“Enfold Me”: A Review
June 25, 2012
When I was six years old, my blasted older brother told me the story of Dracula and introduced me into a new emotion, sheer terror. I recall that same sinking feeling in my stomach now as I finish Enfold Me by Steven Greenberg. Because while the Count was unlikely to crawl into my room and suck my blood, the horror in this book was only a few short events away from being possible. A world where Israel had lost the war and had become Liberated Palestine. As a proud Zionist, I was haunted by this and had to read this incredible book in short doses, so haunting was the premise.
The post-Israel world is painted in graphic and terrible world through the eyes of Daniel Blum, a world where the modern country of Israel is reduced to a war zone with limited supplies and electricity, where Jews and Christians are Dhimmi, second class citizens. They are forced to wear armbands, have far less access to resources and endure humiliating rituals bent on denigrating them and slaughtering innocent people at whim.
When reading one particular scene of humiliation, I closed my e-reader and decided that Greenberg was veering into racism and that surely, this was just done for dramatic purpose. Unfortunately, truth is stranger than fiction and the day I wrote the email asking that very question, Muhammad Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate, just declared that he will “achieve the Islamic conquest (fath) of Egypt for the second time, and make all Christians convert to Islam, or else pay the jizya,” which made Greenberg quip if he owed Morsi royalties for the free advertising.
The novel is extremely compelling and I will refrain from discussing much of the plot as it’s hard to avoid spoiling the many incredible plot twists. Therefore, I will focus on the overall impression.
Enfold Me is truly well written. I can feel Israel’s rotting corpse in every single word, he paints the beautiful country’s destruction in heart breaking detail without veering into maudlin weeping. The epistolary nature makes the explanations less cumbersome and well woven into the plot. I especially enjoyed the dialogue, Greenberg has an ear for speech which moves the plot along.
The novel does have some weaknesses. Although necessary to the plot, the flashbacks are problematic because we are so worried about Daniel Bloom’s survival. As much as I wanted to know how this happened, I more wanted to know if he would ever see his wife and children again. I think it would have been stronger to have the letter format continue instead of throwing the reader out of the plot and making us want to skip ahead. This should be taken as a strength to the main plot, I wanted no distractions.
Sadly, Enfold Me doesn’t give any easy answers for the problems facing Israel. It’s an important book for the Zionist community to read to open up a conversation on the next steps in the country’s future, but it’s one even more important for the general public to read. Israel may seem like a strong country, but Greenburg shows that only a few steps separate the country from the brink. If that thought fails to chill the reader, read the book.
Count Dracula won’t be able to compare.
Violent novel depicts Israel after its fall
By Donald H. Harrison
San Diego Jewish World
This brutal, shockingly violent novel imagines a high intensity earthquake that leaves Israel defenseless against an opportunistic strike by Iran and its Arab allies. When the smoke and dust clear, Israel has ceased to exist. In its place are Northern Liberated Palestine (including Acco and Nazareth), where Jews and Christians are brutally subjugated; Central Liberated Palestine (Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron); the contested territory of Haifa and the Carmel, and the Egyptian protectorate (Hadera, Tel Aviv, Ashkelon) where the administration is more benign but in which physical reconstruction is at a total standstill.
We meet Daniel, the protagonist, living quietly in what remains of his hut in the village of Safuriya north of Nazareth, doing his part for the resistance by sending emails about any movements that he can witness from his isolated shelter, where he is able to remain alive by eating produce from his garden. An agent has been sent to take him out of his isolation — an Arab-American man named George whom he once knew at university in the United States, before Daniel made aliyah to Israel.
We are told that George has been sent on instructions from the United States government to arrange a ransom for Daniel–the only way Hamas and the Iranians will allow Jews to leave their regime. And so the men head for Tel Aviv in the Egyptian Protectorate, Daniel convinced that he will again see his wife and children in the United States. He has been able to send emails to them, but has not been able to receive any messages.
George, it develops, has another mission in mind for Daniel — one that is based on Daniel’s previous work as a bio-scientist in a top-secret Israeli facility. Daniel revolts against the idea but Ayelet, another agent, is able to coax him into living up to his responsibilities as a man. Deprived of his wife and children for so long, Daniel secretly longs in the words of an Israeli poem, that Ayelet would “enfold me under your wing, and be to me mother and nurse.”
“Manhood”–what it means– especially among a people who are brutally subjugated, is a recurring theme in this imaginative novel. The question plagues Daniel, not only in his nightmares but in his waking hours as well.
Is it simply a biological classification? Is it the ability to prevail in war? To protect one’s loved ones? To take responsibility for one’s actions?
We are held in suspense by these questions. The book’s conclusion will startle most readers.
Book of the Times - Exclusive Excerpt
The Times of Israel
Enfold Me, by Steven Greenberg
Chapter 13 – The Road to Tel Aviv
The car worked its way down the poorly-maintained coastal highway to Tel Aviv, the driver weaving to avoid drifting sand dunes on the road, or hastily-cleared rubble from collapsed overpasses. George was in the front passenger seat, and I in back. The car radio was tuned to a station calling itself the New Voice of Tel Aviv. In between a singularly eclectic collection of songs, an Arabic-accented Hebrew voice read news “from the Northern Province,” including updates on the fighting against the “radical Persian-led Shiite coalition.” The voice also declaimed, in an appropriately grey government-issued voice, official statements regarding water usage, movement restrictions, and the virtues of cooperation with the authorities for mutual prosperity and safety.
Our driver was a thin, stony-faced man wearing dirty jeans and a rumpled tan t-shirt. He was making a concerted effort to distance himself from any passenger interaction, though I wasn’t sure if this was his own initiative, or his employer’s instructions. He didn’t look at me when I climbed in the cool car, but did exchange a brief, meaningful glance with George. Despite his outward frigidity, I noticed an ironic glint in his eye as he glanced in the rearview mirror. And I watched as his right pinky finger tapped the rhythm on the steering wheel to whatever was on the radio – a sole pinhole leak, or perhaps relief valve, in his emotional pressure suit, I wondered?