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It is May 23, 1948, and Jewish and Muslim forces have been in brutal conflict since the new State of Israel was proclaimed nine days ago. The Zion Gate is closed and the Haganah patriots, struggling to hold on to the Old City, are running out of supplies. Inside the city, the defenders' valiant spirit threatens to fail. The leading Haganah strategist, Moshe Sachar, is trapped in enemy territory and desperately races to reach his pregnant wife, Rachel, and the others who continue to fight for the Old City. ...
It is May 23, 1948, and Jewish and Muslim forces have been in brutal conflict since the new State of Israel was proclaimed nine days ago. The Zion Gate is closed and the Haganah patriots, struggling to hold on to the Old City, are running out of supplies. Inside the city, the defenders' valiant spirit threatens to fail. The leading Haganah strategist, Moshe Sachar, is trapped in enemy territory and desperately races to reach his pregnant wife, Rachel, and the others who continue to fight for the Old City. Rachel's grandfather sees a prophecy of hope for Jerusalem, but can Moshe reach them before it's too late?
Jerusalem's Heart is a riveting novel of the battle to liberate the world's holiest city. Once again, Bodie and Brock Thoene combine an unsurpassed and timely blend of history, superb storytelling, and incredible drama that thrills from cover to cover.
The hot desert wind rose in the east with the sun.
Known as the Khamseen, the breeze moaned over the besieged Old City, piling misery onto misery. There was no refuge from it, no shelter or shade from its incessant presence. The air above the pavement buckled and quavered in its heat. Breathing was labored. Living creatures became weak and motionless; even walls and stones shimmered and trembled as the Khamseen passed. Dust swirled into the atmosphere chalking every surface with gray film. By noon the sky congealed into a pale canopy of blue-white haze.
Today the Khamseen carried the reminder that Jerusalem perched on the rim of stark and brooding wasteland. Immense nothingness, bleak and sterile, stretched out beyond the border. And from these sterile wastelands men of Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt came with the Khamseen to encircle Jerusalem, to blow the hope of Israel to dry dust. Gnawing hunger and thirst were their allies against the Jewish population of the Holy City. Water rations were reduced to four cups a day per person. Food allotments dropped to seven hundred calories a day-two hundred less than had been possible in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Lori Kalner, her dust-caked face streaked with tears, knelt with Alfie Halder and Rachel Sachar beside the roses of Gal'ed. Here the dead of the Jewish Old City had been planted.
Three-year-old Abe Kurtzman leaned against Lori and whispered the names of his brother and sisters.
The child asked Alfie, "But when will they wake up?"
Alfie responded, slow and childlike in his reply, "When the true King comes back to walk in the garden. He will wake themup."
"Mama, too," Alfie said gently. The body of Abe's mother was still beneath the rubble of their home. Perhaps it would never be reburied in the patch of earth on Gal'ed Road.
"I would like to be here when they wake up." Abe looked toward the plume of smoke that rose into the sky like a banner beyond the walls of the Old City. Then he put his small hand on Lori's cheek. "Why are you crying, Lori?"
"Because I am glad . . . glad you are awake. We were waiting for you to wake up." Thoughts tumbled through her mind. Long days had passed since the child had eaten, willingly sipped water, or spoken. Now at the moment of a Jewish victory against the Arab advance into the New City, the little boy had returned from the brink of death.
It seemed like a miracle to Lori. Was it also some portent of salvation for the desperate Old City populace?
Perhaps now the Haganah and the Palmach would once again break through to relieve the Jewish Quarter!
"We should go back to the Hurva." Rachel touched Lori's arm in warning and scanned the sky as if expecting a renewed shelling from the Arab Legion. "Moshe and Dov are on their way back through the tunnel." Rachel's voice was hopeful. Moshe and Dov, like the Hebrew spies in hostile Canaan, were still behind enemy lines and trying to get home.
"Go ahead," Lori encouraged, understanding Rachel's urgency to know if her husband would truly make it back to safety. "You should be there. We'll be along."
Rachel gave Abe a brief squeeze and hurried away toward the towering stronghold of the Great Hurva Synagogue.
"I don't want to go." Abe followed Rachel with his gaze, then shook his head adamantly. "The soldiers will make us go away."
"Aren't you hungry, Abe?" Lori urged. Then she gave Alfie a pleading look. Could Alfie convince him?
The big man cleared his throat. "Hey, Abe. It don't matter if they make us leave the Old City, see. The true King will still come sometime soon. And the bad soldiers will have to leave, but we will come back."
What was Alfie rambling about? Surely resupply was within reach!
Go? After Moshe and Dov had blown up the Arab cannon on the wall? After the Arab Legion's advance into the New City was stopped? Was Alfie imagining things? Was it the heat? The wind? The ache in his empty stomach?
