cover image Matches


Alan Kaufman, . . Back Bay, $13.95 (264pp) ISBN 978-0-316-10664-1

The title is an Israeli army term for a soldier, or one who "strikes, burns, and dies." Nathan Falk, an American-born Jew and the son of a Holocaust survivor, arrives in Israel seeking "for once, to be generally human, immersed in a kinky-haired majority"—and to do the three years of regular military service and subsequent one-month-a-year reserve duty required of every Israeli male. The narrative falls into 13 Israel Defense Forces patrol vignettes, centered by one novella-size chapter that follows Falk's affair with his best friend's alcoholic girlfriend, along with the honor killing of a 17-year-old Bedouin girl by a man in Falk's (very multi-culti) unit. Throughout, Kaufman (Jew Boy ), an American Jew who did multiple IDF tours and now lives in San Francisco, sketches the fault lines of Israeli society as heightened by the highly charged, often violent patrols in the West Bank and Gaza: Sephardic vs. Ashkenazi; native vs. emigré; Arab vs. Jew. The political turmoil, ruined relationships, coiled anger and psychological damage the patrols leave in their wake is made vivid—and personal—at every turn, as are IDF procedures and moments of unexpected cooperation across borders. As a novel, it's baggy, but the result gives readers a fascinating look at the story behind the numbing newspaper tallies. (Oct. 24)