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Speak that we may see

Right actions in the future are the best apologies for bad actions in the past. ~Tyron Edwards

I started reading Ten Thousand Lovers by Edeet Ravel based on a recommendation from a clergy friend. Ravel holds a PhD in Jewish studies and her fiction is peppered with accurate word studies about the Hebrew language, including the etymology of many words in the Bible.

But the book is really about the Israeli–Palestinian struggle. It is a must read ahead of the vote to grant a Palestinian state a nonmember observer status in the United Nations on Nov. 29th, the 65th anniversary of the UN decision to partition the territory of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.

Lily, our protagonist, takes a lover named Ami who is wonderfully complex, beautiful, and tragic–much like the Holy Land and its history. The story takes place in the 1970s, shortly after the ’67 war when Israel occupied Palestine into conquered territories. Ami works for Israel’s Army (IDF) as an interrogator of suspected terrorists.

But stop right there; he’s not who you think he is.

Ami has Palestinian friends and is sympathetic to their cause. As an interrogator, he eschews physical violence. From his position of privilege, he tries to do all that he can to help the cause of prisoners, particularly if he knows they are innocent. This draws him into direct confrontation with his superiors.

Yet Ami is painfully aware that he is fighting a losing battle. He believes that the IDF’s actions will only result in more violence, hostility, and hatred. As the events of the 21st century have shown, he was quite prophetic in this regard.

Towards the end of the book, one of Ami’s friends describes him as the loneliest person he had ever met. This catches Lily by surprise for Ami was gregarious and well-known in the community. He was lonely, however, because of his political views. He was isolated from his country, its politics, and the rhetoric of his time.

This reminds me that the Hebrew word for prophet, nabi, does not originally refer to someone who sees into the future, but rather someone who speaks truth in the present, particularly to those in charge and in power. To be a prophet is a lonely calling because they speak of situations that we would rather not know and tell us of people we would rather not see.

I highly recommend Ten Thousand Lovers to anyone who seeks an entertaining yet informative view of the current struggle in Israel. Too often, voices in the church are heard “prophesying” about the situation, usually broadcasting dire predictions against “those people.” What we need are people who shine a light on present injustices, laying bear the pain and suffering that is taking place right now. This is neither an easy nor popular task. But such people are not called prophets for nothing.

About Andrew Taylor-Troutman

I am a pastor and a preacher, a writer, a husband and a father. My professional and personal lives are deeply involved with story-telling: stories that are silly and poignant or profound and commonplace. Stories that are tear-jerkers and belly-shakers. Stories about my son, Sam, and the congregation I serve, New Dublin Presbyterian Church. Each in its own way, these personal narratives shed light on the great story that God is writing with humankind and all of creation.

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