Review: Explore an abandoned Tel Aviv in Raphaël Jerusalmy’s poetic novella Evacuation

Young filmmaker Naor is driving with his mother. Along the way, he tells his mother of his time in Tel Aviv, abandoned after a mandatory evacuation. Staying behind with his girlfriend Yaël, and his grandfather, Naor encounters a new side to his beloved city. As the bombs fall, the trio begin to make a film, and Naor discovers the true reasons behind his loved ones decisions to stay in the empty city.

Raphaël Jerusalmy’s Evacuation makes for a mighty tense read, meaning it’s something of a relief that it only comes in at 149 pages. Building slowly, it’s an elegant examination of the choices we make and the individual peace we seek. The trio’s stay in Tel Aviv is motivated by wildly different factors, and their decisions on the empty streets are their own, but while Evacuation comes from Naor’s perspective, it spends plenty of time catching up to and working out the meaning behind the actions of Yaël and grandfather Saba.

The action switches between Naor and his mother, on the road to a slowly revealed (yet rather inevitable) destination, Naor recounting his days in Tel Aviv, and the screenplay of the group’s hastily made film – three distinct voices, that perfectly match the three personalities holed up in the no man’s land Tel Aviv has become. Yaël is the unknown quantity, the mystery as compelling and painful as the end destination of Naor’s journey; Naor himself is the exploration of Tel Aviv and his eventual understanding of why he stayed; Saba, ever the showman, is reflected in the experimental film. It’s a neat, poignant, and ultimately quite satisfying storytelling device.

Evacuation is a short but meaningful voyage of discovery, an Israeli road trip packed with musings on war, love, death, and art.

Published by Text, Evacuation hits bookstores this week.

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