novel follows the first seven years of Gai Oni - a settlement in Galilee, precursor to the town of Rosh Pina - as seen by a pioneer woman. Fania, a 16-year-old survivor of a pogrom in the Ukraine, arrives in pre-state Israel with her old uncle, a deranged brother and an unwanted baby, the product of rape. On her arrival in Jaffa she meets Yehiel, a 26-year-old widower, father of two, one of the few courageous souls left in Gai Oni. Severe drought and exhausting work have driven away most of the pioneers, leaving behind only a few tenacious families. Fania moves in with Yehiel and throws herself into the life of a peasant woman, trying to squeeze a living out of the stony ground despite hunger and disease. Dressed in Arab dress, she rides through the bandit-infested country and breaks into the male-dominated worlds of commerce and politics, even of defence. Eventually, Yehiel succumbs to malaria and exhaustion and Fania is left to continue the struggle without her partner.
Lapid’s lush saga should appeal to readers interested in Jewish lore or pioneer fiction.
Sixty-one years after the declaration of the state, the story of the pioneers of more than a hundred years ago is still well worth retelling.
Chicago Jewish Star
Lapid corrects a distortion in Israeli pioneer history in which mostly men’s names were counted and she emphasizes the strength that women needed compared to the men. You read Lapid’s book in one go.
This book is unique in dealing with [the first wave of Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel].