Crossing the River is both a personal memoir and a valuable historical resource. Against the backdrop of Lithuania's occupation - first by the Red Army, next by the Germans, and then again by the Russians - it is a story reflected through the prism of a sharp-eyed young child, Shalom Eilati. His story starts in the occupied Kovno Ghetto and ends with his flight across the Soviet border, through Poland and Germany and finally, his arrival in Palestine. The adult survivor, while recalling the terrorized child that he was and how he then perceived the adult world, also takes stock of his present life. Throughout the memoir, Eilati attempts to reconcile his present life as a husband, father, scientist, and writer, with the images, feelings, and thoughts from the past that have left an indelible mark on his life and that continue to haunt him.
Shalom Eilati was born in 1933 in Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania, a world center for Jewry both in religious and cultural terms. His mother was a nurse and a poet, and his father a teacher, historian and an author. In 1941, he and his family were imprisoned in a ghetto created by the occupying Germans. In 1944, at his mother's initiative, he escaped from the ghetto alone. He emigrated to Palestine in 1946, where he became a member of a kibbutz, an officer in the Israeli Defense Force, an agronomist with a Ph.D. in horticulture, a tour guide, and an editor. He has served as a lecturer in the Faculty of Agriculture at the Hebrew University in Rehovot, and was one of the founders of and editor for the Israeli Environmental Protection Service. The Hebrew original of Crossing the River was published as Lahazot et Hanahar by Carmel/Yad Vashem in 1999. Vern Lenz is a technical writer in Boise, Idaho, and is past director of the Ahavath Beth Israel choir. A student of languages, he lived in Israel with his wife for 15 years.