Fields of Exile: A Review
Given the virulent and irrational anti-Israel climate prevalent on college campuses, Nora Gold’s insightful and fluid novel is most welcome.
Her engaging heroine, Judith, a Canadian social worker and committed Zionist, has lived in Israel for several years but has returned to Toronto to care for her dying father. Concerned for her future, he extracts a promise from her that she will complete graduate work in Canada before returning to Israel. She accedes and reluctantly enrolls in a master’s degree in social work program at Dunhill University.
Although she desperately misses Israel and her community of liberal and intellectual Jerusalem friends, she is gradually immersed in her new life. She renews her relationship with Bobby, a persistent lover, with whom she shares pleasant Shabbat dinners and intense conversations about Zionism and Jewish destiny.
At the university she is part of a coterie of sympathetic classmates and the protégé of an instructor who showers her with attention and invites her to cochair a committee concerned with social justice issues.
In Israel, the intifada rages, but the Dunhill community is increasingly concerned with the plight of the Palestinians. Judith is appalled by campus posters that proclaim such slogans as “Palestinian Life and Death Under Zionist Apartheid.”
Her sphere of comfort erodes and she recognizes that she is indeed in the fields of exile when her committee elects to sponsor an “Anti-Oppression Day” and invites a speaker who is viciously anti-Israel.
Eventually, she is ousted from her chairmanship, rejected by her mentor and caught up in the violent currents of student riots against the Jewish state. Her protests result in physical assaults that land her in the hospital. The descriptions are graphic and the rhetoric of the student mob is both disgusting and unhappily accurate.
Gold has ventured into the dangerous territory of academic betrayal and intellectual hypocrisy.
But her authorial courage matches the courage of her heroine, who, in the end, not only survives but triumphs, her integrity intact and her future assured.
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