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BellaOnline's Judaism Editor


The Triumph of Deborah - A Book Review

Guest Author - Lisa Pinkus

When a work of fiction is based upon historical truth, the author faces the difficult task of weaving factual elements of history with her own creative thoughts in a voice believable of the time being written about. Eva Etzioni-Halevy has me entranced, engaged and contemplative even after I’ve finished reading The Triumph of Deborah.

I should have predicted from the title that Deborah would prevail in the end, though I am certain I could not have told you how her success would unfold. There are a multitude of themes running throughout this story. Deborah often steps to the rear, allowing the other characters to relay their contributions to the novel, yet Deborah remains the central figure bringing it all together in the end.

From war to peace and love to devastation, Etzioni-Halevy’s book covers love triangles, cross-cultural secrets, heartache and hardship, justice and conscience and the fate of our (the Jewish people’s) future. It is quite easy to slip into this book and imagine that this is exactly how time unraveled – even if you are not typically a reader of realistic, fact-based, fictional novels.

When one looks at “what we actually know” about Deborah, the Judge and prophetess, the author’s ability to fill in the pieces is astounding and believable. In fact, upon completing the book, I went back to my research on Deborah and kept wondering why certain parts of her history were not mentioned in various commentaries. The reason being, of course, is that much of it came from the imagination of Eva Etzioni-Halevy. I marvel at the writer’s ability to create an entire story line that fills in all the blanks.

The focus of The Triumph of Deborah is Deborah’s prophecy that – after her failed attempt to establish peace with the Canaanites – the Israelites were in grave danger with the inevitable war that was to come. Deborah convinced a man named Barak to gather an army and attack the Canaanites. Taking the Canaanites by surprise, the Israelites – once again – came out victorious from something that seemed impossible.

Beneath this storyline the reader embarks upon various themes including:
* the strength of women in Jewish history

* the observable conscience of the warrior, Barak, who despite his loose ways with women – always makes deliberate decisions so as not to hurt someone else’s feelings, and

* conflicts between cultures – not only the warring between the Israelites and the Canaanites but within individuals who were born to one Israelite parent and one Canaanite parent and between siblings who find themselves on opposing sides of the conflict.

The saying goes “behind every successful man, there is a woman”, and Deborah was certainly the woman behind the men of Israel. What little we know about her establishes her as a prime role model for young women. The Triumph of Deborah written by Eva Etzioni-Halevy is a great read. I am eager to go back and read her other books The Song of Hannah and The Garden of Ruth.

I requested a free copy of The Triumph of Deborah after a receiving a request to write a review on it. I have since purchased Eva Etzioni-Halevy's other books.

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