Eva Etzioni-Halevy’s biblical novel, The Song of Hannah

Israeli author Eva Etzioni-Halevy’s
novel, The Song of Hannah,
gives voice to two Jewish heroines
of the Bible

(November, 2005)

In her debut novel, The Song of Hannah, Israeli author Eva Etzioni-Halevy took the biblical story of Hannah and turned it into a biblical fictional novel because she wanted to give voice to the women in the Bible and make them come to life. The Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, uses the rivalry and friendship of Hannah and Pninah, who both marry Elkanah, as a base for her story. While Pninah bears many children, Hannah is childless until giving birth to Samuel, who becomes one of the greatest prophets of the Jewish people.

Dr. Etzioni-Halevy will speak to (fill in venue). This is part of 14 speaking engagements across the U.S., in November and December, which have included New York, Philadelphia, Fairfax, VA, Miami, Oklahoma City, Colorado State University, Dallas and concludes in Seattle.

Etzioni-Halevy portrays Pninah as passionate and independent, but bitter that Elkanah has taken Hannah as his second wife. Hannah on the other hand, is the “epitome of goodness and grace, completely devoted to her husband.”

“Despite their differences, these two women must learn to live together, protecting their own interests as well as each other’s, while sharing not only the love of their husband, but that of Hannah’s son Samuel,” says Etzioni-Halevy. She cleverly writes the story from each woman’s perspective, “weaving the whole into one intriguing tale of sorrow, revenge and redemption through feminine strength and love.” The book (published by Plume a division of Penguin) is advertised as biblical fiction with a feminist twist, but Etzioni-Halevy cautions that it is not a feminism of today.

“I see it first and foremost as a novel written by a woman, about women,” she says on her web site http://www.evaetzionihalevy.com “It presents a sensual, gripping story of love, jealousy, revenge and redemption designed for reading pleasure. It consists of a biblical story, and as such there is inevitably some religion in it. But it is not intended as an ‘inspirational’ book. Instead, it is intended to bring the biblical characters to life, by depicting them as real persons who are close to us in their hopes and anxieties, as people with whom we can identify. Women, who lived some three thousand years ago, cannot be presented as feminists in the modern sense of the term. But by letting them speak in their own voices, and showing that some of their concerns sprang from living in a male-dominated society, as is the case also with present-day women, The Song of Hannah conveys a feminist message, though in an unobtrusive manner.”

The author’s own history played some role in her writing the novel. Her family escaped Vienna, Austria in 1939 after the Nazi takeover and they survived the War mostly in Italy, partly in a concentration camp and partly in hiding. After the War ended, she went to Palestine and attended a religious boarding school. Although, Etzioni-Halevy has spent most of her life in Israel, she did spend time in the United States and Australia. In 1990, she returned to Israel to research her roots.

“As part of searching for my roots, I returned to the religious orientation I had previously abandoned,” she said. “It is this roots-seeking process that also led me to the discovery of the rich world of the Bible, and to the intention of bringing it to life for contemporary readers through the writing of biblical novels.

“As a religious Jew, intimately acquainted with the Bible, it seemed to me that a great deal of its beauty lies in the sexuality of its heroes and heroines and in the erotic scenes described in it,” says the author. “It is only later Judaism that has attempted to sweep much of this eroticism under a metaphorical carpet. I was inspired to expose this ‘cover-up’ and portray the Biblical characters as people with both strength and weaknesses, and thus write a tale that would be faithful to the true spirit of the Bible.”

For more information, visit Eva’s Website: http:/www.evaetzionihalevy.com