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.