by Assaf Gavron
Harper, 2010. 328 pgs. Fiction.
Eitan "Croc" Einoch usually takes the Little No. 5 to work in Tel Aviv instead of the No. 5 bus for a variety of reasons, the main one being that it is less likely to be blown up by terrorists. But on the day in question several of Little No. 5's passengers are nervous about a Palestinian man carrying a suit bag, including a blonde man in sunglasses who tells Croc that if anything happens, he should tell his girlfriend Shuli something, but he can't think of how to say what he wants her to be told. Croc tells the man not to worry, disembarks, and later learns the Palestinian has blown himself up along with the Little No. 5 and her passengers. From there the story is told in alternating chapters, by Croc himself and by Fahmi, a Palestinian who is in the hospital, his life consisting of interior dialogue and the actions of a nurse, a doctor, and his visitors who talk to him and care for his body. The back and forth of these two likeable--in fact, deeply
sympathetic-- characters is the story as well of the hopeless tragedy that is contemporary Israel. Death and retaliation, retaliation and death, the sorrow made more poignant by the witty dialogue, the mordant humor, the comforting details of everyday life, and the austere beauty of the landscape that characterize Gavron's well-wrought narrative. I doubt any political, historical, or cultural treatises could ever lay bare the disaster of endless, mindless hatred like this short novel does.