One man’s trash is another man’s treasure—and sometimes, one man’s trash is another man’s history. In her second novel, In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist, Ruchama King Feuerman explores the ways two men—one Jewish, one Arab—build an unlikely friendship despite Jerusalem’s cultural and political divisions.
Isaac Markowitz, a Lower East Side haberdasher who makes aliyah to realize his unfulfilled potential, finds a job as an assistant to a Jerusalem rabbi who is part Talmudist, part psychoanalyst: Jews from all walks of life gather in his courtyard to seek his guidance on everything from romance to kashrut.
When Mustafa, a custodian at the Temple Mount/Al-Haram al-Sharif with a rare medical condition, arrives at the courtyard, Isaac is surprised by the intimate—and curiously volatile—friendship that arises between them. One day, Mustafa brings Isaac an ancient stone pomegranate from the Temple Mount, leading Isaac—and the police—to discover that such artifacts are being buried, broken, and cast aside. Occasionally, the men come dangerously close to archetypes: the old-fashioned Ashkenazi, the devout Muslim. But in Feuerman’s hands, they are human: conciliatory, contradictory, and hoping their lives have meaning.