The Counterlife - Part 2 Judea, pages 50-66 Summary & Analysis

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This section contains 650 words
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Part 2 Judea, pages 50-66 Summary

Nathan is in Israel and he thinks about a visit eighteen years earlier in 1960. During that first visit, Nathan has lunch with his friend Shuki and Shuki's father, Mr. Elchanan. Mr. Elchanan tries to convince Nathan that he should remain in Israel. Nathan explains what being a Jew means to him. He talks at length about how his experience as a Jew is tied to growing up in New Jersey and how it has nothing to do with events in Israel. After Nathan's wordy speech, Mr. Elchanan says that Nathan has just given the best reason for Jews to never leave Israel. During his visit, Nathan is able to have a photograph taken with him and the prime minister. For years to come, Nathan's family is proud of the photograph.

On his visit to Israel in 1978, Nathan thinks about how only days earlier he had been in London and seen Christmas trees. Nathan thinks about how things have changed since his previous visit.

Eight months after Henry's bypass surgery, Henry takes a trip to Israel. Never before had Henry shown any interest in visiting Israel. After his physical recovery is complete, Carol notices that Henry still shows signs of depression. She encourages him to take a vacation. Henry resists the idea, so Carol asks Nathan to try to convince Henry to get away from home in an effort to raise his spirits. Nathan and Henry have many conversations over the next few weeks, and eventually Henry agrees to go on a vacation with some dental colleagues. Once in Israel, Henry breaks away from the rest of the group.

While alone on the trip, Henry has an experience that drastically alters the way he sees the world. On the surface the experience seems simple, but to Henry it has deep significance. Henry looks around and sees Jews of all ages living together in a land that is anything but beautiful. Yet these Jews have come together and made this land their home. This realization makes Henry feel like his own life is superficial.

Three weeks after returning back to the United States, Henry walked out of his dental office without saying anything to anyone about his intentions. He went to the airport and boarded a plane bound for Israel. He took nothing with him except his passport. Five months pass, and Henry remains in Israel.

Shuki asks Nathan about New York, and Nathan says that he now lives in London, and he is married to an English woman named Maria. Nathan tells about how he met Maria and how they married after her divorce. Nathan also tells of how at a dinner party Maria, though not a Jew, championed the Israeli position during a political discussion.

Part 2 Judea, pages 50-66 Analysis

In Part 2, the narration changes to first person. After a couple of pages, clues emerge that reveal Nathan as the narrator.

During the discussion with Shuki and his father, Nathan speaks at length on one of the recurring themes of the novel, the theme of "what kind of Jew" Nathan and other characters embody. In this case, Mr. Elchanan politely but firmly dismisses Nathan's entire argument.

With the mention of a living Henry, the first among many confusing reversals emerges. Henry was certainly dead in Part 1, but in part two, the surgery had been successful. It is not clear if this is a different story by a different narrator, or if the same narrator using different points of view is telling alternate versions of a similar story. When Nathan mentions being married to a woman named Maria, it is not clear if this is the same Maria as in Part 1 or if this is an entirely different person with the same name. In Part 1, Maria is Swiss, or at least a resident of Switzerland. In Part 2, Maria is English.

This section contains 650 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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