Customer Reviews: Raquela: A Woman of Israel
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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on March 26, 2000
this is a beautifully written is actually the history of the forming of the state of israel but it reads like a novel.i found it to be extremely informative & written with great sensitivity. i had to put the book down for several days at a time to absorb the strong emotional content.this is a must read for all jews & non jews,alike.raquella was an incredibly intelligent, motivated & strong woman.she accomlished much in her life & was an extremely humble human being. enjoy our history!
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on May 5, 2002
This book is, in one sense, the biography of a woman whose family has always lived in Jerusalem but in another sense it is a novel of one woman's life as she grows up, falls in love, gets married, has children, loses her son and child.
It is also a novel of how politics and personal life intersect: here we find Arab-Jewish relations ruptured during the Hebron Massacre only to be re-constituted again after the formation of the State of Israel; here we find Raquela's son killed in one war amongst many; here we see the international aid traded for guns in the refugee camps. And above all, here we see the heartbreak and the triumph of one woman, one Jerusalemite, who lives in her own country.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Israel and Israelis, be they Arab or Jews or Christian.
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on June 17, 2004
I read this book when I was 15 years old. Wow! I was SOOO impressed with Raquela's courage and integrity that at that point I decided if I had a daughter I would name her Raquela. Nine years later, I had a baby girl and her name is Raquela. I read this book again a few years ago and was once again impressed. Just a month ago my husband, daughter, Raquela, and I were able to go to Israel and I saw Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus. My daughter was able to see and walk the same places as her namesake. Ruth Gruber beautifully laid this story out and I agree it reads like a novel and is very hard to put down.
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on February 16, 2002
I enjoyed this book very much and couldn't wait to finish it to see what happened next. I also learned alot from this book on how the people of that time had coped, had courage, and the strength to try and live their lives. I though of Raquela as an ingretible woman with lots of strenght and mental power.
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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 June 22, 2005
Terrific story, well-told, exciting, thrilling, heartwarming, and real. An eye-opener to what really went on there and just how hard the Israeli people had to fight. I have never throughout all my education and reading understood Israel the way I did through Raquela's eyes. I had no idea the British were involved in that way, and was disappointed to learn of it. I learned a lot from this book from the perspective of an Israeli-born Israeli. The internment camps were dispicable, the people who ran them disgusting and almost as guilty as nazis.
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on September 23, 2012
Raquela was well written. The story, while a kind of biography, flowed like a novel. It gives a good personal account and perspective of the formative years of the young nation of Israel. While her love life is included in this story, the focus is more about how she comes to terms with the situations surrounding her, both national and personal (which indirectly are also national). A good read.
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on October 26, 2012
While learning all about the the life of Raquela, the reader gets a great feel for the challenges placed upon the Jewish people living in Palestine--and later Israel--during the formative years of the rebirth of the State of Israel. Ruth Gruber weaves into her biography of Requela the story of the great men and women who helped form the new Israel. Gruber also gives the reader the fabric of the ordinary people coming from diverse backgrounds throughout the world, as well as long-time Jerusalemites who yearned to create a safe haven for Jews by creating a nation of their own. This is a dynamic way of learning about the heritage of the Jewish people.
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