A Crack In The Earth

A Crack in the Earth
A Journey Up Israel’s Rift Valley

Finalist, Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature 2008

“A graceful, erudite guide leads us across a fractured land.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“Watzman is a talented storyteller, deftly engaging readers interested in the Earth’s constant evolution, along with those more likely to be interested in the humanity affected by it. With a nice sense of irony and the absurd, the American-born Watzman makes a lively tale out of his travels in the valley, lending a practiced ear to experts and plain folks alike. . . . a thoroughly enjoyable read.”
— Publishers Weekly

“Haim Watzman’s ‘Crack in the Earth’ is a graceful travelogue that blends science and storytelling.” by Sandee Brawarsky
– The Jewish Week (New York)

“Watzman’s characters are diverse and thoughtful, ideological yet internally conflicted. He himself – at once deeply religious yet politically liberal, bound to both God and to science, confident yet continuing to ask questions of self-identity – presents a living example of values that many would claim are fundamentally incompatible. And he does this with grace, humility and humor, and with respect and sensitivity to the eclectic characters he finds on Israel’s Route 90.” more…
-Daniel Orenstein, Ha’aretz, Sept. 7, 2007

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The Jordan Rift Valley, stretching from the Red Sea to Lebanon, was ripped open millions of years ago by vast forces within the earth. This geological object has also been a part of human history ever since early humans used it as a path in their journey out of Africa. And for a quarter of a century it has been part of the biography of Haim Watzman, an Israeli journalist.
In the autumn of 2004, as his country was riven by a fierce debate over its borders, Watzman took a two-week journey up the valley. Along the way he met scientists who try to understand the rift through the evidence lying on its surface—an archaeologist who reconstructs the fallen altars of a long-forgotten people, a zoologist whose study of bird societies has produced a theory of why organisms cooperate, and a geologist who thinks that the valley will some day be an ocean. He encountered people whose life and work on the shores of the Dead Sea and Jordan River have led them to dream of paradise and to seek to build Gardens of Eden on earth—a booster for a chemical factory, the director of a tourist site, and an aging socialist farmer who curates a museum of idols. And he discovered that the geography’s instability is mirrored in the volatility of the tales that people tell about the Sea of Galilee.
As an observant Jew who has written extensively about science and scholarship, Watzman strives to understand the valley in all its complexity—its physical facts, its role in human history and in his own life, and the myths it has engendered. He realizes that human beings can never see the rift in isolation. “It is the stories that men and women have told to explain what they see and what they do as a result that create the rift as we see it . . . As hard as we try to comprehend the landscape itself, it is humanity that we find.”
Watzman’s poetic evocation of the scientific and the human is a unique chronicle of a quest for knowledge.

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Niot Watzman, in memoriam
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