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Jerusalem Interlude is the fourth book in the Zion Covenant Series. As Central Europe is served up on a platter to the Nazis, the ...
Jerusalem Interlude is the fourth book in the Zion Covenant Series. As Central Europe is served up on a platter to the Nazis, the British Mandate of Palestine makes it nearly impossible for Jews to emigrate. How Shimon and Leah, along with some new-found friends, endure the life-and-death struggle is the subject of this engrossing book.
Marseilles Autumn 1938
Was there a more painful word in any language? Today, in the ache of their parting, Elisa Murphy and Leah Feldstein could not remember any word that had ever cut deeper.
The beauty of the afternoon somehow made it harder. Warm sunlight bathed the ancient houses of Marseilles. Browns and yellows, soft blues and rusty oranges-the pastel facades glowed like a patchwork quilt on a clothesline. Windows of the houses were shining squares within the squares that reflected the vivid blue of the sky and the movement of the clouds.
Such beauty was meant to be shared over coffee at a sidewalk café. Such a day should have been savored leisurely with laughter and conversation. But all that was ending forever.
The two friends clung tightly to each other as the ship's whistle split the air. Their final words were drowned in the commotion of boarding passengers and shouting dockworkers.
Leah kissed Elisa lightly on the cheek. More than sisters. Warm brown eyes held the gaze of intense blue eyes. All was spoken in that long last look: I will miss you. Thank you for everything. Be careful. I will pray for you. Please write ... Ilove you!
These silent words were heard by both hearts and answered by a nod. Elisa shook her head and brushed away the tears on Leah's cheek. Leah managed a smile and did the same for Elisa. One more hug ... the whistle again! Lord, why must it be so hard to leave her now?
Shimon and Murphy looked on self-consciously. There was no way to make this easier. They had spent a week longer together on the crossing from New York to France, thanks to Murphy. He had found some excuse to stop over in France instead of traveling directly to London with Elisa and the boys. The extra week had been a time of peace and elegance, like the old days in Vienna. The women had learned to laugh again. The heartache of the recent months had at least receded from the center stage of their lives. Little Charles and Louis had explored every corner of the ship while Murphy and Shimon had played chess and talked politics and watched the friendship of their wives with a sort of envy. Such friendship was rare, and yet they made it look so easy-that is, until now.
Now it suddenly became hard. Painful. Almost cruel to know that the daily familiarity must stop at the edge of the Marseilles quay.
The whistle. Insistent, unforgiving, calling Leah to leave for Palestine, while Elisa must travel to London.
Shimon cleared his throat. He touched Leah's shoulder.
Elisa turned and hugged him too. More tears. "Take care of her, Shimon!" Elisa cried as she thumped his arm and stepped back.
Shimon nodded and shook Murphy's hand. Leah hugged Murphy hard, then patted his cheek. "Take care of her, Murphy," she likewise admonished the tall handsome American.
Elisa handed her a handkerchief. "Blow your nose," she instructed.
Leah laughed and obeyed.
Then it was time to gather up belongings. Handbag. Cello case. Always the cello ...
Elisa captured the picture in her mind like the afterimage of a bright light: Clouds of confetti fluttering down from the decks of the ship. Shimon and Leah together at the rail on the last leg of their journey to Zion. And beside Leah, leaning against her like a well-loved child, was the cello.
Now Leah was on the ship. She tossed down a long red streamer to Elisa. The two friends held each end as the mooring lines were cast off.
"Next month in Jerusalem!" Elisa called.
Leah must have heard her. Or at least she read the message on Elisa's lips because she nodded as she tossed loose her end of the streamer. It floated down like a final embrace.
* * *
The air of Jerusalem smelled of rain. As if the population sensed a coming downpour, most of its residents had taken shelter indoors. The Arabs gathered in the gloomy coffeehouses of the Old City to smoke their water pipes and sip thick Turkish coffee. Jews of all sects gathered beneath the domes of their synagogues for Sabbath services. Armenian shop-keepers stood in the doorways of their empty shops and stared bleakly up at the clouds that kept the tourists away.
Here and there, small groups of British soldiers hurried through the crooked lanes of the Old City. Some would stop and browse, looking for a memento to send home to England. A few would bargain and buy today, but most would return empty-handed to the Allenby barracks to play cards and bemoan the fact that they had been stationed in such a godforsaken place as Jerusalem. In India, at least there were brothels. In Jerusalem there were only pious Jews and fanatic Muslims and shy Armenian girls who attended convent school.
