All the Rivers: A Novel

  • Review
By – July 14, 2017

Banned in Israeli schools by the Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion, All the Rivers intro­duces us to a love sto­ry fraught with con­tro­ver­sy. Liat, the nar­ra­tor, is a trans­la­tor from Tel Aviv who while tem­porar­i­ly liv­ing liv­ing in New York City on a fel­low­ship, meets and is imme­di­ate­ly entranced by Hil­mi, a hand­some and cap­ti­vat­ing Pales­tin­ian artist from Ramal­lah, liv­ing in Brook­lyn. Although ful­ly aware of the poten­tial com­pli­ca­tions and reper­cus­sions, Liat engages in an intense and pas­sion­ate six month rela­tion­ship with Hilm until she returns to Israel. While the lovers’ polit­i­cal dif­fer­ences would pose an impen­e­tra­ble obsta­cle to their romance in their respec­tive home­lands, the obsta­cle seems nonex­is­tent in the dias­po­ra of New York City. Rabinyan care­ful­ly por­trays the tra­jec­to­ry of the rela­tion­ship as it evolves from an inno­cent fling into a gen­uine and pas­sion­ate love affair, albeit one that is over­shad­owed by the char­ac­ters’ real­i­ties back home.

Although Liat and Hil­mi attempt to put aside their polit­i­cal dif­fer­ences for the sake of their rela­tion­ship, Liat can’t help but feel the Israeli-Pales­tin­ian ten­sion as it per­me­ates every aspect of her rela­tion­ship with Hil­mi. Liat’s guilt over the occu­pa­tion in the West Bank and the pow­er dis­par­i­ty between the sides of the con­flict are con­stant­ly on her mind . Rabinyan cap­tures this elo­quent­ly, I won­dered whether Hil­mi, in the men’s room on the oth­er side of the wall, was also read­ing the word in the lit­tle door locked—Occu­pied—and think­ing about the occu­pa­tion”.

Liat engages in an ongo­ing inter­nal bat­tle between her love for Hil­mi and her Israeli roots. Rec­on­cil­ing the two com­pet­ing fac­tors seems pos­si­ble out­side of Israel, but daunt­ing and impos­si­ble in Israel. The time Liat shares with Hil­mi is at the same time both joy­ous and ago­niz­ing. Through Liat’s nar­ra­tion, the read­er is able to empathize with the lovers and ask them­selves what, or who, is worth sac­ri­fic­ing our val­ues and cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty for.

Michelle Zau­rov is Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s pro­gram asso­ciate. She grad­u­at­ed from Bing­ham­ton Uni­ver­si­ty in New York, where she stud­ied Eng­lish and lit­er­a­ture. She has worked as a jour­nal­ist writ­ing for the Home Reporter, a local Brook­lyn pub­li­ca­tion. She enjoys read­ing real­is­tic fic­tion and fan­ta­sy nov­els, espe­cial­ly with a strong female lead.

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