All The Rivers: Lust, sweat and a stern political warning

Israeli novelist Dorit Rabinyan has written a steamy novel about life in Manhattan a year after 911. Separate from the sweat and from under the blankets emerges a stern political warning.


All The Rivers (Random House, translated by Jessica Cohen) is the story of two lovers in their late twenties. Liat is a graduate student living in Manhattan. Hilmi is an artist living in Brooklyn. They are both 28 years old. She is from Israel. He is from the West Bank. Their families lives 40 miles apart. Forbidden love. Forbidden politics. The book has been banned from the Israeli school system.

Liat is in lust, but she knows that the affair will go nowhere. She is scheduled to return to Israel in May 2003. Her family will never accept Hilmi. Liat describes the disparaging views some Israelis hold of Arabs. She speaks a couple of times a week by telephone to her parents and sister. She conceals Hilmi from them. Hilmi resents being a nonperson to her family.

Rabinyan details the Manhattan scene, the food lives and social experiences of the upscale late-20's set. She gives optimistic snapshots of life in Tel Aviv and the West Bank.


Rabinyan has a sobering message. As I see it, she is saying that the "Two State Solution" (separate and independent Jewish and Palestinian states, existing side by side) cannot work. The two peoples are too interconnected. Both peoples love the same land. Arabs displaced in the 1948 war, are still attached to their ancestral houses and towns. Arabs and Jews have the same historic sites. Arabs want to visit the beaches on the Mediterranean. Israel needs Arab labor and Arabs need jobs.

Rabinyan never states it, but she implies that a single secular democratic state is the only solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

This book is too hot to handle for many audiences. If the book is banned, it must be good.