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James Michener uses an archaeological research project as the organizing principle to explore history, society, and religion in Israel. The characters on the project have different national, cultural, and religious backgrounds. Each has specific reasons for participating in this project. Motivations include the desire to discover ancient truths about the...

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James Michener uses an archaeological research project as the organizing principle to explore history, society, and religion in Israel. The characters on the project have different national, cultural, and religious backgrounds. Each has specific reasons for participating in this project. Motivations include the desire to discover ancient truths about the pre-1948 inhabitants as related to the claims of modern people in 1964, when the novel is set.

Ilan Eliav is a Jew and an ardent patriot. He has moved to Israel after a period as a refugee who fled Nazi Germany. Along with his move to a new country, he has also changed his name from Gottesmann. Ilan is involved with Vered Bar-El, who is also Jewish, but religious restrictions prevent them from marrying, as she is divorced.

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