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The Best Place on Earth

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  914 ratings  ·  192 reviews
Confident, original and humane, the stories in The Best Place on Earth are peopled with characters at the crossroads of nationalities, religions and communities: expatriates, travellers, immigrants and locals.

In the powerfully affecting opening story, “Tikkun,” a chance meeting between a man and his former lover carries them through near tragedy and into unexpected peace.
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published March 19th 2013 by HarperCollins Canada
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Average rating 4.17  · 
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Elyse  Walters
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Ayelet Tsabari, lives in Canada - writes in English - and is an Israeli Yemenite author.

"Tikkun, is the title of the first story, giving a hint as to the theme of the entire collection.

"Tikkun olam", in Jewish learning, literally means "world repair", which has come to
connote social action and social justice. The goal of repair can only be effected by humans, separating what is holy from the created world, thus depriving the physical world of its very other words, returning to a
Dec 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
A very high 4 stars. "The Best Place on Earth" was a great surprise. Ayelet Tsabari grew up in Israel, and her family was of Yemeni descent. She did her military service in Israel, traveled extensively in Europe and Asia, and has since settled in Canada. That background is important because it infuses all of her stories which depict modern life in Israel and the life of dislocated Israelis. The stories are at times set in Israel, conveying the political and cultural complexities of modern life i ...more
Well, I’ve just been in Israel, with short stopovers in Toronto, British Columbia, and India! But of course, I’ve gone there without leaving my comfy couch. What a fantastic trip! I didn’t have a clue that I wanted to go to Israel, not a clue.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with a stronger sense of place. It’s like the setting is the main character. Funny, I usually couldn’t care less about story location: “Yeah, they’re in the city, oh now they’re in the country, blah blah blah…” It’s chara
Israeli fiction has had the effect on me of a loud, rambunctious, youthful group thoughtlessly jostling me aside as they enter a crowded bus. I look at it from under lowered eyes, trying without success not to judge. From my white middle-class American insulation I find the colorful opinions and actions of the Israeli diaspora “just too intense for me.” Gradually, I shuffle aside to accommodate the spirited group, listening without effort. When they eventually get off the bus before I do, there ...more
Cathrine ☯️
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Another superb collection of short stories. It transported me to a different land and culture, much the same as author Jhumpa Lahiri has done in her own works. I find them refreshing and satisfying to read in between my full volume books. Author Shelly Oria describes it perfectly on the book's back cover:

"With incredible compassion and a delicate touch, [she] explores the heartbreak inherent in forming bonds, whether with another person or with a whole country...a complicated love song to I
What a wonderful collection of short stories! The Best Place on Earth by Ayelet Tsabari, is set primarily in Israel, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and their suburbs. They are stories about the people trying to create lives as we all do, in an ancient, dangerous place.

Tsabari offers us moments in her characters' lives, moments that open both back onto their past and forward into their futures. Like all good short stories, these moments are rich and revealing. The characters are all vivid and real.

I w
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Anatoly by: Moshe Mikanovsky
A wonderful collection of short stories and a superb writing. The stories themselves touch specific motives that are very typical to Israel such as tradition, the army and immigration to or from Israel, but are still very relevant to readers from other nationalities.
Ellis Shuman
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Ayelet Tsabari's stories are compelling and compassionate; they speak out from the heart of Israeli society and experiences.

In “Tikkun,” the opening story, two former lovers reunite in a Jerusalem café. Lior immediately notices that Natalie has changed. “‘Dossit,’” she says, completing his sentence and confirming the reason why she is “covering her hair, wearing a skirt down to her ankles and a long-sleeved shirt on a summer day.” Seven years since she became religious, he learns, since right af
Erika Dreifus
What a wonderful collection of stories. I splurged and bought a copy via; I hope that some U.S. publisher will pick up this book and publish it in this country and help it reach a wider audience (I'd also be curious to see how readers in Israel might respond to it). In any case, I'm glad that I went ahead and got my copy. I'll be eager to read whatever Ayelet Tsabari writes next! ...more
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
4.5 A gem of a collection. Stories filled with insight and compassion into the Israeli experience both at home and abroad.

