Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Newsletter

The Red Balcony: A Novel of Justice, Love, and Identity in Mandatory Palestine

A conversation with author Jonathan Wilson about his most recent novel, The Red Balcony. Built around the murder trial of Haim Arlosoroff in Mandatory Palestine in the 1930s, the novel reveals the clashes among all sides—within the Jewish community, between Arabs and Jews, and with the British—and presages the divisions and violence that still plague Israel/Palestine today.

Organized by the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. Co-sponsored by the UCLA Department of History, the UCLA Department of Comparative Literature, and the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies.

About the Book

The Red Balcony is a historical novel based around the murder of Haim Arlosoroff, a leader of the Jewish community in Palestine whose efforts to get Jews out of Hitler’s Germany and into Palestine may have been controversial enough to get him killed. The story follows Ivor Castle, Oxford-educated and Jewish, who arrives in Palestine in 1933 to take up a position as assistant to the defense counsel in the trial of the two men accused of murdering Arlosoroff. While preparing for the trial, Ivor, an innocent to the politics of the case, falls into bed and deeply in love with Tsiona, a free-spirited artist who happened to sketch the accused men in a Jerusalem café on the night of the murder and may be a key witness. As Ivor learns the hard way about the violence simmering just beneath the surface of British colonial rule, Jonathan Wilson dazzles with his mastery of the sun-drenched landscape and the subtleties of the warring agendas among the Jews, Arabs, and British.


And as he travels between the crime scene in Tel Aviv and the mazelike streets of Jerusalem, between the mounting mysteries surrounding this notorious case and clandestine lovemaking in Tsiona’s studio, Ivor must discover where his heart lies: whether he cares more for the law or the truth, whether he is more an Englishman or a Jew, and where and with whom he truly belongs.

 "The story of what is arguably Israel’s foundational murder trial—a tale of multiple identities and loyalties." –Joshua Cohen, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of The Netanyahus

“Pleases on several levels: as an adventure tale, a star-crossed romance and a detailed period piece.”The Wall Street Journal


“The roots of Israel’s current chaos in a potent new historical noir” Los Angeles Times. Read the full review here.


 The Red Balcony can be purchased here.


About the Author

Jonathan Wilson is Professor of English emeritus, Fletcher Professor of Rhetoric and Debate emeritus, and former Director of the Center for Humanities at Tufts University. Wilson is the author of eight previous books, including the novels The Hiding Room (a finalist for the Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize) and A Palestine Affair (a New York Times Notable Book and National Jewish Book Award finalist); two short story collections, Schoom and An Ambulance Is on the Way; two critical works on the fiction of Saul Bellow; a biography, Marc Chagall (runner up for the national Jewish Book Award) and the soccer memoir Kick and Run. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, and Best American Short Stories, among other publications. He is the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship.

After pursuing graduate work at St. Catherine's College, Oxford, he moved to Jerusalem and received his Ph.D. in English from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

About the Moderator

David N. Myers is a Distinguished Professor and holds the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Chair in Jewish History at UCLA, where he serves as the director of the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy, and also directs the new UCLA Initiative to Study Hate. He previously served as chair of the UCLA History Department and as director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies. He is the author or editor of more than fifteen books in the field of Jewish history, including most recently American Shtetl: The Making of Kiryas Joel, A Hasidic Village in Upstate New York, which won the 2022 National Jewish Book Award in American Jewish Studies. From 2018-2023, Myers served as President of the New Israel Fund. 



DISCLAIMER: The views or opinions of our guest speakers and the content of their presentations do not necessarily reflect the views of the UCLA Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. Hosting speakers does not constitute an endorsement of the speaker's views or opinions.