The Book of Israela

The Book of Israela

by Rena Blumenthal


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Jerusalem, 2002: the height of the second intifada. Kobi Benami is a middle-aged psychologist whose life is in shambles. His wife has thrown him out for his casual philandering; his daughter refuses to speak to him; and the new clinic director has placed him on probation for his indifferent work habits.

At this desperate juncture, Kobi gets a new patient, Israela, whose story is full of uncanny biblical references, and whose powerful and enigmatic husband, Y, may or may not exist. Israela hasn't seen Y in months, but she is being stalked by his prophet-like emissaries who span a wide spectrum of Israeli society--Orthodox to secular, right-wing settlers to left-wing urban elites--united only in their harsh condemnation of Israela, fierce devotion to Y, and connection to The Outstretched Arm, a sinister organization purported to be run by Y.

As Kobi becomes ensnared in a surreal encounter with the anthropomorphized story of ancient Israel, and increasingly preoccupied with questions about the nature and existence of Y, he is forced to confront his own dysfunctional life patterns, his family's tragic past, and the endless war that rages around him.

""The Book of Israela uses an unreliable narrator to paint a funny, horrifying, and honest portrait of contemporary Israel, while it explores the beauty and absurdity of Abrahamic monotheism. The ancient prophets (or possibly just random crazy people) haunt the steps of a secular, self-centered Israeli psychologist, whose new client, Israela, upends his life. Riddled with ingenious biblical references, Blumenthal's novel is part apocalypse, part comic book, and part biblical scavenger hunt, told unforgettably.""
--Maurice D. Harris, Rabbi and author of Leviticus: You Have No Idea

""A compelling story about a hapless, faithless Jerusalem psychologist during the worst of the intifada, this ambitious novel is also a sustained biblical allegory about Israel's volatile relationship with God. Blumenthal's learned fiction animates the prophets, true to original character, and carries the weight of the Jewish historical and mythical experiences, moving the reader to sympathize with the complex, evolving hero.""
--Lori Lefkovitz, Ruderman Professor of Jewish Studies, Professor of English, and Director of the Humanities Center and Jewish Studies Program, Northeastern University

""Few books can charm and entertain while simultaneously conveying profound truths. Rabbi Rena Blumenthal's The Book of Israela is that rare novel, as wise as it is delightful. Blumenthal constructs a nuanced portrait of both modern-day Israel and a multitude of biblical characters--including all three Isaiahs--in this evocative novel that is a pleasure to read.""
--Beth Kissileff, author of Questioning Return and editor of Reading Genesis

Rena Blumenthal is a freelance rabbi based in New Paltz, New York. This is her first novel.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781532658488
Publisher: Wipf & Stock Publishers
Publication date: 10/04/2018
Pages: 262
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.52(d)

About the Author

Rena Blumenthal is a freelance rabbi based in New Paltz, New York. This is her first novel.

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