Author: Nora Gold

Publisher: Dundurn

ISBN: 9781459721463

Nora Gold in Fields of Exile has created a naive and conflicted female character in the person of Judith who has lived in Israel for ten years and has just returned to Toronto to take care of her seventy-two year old dying father. Judith can hardly wait to return to Israel, however, she promises her father on his death bed that she will return to University to obtain her masters in social work (M.S.W). Toronto represents for Judith Galut, being exiled from Israel where her heart and soul still live.

In Israel Judith was involved with discussion groups between Jewish and Arab adolescents and was part of a group called Friends-of-Peace. The objective of the group was to foster mutual understandings and tolerance between the two groups. Judith is also in a relationship with a young lawyer, Bobby who is deeply in love with her but is not interested in moving to Israel. He is constantly pressuring her to remain in Canada and marry him and it becomes extremely difficult for her to stave him off. She feels that Bobby does not understand that her love for Israel is unconditional in the same way people love their family members even though they have faults, but you love them just the same.

Judith is accepted in the Master of Social Work program at Dunhill University, which incidentally had recently made the news because of a student riot when a rally got out of hand. One of her father's friends tells Judith that it was nothing and that she doesn't have to have anything to do with the Student's Union. Judith accepts the advice without researching further into the matter and begins her classes where she befriends a few students as well as one of her female professors whom she immediately feels a warm bonding between them.

As Judith has been away from Canada for ten years, she is unaware of the anti-Israel sentiment that has raised its ugly head in several Canadian and American universities that to a huge extent has been promulgated and promoted by pseudo intellectual professors who know little about the history of Israel and for the most part have never stepped foot in Israel. The information is generally based on fiction and misconceptions than on fact and a lack of intellectual rigour as well as valid critical thinking. These individuals readily gobble up the venomous false information about Israel without questioning its source or authenticity and instigate uninformed young minds to follow their lead.

In many cases this is known as a form of the new antisemitism, which in fact is only a recycling of the old kind, that has often emanated from the far-left, radical Islam as well as the far-right which tends to manifest itself as demonizing Zionism and the State of Israel as an apartheid country. We may ask, if Israel is apartheid, how do you explain the reality of a recent Israeli court case where the Supreme Court of two women and an Arab convicted a former president of the State of sexual offences?

Unfortunately, Judith encounters this malicious attack on Israel in some of her classroom lectures and is deeply conflicted as to how to react. In addition, she is particularly disappointed with those individuals whom she thought to be her friends including one of her professors whom she had trusted. Her boyfriend Bobby tells her to keep quiet, forget about these people and in six months she will be out of the university with her degree.

Gold's portrayal of Judith is articulate, detailed and emotionally honest and I must commend her for “telling like it is” concerning anti-Israel bias and antisemitism.

Moreover, this intelligent novel demonstrates her full powers to write persuasively about highly charged issues without resorting to sentimentality as she addresses a wide spectrum of serious subjects including female relationships, history, loyalty, social responsibility, university politics, belonging, love, betrayal and the courage to stand up for what one believes. In addition, her feel for narrative pacing is impeccable making the novel a joy to read although at times I must admit that some of the themes were a trifle disturbing.