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by Perle Besserman

Set during the hopeful yet turbulent years of the Clinton-sponsored Camp David peace talks between Yasir Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, Widow Zion traces the unlikely romantic encounter of Stella, a wealthy Jewish American widow on a “Holy Land Tour,” and Aryeh, her recalcitrant escort, an Israeli widower and war-weary old soldier. Their meeting results in a poignant, and eventually tragic, series of misadventures set into motion by Aryeh’s well-intentioned matchmaking cousin Leo, a Holocaust survivor driven by conflicting desires for material success and an almost mystical passion for tikkun—spiritual repair of a broken world. Bruised by her troubled marriage and traumatized by the recent suicide of her favored son, Stella is initially cynical and resists Leo’s mission; while Aryeh, too literally and figuratively wounded by Israel’s legacy of never-ending war, clings to old family grudges and resents his cousin’s intrusion. But Leo is a force too powerful to resist, and both inevitably succumb to his undeliverable promise of spiritual renewal.

Based on the centuries’-old struggle between Jews and Arabs in its current Palestinian/Israeli incarnation, this contemporary re-telling of the ancient biblical story of exile and return reveals that the source of the so-called “clash of civilizations” lies within the Jewish Diaspora itself.


Recipient of the Theodore Hoepfner Fiction Award and past writer-in-residence at the Mishkenot Sha’ananim Artists’ Colony in Jerusalem, Pushcart Prize-nominee Perle Besserman was praised by Isaac Bashevis Singer for the “clarity and feeling for mystic lore” of her writing and by Publisher’s Weekly for its “wisdom [that] points to a universal practice of the heart.” She has written two previous novels, Pilgrimage and Kabuki Boy, and two story collections, Marriage and Other Travesties of Love and Yeshiva Girl. Her short fiction has appeared in The Southern Humanities Review, Agni, Transatlantic Review, Nebraska Review, Southerly, North American Review, Bamboo Ridge, and many others. Besserman’s recent books of creative non-fiction include Zen Radicals, Rebels, and Reformers (coauthored with Manfred Steger) and A New Zen for Women.
Perle holds a doctorate in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and has lectured, toured, taught, and appeared on television, radio, and in two documentary films about her work in the US, Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan, China, and the Middle East. Her books have been recorded and released in both audio and e-book versions and translated into over ten languages. www.perlebesserman.net
August 16, 2013 A Word’s Worth Review: “Besserman’s descriptions of Jerusalem are stunning–she writes with the insights of a poet and the exactness of a journalist ... Woven throughout the novel is the implicit message of universal spiritual emptiness that pervades most contemporary cultures ...” Read the Full Review.


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