Review

Omar Yussef Sirhan is a middle-aged school teacher in Bethlehem, working for the UN. He is sent on assignment to Gaza to inspect the schools there. But on arrival he learn that a University professor in Gaza has been arrested on clearly phony charges and is in danger of being ‘disappeared’. The professor had brought charges of corruption against the head of the University, a member of the Palestinian Revolutionary Council. Then Omar Yussef is drawn into a web of crime, corruption, murder, smuggling, torture, vengeance, and terrorism.

A Grave in Gaza provides a look at the conditions in Gaza. Gaza is a very small strip of land between Israel and Egypt, enclosed with guarded borders and almost no access to the outside world. Palestinians live there under conditions that would have been familiar to, say, Warsaw Jews in the 1930s. The physical environment is harsh: unbearably hot and with sandstorms that last for days. The Palestinian government and security forces are rife with corruption and prone to horrible cruelty, thus adding to the misery of the people.

Against that backdrop, the character of Omar Yussef shines. He is idealistic with a strong sense of justice. Though physically frail he has enormous physical and moral courage. But in Gaza, courage and perseverance are not enough, as Omar Yussef learns to his sorrow.

This is second in a series of novels featuring Omar Yussef (the first is The Collaborator of Bethlehem). I hope there are more to come.

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