Par­al­lel Lines

By – July 24, 2023

In a thought­ful addi­tion to the young-adult genre, Ruth Marks Eglash, a for­mer Jerusalem cor­re­spon­dent for The Wash­ing­ton Post, pairs her jour­nal­is­tic eye with her vast imag­i­na­tion in her com­ing-of-age nov­el, Par­al­lel Lines. The book tells the sto­ry of three girls from wide­ly dif­fer­ent worlds who find them­selves col­lec­tive­ly con­fronting an anti­se­mit­ic ter­ror­ist attack on a Jerusalem light rail. 

Eglash first intro­duces her read­ers to Tamar, a pre­co­cious sec­u­lar Israeli who must learn to stand up to casu­al anti-Arab big­otry in her school. In the process, she falls for her friend Ami, who is Palestinian. 

The read­er then encoun­ters Nour, a Pales­tin­ian girl who tries to make sense of the cycles of vio­lence and hatred between Arabs and Israelis. While peo­ple close to her protest and plot, Nour ques­tions the effi­ca­cy and wis­dom of their actions. She knows she is a pari­ah for check­ing her anger, but she yearns for a day when she can sim­ply trav­el to the Tel Aviv beach free from danger.

Final­ly, the read­er meets Riv­ki, an ultra-Ortho­dox girl who ques­tions her place with­in her reli­gious home. Ear­ly in the nov­el, while she is in the hos­pi­tal, she meets a group of teenagers who intro­duce her to social media and plant seeds of doubt about her reli­gious back­ground. This soon dri­ves a wedge between her and her fam­i­ly — espe­cial­ly between her and her sis­ter, who is about to be married.

Each girl is on a jour­ney of self-dis­cov­ery, and Eglash does a good job tak­ing her read­ers along for the ride. She is at her best when she writes about con­flict, which this book has no short­age of. The major ques­tion for each girl, and the over­ar­ch­ing theme of the book, is whether to accept the sta­tus quo of one’s cir­cum­stances or to look out­side one’s com­mu­ni­ty for some­thing better.

Giv­en that this is also a ques­tion that comes with grow­ing up, young adults will see them­selves in these girls’ strug­gles. Though the events of their lives dif­fer, all three yearn to find their place in the world, to fit in and be accepted. 

Through­out the nov­el, Eglash presents numer­ous per­spec­tives about the Pales­tin­ian-Israeli cri­sis. Because these insights are com­ing from the girls, Eglash man­ages to be instruc­tive with­out being over­ly preachy. Read­ers will walk away with an under­stand­ing of just how messy the con­flict is, but also with the hope that some­where on the streets of Israel are young peo­ple — like Tamar, Nour, and Riv­ki — who have the resolve and spir­it to address it. 

Rab­bi Marc Katz is the Rab­bi at Tem­ple Ner Tamid in Bloom­field, NJ. He is author of the book The Heart of Lone­li­ness: How Jew­ish Wis­dom Can Help You Cope and Find Com­fort (Turn­er Pub­lish­ing), which was cho­sen as a final­ist for the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Ruth Marks Eglash

  1. What was your favorite part of Par­al­lel Lines? Is there a scene that has stuck with you?

  3. What was your least favorite part of the book? Was there any­thing that made you feel uncom­fort­able? Why?

  5. What were the main themes of the book? How were those themes brought to life?

  7. What do you think the author’s goal was in writ­ing this book? What ideas were they try­ing to illus­trate? What mes­sage were they try­ing to send?

  9. What did you think of the writ­ing? Are there any stand­out sentences?

  11. What sur­prised you most about the book and its depic­tion of life in Jerusalem?

  13. Were you sur­prised that teenagers in Israel deal with the same issues as teenagers everywhere?

  15. Which char­ac­ter did you iden­ti­fy with the most out of the book’s three protagonists?

  17. What is the sig­nif­i­cance of the book’s title? Did you find it mean­ing­ful, why or why not?

  19. How real­is­tic did the sto­ries in the book sound to you, were you sur­prised by some of the character’s experiences?

  21. Did your opin­ion of the Israeli-Pales­tin­ian con­flict change as you read this book?

  23. Would you rec­om­mend the book to a friend?

  25. How would you sum­ma­rize the sto­ry if you were to rec­om­mend it?

  27. If you could talk to the author, what burn­ing ques­tion would you want to ask?

  29. Are there lin­ger­ing ques­tions from the book you’re still think­ing about?