Book Review: When Heroes Fly by Amir Gutfreund

November 9, 2020


When Heroes Fly (בשבילה גיבורים עפים) by Amir Gutfreund is a novel taking place over three decades in Israel, starting in the 1960s after the Six Days War. Mr. Gutfreund’s is an award-winning Israeli author, this is his fourth novel.

Book Review: When Heroes Fly by Amir Gutfreund
My rat­ing for When Heroes Fly5

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When Heroes Fly by Amir Gutfreund is a wonderful book, by a wonderful author whose life was tragically cut too short. The writing is funny, entertaining, bitter and extremely well done and engaging.

The book will mainly speak to people familiar with Israel in the decades the author writes about. There is a lot of nostalgia in the book, lots of history (some good, some bad -but it is seen through the eyes of kids), and cultural references galore.

I enjoyed this book tremendously, the was a bit far fetched but it was still part of the fun. The characters are very well developed, even the minor ones which we get read about throughout. There are friends, family, neighbors, people we all know, or knew, at some point in our lives, each one with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies (David Peretz, for example, thinks death is right around the corner, for decades, or the aunt sticks her nose into everyone’s business, but has been living in a kibbutz with her husband for so long she didn’t notice he turned to be an orthodox Jew). One has to admire the author that took on a seemingly pretentious task, to tell the national narrative through personal stories, creating a flowing novel in its own right.

In Israeli culture, the big turning point from teenage to adulthood happens in the army, and the author captured that very well. The boys discover that life will, most likely, not happen like they were promised. For the most part we only get glimpses of how military service, and the wars they were in. There is no big breakthrough where, Gideon for example, realizes what happened and how his life took such a sharp turn, what was the breaking point.

The excellent movie The Matchmaker (פעם הייתי), available on Amazon Prime at the time of this writing, is based on a very small part of the book. The Netflix series, which I though was just OK, When Heroes Fly, is very loosely based on this book, besides the characters’ names actually there isn’t a lot in common.

This is one of these books that many authors hope to write once in their lifetime. The novel’s large scope, but very intimate storytelling, works well and I could hardly put it down.


This is the story of five boys from a working-class neighborhood in Haifa, Israel. Eric, is the protagonist, Yoram which is a dubious kid that grows up to be a dubious businessman, Benny, a kid who always felt deprived and grew up to be a lawyer fighting for equal rights, Gideon who is trying to find himself forever, and Benny’s younger sister, Michal. The kids grew up during the euphoria which masked Israel after the Side Days War, looking forward to a rosy future.

The future, however, had different plans for the kids. Decades full of twist and turns in the Middle Eastern reality. Through the eyes of the children, turn teenagers, turn adults, we get glimpses of life in their life in their small world, and how the dramatic shifts in the country affects them.

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More Books by Amir Gutfreund*

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer:I borrowed this book from my mom.
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account

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When Heroes Fly (בשבילה גיבורים עפים) by Amir Gutfreund
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When Heroes Fly (בשבילה גיבורים עפים) by Amir Gutfreund

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When Heroes Fly (בשבילה גיבורים עפים) by Amir Gutfreund

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