In The Courtyard Of The Kabbalist
At times whimsical, at times scary, Ruchama King Feurman has crafted a novel portraying a panoply of occasionally realistic characters living in Jerusalem. Somewhat Oz-like, there is an expatriate — a confirmed American bachelor who gave up his life in the states and traveled to Israel to find purpose in his life. Opposite him is a nonconformist baalat teshuva (newly religious young woman) who is seeking her beshert. And finally, there is a handicapped Arab who is searching for his manhood.
As their lives bizarrely intersect, we are introduced to some Jerusalem staples. Much of the action takes place in a contrived Chassidic rebbe’s court, as well as on the Temple Mount. Some contrast is drawn between the realities of the leadership in each of those societies. Mixed in are some shady Mossad-like characters, as well as criminal figures and an overbearing police official.
While the story itself stretches credulity, it is an easy and often entertaining read. More importantly, it invites readers to examine their own preconceived notions about people from others cultures. Rather than demonizing the Arab, as in so many books, he is made into a rather sympathetic figure with real human feelings. The rebbe is shown to be holy, but behind his holiness there is some weakness and perhaps a power of which no one else is aware.
And throughout the book, one adage is made clear: Behind every successful man, there is a woman.