Two young lovers, à la Romeo and Juliet, meet and fall in love in a contemporary setting in this story told in lyrical, flowing free verse.
Ronit, an Israeli girl, and Jamil, a Palestinian boy, accompany their fathers to work where they encounter one another, fall instantly in love, and, in spite of cultural differences and a political chasm, decide that they cannot live without each other. Their fathers — both doctors — are idealistic enough to work together to provide healthcare to those in need, but they have misgivings about this relationship based on a realistic assessment of the difficulties sure to be faced by this hopeful but naive young couple. They are certain a romance between Ronit and Jamil is neither acceptable nor wise. The divide and distrust between the two sides seems unbridgeable and too dangerous to tolerate. Ronit and Jamil feel the need to escape the strictures of their lives to be together, but the risks inherent in making their dreams come true are painful and daunting
The story highlights the difficult truth that love may not be able to conquer all; difficult choices are sometimes necessary even for the starry-eyed. The world doesn’t necessarily favor romance and is filled with confusion and contradiction. The haunting poetrymoves back and forth between her point of view and his, with the two sides occasionally echoing each other. The Shakespearean echoes make the tale feel universal.
While the verse attempts to present both sides of this thorny conflict, the historical issues and the current dilemmas are oversimplified; the romantic theme takes center stage and the author uses idealism as a vehicle for a love story. Nevertheless, no matter which side of the political divide the reader identifies with, the story provides an opportunity for thoughtful discussion — most effectively, perhaps, with a teacher in a classroom setting, where some of the actualities of life in Israel and Palestine can be explored in greater depth.
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.