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Matches Paperback – Import, February 23, 2006

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Paperback, Import, February 23, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: CONSTABLE & ROBINSON (February 23, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845292618
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845292614
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 4.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,118,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

It was written with such passion and insight.
Rather Be Reading
Suggest reading the 'afterword' before reading the novel.
Crunch Solutions
In Gaza, no one likes the Israeli army or its soldiers.
M. E. Wood

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Nathan Falk, "Matches" protagonist, is binational, an Israeli army veteran and a citizen of America and Israel. When Alan Kaufman's novel opens, Nathan is serving in a reserve unit of combat-trained Israeli infantry. He had already served two years in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), and as a reservist was frequently asked what brought him to "this insane mess?" Why join the army if he didn't have to? An American by birth, Falk feels he had lived pretending to himself that non-Jews really didn't think he was a "Christ-killing, world-dominating, media-controlling k*ke..." But he was always aware of an "ice-cold separateness." "They never let you forget not so much that you were a Jew but that they....were not." Nathan strongly believes that the only place in the world he can be free of this baggage is in Israel. Toward the end of the novel, an army general expresses, yet again, his surprise that an educated American, "who knows Auden and Yeats," would volunteer for the Israeli armed services. Falk replies that he loves the Jewish State and would do anything to keep it alive. "Because loving it is like loving myself." Then he reverts to dark humor as a way of chiding himself for sounding sappy and sentimental. However, he notes that the general is moved by his heartfelt statement.

Kaufman attempts to provide here an evenhanded account of an Israeli soldier's life at the front and to reflect the enormous human toll the seemingly never-ending Palestinian-Israeli conflict takes on everyone it touches.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By FictionAddiction.NET on April 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
Matches, more a series of related short stories than a novel, loosely hangs on the life of Nathan Falk. Falk, an American born Jew with a career in semi-pro football, leaves everything behind for a life in Israel and service in the Israeli Defense Forces. He seeks his heritage among the IDF soldiers, a.k.a. Matches -- those who strike, burn and die.

The book is divided into four parts but it proves useful to think of it divided into three sections. Parts III and IV together make up the third section.

Part I contains six chapters. Six is the number of man according to Jewish belief and this section deals with man's inhumanity to man. It is especially evident in "Jewish Wars" where Jews threaten to kill Jews and in "Good-bye House" where the IDF destroys the home of suspected terrorist sympathizers.

"The Bedouin," Part II's only chapter, opens with a contest to determine how fast a Bedouin tracker can catch a wild hare in his bare hands. The plight of the hare becomes representative of the plight of women in the Israeli-Arab conflict.

The chapter focuses on two women. Batiya, a teenage Bedouin, is marked for execution by her father because she is involved with an Arabic tracker. Maya, a Jewess, is caught between a passionless marriage with her artist husband and an affair with Falk. Both women are destroyed by events stemming from the war.

The vulgarity of this section should shock the reader. Indeed, it seems intended to. War violates and betrays.

The final section, Parts III and IV, contains seven chapters, seven being the number of completion. It reveals the utter futility of war in the Middle East and the foolish cycle of retaliation and death among the Israelis and Arabs.

The final chapter, "Blame," takes us full circle.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. E. Wood on August 17, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is Kaufman's first novel. His previous publications include a memoir (Jew Boy), a poetry book and a few anthologies. Kaufman admits to being a "binational, Israeli and American." As an Israeli he did time in the Israeli army or more properly Israel Defense Forces, giving him the experience necessary to draw on for this glimpse into a soldier's life.

The title, Matches, is a nickname the officers gave the soldiers, "one-strike flames that burned up and died." It is narrated from the perspective of Nathan Falk. An American Jew, who feels alienated at home in New York, has chosen to fight along his Jewish comrades in the Israeli army. Living on Time cigarettes, French fries and mud coffee he leads two lives, the one he has in Gaza and the one he has in Jerusalem. Were it not for the constant reminders from fellow soldiers that he is a Yankee he'd probably forget.

In Gaza, no one likes the Israeli army or its soldiers. Everyone they come across glares at them with "an undisguised look of hatred." When he is on leave in Jerusalem he spends his time in bed with another man's wife, a beautiful red-head named Maya, an artist with psychological problems Nate isn't equipped to handle. Some of them brought on by his need to control and withhold despite saying "she was all that I care for".

What I liked about this book was the view it provided outside the usual media propaganda. It looks into the culture of Israel from two perspectives. One, although briefly, from the somewhat safe stronghold of Jerusalem and the other from the frontline of Gaza. It was a difficult read on many levels especially since my reading seemed to coincide with Israel's recent turmoil but it did help me to understand more about what is going on; although I might not always accept it.
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