Refugees Fight “To Belong” In New Book

Rating: 4 out of 5.

One thing I love most about books – that I always have – is that they can transport you to the unknown places, and introduce you to new cultures and exotic locales. While Israel might not be that exotic – it has filled our television news screens for over a generation – it’s still not a country I know that much about. So I was excited to dig into a book featuring the country.

About the Book

In this contemporary story of hope and compassion, an Israeli woman named Tamar is fiercely loyal to family, friends, and faith. But below the surface, emotional scars fester from her childhood in a kibbutz children’s home, separated from her parents. She dreams of fulfilment as a mother of a large family. When a group of Sudanese refugee children come to Tamar’s nursing clinic, their predicament tugs at her heart. She becomes obsessed with thoughts of rescuing a small brother and sister abandoned by their mother at the desert refugee camp.

As followers of Jesus, Tamar and her family walk carefully as they live in a community comprised of Messianic Jews, secular Jews, former Orthodox Jews, Holocaust survivors, and immigrants from various countries and cultures–all seeking an identity, to know “who they are.” As this unlikely group of family and friends enfold the children and seek justice for them, new possibilities begin to open for healing of all kinds. Read this unique and refreshing story. You’ll see: tradition both ancient and modern; faith that is living and embodied; even the intimate experience of the land itself all moulding and holding together a supportive, sometimes suffering but always hopeful, multi-cultural community. You’ll be glad you took the journey, and you may never see the world quite the same after this “inside view” by multi-book author, Judith Galblum Pex.

My Thoughts

The thing that I really took away from this book was that people are the same everywhere. We in western countries like the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom might think our struggles with racism and immigration are unique, but this book showed they can be found anywhere. The storyline was so achingly familiar, but, it was fresh when viewed through the lens of this unfamiliar culture.

I enjoyed the story, though it was hard to read in some places, not because of bad writing, but because of the difficult subject. The abuse the refugees experienced at the hand of the native Israelites was heart-wrenching. While many were Jewish, some called themselves Christian, the same as their Sudanese brethren. Their rude assumptions and blatant racism should make anyone look hard at themselves and their own ideas about immigration – no matter where they live.

As a mother, watching the story of the two rescued children unfold was also very difficult. I’ve known children abandoned by their mothers in my life, but I still find it difficult to imagine it. I loved all the children, but I also felt that many of the characters were a little flat and could have stood fleshing out. Religion or the lack of it seemed to be most of the adult characterization.

My favorite part of the story was being immersed in the culture and atmosphere of the country. I’ve never been to Israel and never read or watched anything with Isreal other than the Bible. I enjoyed learning more about the Jewish traditions and the Israeli countryside. The author did an amazing job describing everything, so I could picture it well.

Who’s It For?

If you enjoy stories rife with socio-political battles, religious diversity, family drama, and more, this is a splendid book for your TBR pile.

Content warning: Religious talk, war, refugee camps, child abandonment, abuse, and racism.

About the Author

Judith Galblum Pex was born in Washington, D.C. but has been living in Eilat, Israel with her husband, John, since 1976. Thirty-seven years ago they began the Shelter Hostel, a guest house for travelers from all over the world and a drop-in center for anyone searching for physical, emotional or spiritual support. In her free time, Judith likes to read, hike and camp in the mountains around Eilat, snorkel in the Red Sea, and spend time with family and friends.

Judith and John are the parents of four grown children and the happy grandparents of ten.

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