I especially loved
“The Poets in the Kitchen Window.”
Iris P

Captivating, moving, evocative, sultry...

So while I finish my review, here's a sample of Tsabari's gorgeous writing:
"They could see the shores of the lake now; hunks of salt floating in the water like misplaced ice floes. His ears popped. The lower they got the deeper his heart sank. Why would his Dad choose to live here? At least in the city there was a crowd one could disappear into, streets and buildings in neat rows, the space organized and contained. The desert had always made David unco
Book Riot Community
Tsabati has set these eleven emotionally powerful stories all over the world, and filled them with hope, fear, love, loss, and religion. The title story is about two estranged sisters trying to reunite, plus there are stories about a woman's shock at learning about her grandson's upbringing, a man who narrowly avoids catastrophe, a young medic in the Israeli army, and more. Tsabati is being compared to Jhumpa Lahiri, but I must admit I have never read Lahiri, so I cannot confirm that claim. You ...more
Greta G
Sep 21, 2016 marked it as gave-up-for-now  ·  review of another edition
I read two stories from this collection and I didn't like it. I had the feeling this was written by a young writer for a young audience. It thought these stories were very superficial, especially the second one. Maybe the other stories are better but I lost interest. Not for me.
"The Best Place on Earth" is an excellent book of short stories about life in Israel. The main characters are all women - some children, some teenagers, some adults, so a nice mix. All of the stories revolve around relationships, among families, friends, and lovers. Each character is complex, and the secondary characters are also rich - not easy to do in a short story.

The main focus is on Mizrahi and Yemeni Jews, rather than Ashkenazi Jews (of which much more has been written, at least in Engli
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Since it’s a collection of short stories, stories that I have loved so much that I have briefly reviewed each story. (Go to the Author's profile and check out the individual stories if you want.)

First, how I got here. Israel happens to be the only place on earth with the greatest divide for me. As a child, I grew up knowing Jews were bad people, and the term ‘Yehudi’ was used as a religious profanity; I don’t remember who told me this, but it was sort of understood. Eventually I grew up and ende
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Refreshingly excellent. Each story felt so real. All of them kept me wanting more. Whenever the story ended, I kind of felt bad as I didn't want it to be over yet.

I feel like I've learned so much about Israel and about Israelis who have migrated to the West, especially Canada. The stories were really good IMO. Highly recommended.
Apr 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
These wonderful, hopeful stories cracked open a vibrant new world, exposing an Israel that was unfamiliar to me. I become involved with each of the engaging characters and wanted the stories to go on longer.
Mike W
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
I remember a time when I was a very young man who had recently moved to Europe and was learning a new language, that I had a rather naïve epiphany about my new Dutch speaking friends: "these people think and talk about the same things that I do!" Ayelet Tsabari's new short story collection, The Best Place on Earth might seem to be about things and people so exclusive as to make wider interest unlikely. A collection about Mizrahi living in or remembering their time in Israel, and even more specif ...more
Sleepless Dreamer
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm so grateful this book exists. I've never read a more accurate representation of Israel. If you're interested in seeing parts of life here no one talks about, this book is for you.

As an Israeli person, I found it easy to sympathize. The struggles and issues portrayed in this book are incredibly relevant still. Religion and modernism, mizrathi and askenazi, the wars, the illegal workers, all of these are throbbing subjects in our culture.

Beyond this, I think the author grasps something very
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
Totally disappointing. Some glimmers of interesting stories about contemporary Israel but characters were all depressingly vague and passive. Their awareness and acceptance of living amid terrorism and enemies was touched upon but never examined.
Mar 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a breath of fresh air! Makes me wish I trekked on over to Canada years as to purchase it, but the US cover is growing on me.

