Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Dovekeepers

My co-workers got very tired of hearing about Alice Hoffman's historical novel The Dovekeepers. Before reading this book, I knew virtually nothing about what happened at Masada. As I read The Dovekeepers, I became more and more interested in Masada which resulted in researching the topic. I then felt compelled to tell the story to whomever would listen to me.

The story begins in 70 C.E. when a group of Jewish rebels commanded by Eleazar Ben Ya'ir take refuge from the Romans in a desert fortress built on sheer cliffs overlooking the Dead Sea. Jerusalem has fallen. Refugees travel to Masada from throughout the region to find shelter. Ironically, Masada was built by Herod as a place of retreat during frequent revolts against Rome by Jewish rebels.

Alice Hoffman used the writing of Josephus and archaeological findings to recreate this place. She tells the
 tale of Masada through the voices of four women who are the dovekeepers. Yael is the unwanted and unloved daughter of an assassin. Aziza was raised as a boy to keep her safe.  Shirah is shunned because she is a "witch" who knows the use of healing herbs and spells.  Revka could not save her husband and daughter from the Romans but is resolved to save her young grandsons. Each of these woman finds an inner strength she did not know she possessed.

No one really knows what happened at Masada, but through the stories of these women, created by Alice Hoffman, I can imagine that place. The Dovekeepers is a haunting tale that will stay with me for a long time.

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