Count to a Thousand

January 1, 2013

Count to a Thou­sand is a poignant nov­el about an Amer­i­can expa­tri­ate whose insu­lar life in Israel is shat­tered by unan­tic­i­pat­ed events.

After two decades in Israel, Amer­i­can born and bred Vic­to­ria still strug­gles to make peace with her relo­ca­tion to Israel. She con­structs a pur­pose­ful­ly insu­lar life in a coastal com­mu­ni­ty anal­o­gous to the one she’d expect­ed to live back in the Unit­ed States, replete with con­ven­tion­al activ­i­ties asso­ci­at­ed with Amer­i­can sub­ur­bia and expat friends that share the same acer­bic, often­times crit­i­cal, atti­tude to their sur­round­ings. Cracks in this bub­ble-like exis­tence begin to emerge with her elder child’s induc­tion into the Israeli Defense Forces, and a suc­ces­sion of unex­pect­ed events, ulti­mate­ly col­lapse the frag­ile equi­lib­ri­um she’s man­aged to attain, crush­ing any remain­ing pre­tense of ambiva­lence toward her adopt­ed coun­try and forc­ing her to reassess her allegiances.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Car­o­line Igra

  1. A recur­ring theme of the book is how we define home. How do you define home? What does one need to feel at home?”

  2. Vic­to­ria talks a lot about the chal­lenges and plea­sures of being an expat. Is being an expat in Israel, as a Jew, dif­fer­ent than being an Amer­i­can expat any­where else in the world? How does the fact that mak­ing aliyah is con­sid­ered com­ing home” affect the expat experience?

  3. The dif­fer­ence in con­scrip­tion to an army such as the IDF from, say, the US Army, is explored over the course of the nov­el. In what ways does ser­vice in one dif­fer from ser­vice in the oth­er? How might you feel, as a par­ent, if your child were to join either one, or the other?

  4. The author presents a vari­ety of expat expe­ri­ences through dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters. How does this enrich your under­stand­ing of the immi­grant expe­ri­ence? Can you imag­ine where you might fit in if you were among the group? Which of the dif­fi­cul­ties described felt like those you might also have? Alter­na­tive­ly, what aspects of the local life described did you think you might embrace?

  5. Does a character’s Jew­ish back­sto­ry need to be explic­it­ly dis­cussed for the nov­el to feel Jew­ish? Why or why not? And what makes a char­ac­ter Jew­ish” with­out overt men­tions of their prac­tice of the Jew­ish faith?

  6. Vic­to­ria expe­ri­ences a major change of heart over the course of the nov­el. How would you explain this change? What aspects of her sto­ry most con­tribute to it?

  7. What role do you think a Jew­ish edu­ca­tion, whether through reli­gious school, youth group, camp or fam­i­ly life, affect one’s inter­est in mak­ing aliyah? There is a grow­ing trend of young­sters, in col­lege and fresh­ly grad­u­at­ed, join­ing the army and mak­ing aliyah. What are the rea­sons, oth­er than Zion­ism, which might com­pel them to make this decision?

  8. Do you think the pro­tag­o­nist ques­tions too much? Should she just move on? Do you feel that her hes­i­ta­tions make her weak or strong? Do you believe that there’s a point in line when we must accept our choic­es or is it legit­i­mate, and per­haps valu­able, to con­tin­ue to ques­tion them?

  9. Vic­to­ria dis­cuss­es the orga­ni­za­tion of the year around the Jew­ish cal­en­dar, dai­ly life punc­tu­at­ed by one reli­gious hol­i­day after anoth­er. How does this orga­ni­za­tion affect the rhythm of the year? How does the orga­ni­za­tion of life out­side of Israel accord­ing to the Gre­go­ri­an cal­en­dar, obvi­ous­ly cre­at­ing a dif­fer­ent real­i­ty, affect one as a Jew?

  10. Do you think expats can ever tru­ly be inte­grat­ed into their adopt­ed culture?

  11. Vic­to­ria and her Anglo” friends face many cul­tur­al chal­lenges. Exam­ples include a dif­fer­ent lan­guage, dif­fer­ent man­ners and the under­stand­ing that one’s chil­dren will be con­script­ed. How would you deal with some of these issues? Did Vic­to­ri­a’s expe­ri­ence make aliyah an appeal­ing option or an intim­i­dat­ing one?

  12. The author dis­cuss­es the con­cept of fam­i­ly: what defines one, what it means to have one, how not hav­ing one can affect one’s life. How would you define fam­i­ly? Does the fact that social media and mod­ern modes of trans­porta­tion can close vast dis­tances in this present era affect ear­li­er def­i­n­i­tions? Is fam­i­ly life in Amer­i­ca cher­ished in the same fash­ion as it is in Vic­to­ri­a’s Israel?

  13. The nov­el pri­mar­i­ly explores the female expat expe­ri­ence. How do you think a male expat per­spec­tive might dif­fer? Do you think that the will­ing­ness to exchange one life for anoth­er is gen­der relat­ed? Do you think gen­der affects the abil­i­ty to integrate?