Ronit & Jamil

Pamela L. Laskin

  • Review
By – June 26, 2018

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.

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