Line Change

Mark Licht­en­feld
  • Review
By – February 14, 2014

Ethan Con­ners is a yeshi­va day school grad­u­ate whose father wants him to use his con­sid­er­able tal­ents as a hock­ey play­er to secure a ful­ly paid schol­ar­ship to col­lege. To bol­ster his appli­ca­tion, Ethan finds a spot on Team USA for the inter­na­tion­al Mac­cabi­ah hock­ey com­pe­ti­tion. The games are played at the Cana­da Cen­tre, a sports com­plex in Metu­la, a bor­der town in North­ern Israel that is the site of con­tin­u­al ter­ror­ist attacks by Hezbol­lah out of Lebanon. Ethan has been to Israel with his fam­i­ly many times but the tourist” san­i­tized ver­sion of Israel he has pre­vi­ous­ly encoun­tered is noth­ing like Kiry­at She­mona, the grit­ty work­ing class city he stays in to be close to the sports com­plex. Now he sees a dif­fer­ent side of Israel, reflect­ing a harsh­er real­i­ty and pre­sent­ing a set of choic­es for res­i­dents that Ethan has nev­er thought about before. He meets Jew­ish kids his own age and is shocked to real­ize that the deci­sions they face are far stark­er and more dra­mat­ic than win­ning a sports com­pe­ti­tion on an ice rink or sat­is­fy­ing a parent’s col­lege dream. Through expo­sure to this new world, Ethan begins to learn and grow, inte­grat­ing what he has been pre­vi­ous­ly taught with the new impres­sions that bom­bard him hourly in this unfa­mil­iar envi­ron­ment. Putting it all togeth­er is no easy task and nei­ther is deci­sion mak­ing, grow­ing up and chang­ing perspective.

Goal for Mark Licht­en­feld! Goal and gold medal! Because he gets it; he real­ly, tru­ly does. He per­fect­ly cap­tures the voice of an Amer­i­can Jew­ish day school stu­dent, a sin­cere kid who knows all about the Jew­ish world and how it works while at the same time, know­ing noth­ing about it at all. But Lichtenberg’s Ethan isn’t arro­gant or spoiled although he may seem so at first glance to his new Israeli acquain­tances. He is will­ing to stretch and to learn and to think about what’s real­ly impor­tant and, as he does, he makes some tough choic­es in a real­is­tic and admirable way.

Well-writ­ten, excit­ing and sub­stan­tive, with both edge-of-the-chair sports scenes and exam­i­na­tions of deep­er issues, this book is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed for ages 14 and up.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

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