Nava Semel has written a conceptually fascinating novel that one reads without breathing. She examines the most interesting and relevant questions in our life today: our identity, our regime, treatment of minorities, women in government. This charming novel is called IsraIsland - an island that is the state of Israel - and you mustn't miss it!
Miri Paz, Galei Zahal, 30.9.05
IsraIsland connects original [Biblical] chaos to our contemporary state in a skilful, original and sophisticated way, and boldly criticizes the hypocrisy of the largest democratic nation in the world.
Semel takes on a vast, complicated and challenging task... the cultural mix between Native Americans and Jews as a real, captivating option ...the rebirth of the Zionist story is an enriching (rather than oppressive) encounter... Semel's success lies in reawakening questions of memory, the link between past and present, the place of cultural heritage... Naming the American state of Jews IsraIsland is brilliant
Haaretz (Sfarim), 14.10.05
[The book] is a drama of language - a drama, not a tragedy - not only because of the love in it, but also because the effort to understand the language of others, even if it fails, still continues... In IsraIsland the dialogue is always between people who speak different languages, yet it is not a tragic one. On the contrary, they succeed in loving each other.
Kol Hair, 9.9.05
A fascinating book connecting past and present, fiction and reality.
Makor Rishon, 19.10.05
The gaze of the other - the foreign - has special value: that of the person looking in from the outside, but without hatred and rejection. It is also a loving gaze.
Nava Semel returns to the dream of the Jewish state at the Niagara Falls. A fascinating book, captivating writing!
Israel TV, Culture Channel, 5.10.05
A triptych with each part illuminating the other. A book which resembles a piece of music... Native Americans and Jews apparently [come from] different worlds but share a similar fate. A book that says we all suffer from impaired hearing and should open up to the voice of the Other.
Galei Zahal, 30.9.05
In her book IsraIsland, Semel creates a parallel world in which a Jewish state is established under American custody in Grand Island, no visa or green card needed. In so doing, she erases the Holocaust and the Zionist enterprise from Jewish history, and with it the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the revival of Hebrew. "This erasure allows me to examine who we are," says Semel. "Are we carriers of Jewish genetics? Where is this discontent coming from? Are we going to remain restless even in this island heaven?"
In times when political literature in Israel is far from blossoming, a new book by Nava Semel sets out to examine the Zionist narrative, invert it and check whether the history of the Jewish people could have been different. Semel fell in love with the story of Mordechai Noah, the visionary who was ahead of his time. According to Semel: "Noah said his attempt failed because the Jewish people can only be brought to his country. Maybe that's also our answer."
"In IsraIsland, as in each of her new books, Nava Semel plunges into the depths of the Jewish people's history with great acumen and sensitivity, and examines the impact history has on the consciousness of the Jewish public... Semel, who in her writing takes on the anguish of her fellow humans... wraps the sorrow in a fascinating and flowing frame narrative."
"She does this with the virtuosity of a linguist who is familiar both with contemporary slang -- Hebrew and American -- and with ancient tongues. Semel adds plenty of amusing touches which help the reader take in the questions she is essentially posing: What if? And what will be with us here and now?"
"...She tricks the reader and slowly turns what seemed to be the ultimate solution into a sequence of fundamental questions which justifiably disturb the reader, and as usual she does this with exceptional talent and grace."
Dr. Yaron Perry (Haifa University), Kivunim, Fall 2007