Comparing an author to Jhumpa Lahiri (and some sources compared Tsabari to Allegra Goodman) means that she had some very large shoes to fill for me. I could see her effort from the start, in "Tikkun" about old lovers briefly re-connecting before and after a terror attack, "Say it Again, Say Something Else," about a teenage unrequited crush within a heavily Rus
Cindy H.
Jun 17, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 /5
Not really a fan of short stories but I was able to read through the entire collection and quite liked them all. It’s obvious that Ayelet Tsabari knows what she writes as she really describes the sights, sounds, flavors and nuances of the vibrant neighborhoods of Israel exceptionally well. This was a book club read and we had some good discussions. I would recommend Ayelet Tsabari’s memoir, The Art of Leaving over this short story collection.
Mar 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
I don’t normally read short story collections but lately have been making a point to include them on my shelf. The first collection I chose was The Best Place on Earth: Stories by Ayelet Tsabari and after the first story I knew I had chosen wisely.

This collection mainly takes place in Israel with connections to Canada. It tells the stories of many different characters of Israeli Mizrahi descent: soldiers, lovers, and travelers. The stories are global in scope and refreshing: I don’t think I hav
Moshe Mikanovsky
Oct 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you want to get a glimpse into how Israelis are - read The Best Place on Earth!

The stories are beautifully woven, putting you right there between the places, events and people that shaped, and still shaping, Israeli psyche: The first gulf war and Skuds falling all around us, the historic Begin-Saadat handshake at Camp David, the bustling streets and markets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, sabra native Israelis and new immigrants experiences, returning citizen, line 61 which took many of us from Te
Feb 14, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The stories in The Best Place on Earth revolve around themes of tradition, loneliness, and identity. Unlike many stories about the Jewish experience, these ones do not revolve around religious practices in the main. Instead, Tsabari’s stories examine culture. The younger generations are expected to carry on the traditions of their parents and ancestors, but many of the characters in this book are seeking new ways of living. The conflicts come when they break away from their parents’ expectations ...more
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and was very sad to leave these characters. While I am generally not a huge fan of the short story, these stories are truly captivating. The characters are presented at a crossroads, trying to make sense of their heritage and place in a war torn country. Whether the characters are in Israel or elsewhere, Israel remains in their core. Their stuggles to balance culture, identity and asssimilation is painful and fascinating. Absoultey one of the best books I've read in sometime, a ...more
Diane S ☔
Apr 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Another great grouping of short stories, the first story, Tikkan, absolutely blew me away and it kept going from there. Set in Israel these stories feature people coming from other countries in the Middle East and some from even farther away. In one story a group of caregivers have come from the Philippines and are in the country illegally. All are trying to adjust to new countries, new homes, trying to find their place many times among suicide bombers and a country at war. All these stories and ...more
Miriam Glustein
Aug 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
While it was interesting to read several stories set in Israel or involving Israelis living elsewhere in the world, and Tsabari paints a detailed picture of Israel itself, she falls short of exploring the depths of her characters. With the exception of "The Poets in the Kitchen Window" (which is excellent), her stories feel like an incomplete snapshot. I wanted to learn more about the characters' lives and wished there were another 10 pages. Her writing is clear and to-the-point, lacking the met ...more
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I have ever read. Through a selection of fictional short stories that read like memoir, the author places us into Israel, through the eyes of her young protagonists. Unflinching in her portrayals of growing up Israeli, the author paints us portraits of characters that resemble a cross section of humanity. We are all, in essence, one. Read this book, you will be a better person because of it.
It's the same voice - yes, it is about a different country, actually two different countries, and yet its the same voice as Jhumpa Lahiri as a few other writes I read,the same stories, so focused on the personal, on families, in subjective moments and experiences. There has to be so much more to tell about being on the precipe of these countries and cultures... In fact I know there is. Alas, not in this book. ...more
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Jewish Book Club: The Best Place on Earth 13 28 Feb 26, 2019 02:50PM  

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AYELET TSABARI was born in Israel to a large family of Yemeni descent. She is the author of the memoir in essays The Art of Leaving, finalist for the Writer’s Trust Hilary Weston Prize, winner of the Canadian Jewish Literary Award for memoir, and an Apple Books and Kirkus Review Best Book of 2019. Her first book, The Best Place on Earth, won the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and the Edward ...more

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