Kressel Housman's Reviews > Escape from India

Escape from India by Avigail Myzlik
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's review
Mar 10, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: jewish, memoir, parenting, torah

The most important thing a Jewish book can do is inspire its readers to greater Torah observance, and since this book did that for me, I'm giving it the high rating of 4, despite some cringe-worthy grammar and spelling errors. The book is the memoir of an Israeli baal teshuva imprisoned in India for drug smuggling. Because the book was published by an independent publisher rather than one of the established frum ones, it is frank about drugs, crime, and the seamier side of life, which the frum publishers wouldn't have touched. That made the book all the more believable.

Years before the memoirist's arrest, he was already big in the Israeli party scene. He grew his hair in dreds and called himself "Ronen the Rasta." But gradually, he and many of his friends drifted toward teshuva. At the time of his arrest, Ronen was already married, a father, and basically keeping Torah, but financial pressures made him think, "Maybe just one more drug deal. . ." His first deal became a second, then a third. He was arrested on his fourth.

The Indian prisons as he describes them are a den of filth, violence, and corruption. Even though Ronen knows he is guilty, he is desperate to escape, and he has friends on the outside who are willing to help. One of them, notably, is Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, the famous victim of the 2008 Mumbai massacre. The book is dedicated to his and his wife's memory.

When not bribing prison guards and making deals with other prisoners for items of basic survival, Ronen spends his time learning and davening. This, taken with his plans for an escape, turns out to be an excellent lesson in the interplay between bitachon and hishtadlus (trust in G-d and individual effort). And herein lies the way the book affected me personally. I've always thought I should complete Sefer Tehillim, and thanks to Ronen, who did it in three hours in prison, I'm attempting it over the course of a month. Ronen ends the book with a blessing that each of us should achieve our own personal freedom. Well, I don't know that freedom is my greatest need, but one thing's for sure, a month of Tehillim will have to result in something, just as all Ronen's davening and segulos eventually helped him.
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