All the Rivers
by Dorit Rabinyan
- The first scene of Dorit Rabinyan's All the Rivers depicts two FBI agents questioning Liat, an Israeli woman who a random tipster mistook for an Arab. How does this opening scene set the tone for the rest of the story? How does it inform your impressions of Liat, Hilmi, their relationship, and the world that they're living in?
- All the Rivers takes place in New York City in the year following 9/11. In what ways is this a quintessential New York story? Why do you think Rabinyan chose New York as her setting? Can you envision this story taking place in another city?
- Throughout the book, Rabinyan continuously references her characters' native languages, and points out when they are speaking English, Hebrew, or Arabic. How does Rabinyan use these language differences to inform her characters and themes? What are some examples of points in the story when language is used as a divider or a unifier for the characters?
- Hilmi memorably tells Liat that the Green Line demarcation between Israel and Palestine is all in her head. Do you agree with him? Do you think the events of book support Hilmi's viewpoint on the conflict, or Liat's?
- Liat tells Hilmi that she doesn't have the courage to live an unconventional life and openly date a Palestinian man. Do you sympathize with Liat, or do you have trouble understanding where she's coming from?
- As the narrator, Liat views her relationship with Hilmi through a patina of nostalgia, almost from the get-go. Why do you think Rabinyan chose to write the story in this manner? Did this reflective tone change how you read the book and the relationship? How?
- What are some ways in which Liat's and Hilmi's upbringing in the Middle East draws them together? What are some ways in which it drives them apart?
- All the Rivers was first suggested for, and then famously banned from, Israeli high school reading lists when it was first released. Why do you think it was suggested, and why did the Israeli Ministry of Education ban it? Where do your sympathies lie in this controversy?
- If you listened to JWA's podcast episode on All the Rivers, you know that Hilmi's and Liat's story is based on a real relationship between Rabinyan and a Palestinian artist—including the ending. How does knowing that the book was based on a true story change your reading of it?