cover image Refuge


Sami Michael. Jewish Publication Society of America, $35 (388pp) ISBN 978-0-8276-0308-0

Although it suffers from lapses into artless, abrupt and even bombastic prose, this work has considerable merit and interest as a social document. Michael fled his native Iraq to escape hanging as a leftist during WW II; after 25 years as a field worker in Israel, he began to publish fiction. Refuge , which follows Equal and More Equal , chronicles the activities of various Jewish and Arab members of Israel's Communist Party during the first days of the 1973 war. Marduch, an Iraqi Jewish immigrant and Zionist by default, enters combat to repay a debt to the country that gave him refuge. His wife Shula is left to cope with their retarded son, with her feelings for a former lover and career officer who is lost in battle and with an Arab comrade seeking sanctuary in her home from the Israelis. Michael trains his gaze on Israeli Communists, who are seldom scrutinized in fiction, to reveal a party struggling with hypocrisy and rife with anti-Semitic Arabs and Arab-hating Jews, misogynists and conformists. (Oct.)