"But who will water the roses?" Abe asked as the Khamseen and the sun beat against their backs. "If we go away. Who?"
"We'll be safer in the synagogue," Lori consoled the child.
"They will make us go forever," Abe protested loudly. "I don't want to!"
Lori said softly, "It will be all right. I promise."
Alfie looked at Lori with a pained expression on his broad face. "Don't make no promises. You should stay here with Abe long as you can. While it's quiet, see?" he muttered. Then, a warning. "They will promise, you know. Promise bread. Things to eat. Promise everybody can come back."
"Who, Alfie? Who will promise?"
Alfie continued as though her question did not require an answer. "And he will do what he wants here for a while. Take what he wants. Burn what he finds. He done it before. He thinks this is the end of God's promise, see?" Alfie squinted his eyes as if he heard a voice on the Khamseen. "See? On the top of that." He gestured toward the dome of the Mosque of Omar.
Lori looked, expecting to see a sniper perhaps, but there was no one. "I don't see anything, Alfie."
Alfie shrugged. He was sure of what he saw. "He's there. Drinking blood. Don't matter to him whose blood. Muslim. Jew. Don't matter to him. And he talks and talks and talks about Jerusalem, and everybody wants to believe. But he's a liar."
Lori shuddered at Alfie's vision of evil.
Was Alfie saying Jewish hopes for the Holy City were in vain?
"I got to go back now, Abe," Alfie said. "I got to carry things, you know?"
The roses on the graves of Gal'ed bloomed blood red beneath the blistering heat. nnnn The Khamseen's breath parched the Holy City, as it had for long ages before.
It was on such a day as this that Christ faced the hot wind of the Khamseen in the wilderness. If you are truly the Son of God, turn these stones into bread. . . .
In the same way the United Nations mocked the starving Jewish populace of besieged Jerusalem: If you are truly God's Chosen, turn Jerusalem's stones into bread and Jewish blood into water . . . Save yourselves!
The restored nation of Israel was a mere nine days old. May 23, 1948, was only one day in three millennia of bloody history. What had changed? Once again a handful of Jews stood against the winds that desired to possess Jerusalem above all other cities of the world.
Two thousand years earlier the Khamseen wailed from the pinnacle of the great temple: All this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me!
Before that hour, and since, the kings of the world coveted Mount Zion from distant lands. They heard the voice of the Khamseen. They believed the lie and bowed down, trembling, to worship the winds of desolation.
Again and again the ramparts of Jerusalem had fallen and been rebuilt. From Assyria, Babylon, and Rome, armies encircled the walls and followed the wind.
All this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me. . . .
From Europe Christian knights came to slaughter the innocent and profane the name of the One they claimed to serve.
Bow down and worship me! Jerusalem will be your kingdom!
The hordes of Islam burned the sacred parchments and baptized the land with Christian and Jewish blood in the name of Allah and his Prophet.
For seven hundred years the Turks joined in the butchery.
Worship me . . . !
Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany rode through the ancient gates on a white charger.
All this I will give you!
The Khamseen, oracle of death and desolation, blew across the sacred mountain of Zion, turning kings and soldiers, priests and paupers, to dust.
Jerusalem will be yours!
Only the dust and the stones and the wind remained.
The age-old battle raged on. As it was written.
Above and beneath and within these stones, the Prince of Darkness and the King of Light still clashed. And today, kings and soldiers, priests and paupers, heard the whisper: Bow down! Bow down and worship me! All this I will give you! Jerusalem will be yours!
While the United Nations dithered about the fate of the Holy City, a handful of half-starved Jewish kids with Molotov cocktails stopped the advance of the Arab Legion into the heart of New City Jerusalem. Meanwhile Jewish defenders trapped in the Old City heldon, hoping for supplies and reinforcements.
And King Abdullah of Jordan watched and waited and listened to the voice of the wind.
All this I will give you. . . . nnnn Mother Superior stood like a white tower facing Major Luke Thomas, the Englishman who commanded the Jewish defenders of Notre Dame. Sister Marie Claire remained aloof, unwilling to meet the gaze of the soldier. She stood just at Mother Superior's right shoulder with the Arab boy, Daoud, at her side.
The sisters' convent, Souers Reparatrices, was now a heap of blasted rubble strewn across Suleiman Road. It blocked the advance of the Arab Legion into Jewish Jerusalem. With her own hand Mother Superior had destroyed the building. Daoud did not know why the old woman had done it. Now they were prisoners of the Zionists.
"Are we free to go?" Mother Superior inquired.
"Where would you go if I set you free?" Thomas asked the nun.
"Into the Old City. The Latin Patriarchate."
"You would be killed before you took ten steps from Notre Dame. Snipers on the wall. I can't chance it."
"Are we your captives then?"
