While stranded in Manila – -again, while waiting for my Nigerian visa , i went to this mall in Quiapo (sorry i forgot the name). At the top floor was a bookstore with plenty of “used” books at bargain sale. I bought Herman Wouk’s “The Hope”.

I picked Herman Wouk because i previously read, during my college days, his novel “The Winds of War”.

 The moment i started reading the first chapter, i just couldn’t stop, even if i was reading for the whole day already. My roommates at our dorm (Diola’s Dorm in Intramuros) went and came and i was still in the reading table, the book in hand. I did take a break – kidney break, quick lunch and a cup of coffee, then kidney break again.  At the end of my reading, my back was sore, my eyes were dry and i felt suffocated. So i went out into the open bath to look at the darkening skies and smell the stinking Intramuros air.

“The Hope” was very engaging 3/4 of the way as Wouk exquisitely tells the events that lead to the establishment of the nation of Israel. From the early intra-Jewish conflict, to their first loss of Jerusalem due to iternational pressure. The story brings the reader from the political bedroom, este, boardroom to the struggle in Mitla Pass. From the  battle for control of Jerusalem and Gaza, to the Egyptian rout at Sinai, the novel was as gripping in details and imagery as his “Winds of War”. I can still hear the victorious shouts of “harhabayit byadenu!”

However on the remaining chapter after the state of Israel was recognized by UN and some Arab states, the novel loses appeal as it winds down the story to the personal dilemma and romantic travails of the story’s main character Zev Barak.

In fact, long after i finished the entire novel, i kept going back to the first half of the story only. The adrenaline-filled narration and the fast-paced storytelling was like a shot of ‘shabu’ to me.

Without being too cerebral, let me just say that Herman Wouk’s “The Hope” is a delight to read. Enough for me to forget my despair over my delayed visa.

Trivia: Philipines was mentione din this book as source of American surplus war materiel that the Israelis can buy in blackmarket. 

Here is the review i picked up from Wikipedia:

 The Hope
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hope

The Hope is a historical novel by Herman Wouk about pivotal events in the history of the State of Israel from 1948 to 1967. These include Israel’s War of Independence, the 1956 Sinai War (known in Israel as “Operation Kadesh”), and the Six-Day War. The narrative is continued in the sequel The Glory.

Plot summary

These crucial events are mainly seen through the eyes of two fictional characters, who meet near the beginning of the novel: Zev Barak and Joseph Blumenthal. We also meet several of the most important real-life heroes of Israel: David Ben Gurion, Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir, Mickey Marcus, Yigael Yadin, Motta Gur, and others.

All these people, both the real ones and the fictional ones, are portrayed as brave and decent human beings with comical character flaws, who somehow managed to lead Israel through three major wars in spite of the nation being surrounded, outgunned, and torn by internal conflicts as well as external threats.

During the War of Independence, Israel had no air force, no tanks, no large artillery, not even decent rifles. Yet they had to fight off an invasion by five armies that were well-supplied with all those weapons. In the 1956 war, Israel had to fight to free itself from constant terrorist attacks and economic strangulation, with the bumbling and inconsistent help of Britain and France, and against the fierce hostility of both the USA and the Soviet Union. Just before the the Six-Day War, it was believed by the Arabs, many Israelis, and most of the world, that the extermination of Israel by its enemies was imminent.

Zev Barak loves two women: his wife Nakhama, a placid but strong woman of Moroccan Jewish descent, and his mistress Emily Cunningham, a charming American shiksa. Joseph Blumenthal is also torn between two women: Shayna Matisdorf, his true love, and Yael Luria, whom he marries.

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