Reading Israel

Tags: Books, Zionism, Soldiers and Defense


by Smadar Shir

The story of Miriam Peretz's life is the story of a mother and a homeland; of love for the Land of Israel, the State of Israel, and the Jewish people; and of the victory of spirit and faith. 1st Lieutenant Uriel Peretz, commander of a Golani Brigade Special Forces unit, dreamed of becoming the first Moroccan chief of staff of the IDF. But his mother Miriam sensed that her oldest son would not leave Lebanon safely. On the day he was drafted, she became a woman waiting for news of disaster. In November 1998, Uriel was fatally wounded by an explosive device planted by Hezbollah terrorists. He was 22. Miriam transformed the pain over his death into education and volunteer service. She began to visit schools and military bases, talking about her son's leadership vision.

Tragically, in March 2010 Miriam was forced to face another test. Her second son, Major Eliraz Peretz, was killed in an exchange of fire in the Gaza Strip. He died almost twelve years after he had eulogized his older brother: Sometimes we pay a price for doing the right thing. The price of life. Eliraz, who was 32, left behind a wife and four children, including a baby just two months old. Overnight, the mother who lost two sons as well as her husband, whose heart couldn't bear the death of his oldest son became a symbol of grief and of strength. In December 2010, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi awarded her a medal of appreciation. He said: Miriam's ability to continue to express her deep pain and channel it into a contribution to the education and formation of future generations, serves as an example and model of inspiration for us all.



by Romi Sussman

  • Did you enjoy the overall structure of the book with the different sections and perspectives? Why or why not?
  • Did you find that you had to put the book down at one (or more) point and take a breather? At what point?
  • How did the background chapters about Miriam’s time in Morocco and her Aliyah influence your understanding of her and her future loss?
  • Did those early experiences make a difference to you, as the reader, when she lost her sons?
  • When describing Uriel’s time in the army, Miriam says, while doing his laundry, “God keep giving me socks with thorns.” What do you think she meant? Do you think that God listened?
  • In the chapter “I Knew Uriel Would Die” Miriam gives many examples of how she felt that his death was coming. But obviously she is writing this in hindsight. Do you think that this is true, at times, that people give us signs of the future? Or do you think that we reinterpret such events after they’ve happened to fit our needs?
  • Miriam and Eliezer had to sign off to allow Eliraz to continue in a combat unit after Uriel is killed. We can probably all agree that this must be one of the most difficult things that parents could be asked to do. What do you think about their decision and Miriam’s explanation? What does Miriam mean on page 200, after signing the document for Eliraz to be in a combat unit, when she says, “We left the room as different people.”
  • In Hadas’ section, she says that “God has also done many good things for me in life.” This is certainly an interesting statement from someone who has lost two brothers and a parent. What do you think of this statement, and how it helps Hadas to move on? Matan proposes to Bat-El two months after Eliraz falls. Many people question why they didn’t wait longer and Bat-El explains that “I had learned that in Jewish tradition, we don’t put off celebrations.” What do you think about this philosophy? Have you had a similar experience?
  • When she accepts the Menachem Begin Prize, Miriam says, “Out of the darkness that visited our family and many other families in Israel, every day I choose to spread light.” Explain how Miriam has managed to do this in her life. Can you think of ways that you spread light in your own life?
  • When discussing life now at the end of the book, Miriam recounts how Eliraz became a symbol when he fell and how they lacked privacy around his death. She recounted how a senior report wrote on his Facebook page that Miriam’s family was a “family of jihadists.” When asked how she responded to these accusations Miriam said, “Look, I grew up in a simple, modest Moroccan home. I was taught that when you like someone, you invite him to eat. So I invite that guy to have a meal with us. That’s all.” (p. 346) What do you think of this response?
  • When Miriam gets a copy of Miriam’s Song in her hands she says “This is the Peretz family Passover Haggadah.” (p. 349). What do you think she means? Do you have an unusual “Passover Haggadah” of one sort or another?
  • When giving advice to mothers who have lost their children, Miriam says “Always leave the door to life open, even if it’s just a tiny crack.” (p. 373) What do you think she means?
  • What is the significance of Eliraz’s meatballs on page 376? Do you have an item in your life that is like those meatballs?
  • How did you feel when you finished the book? Did it change your connection to Israel? To the IDF?


Those of us who live and work in Israel as journalists and book reviewers for international publications often have to wait until an Israeli bestseller is translated from Hebrew into English. I, for one, am very excited when this occurs, and especially for a biography like Miriams Song: The Story of Miriam Peretz (Gefen Publishing House, 2016) by Smadar Shir. Miriams Song is replete with courage, faith and commitment, it is also about tragedy and sacrifice. It is a book to read to understand what it means to be a woman, a wife, a mother in Israel today. - Sybil Kaplan, Vancouver Jewish Independent May 2016 Mrs. Miriam Peretz, a mother who lost two sons in combat when serving with the IDF is important to read. You can extrapolate from her powerful reflections the thoughts of all the other tens of thousands of Israeli mothers, fathers, siblings, wives and children [and even grandchildren] whose lives will never be the same again. "Miriam's Song" is an inspiration that will give chizuk. strength to many of us who might not see the half-full cup that life offers us." - Daniel Keren, The Jewish Connection May 2016

An inspiring book for all to read. In the face of death and loss, Miriam chose life and showed the resilience and fighting spirit deeply embedded in Jewish nation. To quote her: 'When you leave the door to life open to the world, you allow joy and love to come inside –into you. It’s not easy to leave that door open when death is fresh. All you feel like doing is closing yourself up, disappearing. But in my experience, when the door of life is open, when the door of the heart is wide open, rays of light filter through, and they help you grow stronger.' Her choice not only strengthened and comforted her fellow countrymen, but also reflected her deep and sincere relationship with God which spilled over to others as they encountered the Light of the world in her."- Irma Terblancheon

This is an amazing story of Miriam and her joy and pain and of the Jewish culture. I find myself looking up some words (most can be understood by the context) that I am not familiar with though and would recommend a brief explanation in future versions for example as a non Jew I did not know that a moshav was a rural Jewish settlement. I would recommend this book to everyone."- John t.

"Miriam's Song" tells so much of the Israel story from the experiences of one family. Miriam and her family arrive in Israel from a very foreign land to build a life and pursue the Zionist dream. Along the way there is abundant love and tragedy. Through it all the family stays positive. Rather than wallow in their losses, they choose to remember their fallen ones and grow as people. It was a pleasure and honor to be welcomed into this family for a few hundred pages." Mike D.

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Tags: Books, Zionism, Soldiers and Defense

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