The Bible’s quintessential convert to Judaism is Ruth the Moabite. Following the death of her Israelite husband, Mahlon, Ruth refused to part ways with her mother-in-law, Naomi. “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you,” she famously told her. “Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.”
Ruth followed Naomi back to Bethlehem, where she met a man, Boaz. They got married, had a son, and started an illustrious lineage, which supposedly included David, Solomon and Jesus. Ruth has since become a feminist icon, a symbol of acceptance and dedication. In today’s episode, we will hear three modern-day incarnations of Ruth’s story – a trio of tales about determined women who will follow their hearts to the ends of the earth for love, family and companionship.
Mishy Harman meets up with Councilwoman Fleur Hassan-Nahoum on the corner of Ruth Street in Jerusalem, to discuss the importance of historical memory. Only seven percent of Jerusalem’s streets, Fleur tell him, are named for women.
On the last day of a month-long journalistic assignment in Nepal, Danna Harman ran into three local street girls. She had just finished several unsuccessful rounds of IVF, and – back in Tel Aviv – she began daydreaming of an instant family. When one of the girls contacted her following the devastating earthquake, these dreams took on an unexpected life of their own. In a story about motherhood and friendship, Danna explores the bittersweet need for adjusting expectations.
Sharon is Israeli. Cansu is Turkish. Sharon speaks Hebrew and English, Cansu Turkish and Macedonian. The barriers between them seem insurmountable – religion, culture, politics. But, as Judah Kauffman shows, love is a powerful force. Through a story about dating in the smartphone age, he introduces us to a woman who will follow love anywhere.
Susi Doring Preston was a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand when she met Tsiki Eyal at a nightclub in 2003. Their passionate love affair led her to the sleepy Israeli town of Mazkeret Batya. There, surrounded by tears, this freckled Tulsan formed a raw, painful and hopeful bond with a woman who could, and should, have been her mother-in-law. Federica Sasso tells a story which – if the Bible were rewritten in Israel today – would replace the Book of Ruth. Listen here:
This episode originally aired in 2018.
About Israel Story: Israel Story is the award-winning podcast that tells extraordinary tales about ordinary Israelis. Often called “the Israeli ‘This American Life,’” we bring you quirky, unpredictable, interesting and moving stories about a place we all think we know a lot about, but really don’t. Produced in partnership with The Times of Israel.