Yonatan Lifshitz, a citrus picker on the Kibbutz Granot in Israel, the twenty-six-year-old son of the kibbutz secretary. Born and reared on the commune, he is sensitive, lonely, and introverted, a decorated war hero who chafes under the Zionist views of his domineering father. Frustrated by his purposeless and restrictive life and his unsatisfying relationship with his wife, he flees to be by himself in the Jordanian desert and to seek the “perfect peace.” Contemplating suicide, he gradually begins to accept truths about himself and his life and returns to the kibbutz to live in a family with his wife and her lover.
Rimona Lifshitz, Yonatan’s wife. Elegant, subdued, unresponsive, and vague, she becomes more remote after a failed pregnancy. She has a passionless relationship with Yonatan and is unable to help him deal with his frustrations. She finds a more sympathetic relationship with Azariah Gitlin, a newcomer to the kibbutz, with whom she has a child.
Yolek Lifshitz, Yonatan’s father and secretary of the kibbutz. Crafty-looking, he is shrewd, domineering, and quick-witted. He has served in Parliament and is one of the leaders of the Israeli movement. He laments the lack of idealism in the younger members of the party and his sons, and he fears that he will never see the changes he desires. As his health and hearing deteriorate, he withdraws into silence.
Azariah Gitlin (az-ah-RI-ah), who has recently been honorably discharged from the army and joins the kibbutz as a mechanic. A child of the Holocaust, he is thin and intense. Talkative and idealistic, he relies on a barrage of quotations from Baruch Spinoza to express his ideas. He longs for recognition and fantasizes about his importance. Falling in love with Rimona, he cares for her while Yonatan is gone. He becomes an admired, hardworking, and popular member of the commune.
Hava Lifshitz (KAH-vah), Yolek’s wife, energetic and determinedly good-natured. She is contemptuous of Yolek, believing that he has “killed” her, as he is destroying Yonatan. She believes that her life has been sacrificed in serving Yolek.
Srulik (SHREW-lihk), the incoming secretary of the kibbutz. He is a German Jew, a bachelor who has lived on the kibbutz for thirty-six years, and a musician. Kind and patient, he is a philosophical observer of human nature who keeps a diary.