Two Israeli sisters, one struggling with her marriage and the other finally settling into a steady relationship, reunite in British Columbia and rediscover their connection.
Confident, original and humane, the stories in The Best Place on Earth are peopled with characters at the crossroads of nationalities, religions and communities: expatriates, travellers, immigrants and locals. In illustrating the lives of those whose identities swing from fiercely patriotic to powerfully global, The Best Place on Earth explores Israeli history as it illuminates the tenuous connections—forged, frayed and occasionally destroyed—between cultures, between generations and across the gulf of transformation and loss.
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This debut story collection daringly takes on complexities of Israeli life and its diaspora. In "Tikkun," Lior and Natalie, once a couple, meet by chance on a Jerusalem street at the height of the second intifada. Natalie has since become devoutly Orthodox, forbidden to touch any man besides her husband; "We don't hug, the space between us thick with past embraces, with a history of touching." Yet when a terrorist attack occurs, their fate is altered. In "Invisible," Tsabari gives voice to the often-marginalized members of Israel's Filipino community in a tender love story. "Brit Milah" pits Reuma, a tradition-minded Yemeni Jewish mother against Ofra, her daughter, who has left the holy land for the cold of Canada and has defied tradition by choosing not to circumcise her son. The title story is the collection's most ambitious and most successful. When Naomi's marriage is in crisis, she decides to pay a visit to her sister in Canada, a place where "Vancouver was as blue as Jerusalem was golden." But rather than being a refuge, as in the past, Naomi must adjust to Carlos, her sister''s non-Jewish partner, and their own changed dynamic. This story and the whole collection, for that matter elegantly navigates the complex themes of sibling bonding, marital infidelity, and religion. Whereas David Grossman and Amos Oz have been adept at writing about a narrow segment of Israeli society, Tsabari's first collection is rich with many stories from across all of Israel and beyond. A remarkably assured debut.