A truly brave and desperate Englishman might find a female companion among the veiled women in the Arab Quarter. But lately the Arabs had been killing as many British soldiers as Jews. It was not wise to seek solace beyond the Damascus Gate. Many a man had met his end on the curved blade of a Muslim dagger.
On this gloomy day only a handful of the twenty thousand British soldiers in Palestine passed through Jaffa Gate into the souks and bazaars where Dr. Hockman walked. They passed him without noticing the scuffed leather briefcase beneath his arm. Homesick guardians of the great British Empire, they never suspected that this tall stoop-shouldered man carried within that case what was perhaps their own death warrants. Certainly it was the death warrant of the British Mandate in Palestine, and the command for the destruction of every Jew who lived there.
Hockman observed these sad-faced young men with the same emotion with which he examined the piles of oranges in the produce market. If these are the best England has to offer, he thought, then certainly the Führer is right in his predictions about their destruction of the British Empire.
He opened a shopping bag and counted out six oranges, oranges grown on the trees of the Zionists. Planting fruit trees was one thing the Jews had done for Palestine. But soon not even a trace of their trees would remain. At that thought Hockman picked out another half-dozen oranges and, after a moment of discussion, paid the wizened old fruit vendor half his asking price.
Two young soldiers joined him at the booth. A short man wearing the stripes of a corporal grinned. "It took me two months to figure out you don't pay what they ask. Not like a shop in Liverpool!" he exclaimed.
"Jerusalem has no equal," Hockman responded in flawless English, "either in the quality of oranges or the number of bargains struck in a day." He smiled and bowed slightly as the soldier proceeded to haggle noisily with the merchant. Oranges. The British were mad for oranges. Hockman sometimes thought that orange marmalade was the sole reason England clung so tenaciously to Palestine.
It made little difference what their purpose was, however. Dr. Hockman was dedicated to setting a different course for Palestine. For two years he had been pursuing a goal, and now it was about to become a reality.
By the clearest of German logic, the Führer had chosen Hockman to guide the Muslim religious leadership of Jerusalem. As a Nazi archaeologist, Hockman, like Hitler and Himmler, believed without question that the Aryan race was the original race created by God. All other peoples and tribes were the result of inbreeding between man and the subhuman creatures who occupied the world in the distant past.
The race of Jews, and those of darker color, were marked as Untermenschen, "subhumans," destined for service as slave labor to the Aryan race until they were no longer of use. Hitler himself would decide when these races were no longer of use, and even now he was planning an alternate solution for that time.
For the present, however, the Untermenschen Jews were performing the greatest of services for the Third Reich. They were the issue upon which the passions of men could come together in a mutual goal. In every land on earth the hearts of men had united in their hatred of the Jews.
This same hatred had built Hitler's personal army of Brownshirts, and then the SS. This hatred had been fundamental in the collapse of Austria and the darkness that presently consumed the land in violence. And now, in the autumn of 1938, it had rolled up and over the mountains of the Sudetenland and left Czechoslovakia broken and without defense.
All these things the Führer had predicted. He was the prophet and high priest of the Aryan race. Hockman made the writings of the Führer his own bible. He lived to serve the prophecies. There was much, much yet to fulfill, and so he had been selected to come to Jerusalem where other disciples of Hitler's hatred had reasons of their own to see the Jews destroyed and the British government driven from Palestine.
Today that purpose drew him from the vaulted souks of the Old City and propelled him with single-minded intensity down the street toward the gate of Bab el-Silsileh. The name meant "Street of the Chain." One legend told that a chain had ascended into heaven from the site of the Dome of the Rock where the street ended. Yet another legend spoke of a Crusader king from Austria who had been hanged there by a chain. The second tale made more sense to Hockman. If legends about Jerusalem taught anything, it was that this was a city of darkness and intrigue and slaughter. Nothing had changed. Nothing at all.
Spice merchants, weary of waiting for customers who would not come, closed the iron grills of their tiny shops. The scent of peppercorns and cinnamon sticks and precious saffron mingled with the cool air. Hockman inhaled, remembering that great wars had been fought over such items as pepper and cinnamon. Religion had been used as an excuse to stir up the ignorant masses of Europe, but the real reason for quests and crusades had been economics-to capture the trade routes.
