Shavuot is the secret gem of the Jewish calendar: a festival that’s all about strong women, wheat harvests, creamy cheesecakes, and receiving the Torah. At the center of this wondrous celebration is an unlikely heroine, the Bible’s quintessential convert to Judaism—Ruth the Moabite. Following the death of her Israelite husband, Mahlon, Ruth refused to part ways with her mother-in-law, Naomi. “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you,” she famously told her. “Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.” Ruth followed Naomi back to Bethlehem, where she met a man, Boaz. They got married, had a son, and started an illustrious lineage, which supposedly included David, Solomon, and Jesus. Ruth herself has since become a feminist icon, a symbol of acceptance and dedication. In today’s episode, Israel Story brings us three modern-day incarnations of Ruth’s story—a trio of tales about determined women who will follow their hearts to the ends of the earth for love, family, and companionship.
In the prologue, “Heroine and Great-Grandmother,” host Mishy Harman meets up with Councilwoman Fleur Hassan-Nahoum on the corner of Ruth Street in Jerusalem, to discuss the importance of historical memory. Only 7 percent of Jerusalem’s streets, Hassan-Nahoum tells him, are named for women.
Act 1: “Tying a Knot.” On the last day of a month-long journalistic assignment in Nepal, Danna Harman ran into three local street girls. She had just finished several unsuccessful rounds of IVF and, back in Tel Aviv, she began daydreaming of an instant family. When one of the girls contacted her following a devastating earthquake, these dreams took on a life of their own. In a story about motherhood and friendship, Harman explores the bittersweet need for adjusting expectations. Julie Subrin edited this story.
Act 2: “Love in Translation.” Sharon is Israeli. Cansu is Turkish. Sharon speaks Hebrew and English, Cansu Turkish and Macedonian. The barriers between them seem insurmountable: religion, culture, politics. But, as Judah Kauffman shows, love is powerful. Through a story about dating in the smartphone age, he introduces us to a woman who will follow love anywhere.
Act 3: “A Biblical Bond.” Susi Doring Preston was a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand when she met Tsiki Eyal at a nightclub in 2003. Their passionate love affair led her to the sleepy Israeli town of Mazkeret Batya. There, surrounded by tears, this freckled Tulsa native formed a raw, painful, and hopeful bond with a woman who could, and should, have been her mother-in-law. Federica Sasso tells a story that—if the Bible were rewritten in Israel today—would replace the Book of Ruth. Production help by Abby Neuschatz.
The original artwork for the episode is by Aura Lewis, and the original music was composed and performed by Ari Wenig. The final song, “At Telchi Ba’Sade” (“You Will Walk in the Field”), is by Chava Alberstein. The episode was recorded by Ben Wallick and Paul Ruest, and mixed by Sela Waisblum.