"You are under my protection, Mother. If there is someplace near . . . a church . . . another order?"
The old woman glanced down at Daoud and placed her hand on his shoulder. "I cannot think."
"The Russian compound?" Luke Thomas suggested. "St. Trinity Cathedral? Neutral territory. So far that neutrality has not been violated."
Mother Superior raised an eyebrow at this irony. She had attempted to keep her convent neutral since the beginning of this mess, Daoud knew. But no one on either side would let her. So now it was over. There was no more French convent. The Zionists and the Jordanian soldiers would haggle over a pile of stones that had once been Mother Superior's home. She would have to find someplace else to pray.
"Our Russian sisters will welcome us," she agreed after a brief moment's hesitation.
"And the lad?" Thomas pinned Daoud in place with a fierce stare. "He'll have to be locked up."
"He goes where I go." Mother Superior looked quickly at Sister Marie Claire.
Major Thomas asked Daoud in fluent Arabic, "Did you come here to spy on us?"
Daoud did not reply at first. There were many English fighting with the Arab Legion. What was this one doing on the other side?
"He is under my protection," Mother Superior said firmly.
The major smiled curiously beneath his thick red mustache. "A spy."
Mother Superior grabbed Daoud's sleeve, drawing him close to her. "He guided me and Sister Marie Claire back through the Arab lines."
"Well, then." The Englishman folded his arms and glowered at Daoud. "What happens if I turn you loose? Eh? You go back to the Mufti and report . . ."
"The Mufti is not in Jerusalem!" Daoud argued. This stupid Englishman knew nothing!
"King Abdullah, then."
"He is not in Jerusalem either!" Daoud retorted hotly. "Only his army. And they also are commanded by Englishmen like you. If you wish to fight your countrymen, you should go back to England and do battle in your own cities!"
"You will tell what you have seen of Jewish defenses?"
"What defenses? You have nothing but boys here and women fighting alongside them. The Legion will trample you here in Jerusalem and break your back in Latrun." Daoud let his scorn for the Jewish defenders show. "You are nothing. Nothing. And now the convent of these kind ladies is nothing because of you."
Luke Thomas glanced up at the Mother Superior with resignation. "You see, Mother? He cannot be set free."
"He stays with us," the nun stated. "I will see to it he does not leave."
Thomas, ignoring the nun, addressed Daoud again. "You did not answer my question. Why did you come out of the Old City?"
"These women are foolish," Daoud spat. "But they are beloved by Allah. I came to watch over them."
Captain Thomas nodded and pressed his lips tightly together in thought. He addressed Mother Superior. "We will take you to the Russian convent. Will you give your word the boy will stay with you?"
Mother glared at Daoud. "If you do not promise to remain with me and Sister Marie Claire, they will lock you up."
Daoud gritted his teeth. What was a promise anyway? He would leave Allah to sort out the truth. "I will," he declared. "I will stay with the sisters."
The Englishman observed Daoud for a long moment. In his eyes flickered the thought Daoud was lying. Daoud knew the Englishman was correct. The Englishman knew. But in the end, Mother Superior, who trusted everyone, won the day. nnnn The presence of Rose Smith piloting a small boat full of Jewish refugees in Jaffa Harbor that day was an American story. In the editorial offices of Life magazine in New York the old woman and her history were discussed with enthusiasm bordering on awe.
American readers, sick of hearing about war, needed the images of an American heroine to hold their interest.
True, Rose Smith bore a strong resemblance to Tugboat Annie with her grizzled hair tied back in a bun, square, sunburned face, and mouth like a bullfrog. Her arms were thick and strong like a dockworker's, and she had a backside broad enough to tack up a billboard. She was, in a word, not an American beauty, but definitely American. Definitely a heroine. A legend among those who remembered her piloting a canal barge full of kids and wounded soldiers during the fall of France and the evacuation of Dunkirk.
She was someone worthy of a spotlight in Photo of the Week. Absolutely the perfect feature for a public who preferred a magazine with lots of advertisements, big photographs, and a few short captions to propel the story along.
Correspondents from the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune covered the politics, policies, and sweeping military victories of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon against the Zionists. People yawned and used the newspaper to wrap garbage and line their bird cages. If a poll was taken, Life magazine would be voted Most Likely to Be Found on the Back of Every American Toilet.
Life, however, was a fixture on the coffee table of every doctor's waiting room in America.
Pictures of ordinary people doing extraordinary things guaranteed old magazines a special box in the rafters of the attic.
People like Rose Smith made war worth thinking about again, even a war waged on a tiny scrap of earth in the Middle East.
So it was decided. Life magazine would dig into the human interest side of this thing. Rose Smith was good for circulation.
