Title: City of Refuge – A Novel Of The Ancient PastAuthor: Valerie FarberPublisher: Inkwell Enterprises
Valerie Farber’s impressive research (with experts acknowledged in her text), her captivat-ing story and seamless dialogue will entertain readers of her first book, City of Refuge – A Novel of the Ancient Past.
Set in the times of the Mishkan several hundred years after Matan Torah and against the raw natural beauty of ancient Israel, the story concerns the lives of two teenagers from different villages and tribes. One is Bat-Shachar, the dutiful daughter of a prominent kohen in Michmash, Binyamin’s territory; the other is Tzuriel from Beit-El, Shevet Efraim’s land. He is apprenticed to a metalworking master in ancient Bet Shemesh.
The teens witness rising Jewish life, almost 100 percent d’orayta, in idol-worshipping times. Through their eyes and ears, readers see and hear diverse lives unfold in living, breathing fashion. Manmade campfires and donkey rides to distant markets, halachically oriented legal hear-ings, kashering freshly slaughtered meat as well as witnessing incidents of celebration and mourning among Jews and non-Jews are part of Bat-Shachar and Tzuriel’s daily lives.
The nobility of Jewish life versus common savagery in ancient times lifts vividly off the page with readers sensing the touch of linen, cotton and home-spun wool and the scents of per-fumes and medicines made of spices, berries, roots and bark. The polar opposites of their in-tended use drive the action of the story.
Handling tithes to her father is a routine part of the heroine’s chores, and so is growing up with Basmat, the Canaanite servant girl she re-gards as a sister. But the naivet? of adolescence blinds Bat-Shachar to Basmat’s schemes. When Bat-Shachar must flee her socially prominent home to save her life, she accidentally finds Tzu-riel, her future protector, who is imbued with the trait of Jewish compassion.
In the middle of an errand for his employer when Bat-Shachar stumbles upon his campsite, Tzuriel is soon thrown into a halachic quandary that sends him on his own life-saving mission. He and Bat-Shachar run for safety to an ir mik-lat – a city of refuge – observing Halachah all the while.
Readers can experience life in ancient Israel and gain insight into its dynamic population mix as breathlessly as the story’s hotly pursued char-acters and can follow the action with helpful dia-grams, maps and illustrations included in the book.
The story’s ending is as charming as it is edifying. The mitzvot shine with spiritual clarity and a deep sense of personal identification for all concerned. The book is a treasure and should be made into a movie. Add it to school, home and community libraries.The book is available at cityofrefugenovel.com.