In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist

In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist, by Ruchama Kin Feuerman ($12.22 pb, 272 pp)

courtyardAmazon: An eczema-riddled Lower East Side haberdasher, Isaac Markowitz, moves to Israel to repair his broken heart and becomes, much to his own surprise, the assistant to a famous old rabbi who daily dispenses wisdom (and soup) to the troubled souls who wash up in his courtyard. It is there that he meets the flame-haired Tamar, a newly religious young American hipster on a mission to live a spiritual life with a spiritual man. Into both of their lives comes Mustafa, a devout Muslim, deformed at birth, a janitor who works on the Temple Mount, holy to both Muslims and Jews. When Mustafa finds an ancient shard of pottery that may date back to the fi rst temple, he brings it to Isaac in friendship. That gesture sets in motion a series of events that lands Isaac in the company of Israel’s worst criminal riff raff, puts Mustafa in mortal danger, and leaves Tamar struggling to save them both.

As these characters—immigrants and natives; Muslim and Jewish; prophets and lost souls—move through their world, they are never sure if they will fall prey to the cruel tricks of luck or be sheltered by a higher power.

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