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on January 19, 2017
This is an amazing book. It is a page turner, although I am reading it more slowly as I want to take it in more and not finish too fast. Ruth Gruber was an amazing writer. I am sad she is gone now at 105 in 2016. Her life itself was an amazing life, spanning World War II, etc.. This book really provides an inside look at what it was like in Israel after the war when Israel had to fight to exist. It is nothing short than a miracle of God that they did. The evil of the British at that time is mind boggling. The British government treated the Jews that had been released from prison camps almost as badly as the Nazi's did. I still don't get it. It is very much the personal story of Raquela, but also the story of the early beginnings of Israel. There is so much I didn't know or understand about that time period. I am a lover of Israel and believe that they will prevail as God will never forsake them. Anyone who has any interest in Israel should read this book.
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on November 16, 2012
I learned a great deal about the history of Israel from this book. Raquela's life story follows the turbulent story of the founding of Israel. Although it was a biography, it read like a novel. Sadly I learned that time has not changed very much for Israel. It remains surrounded by the same hate and violence as it was in its beginnings. A very fascinating story.
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on January 17, 2017
This was a great story about a great woman in a land of great women. The characters are well drawn, the dialogue was realistic, and the story interesting.
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on March 13, 2017
Wonderful read. A fascinating history lesson and a powerful story. This book gives the reader insight into the founding of and character of the state of Israel.
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on September 17, 2012
Book Review--Raquela, A Woman of Israel by Ruth Gruber

Of the 39 book reviews of this book on Amazon, 38 give Raquela 5 stars--one is 4 stars.

This is, first of all, a true story. When Ruth Gruber, a foreign correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune set out in Israel to find one woman whose life "would define what it means to be a woman of Israel" (Gruber, Raquela, Forward), she found many candidates. When she heard of a ninth-generation Jerusalemite, whose family settled in Jerusalem in 1650 from Spain, who was a nurse and midwife who had delivered babies in the camps at Athlit and Cyprus for the Jewish illegal immigrants who flocked to their promised land after World War II, she knew she had found her subject.

The book begins in Jerusalem in 1929 when Raquela (the Sephardic, meaning Spanish, version of Rachel) was five years old. Her family lived in Bet Hakerem three miles from the center of Jerusalem, described as a "neighborhood [that] was founded in 1922 as one of six garden cities developed in Jerusalem during the days of the British Mandate for Palestine" ( The Arabs from the village of Colonia rose up and murdered the people of Motza, a nearby Jewish village, then looted and burned their houses. The book explains that this was the second riot since the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, which stated, "His Majesty's Government (the British) views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." And, while the British police did nothing, the Arab terrorists went to Hebron, where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their wives Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah were buried, and murdered all the prominent Jewish families. When the British police finally came, they rounded up the rest of the Jews of Hebron (not the Arabs) and locked them up in the police station "for their own protection." These people were never allowed to return to their homes which were ransacked by the Arabs.

From this time forward, there was no peace in Palestine. The book takes us through the time when Raquela was twelve years old and she and her mother were on a bus traveling downtown to go shopping for her Bat Mitzvah. The bus was attacked by Arabs with guns and a hand grenade that miraculously exploded before it could be thrown in the bus. On January 31, 1943 Raquela enrolled in the Hadassah (Hebrew name for Queen Esther, see Jeremiah 8:22) Henrietta Szold School of Nursing where she studied nursing and midwifery under her mentor, the renowned obstetrician Dr. Aron Brezezinski. Raquela Levy graduated as a nurse/midwife on February 7, 1946 and was selected "the outstanding student" in her class.

Politically, because of The White Paper of 1939 issued by the British government under Neville Chamberlain, Palestine was partitioned into an independent Arab state and a Jewish state "in proportion to their population numbers in 1939"--which meant Palestine was virtually controlled by the greater number of Arabs. Jewish immigration was limited to 75,000 over a five-year period from1940 to 1944--then all immigration would depend on the permission of the Arab majority. During this time the Holy Land "became a police state." The British brought in "one hundred thousand soldiers keep order." Jerusalem was a mass of barriers and "rusted coils of barbed wire" where tanks and armored cars patrolled the streets.

The stamina, courage, industry, and determination of the Jewish people is obvious in this book. If you are one of those who knows little of the history of Israel, you will be enlightened, but also entertained with the story of the remarkable life Raquela. The facts of how Israel became an independent nation with all the hardships and wars for independence are the rest of the story. Gruber weaves the heroic deeds of a woman of Israel into the compelling narrative of birth--not only of babies born in horrible conditions in British refugee camps--but also the difficult birth of the State of Israel.
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on February 3, 2016
Ruth Gruber wanted to tell the story of the nation of Israel. To do so she wanted to find a true 'woman of Israel'. She found Raquela, who was a 9th generation Israeli. Beginning in the 1940s Raquela's story is told - nursing school to become a midwife, dealing with news of Hitler's atrocities against the Jews. Further tragedy when the Jews were rescued from the camps, and then had no 'homeland' to return to. Thousands of them ended up in refugee camps which were not much better than where they had been. Raquela is sent to some of these camps to care for the pregnant women there, to deliver their babies, as well as delivering hope of eventual freedom. The book is an excellent history lesson from the point of view of one who lived it. The Arab-Israeli conflict is nothing new, and the Jews still struggle to claim their 'homeland'.
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on September 11, 2014
An entire history lesson of Palestine leading up to the state of a Israel! !
An intimate portrayal of how Israelis have had to live under inhumane conditions and still have to now in 2014!
Tragic, but inspiring that a woman like Raquela felt that Israel was the most important thing in her life and it needed to survive, no matter what! Awe inspiring that such a woman existed and helped make the state of Israel what it is today! A homeland for the Jews, and long may the flag wave! Thank you Raquela!
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on April 20, 2013
This book had my undivided attention. When I wasn't reading it I was telling someone about it. Raquela was truly a hero. I hope that my granddaughters will read this when they are older and use Raquela as their role model. This was a different view of what went on during that horrible time. I applaude the way their entire nation became their entire army when needed. It was historical and personal and ugly but beautiful. Raquela is now one of my favorite stories.
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on February 20, 2015
I read this while visiting my daughter in Israel-I was there for 4 weeks. During that time, I toured the Haganah Museum (the forerunner of the IDF), the Palmach Museum (describing in vivid detail the creation and duration of Israel's "Strike Force" from 1941-1948) and the Yitzhak Rabin Museum (describing the life of the soldier, former Prime Minister and Statesman), all of which framed the background of the book about Raqulea. The writing was gripping as was the times in which Raquela lived. I enjoyed reading about a native Israeli who, like many "founders" of the State of Israel, brought such important gifts of life and ingenuity to her country and her countrymen (and women).
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on January 9, 2017
I loved this book. The story was very compelling and educational.This woman was so special. Her story is certainly worthy of knowing. Also it was an excellent account of Israel's history. It was especially interesting to read from the viewpoint of one who had lived through it.
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