The plot of A Trumpet in the Wadi, first published in 1987, is set predominantly in the Wadi Nisnas neighborhood in Haifa, and its characters are Jews and Arabs who reside in the neighborhood. This is Sami Michael’s second urban novel set in Haifa. The city, and especially the Wadi Nisnas neighborhood where most events take place, is portrayed in it in great vitality through the diverse characters that inhabit it. Although the novel is centered on a love story, the plot also touches complex issues regarding life in the Israeli society and ethnic relations, and does so with sensitivity and humor.

The novel’s protagonist is Huda, a young Christian Arab woman who resides in the Wadi with her family – the good-humored Grandfather Elias, her widowed mother and her rebellious and witty sister Mary. The characters of Huda and Mary, who both try to integrate into the Jewish society, expose the readers to the variety of difficulties faced by the Arab citizens of Israel. The plot is told from the perspective of Huda – an educated young woman, who speaks perfect Hebrew, reads Hebrew poetry and adores the poems of Yehuda Amichai (regarded by many as Israel’s national poet). She works at a travel agency in Downtown Haifa and is loved and appreciated by her Jewish colleagues. However, her complex position as an Arab in the Israeli society is soon revealed, through various complications in the plot – namely, love and war. At the center of the plot is the love story that evolves between Huda and Alex, a Jewish new immigrant from Russia who lives in her building in the Wadi and whom she teaches Hebrew. Despite their very different backgrounds, their relationship develops naturally, perhaps precisely because they both occupy a marginal position in the Israeli society, and is accepted by those surrounding them, Jews and Arabs alike. The novel’s ending, however, is a pessimistic one: Alex is killed in the Lebanon War, and the pregnant Huda confesses to his grave that she is considering an abortion, because she understands that in the torn Israeli society, a hybrid child has no chance of being accepted and fully belonging, neither among Jews nor among Arabs.

Michael’s novel is groundbreaking in that it portrays the events from an uncommon point of view in Hebrew literature – that of an Arab Woman. The readers, who belong mostly to the Jewish majority group, are exposed to the difficulties of belonging to a minority group in Israel through the experience and perception of Huda and through that of another central character described sympathetically – her sister Mary. The novel thus exposes its readers to issues related to ethnic relations in Israel and to gender relations, including the heavy price women often have to pay in complex situations. The novel creates an analogy between Huda and Mary: Mary too is pregnant, as a result of a passionate affair, and decides to give up an independent life in the city and marry the traditional villager Wahid, whom she does not love nor appreciate, as a sacrifice for the future of her child. The novel also exposes the reader, through the character of Alex, to the linguistic and social difficulties faced by new immigrants. The variety of characters in the novel portray Haifa, and through it the Israeli society, in all its diversity and complexity. This portrayal of the characters is done through an empathetic gaze and with loving humor, both characteristic of Michael’s well known humanistic approach.

A Trumpet in the Wadi is one of Michael’s best known and most widely read novels. The book was one of Am Oved Publishing’s 6 selected texts to be reprinted in a special edition to celebrate the publishing house’s 60 years of activity. It has been adapted for theater and film, and is nowadays studied in Israeli schools.


05 August 2019