Read In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist Online

Authors: Ruchama King Feuerman

Tags: #Fiction, #Jewish, #Contemporary Women, #Religious, #Political

In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist

BOOK: In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist
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“A sophisticated and engaging book that treats an endlessly tangled topic—relations between Palestinian Arabs and Jews—with intelligence and originality.… a manifestly terrific novel.”

—Barton Swaim,
The Wall Street Journal

“Feuerman tells a tale of human beings who seek to make connections with each other against all odds.… One of the great pleasures of her novel … is her rich and vivid evocation of contemporary Jerusalem, and especially the people and places in Jerusalem that would not be out of place in a novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer … She may be the Jewish Jane Austen, but she is also something of a Jewish Graham Greene.”

—Jonathan Kirsch,
Los Angeles Jewish Journal

“Feuerman’s novel has the most vivid, alive characters, like [the] big huge novels from India by Rohinton Mistry.”

—Bill McKibben,
Boston Globe

“A beautiful novel that coils the history and mystery of Jerusalem into a private and vivid tale of personal dignity, ownership, love—and the overlap of all three, the space we call the soul.”

—Dara Horn, author of
Guide for the Perplexed

In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist
is ultimately a story of love transcending deformity, both inner and outer … a book that speaks of seeing beyond appearances: beyond large entities such as the Arab or Jewish collectives to the individual standing before us … extraordinary, delicate and memorable.”

—Yael Unterman,

“[A] testament to the power of the imagination … a rare talent.”

—Beth Kissileff,
The Jerusalem Post

In The Courtyard Of The Kabbalist
is a beautifully written, emotionally evocative novel enriched by fascinating characters and an unparalleled portrait of the magical city that is Jerusalem.”

—Jonathan Kellerman

“The descriptions of Jerusalem and its inhabitants in Ruchama King Feuerman’s new novel … are so beautifully detailed and vivid that it’s almost as though the city carries its own voice in the narrative. While political turmoil always exists in Feuerman’s Jerusalem, it rarely takes center stage. The story is a delicate balance of courtship tale and thriller … I strongly recommend it for anyone who appreciates fiction about Israel, traditional Jews or the Mideast conflict.”

—Rebecca Stumpf,
Dallas Morning News

“[Feuerman] creates a compelling world within a world in Jerusalem. She conveys spiritual longings and the yearnings for human connection, all informed by the heavenly city and its mysteries.”

—Sandee Brawarsky,
Jewish Woman Magazine

“In her irresistible novel
In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist
, Ruchama King Feuerman writes with such contagious affection for her characters that they’re likely to supplant your own family until you finish the book. Her Jerusalem, riven though it is by tensions between the sacred and profane, remains an intoxicating place, where diffident lovers inhabit an atmosphere as romantically charged as
The Song of Songs

—Steve Stern, author of
The Book of Mischief

“The emotions in Feuerman’s small but gripping story are love and fear.… The tour through [these characters’] hearts and minds, particularly Isaac’s and Mustafa’s, makes for some of the most deeply interesting, challenging reading of the year.”

—Marakay Rogers,
Broadway Books World

“Ruchama Feuerman combines qualities of I.B. Singer touched with the melancholy humor of Sholom Aleichem and Bernard Malamud, sparked with magical realism worthy of Isak Dinesen. Her vision is large and generous.
In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist
is exactly the kind of book I wish I’d written myself.”

—Liz Rozenberg, author of
The Laws of Gravity

“Whose holiness matters? Whose claim on the land is longer, more lasting, more vital? Whose God is best? These most vexing of questions, which trap otherwise smart and even liberal-minded people in boxes they can’t seem to get themselves out of, emerge from this one spot in this one city. But what if, Feuerman wonders, a Muslim would offer irrefutable evidence of the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount? And what if a religious Jew would open his heart to save the life (and soul, presumably) of the Muslim? Could the boxes be broken? What if the answers lie right beneath our feet?

“Feuerman asks these most delectable questions in the form of a fable … infected, like the novels of Meir Shalev, with a kind of Jewish mystical magical realism. She is a wonderfully empathetic and perceptive writer … masterful.”

—Nathaniel Popkin,
Cleaver Magazine

“The unlikely friendship of an intellectual New York Jew and a working-class Jerusalem Arab drives Feuerman’s evocative second novel.… [Jerusalem] itself emerges as a character … depicted with a lyricism that contrasts with the area’s political tension.… [The] story unfolds as a belated coming-of-age tale … [written in a] quiet, lovely mood.”