The assignment was cabled to photojournalist Ellie Meyer in Tel Aviv. Ever since the Arab riots that destroyed the Jewish business district in Jerusalem last November, her images had awakened the curiosity of many U.S. citizens.
In April her uncle had been butchered with over seventy doctors and medical staff in the Arab ambush of a Jewish convoy en route to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.
Her husband, David Meyer, was known to be a pilot flying for the Israeli Air Force.
She was certainly not impartial about who were the victims and who the aggressors in this conflict. But personal tragedy brought passion to her work. Her latest photo showed seven sad-eyed children in a kibbutz kindergarten class gazing searchingly into the lens of the camera. Each child had a tattoo on his forearm.
No caption was needed for the American readership.
According to Ellie Meyer, these kids were what Israel was all about. nnnn In the superheated atmosphere of the Old City the measured boom of mortar shells resounded through the narrow streets. One explosion took on the voice of ten. The brittle echo of a single rifle became a fusillade.
"The Arabs are attacking! They have rallied! More defenders to the north perimeter!"
Amid the shouts of alarm from Jewish Old City defenders, Alfie returned to the garden of Gal'ed. Now it was time to get back to the safety of the Hurva shelter. Alfie gathered Abe into his massive arms. Abe perched on Alfie's shoulder fearlessly, as though he could not hear the thunder of explosions, the screams of the injured, and the resonant pop of small arms.
It was, Lori thought, an image like the giant Saint Christopher bearing the Christ child and the weight of the world through the deep waters of Jerusalem. Abe's gaze fixed on the roses of Gal'ed that crowned the gr aves of his brother and sisters. "Where we going?" he asked Lori in a piping voice.
"The Hurva," she explained, quickening her pace as a shell exploded and dust bloomed over the tops of domed roofs.
"Flowers." Abe stretched his fingers toward the receding rose garden. "Sister sleeping there."
"We'll come back to visit the roses soon. Visit sister. You need to eat something. The soup kitchen," Lori replied patiently, trying to master her sense of panic. "You see, Abe." She gestured toward the billowing smoke as though it made all things clear.
"Alfie too?" Abe smiled and patted the big man on the shoulder as if he was an obedient draft horse.
"No. You be a good boy. Eat. I got to go, see?" Alfie explained, rounding the corner and coming within sight of the entrance to the courtyard of the Hurva. Five Haganah soldiers ran past, headed for the northern barricade. Two others, supporting a wounded comrade, hobbled down the steep steps of an alleyway. "I got to carry other good chaps. Big fellows. Hurt fellows can't walk, see Abe? I got to carry them 'cause they can't walk."
Abe frowned and tossed his head angrily. "I can carry good chaps too."
Lori ignored Abe's protestations and instructed Alfie. "Those explosions. They are coming from the perimeter beyond the hospital. You will be needed. Tell Dr. Baruch Abe and I will be in the shelter at the Hurva. When he goes to sleep, I will come to the hospital." Lori reached up to take Abe from Alfie. The child resisted, entwining Alfie's hair in his fingers.
Abe's wail competed with the cacophony of the battle. "Not the dark place! No! Not in the dark place no more! Mama's down in the dark place. I want the garden! Flowers! The garden!"
Alfie leaned down. Lori pried Abe's little square hands free and tugged him away from Alfie.
"No! Not the dark place! Not the crying place! I can carry good chaps!"
Lori wrapped her arms around Abe's middle to restrain him.
Alfie laid a benign paw on the struggling boy's head. "Be good, huh? I'll come see you." This assurance made no difference. The pitch of hysteria increased. Alfie scanned the sky and said to Lori, "He's scared, you know? That bomb on his house, see? No wonder. The sky is blue outside."
Lori looked up at the pall of smoke and dust that washed all color from the sky. "He's got to eat."
"Maybe so." Alfie nodded as Abe kicked. "But he's awful scared. Not much light in there. In the cellar. Real hot, too. Lots of people in there. People crying. Maybe out here is better?" He lowered his chin across the square toward the arched open portico of the Yeshiva School. Several dozen refugees huddled there. Heaps of meager belongings provided no real protection. If an Arab shell hit in the open courtyard, there would be no escaping shrapnel.
Just then a geyser of debris spewed up outside the walls of the Hurva compound.
Could she let a child's tantrum dictate where they took refuge? Without looking back she embraced Abe and dashed toward the sandbags that protected the portal of the Hurva.
Abe's once beefy frame was skeletal from months of privation. Like a bird caught in the paroxysm of grief, he had refused all nourishment since the night his family perished beneath the shell that destroyed their home.
"Hannah Cohen will have a good meal for you." Her words were lost as they entered the auditorium beneath the dome of the Great Hurva. Soldiers on the synagogue's scaffolding took aim through lattice-covered windows while Arab snipers on the minaret across the wall pumped bullets into the compound.