Hitler himself had discussed this fact with Hockman over a late supper in Berchtesgaden. "You see, Doktor Hockman," Hitler had said, fixing his blue eyes on him and leaning forward, "this is the lesson I have learned from history. Men will do for religion what they would not do for mere economics! Clothe one's purpose in the robes of a religious cause, and they will gladly die for you. Ah-" he had shaken his finger and chuckled-"but tell them they are dying for the sake of cinnamon and peppercorns, and they will turn and kill you instead!"
For this very reason the Führer had first sent his greetings and sympathy to Haj Amin el Husseini, the Muslim Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Haj Amin had the piercing blue eyes of his distant Crusader forebears, and he possessed a hatred for the Jews that was as great as that of Hitler himself. Blue eyes and hatred of Jews was quite enough for the Führer to decide that Haj Amin must become an ally of the Reich. From that first meeting had come a promise of financial support for armed attacks against the Jewish settlers and the British armed forces. For two years men from the small terrorist bands recruited by Haj Amin had been trained in Germany by SS officers. The results had been splendid, just as they had been in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Spain.
Hitler was certain that the English would soon throw up their hands in despair and turn all of Palestine over to Haj Amin el Husseini. He would become king and do as Hitler wished with the Jews. Hitler would keep Haj Amin on his throne for as long as it suited the Reich, and then ... there were other plans in the works for Palestine. They did not include Untermenschen Arabs or puppet thrones.
For the moment, however, Haj Amin was most useful. He had recruited a band of five thousand guerrillas from Syria and Iraq and Lebanon-paid mercenaries who were also promised that the cause they fought for was a holy one. Drive the infidels from the holy places! Jihad! Holy War! And if you should die in such a cause? Allah in his mercy will instantly welcome you to Paradise! This was the promise of the Grand Mufti, as his men were paid with German money and armed with German-made weapons for the fight.
These holy strugglers fought against the British. They killed Jews. They assassinated members of the Palestinian Arab community who opposed the madness of this cause. Over five thousand Arab Palestians had died for speaking out against the tactics of Haj Amin or for working with the Zionists. Those labeled as "friend of the Jews" were marked for death.
Under the tutelage of his friend and mentor, Hitler, Haj Amin had placed his own followers in positions of leadership throughout Palestine. From the lowliest clerk to the muhqtar of a large village, all were indebted to Haj Amin. As it had been in Germany, so it was now in the British Mandate of Palestine. When Haj Amin called for a general strike, no Arab dared to work on pain of death. When he shouted for vengeance and called for demonstrations in the villages and towns, it was as he willed.
The blueprint of conquest was the same here as it had been up to this moment in Europe. And that blueprint was being carried to the study of Haj Amin in Hockman's scuffed leather briefcase.
Beneath the vaults Hockman walked, past the orange Mameluke buildings that bordered the Western Wall road. Always ahead of him was the great compound of the Dome of the Rock, where the Temple of the Jews had once stood. Halfway down the vaulted section, two Jews entered a small doorway on the right. Above the doorway was a Star of David in the grillwork of the arch.
Hockman moved to the left, as though the very air would be poisoned by their breath. This was one of the Jewish soup kitchens that remained open in spite of its nearness to the Muslim Quarter. He mentally marked it as a possible target for the coming activities. The southern exposure of the soup kitchen overlooked the Wailing Wall, and there was talk that the Jews wished to make the building a shortcut to the Jewish holy site that lay in the center of the Muslim Quarter. Yes. The Führer would approve. They would make even daily prayer difficult for the Jews.
It was all so amusing, Hockman thought as the scent of cabbage soup and the sound of Jewish voices mingled to assault his senses. The Jews of Germany longed for nothing so much as they longed for Palestine! "Next year in Jerusalem!" they cried. America would not have them. That hope had died with the sinking of the coffin ship Darien. And so it had to be Palestine. So much the better. Round them up in one desolate corner of the world and eliminate them there by stirring up the passions of the Arabs. The Muslim fanatics would save the Reich the trouble.
Excerpted from Jerusalem Interlude by BODIE THOENE BROCK THOENE Copyright © 1990 by Bodie Thoene. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted January 3, 2010
All of the books in the Zion Covenant Series are great reading. I have learned more history from these books than I ever did from the history books. If you are interested in Hitler and the Nazi years, you will enjoy this novel and others in the series. It is historical fiction at its finest.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 15, 2010
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Posted January 30, 2009
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Posted October 25, 2008
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