The Jewish Eye
By Miriam Feinberg Vamosh
Menorah Books: 2016
Reviewed by Anna Dogole - May 31, 2016
Miriam Feinberg Vamosh, a tour guide educator (in Israel), and an editor and translator with the Haaretz newspaper, is also a long time scholar of ancient Israeli history. She brings her historical knowledge and writing skills to the fore in her new book, The Scroll. This compelling work of fiction begins in October of 71 CE, during the final days of the battle for Masada. The story focuses on Miriam, who, as the story opens, is in the process of being given a divorce. The story then jumps back in time, and works it way back up to the fall of Masada and continues on from there. Miriam is destined to survive the dreadful battle, but a decision she makes during the final days of the battle is to affect three generations of her family. This is the crux of the story as the reader follows Miriam and her decedents as they deal with the repercussions of this decision.
Filled with realistic details, this story transports the reader back to the days of Masada and lets you experience the sights, sounds, and even smells of this ancient land. Along the way, Vamosh introduces readers to the varied customs of the Jews and also includes some details about the beliefs of early Christianity and the interactions that early Christians had with their Jewish neighbors. The characters are fully developed and the story is well plotted.
An interesting part of this book, although not directly part of the story, is the information presented on how Vamosh chanced upon the idea for this story. As it turns out, what gave her the idea for the story was the discovery of a scroll containing an intriguing divorce decree of a real-life woman named Miriam. The scroll was found in a cave in Wadi Murabba'at, located in the Judean Desert. Building upon this minuscule tidbit of fact, Vamosh managed to create an epic, multi-generational story that transverses time, space, and beliefs as she documents the experiences of her characters as they struggle to maintain their dignity, their beliefs, and their connection to the Land of Israel, even when living far away.
The Scroll is a fascinating book, about an intriguing period in time that will delight fans of both historical fiction, in general, as well as books dealing with ancient Jewish history.
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