Miriam Feinberg Vamosh

A Little About Me

I was born in Trenton, New Jersey, and have lived in Israel since 1970. My love affair with the Bible and ancient sources, which led to my books and articles, deepened over my many years as a tour educator – and thus, every visitor who ever asked me a question has earned my gratitude. My interest in the New Testament began thanks to the abiding respect for people of other faiths and cultures I learned in my parents’ home, and the homes of my older brother and sister. That respect deepened thanks to the tutelage of devoted teachers during a year of high school at what is now the Anglican International School in Jerusalem. Such inspirations encouraged and enabled me to specialize in weaving together Jewish literary sources, traditions and beliefs with the origins of Christianity, and teach about them on-site throughout Israel.

My own writing, in addition to translating and editing the works of scholars about events that took place millennia ago, has been complemented over the past decade by my work for the news desk of a critical, cutting-edge newspaper, Haaretz. The combination is part and parcel of the complexities that make life in Israel a never-ending search for meaning.

I am married to Arik, and am the mother of two wonderful daughters and sons-in-law. And yes, in between writing and guiding I find plenty of time for doting grandmothering of their growing families. I live in Har Adar, northwest of  Jerusalem, in a “biblical triangle” that includes Kiriath Jearim (Josh. 9:17), Chephirah (Josh. 9:17) and Emmaus (Luke 24:13–35).


About The Scroll

Thumbnail The Scroll

After two decades as a tour educator in Israel I began writing, returning to a craft that had interested me as a youngster. My illustrated non-fiction books about ancient times in the Holy Land were published over the years that followed. During that same time, of the thousands of archaeological finds I learned about, one stood out – the one that produced my historical novel, The Scroll. It is divorce document found in a Judean Desert cave – where so many finds were left behind from the refugees of the disastrous Bar Kokhba Revolt and the Great Revolt that preceded it. It named both husband and wife and even the exact amount of the settlement the wife received. The fateful date? About one year after the Temple was destroyed, and five years after the rebels took over the famed plateau. I pondered this document for years. On the one hand, I asked myself what would lead a couple to divorce under such circumstances? Either that is the simplest question in the world to answer, considering their circumstances, or the most complicated.

As a tour educator, I would introduce people at Masada to the two women and five children whom Josephus says survived its defeat. Surrounded by the ruins, we wondered what might have become of them.

Eventually, the document arose from my imagination in my novel, The Scroll, where I pictured one of those survivors as the woman mentioned in the divorce document. The Scroll becomes her story and the story of her descendants through three generations, until the horrifying, waning days of the Bar Kokhba Revolt. The actual divorce document records the husband’s name as Joseph, and the wife’s – like mine – as Miriam.  While both names are among the most common in the Second Temple period, this book emerged partly out of the desire to explore how a present-day Miriam might have responded to the devastating choices an ancient Miriam faced.

In the book I reveal how I imagine Joseph and Miriam came to be divorced, and how the scroll recording the dissolution of their marriage reached the Judean Desert cave where it was found some 2,000 years later. That scroll becomes my opportunity to share what I believe it must have been like for Jews and Christians in those days to fight for their survival and their faith as worlds collided all around them.  I immerse my story in the colorful details of daily life 2,000 years ago.

In The Scroll I suggest responses to a burning question that people of faith are asking now more than ever: How and why can religious fervor turn destructive? The Scroll makes clear that this period of “ancient history,” still impacts our lives today.

In short, The Scroll delves into the issues that bedevil me and the people closest to me, all of whom are trying to make sense of the complexities of their country, Israel, its history, people, and the choices their leaders make.

Click here to purchase The Scroll