Reese, Richard, “Cry, Angry Hills: A Novel of the Middle East”, Independently Published, 2019.
“Cry, Angry Hills” by Richard Reese is the story of two families who struggle over one land once belonging to both people. Saul and Rachel Rabinowitz leave Revolutionary Russia to settle in the Hills of Judea to build a new life as Jews and a country for their children. Sheikh Ahmed Fawza is the proud descendant from a fierce warrior that was granted this land some thirteen centuries ago when Islam first swept into Palestine. Sheikh Ahmed will fight for the Judean Hills which belongs to him and is the very heart of the Palestinian nation. When the two patriarchs clash over a dry wadi, the confrontation between them begins a tragic 100 Years’ War which still consumes their descendants.
This is historical fiction novel with a Prologue set in 636 and going on to cover the period from 1917 through 1987, starting in Russian Poland with the pogroms and proceeding into Palestine, through the British Mandate, the Holocaust, World War II, the Partition of Palestine and birth of the State of Israel, wars in 1948, 1967, 1973, the PLO, suicide bombings and attacks, the 1982 Invasion of Lebanon through the academic and political wrangling between Zionists and anti-Zionists.
When the Rabinowitz family arrives in Israel they settle in farmland in the Judean hills, on land claimed by the Fawzas. The conflict over that land is the central theme of the novel, the now existential battle over competing claims whom the land belongs to. Reese avoids demonizing one side and glorify the other.
The novel is multi-layered and complex, like the overarching conflict of to whom these hills belong. The personal stories are interwoven with the religious, cultural, and political issues. It’s well researched with historical accuracy. Neither Israelis nor Palestinians are presented as all good or all evil. We read of the internal, factional conflicts within Israel and Palestine as well, ultra-orthodox vs. secular Jews and Israel hating vs. co-existing Palestinians. There are wars within wars and the conflicts carry on throughout all aspects of life.