Newcomers in an Ancient Land – Book Cover

Adventure, Love, and Seeking Myself in 1960s Israel

An excerpt from “Newcomers in an Ancient Land”

“I crept along a dirt road under a black dome studded with stars on my way to my job as a volunteer in the vineyards of Kibbutz Dan. At four in the morning, only the chirping of crickets and the crunch of my work boots broke the peace along this deserted stretch of the pre-1967 border between Israel and Syria. Until the rest of the work crew arrived at six I would be alone. Or would I?”

At eighteen, Paula is already a seasoned traveler, having begun life in England, crisscrossed the US as a young child, and survived a year in a London boarding school absorbing her mother’s heritage. But when she leaves home for Israel in search of her enigmatic father’s Jewish roots, her quest will change her life forever.

Seduced by the land, the language, and a man, she learns Hebrew on a kibbutz ulpan (a work/study program on a collective farm), then leaves for France, yet yearns to return to Israel. Navigating her odyssey from vision to reality, she will learn much more than two new languages―and realize that if she is ever to forge her own path and identity as an individual, she must also separate from her twin sister.

Newcomers in an Ancient Land is one of the most beautifully written memoirs I’ve come across in a long time. Paula Wagner draws upon her poetic language and storytelling magic to transport us to a place and time that no longer exists: Israel in the early ‘60s.

In this coming-of-age memoir, we follow her on an inner journey to define herself, and through her eyes we discover the treasures of a place etched by time and the people and eras that have left their mark. I was dazzled by descriptions of sunrises and sea journeys, ruins and castles, and the inner workings of a kibbutz. You too will journey in ways that might surprise you as you read this enchanting memoir.

Linda Joy Myers, author of “Don’t Call Me Mother”, “Song of the Plains”, “The Power of Memoir” and Founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers (NAMW)