Publishers Weekly

“A tender, almost Malamudian fable of chosenness and redemption,
In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist
is not content to tread lightly upon sacred ground, but dares to dig for treasure below.”

—Robert Cohen, author of
Amateur Barbarians

“Feuerman is such an engrossing story writer, we want to keep reading and reading.… absorbing, fascinating.… written by a creative storyteller with an amazing skill for originality.”

Kansas City Jewish Chronicle

“Feuerman writes with authority and convincing detail that soon draws readers into her story with its ‘mishmash of cultures.’ With its colorful and believable cast of characters, this book is a hearty and flavorful chicken soup to warm the spirits of anyone interested in … Middle Eastern society with all its blemishes and hopes.”

Library Journal

“How do people get along when they have been taught they can’t? Who do ancient artifacts belong to—the person who unearths them or the people who valued them in the past? This is just one of the story lines in this lively, witty, and entertaining novel. Ruchama King writes with a light touch and great insight. This book is hard to put down.”

—Alice Elliott Dark, author of
In the Gloaming
Think of England

“This is a story that toys with, then rejects, cliches, politics, and religious stereotypes. Too many people choose to see this part of the world as either black or white. Ruchama King Feuermam paints it in a hundred shades of gray.”

—Helen Maryles Shankman, author of
The Color of Light

“… a richly woven tale of self discovery, romance and culture clash against the backdrop of Jerusalem … [this] elegantly written novel spins the tale of three enchanting characters whose search for love and meaning is bound to resonate with readers.”

—Deena Yellin,
Jewish Standard

“I love fiction that teaches me something.
The Courtyard of the Kabbalist
not only taught me about the Koran, the Kabbalah, archeology, and the Mideast, it also taught me much about how the window of the human heart can fling open, allowing light into the darkest places.”

—Rochelle Jewel Shapiro, author of
Miriam the Medium
Kaylee’s Ghost

“An amazing novel that lets you in a magical exotic world. Both entertaining and enlightening.”

—Lara Vapnyar, author of
Memoirs of a Muse

435 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014

Copyright © 2013 by Ruchama King Feuerman
All rights reserved.

All rights reserved. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher.

First paperback published in 2014.

Cover photo: © Boaz Rottem/ age fotostock
Cover design: Ian Durovic Stewart

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Feuerman, Ruchama King.
In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist / Ruchama King Feuerman.
    pages cm
ISBN 978-1-59017-814-0 (pbk.)
[1. Jews—Israel—Fiction. 2. Mystery and detective stories. 3. Israel—Fiction.] I. Title.
PS3611.I585I6 2014


ebook ISBN 978-1-59017-749-5

For a complete list of books in the NYRB Lit series, visit



In memory of my dear mother-in-law,
Chana Twersky Feuerman

If I tell you my story

you will listen for awhile

and then you will fall asleep

But, if, as I tell you my story

you begin to hear your own story

you will wake up

—Hassidic saying

February 1998

A month after his mother died, Isaac Markowitz, forty, plagued with eczema and living on the Lower East Side, sold his haberdashery at a decent profit and took an El Al flight to Israel. At the Central Hotel, the most pious hotel in all of Jerusalem, he stumbled upon a pamphlet shuffled in with the tourist brochures, a veritable Yellow Pages of saints, zaddiks, rebbes, kabbalists, and other holy men. Rebbe Yehudah’s name stood out—a kabbalist described as having a gift for analyzing difficulties of the soul. It didn’t hurt that Rebbe Yehudah’s address was within walking distance from the hotel.

Isaac went searching for him in the alleys and byways, Ezekiel Street, Hosea Court, Isaiah Avenue, lost amongst the prophets until he arrived at a shabby stone-floored courtyard on Ninveh Street that fronted a two-storied cottage. The last time Isaac was in Israel, he had been a boy of sixteen—he had briefly interrupted his Torah studies to pack sandbags as a volunteer in the Yom Kippur War. He vowed then that one day he would return, maybe even for good.

He now took a seat under a stoop overhung by a thick old olive tree and waited beside an odd assortment of Jews: a mustached man in a ragged T-shirt, a woman in a polka-dotted dress sitting on a wooden chair with an open prayer book, an old lady in pink biker shorts, a burly Hassid pacing, a man weeping behind his briefcase. He noticed in the courtyard a fragrant smell of rosemary and honeysuckle and jasmine, and something else he later identified—chicken soup.

BOOK: In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist
4.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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