Assaf GavronSep 7, 2020
Mordantly funny and deeply moving, The Hilltop about life in a West Bank settlement has been hailed as “brilliant” (The New York Times Book Review) and “The Great Israeli Novel [in which] Gavron stakes his claim to be Israel’s Jonathan Franzen” (Tablet).
On a rocky hilltop stands Ma’aleh Hermesh C, a fledgling outpost of Jewish settlers in the West Bank. According to government records it doesn’t exist; according to the military it must be defended. On this contested land, Othniel Assis—under the wary gaze of the Palestinians in the neighboring village—lives on his farm with his ever-expanding family. As Othniel cheerfully manipulates government agencies, more settlers arrive, and a hodge-podge of shipping containers and mobile homes takes root.
One steadfast resident is Gabi Kupper, a former kibbutz dweller who savors the delicate routines of life on the settlement. When Gabi’s prodigal brother, Roni, arrives penniless on his doorstep with a bizarre plan to sell the “artisanal” olive oil from the Palestinian village to Tel Aviv yuppies, Gabi worries his life won’t stay quiet for long. Then a nosy American journalist stumbles into Ma’aleh Hermesh C, and Gabi’s worst fears are confirmed. The settlement becomes the focus of an international diplomatic scandal, facing its greatest threat yet.
This “indispensable novel” (The Wall Street Journal) skewers the complex, often absurd reality of life in Israel. Grappling with one of the most charged geo-political issues of our time, “Gavron’s story gains a foothold in our hearts and minds and stubbornly refuses to leave” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).
Dr. Yakir Englander is the National Director of Leadership programs at the Israeli-American Council. He also teaches at the AJR. He is a Fulbright scholar and was a visiting professor of Religion at Northwestern University, the Shalom Hartman Institute and Harvard Divinity School. His books are Sexuality and the Body in New Religious Zionist Discourse (English/Hebrew and The Male Body in Jewish Lithuanian Ultra-Orthodoxy (Hebrew). He can be reached at: Yakir1212englander@gmail.com