Review: Barefoot in the Sand
Barefoot in the Sand
by Hava Deevon, translated by Gilan Kahn-Hoffman, illustrated by Rotem Teplow
Green Bean Books, 2023
This heartwarming story is about the bond between two men, who appear different on the outside but have both dreamed of moving to the Land of Israel.
Young Saul is bundled in his orange coat and brown shoes standing on the snow-capped mountain imagining himself climbing rocky hills. Dressed in the coat, his feet are bare in his dreams. Saul grows older learning about the land of Israel in his Romanian Jewish school. Luscious green trees with orange figs are drawn with Saul standing barefoot with a shovel. Now old enough, he devises a plan to travel by boat. Years pass and he crosses the sea, kicking off his boots to feel the soft sand between his toes. Illustrations of succulents and purple grapes are drawn. He says the Hallel prayer, a Jewish psalm of praise and thanks. Tel Aviv was a small city of golden sand dunes, so Saul walks barefoot.
A man is in the distance beneath the hot sun walking in his direction. He's dressed in a cotton tunic and a turban. He has dark skin and long hair. He was barefoot too! Saul begins to sing, ‘When the Jews left Egypt’ and the stranger replies, ‘a place so strange to Jacob and all his descendants.’ And together they sing, ‘and their home.’ They both dreamt of the Land of Israel and together felt the sand beneath their feet. Solomon was from Yemen and they both traveled miles to Israel. They were no longer strangers, but brothers.
Barefoot in the Sand tells the story of Jews seeking home in Israel. The story is told about a time long ago when traveling was much more difficult and people only knew those who looked like themselves. Saul and Solomon look nothing alike, speak with different accents, and grew up worlds apart. But when they meet, the Hallel prayer brings them together. This is a story about the bond between a Jewish man from an Arabian land and a Jewish man from Europe who are both fulfilling their dreams of living barefoot on the hot sand of Israel. This is a contender for the Sydney Taylor Book Award as it is relatable for all Jews, no matter where they live. It may not be as invoking for non-Jews but relatable for immigrants who have found a home in a new country.