In this elegantly conceived memoir…is a remarkable tale of survival and unexpected kinship. A vitally important Holocaust story eruditely captured. (read more)
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Just when you thought there was nothing new that could possibly be said about the Holocaust, along come Gidon Lev and Julie Gray with this delightful, moving, original and yes charming account of an extraordinary man who happens to have been a child survivor of the Theresienstadt concentration camp. With irreverent humor and deep insight, “The True Adventures of Gidon Lev” presents an improbable love story -- of a man who had every reason to be bitter but instead fell in love with life. It is also the story of a late-life romance that will make you believe in happy-ever-after endings again. Read this wonderful book and you’ll fall in love too – with Gidon, with Julie, with the Jewish people and the nation they created out of the abyss.
--Yossi Klein Halevi, senior fellow, Shalom Hartman Institute, author, “Like Dreamers” and "Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor"
How do we remember in order to learn, and learn in order to build a better world—while not letting the Holocaust eclipse our life-affirming purpose and values? In "The True Adventures", truth—that is to say searching, love, humor, anger, despair, hope—is not shrouded in dark clouds, but aglow amidst them. Wonder of wonders, it is exactly through this tale, a tale with the Holocaust at its essence, that a new light is shed on Jewish possibility and purpose.
--Rabbi Susan Silverman, author of "Casting Lots: Creating a Family in a Beautiful, Broken World"
I picked this book up whilst working with Gidon and Julie on a project about Gidon's life, and was pleasantly surprised at the depth of this book. While many survivors only focus on the Holocaust (which is natural, of course, it is a defining moment in their lives), Gidon's book helps frame survivors in a different light: people who despite everything went on to live full lives after the war. Gidon's lively and complex personality shines through. While his partner, Julie, shows his beautiful qualities, she doesn't shy away from discussing Gidon's trauma and anger toward members of his family--again, something many survivors don't always speak about. It is a fantastic piece for those looking for a very real portrayal of a Holocaust survivor.
--Dr. Anna Scanlon, Holocaust History University of Leicester
Julie Gray’s quest to honor the life of Gidon Lev is an ambitious attempt to capture the life and spirit of this remarkable man with a journalist’s tenacity to put names, places, and dates to his experiences. She smoothly interweaves his incomprehensible past into the man he is today – a survivor, a role model, a humorist, and a citizen of the country he loves and is proud of.
For me, the fascination of this book lies in her ability to bring Gidon to life through his own words. The insertion of many direct quotes from him added the best kind of authenticity and intensity to his account. An equally powerful aspect of Ms. Gray’s approach was to place Gidon’s personal experiences within the greater context of what was happening concurrently in the world at the same time. She maintained this perspective throughout the book, enabling the reader to have a wider understanding of eight decades of Israeli history.
Another of my favorite aspects of the book was the question and answer section at the end, a device that enabled the author to include Gidon’s opinions and insights about Israel and its place in the world today. I fully appreciated his global perspective, not only about Israel but the United States and Britain as well. His opinions were clearly expressed by a man who was an active participant in the vast and profound changes to the world in his lifetime.
Gidon Lev is a shining example of humanity at its best. Read his story.
A very compelling book about an 86 year holocaust survivor who cherishes life and still acts as if the world is in front of him. He was one of 92 children who survived the camp at Terezin and was there from 6 to 10 years old. What makes this story different is that it's also told from the point-of-view of Gidon Lev's Loving Life Buddy, as author Julie Gray calls him. Julie is 29 years his junior and from a different culture so her perspectives and assumptions about a holocaust survivor's life is refreshingly unique and insightful. The book goes back and forth between some of his present day adventures and Gidon's colorful past. This is really life how life is for all of us in a lot of ways. Sometimes we are able to make choices that affect our future and some choices are made for us. It's really about what lens we choose to view our life, regardless of how those choices are made.
This book takes us on a journey through history that is still being made. The True Adventures continue! You will be inspired and challenged; moved and brought to tears. You will be on the journey with him as well as your own journey.
--Victoria Sampson, Los Angeles
Have just finished reading this. Very impressed indeed. Julie delved as deep as anyone possibly could into the mind and heart of a remarkable man despite the layers he has built around himself as protection from his traumatic, horrifying early years. But he is an extraordinary, pragmatic and happy survivor and she has brought his story into the world with great care, skill and love. What emerges from the book isn't just a life story but one that is inextricably linked to the formation of modern Israel and simultaneously contextualises Zionism perfectly. Thank you Julie, for shining a light on a great man, world history and your loving relationship with him
--P.S. Hurdwood, UK
Julie Gray befriends, then loves, the subject of the memoir, Gidon Lev. She promises from the beginning that he is an endearing survivor of the Holocaust, with a fascinating story to tell. She was absolutely right. I guess I was expecting a heart-breaking story from a person who went through such monstrous treatment-- imagine living in a concentration camp from the ages of six-ten! But as Gray indicates, he's a cheerful, industrious soul, who not only survived the Holocaust but helped, in his own way, with the settlement of Israel after World War II.
Jewish history in the Middle East is touched on throughout the book. Neither Gidon Lev nor Gray is one-sided in its telling. Like all histories, the story is often colored by factors beyond the control of the people involved. Did the Jewish settlers make mistakes? Gidon acknowledges that they did and muses on what could have been done better.
But beyond the sweeping story of the Zionist movement and its aftermath, is the story of one man's life. And that life began surrounded by love and family that was tragically cut short when they were all, young and old, caught up in the Nazi attempt at a "final solution" for the Jewish "problem." Like Gray, I became enamored with Gidon, with his love of life and with his spirit. And honestly, I felt a fondness for Gray that I rarely experience for an author when reading a book. Her devotion to her octogenarian friend and lover is touching.
Gidon Lev felt that his story needed to be told. I agree. I feel enriched for having met him, if only in the pages of a book
I was 19 years old and had just finished my second year in a Christian seminary in California. I was studying to be a minister. It was vacation time for me so I flew to Germany to visit my family. I rode my bicycle to see a site I had wanted to visit for some time. The site was called: Dachau, one of the many concentration camps in Europe. I was quickly ushered into a large, white room with water sprinklers in the ceiling. Hundreds of names of the dead were hand-written on the walls by the relatives of those who were gassed to death in this room (or one like it). “Were German Christians a part of all this horror?” I couldn't help but think to myself. I still think of that question today. I have read dozens of books about and by survivors of the holocaust but not until I read Julie Gray's book about Gidon Lev's adventure did I see the holocaust experience through the eyes of a child. And, what a child he was, and still is. The word 'dance' was used over and over again to describe the passionate way Gidon faced every aspect of his life from Europe to Canada to America and then, finally, to Israel, the land of his heart's ultimate love and devotion. Gidon and I are the same age but his passion for goodness, beauty and humor fueled by an immense spirit of hopefulness far exceeds that of my own. He may be delivering flowers in his old age to make extra money but he continues to blossom in his ninth decade to be a life-giving fragrance to those who either know him personally or, as I have, read about him in this beautiful story of his 'adventure' in life!
Rev. Dr. Laurence C. Keene