Author: Shulamit Lapid
Translated from the Hebrew by Philip Simpson
13 978 1 59264 230 4
Publisher: Toby Press

Click Here To Purchase Valley of Strength

Thanks to Philip Simpson's excellent translation, I was able to easily read Shulamit Lapid's Valley of Strength, the fascinating saga of Rosh Pina.

Historically, Shulamit Lapid brings us back to the pioneering days of the 1900s in the Promised Land with the torrid love affair of a beautiful young Russian girl and a fierce but gentle Safed native. This book records some of the highlights, happy and sad, but always poignant from that profoundly important period of the birth of the State of Israel

One hundred years ago, Palestine, inhabited by Muslim and Christian Arabs, Turks, Circasians and Jews, was a rocky, swampy wasteland rife with diseases as malaria, yellow fever, and infections of the eyes, Trachoma. The hot summer weather was almost unbearable. It was a wretchedly poor land. There were hardly any roads, security was quasi non-existent and the soil had been neglected for centuries. Some Jews were there illegally, Jewish immigration having been banned by Ottoman Turks. Everything they did was on sufferance, through bribery and getting by.

Fania, a sixteen- year old survivor of a pogrom in Ukraine arrives in Palestine with her uncle, her demented brother and her baby, a product of rape. She agrees to marry Yehiel, a twenty-six year old widower and father of two children. Their marriage is not consummated until much later when Fania falls in love with him. She is ashamed of having been raped by a Russian and would not let Yehiel touch her. They settle in the village of Gai Oni (Rosh Pina) – a settlement in the Galilee where Yehiel is one of the last courageous pioneers to work the harsh land bought from the Arabs. Severe drought and exhausting work have driven away most of the pioneers, leaving behind only a few tenacious families. What’s more is that Yehiel and Fania refused any help from the European benefactors such as Baron de Rothchild. They were dirt poor and it was with sheer grit that they managed to survive.

Fania does not mind the backbreaking work of clearing the big stones and little stones of this harsh land, as well as the torrid weather. Yehiel and herself have to contend not only with the coarse surroundings but with all kinds of other threats, such as roving Bedouin marauders who ambushed them and raided them for their water. They did not hesitate to shoot to kill. And if the Jews defended themselves and shot an Arab or a Bedouin, they had to run for their lives.

Not only were there outside threats, but Fania was defiled by the religious Jews because she was an early feminist, not covering her beautiful hair, doing man’s work, and wearing Arab robes. She rode through the bandit infested country and broke into the male dominated worlds of commerce and politics, even of defence.

Shulamit Lapid keeps the reader enthralled throughout the developing plot and we fall in love with the hard working feminist Fania, her husband Yehiel and all the other supporting characters. Fania’s thrists in the scenic harsh landscape make us long to be there with her, supporting the State of Israel.

Shulamit Lapid is able to take on a historical theme convincingly. Valley of Strength is an Israeli classic which ties together Israeli history and world feminism and is beloved by critics and readers alike in Israel.

It is remarkable that this good translation by Philip Simpson is able to bring this little gem to the eyes and minds of English readers. Read it and spread the word!!

Click Here To Purchase Valley of Strength