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Omer Friedlander: The Man Who Sold Air in the Holy Land

(Fiction, 356 pp., 2022)

In his debut collection of short stories, Omer Friedlander takes the reader to the narrow limestone alleyways of Jerusalem, the desolate beauty of the Negev Desert, and the sprawling orange groves of Jaffa, with characters that spring to vivid life. A divorced con artist and his daughter sell empty bottles of “holy air” to credulous tourists; a Lebanese Sheherazade enchants three young soldiers in a bombed-out Beirut radio station; a boy daringly “rooftops” at night, climbing steel cranes in scuffed sneakers even as he reimagines the bravery of a Polish-Jewish dancer during the Holocaust; an Israeli woman monitoring a Green Line checkpoint mourns the death of her son, a soldier killed in Gaza. These are fairy tales turned on their head by the stakes of real life, where moments of fragile intimacy mix with notes of the absurd. Richly evoking Israel’s nuanced complexity and the human need for connection, Friedlander’s poignant tales are simultaneously heartbreaking, humorous, and enlightening.

Discussion guide from the Jewish Community Library

Kit for Book Clubs from Penguin Random House

Reviews and Articles

Review from Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Dazzling short story collection from Omer Friedlander focuses on Middle East” by Rhiannon Holley, Buzz, August 10, 2022

“Short Story Collection Is Magical and Moving” by Nicholas Addison Thomas, The Free Lance Star, July 16, 2022

“From Jerusalem with Love and Compassion” by Neal Gendler, The American Jewish News, June 21, 2022

Review by Ariella Carmell, Jewish Book Council, April 18, 2022

Review from Kirkus, February 15, 2022

Omer Friedlander wins Association of Jewish Libraries 2023 Jewish Fiction Award, January 24, 2023

Interviews with Omer Friedlander

“At 27, This Rising Novelist Gives Americans an Unfiltered Taste of Israel” by Tzach Yoked, HaAretz, June 9, 2022

“Writing with a Sense of Place” by Joshua Henkin, LitHub, May 24, 2022

“A Playful Kind of Seriousness: An Interview with Omer Friedlander” by Mara Sandroff, One Story, May 19, 2022

Interview by Geffen Huberman, Electric Literature, April 19, 2022             

“Israeli Writer Brings His Homeland to Life in New English Story Collection” by Amy Spiro, The Times of Israel, April 13, 2022

Audio interview for the AJL Nice Jewish Books Podcast, February 17, 2023

Audio interview for the Church Times Book Club Podcast, January 5, 2023

About Israeli Authors Writing in English

“Insider/Outsider: Writing Fiction in English in Israel” by Miryam Sivan, Jewish Book Council, March 19, 2020

“Why I Chose to Write in English” by Ayelet Tsabari, LitHub, March 23, 2016

“Israeli Writers Embracing English” by Ranen Omer-Sher­man, Jewish Book Council, May 19, 2015

“Off the Map? Israel’s English Language Writers Wonder Where They Fit In” by Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel, May 17, 2012