“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.”
“Israelis live in such a complex situation, but Wagner’s account is mindful of the conflicts surrounding everyday life and the difficulties integrating them with personal conflicts as well. Her sensitivity (nefesh adina), wit, and introspection are so succinctly conveyed, I didn’t want to put the book down. A thought-provoking and enjoyable read.”
—Marya Lux, member of Kibbutz Hazorea
“A lucious guide through an important history. Wagner’s warmth and bravery make us open our eyes a little wider as she guides us through her and her twin’s journey not just living below the Golan Heights but also through adolescence in a world where it’s ordinary to see an Uzi casually draped over the back of the bus driver’s seat.”
— Eireene Nealand, co-author of The Nest
“A book that is part coming-of-age story, part travelogue, and that lets the reader peek into a time and place through the innocent eyes of youth. With a trustworthy voice, Wagner gives us glimpses into a life few of us will ever know, but she tells a universal story of discovering who she is when she changes where and how she lives. Would that everyone approached those from other cultures with the same openheartedness as Wagner shows in this story — the world would be a more peaceful place.
— Betsy Fasbinder, coach, speaker, and author of Filling Her Shoes and Fire & Water
“This thoughtful memoir and travelogue about a pivotal year in Israel takes us back to a time when both the author and the nation were young, but not altogether innocent. It’s a lovely interweaving of a remembered past and an older-and-wiser present moment.”
— Rabbi Naomi Steinberg, Carlotta, CA
“This memoir and travelogue is a refreshing read. The conversational voice and vivid details are immediately engaging… seemingly disparate elements are seamlessly woven throughout the book, well organized, and delightful to discover.”
— Ann Greenberger, Content Editor, Greenline Editing, Portland, Oregon
“Let us hope some of the commitment in this book to the loving, idealistic impulse transforms Israel back (or forward) to its redemptive Jewish essence.”
— Peter Gabel, Associate Editor of Tikkun and author of The Desire for Mutual Recognition
“A chance encounter on an Atlantic crossing would change the course of Paula’s Wagner’s life. At four years old, she and her identical twin sister, Naomi, were used to the attention they received, but on this voyage they were joined by another set of identical twins, a pair of nine-year-old girls. Fourteen years later, in the 1960s, Paula and Naomi journey to Israel to stay with the family they met on that earlier trip and to join a work/study program on a kibbutz. After the sisters endure an arduous 17-day sea journey, having previously weathered their parents’ disapproval of their plans, Paula sets out on her own, while Naomi goes to stay at another kibbutz. Before long, Paula has found joy in the packed days working and studying on the collective farm, savoring her one day a week of rest. Her delight in finding a home in Israel is soon combined with her interest in a young Frenchman at the kibbutz. Wagner recounts this transformative time with poetic descriptions and the adventurous spirit of youth.”
— Bridget Thoreson, Booklistonline.com