The Golden Bell

Kar-Ben Publishing  2019


A worried boy carries picture book readers back to ancient Jerusalem and the “claiming stone,” the place to claim lost and found objects. Sadly, the boy, Itamar, is not successful in the search for his lost object, but there is a happy ending, reaching all the way forward into modern times.

Itamar is the son of a tailor who takes pride in his work, especially in repairing the garments of the Temple High Priest. The ceremonial robe of this Priest has a beautiful border which includes tiny golden bells. The Book of Exodus describes this garment; the Talmud, in its Rabbinic discussion, explicates still further. The robe is described in these ancient sources as richly colored, with pomegranate shapes in addition to the bells decoratively sewn around the hem. We are told in these sources that the bells, besides being ornamental, served another purpose. Their tinkling sounds helped the High Priest accomplish his daily tasks by keeping him focused on his service to the Temple. The carefully delineated descriptions of this garment and other details about the era add texture to a time which might otherwise seem to young readers to be lost in a fog of ancient history. The details and descriptions provide much scope for imagination and thought.

In The Golden Bell, young Itamar picks up the robe needing to be repaired and brings it to his father. Immediately upon entering his father’s shop, he counts the bells. Oh no! One is missing. Itamar waits at the claiming stone for many days for someone to shout that he found the bell. He also searches along the route himself, looking down wells, in gullies, under rocks, and over ledges. In spite of his thorough search, he never finds it. He grows up; becomes a father, a grandfather. He tells his descendants about the little bell and its sound. Centuries pass. In 2011, on a dig, an archaeologist spies a gleam in the dirt. It is a tiny bell with a still audible delicate ring. Could this be the bell Itamar lost? We cannot be sure. Readers are happy that Itamar learned to live a good life despite his loss; they are happier still at the surprising modern find.

Archaeological discoveries play an important part in Israeli society. Israel abounds with historic archaeological finds which present children (and adults as well) with a living link between their ancient history and their daily modern lives. The connections between now and then feel very immediate as more and more artifacts are discovered at archaeological sites. The focus on archaeology in the story of Itamar and the lost bell is both educational and fascinating.

This charming fictional story, with its roots in the Torah and Talmud, helps make connections between the past and present tangible for readers. What a good introduction to an era in Israel rarely read about in picture books!

Winsome, simple, yet expressive color illustrations support the story as it moves along with feeling.

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