Early one morning in 1961, the
streets of Jerusalem bustle with activity. As Yemenites, Arabs,
Hassidim, street vendors, and young lovers begin their day, a young
Yemenite boy attempts to guide his flock of sheep though the city
street. A police officer orders the boy to move his flock to a side
street (“Sheep Song”). Phil Arkin, an American visiting his daughter,
defends the boy, and in the ensuing fracas he meets Ruth Stein, a
tourist travelling with a group of widows from the United States. Phil
impresses her with his command of Hebrew; Ruth confesses she only knows a
single word ("Shalom").
Phil introduces Ruth to his daughter,
Barbara, who has moved to Negev after marrying David, an Israeli farmer.
Phil, Ruth, and Barbara spend a day sightseeing together, and even join
the celebration of Israel’s Independence Day (“Independence Day Hora”).
Phil is smitten with Ruth, but he privately tells Barbara he’s
reluctant to pursue the relationship; he’s still married, and his
estranged wife refuses to grant him a divorce. But Barbara likes Ruth,
and asks Phil, “Why can’t two people spend a couple of weeks together
without the world coming to an end?” She invites Ruth to join them at
her farm, and Ruth, unaware of Phil’s marital status, accepts (“Shalom”
At the farm, or moshav, David oversees a group of men and women clearing a field for transplanting. Ruth has settled into the moshav's
collaborative culture, helping out by sewing bridal gowns for an
upcoming wedding. Phil urges David and Barbara to move to Baltimore with
him, but David loves Israel and could never leave. Against his cynical
buddy Adi’s complaints, David sings the land’s praises (“Milk and
Honey”). Phil, who has fallen for Ruth, asks her to stay another week
(“There’s No Reason in the World”). Phil and David discuss some
available land and Phil considers buying a house to share with Ruth.
and the widows arrive in Negev. The ladies, ogling the shirtless
Israeli men, soon discover they’re all married. Undaunted, Clara
delivers a rousing pep talk (“Chin Up, Ladies”), assuring them that
“somewhere over the rainbow, there’s a man!”
Phil tells Ruth about
his plans for a house, and she approaches the idea with a fresh
attitude (“That Was Yesterday”). Barbara is shocked to hear that her
father has made such elaborate plans without telling Ruth he’s married.
Barbara gets increasingly agitated, finally blurting out to David that
she hates living in Israel.
Finally, Phil tells Ruth about his
unhappy marriage; his wife, who lives in Paris, refuses to grant a
divorce. Ruth is unsure, but Phil insists they make the most of the time
they have (“Let’s Not Waste A Moment”). They attend a traditional
wedding ceremony, and are inspired by the young lovers. As the newlyweds
and guests celebrate, Phil and Ruth sneak off together (“The Wedding”).
next morning, Phil enthusiastically works with the other farmers,
feeling invigorated and youthful once again (“Like A Young Man”). His
enthusiasm is dampened, though, when he learns that Ruth, unable to
continue a relationship with a married man, has run off to Tel Aviv.
Phil vows to follow her and win her back. David, realizing that Barbara
would be happier in the United States, promises to leave his homeland to
be with her (“I Will Follow You”). But as he works the land, imagining
his corporate life in America, he grows distraught over his decision.
the Café Hotok in Tel Aviv, Clara and the widows gawk at the city’s
bustling life and clash of cultures (“Chin Up, Ladies” Reprise). Phil
arrives, asking for Ruth. Clara, furious at Phil for his deception,
tells him to return to the moshav; Ruth will come to him when she’s ready.
exits, and a kind and wealthy widower named Sol Horowitz approaches
Clara, asking her to dinner. He leaves her with his card (he’s in the
diamond business!) so she asks her late husband for permission to marry
again (“Hymn to Hymie”). That evening, after Clara’s successful date
with Sol, she tells Ruth to end things with Phil. But Ruth loves Phil
and can’t let go (“There’s No Reason In The World” Reprise).
At the moshav,
everyone celebrates the birth of Adi’s son (“Milk and Honey” Reprise).
Ruth arrives and Phil tells her he stopped working on the house; he
knows they can’t continue together. But Ruth wants to remain with him
(“As Simple As That”).
At the airport, Clara – now Mrs. Horowitz –
bids farewell to the others; she and her new husband Sol plan to remain
in Tel Aviv. Rather than throw a bouquet, Clara gives each of the
widows a bouquet of her own, saying, “Darling… why take chances?” Phil
and Ruth say good-bye for now; Phil intends to fly to Paris to secure a
divorce once and for all. Ruth kisses him, mounts the ramp to her plane,
and turns back for a final look as the entire company bids her