Friday, May 31, 2013

Nothing’s Missing in this Compelling Crime Novel

Let’s start with the title. There is no file missing in The Missing File, the debut novel of D. A. Mishani, which has just been published in English. Rather, this police procedural novel revolves around the case of a missing Israeli teenager. The meaning of the title became clear to me when I considered the original, Hebrew name of the book, ‘Tik Ne’edar‘, which was published in 2011. The book’s title should be stated with an emphasis on the second word. There is a teenager missing, and Detective Avraham Avraham has been assigned to find him.

When the mother of 16-year-old Ofer Sharabi shows up in the Holon police station to report her son missing, Avraham doesn’t see any urgency in the case. “‘There is very little chance that something has happened to your son,’” he tells her. “‘I don’t think there is any point in starting to search for him now,’” he concludes.

The boy doesn’t turn up overnight and the police arrive at the Sharabis’ home to question the mother and her neighbors. Ofer’s father is not yet aware of his son’s disappearance; he is a seaman onboard a ship bound for Trieste.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Scenes from "Valley of Thracians": Plovdiv

My wife and I made two trips to Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria. Plovdiv is considered one of the oldest cities in the world, with traces from a Neolithic settlement in the area. It was first a major Thracian city, then a Greek one, and then it was ruled by the Romans.

Plovdiv's modern history began with its liberation from Ottoman rule by the Russian army in 1878. The city was a focal point for the Bulgarian national movement, and Old Plovdiv includes many colorful houses built during that century.

In my suspense novel, Valley of Thracians, the Peace Corps volunteer at the center of the story recalls his visits to Plovdiv.

Plovdiv is a must-see destination on any visit to Bulgaria. Join me today on a virtual visit to Plovdiv, with pictures of some of the locations where scenes from the book take place.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Kindle Author Who Has Never Seen a Kindle

In January, I self-published my suspense novel, selecting to include it in the KDP Select Program and making it available exclusively on Amazon. In the month of March I ran a five-day free promotion, one which resulted, temporarily at least, in the book's achieving bestseller status. Over 8,000 people all over the world downloaded Valley of Thracians to their Kindles, and some of them have actually read the book.

All of those potential readers have seen something that I haven't - what my book looks like on a Kindle device. I don't own a Kindle. I have basically written a book for a medium that I have never seen.

Friday, May 17, 2013

What War with Iran Could Be Like

Israel launches a preemptive strike in Joel C. Rosenberg's new novel, Damascus Countdown.

The war everyone has feared has begun. Israeli jets bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. In retaliation, Iranian missiles are launched at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, alongside massive rocket fire from Hezbollah and Hamas. The Arrow and Patriot anti-missile defense systems are put to the test. IDF ground troops move into Gaza and southern Lebanon, where they meet stiff resistance. There are casualties. Israelis wear gas masks as they sit nervously in their bomb shelters.

But there is more. The war described in Damascus Countdown, the latest political thriller by New York Times bestselling author Joel C. Rosenberg, takes place a short distance into the future. While Israel successfully destroys six Iranian nuclear warheads, there are still two left, unaccounted for. Iran, like most of the Islamic world, is led by a messianic zealot who won't hesitate to drop an atomic bomb on the Zionist state to achieve his ultimate goal of ruling the world. A CIA operative is on the ground in Iran. His mission is to find the missing warheads and disarm them before they are launched at Tel Aviv.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Why We (Over)Eat Dairy Foods on Shavuot

There is no Biblical commandment stating that one must eat cheesecake on Shavuot, but this is a custom widely observed. And to fully honor the holiday (with a double mitzvah), why not eat another piece?

Seven weeks after the holiday of Passover, Jews celebrate Shavuot, commemorating the day the Israelites received the Torah at Mt. Sinai. The Hebrew word shavuot means weeks, as the holiday completes the Counting of the Omer period between Passover and Shavuot. Another name for the holiday is Yom Habikurim, the Day of the First Fruits, as the day celebrates both the wheat harvest and the ripening of the first fruits.

While religious Jews mark the holiday with all-night Torah study and the reading of the Book of Ruth, for most Israelis, Shavuot is primarily known for its association with the eating of dairy food. But if you posed the question of why we eat dairy on Shavuot, not many would know the answer.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Bezalel Street Artists Fair

Just a short distance from the center of the city, there's something new and exciting to explore on a Jerusalem Friday morning. The Bezalel Artists Fair, displaying original creations by Israeli artists, will appeal to tourists and local residents alike.

“The fair is a win-win idea," Oded Steinberg told the Jerusalem Post in an article announcing the fair's inception three years ago. Steinberg, who together with Rachel Ben-Moshe, is responsible for the downtown sector on the Lev Ha’ir Community Council, said that the fair "is the first of its kind to be held in the city center on a regular basis. It promotes art and culture, creates jobs, brings traffic into the area, boosts tourism and is good not just for the participants but also for downtown businesses.”

My wife and I had the opportunity to explore the fair on a sunny Friday.

Can an Israeli Author Call Canada Home?

Ayelet Tsabari has just published her debut collection of short stories. The Best Place on Earth is "peopled with characters at the crossroads of nationalities, religions and communities: expatriates, travelers, immigrants and locals." It is most definitely an Israeli book, yet Ayelet lives permanently in Toronto, Canada.

As the author says, the book "is a collection of short stories set against a backdrop of war, conflict, and the army service that explore aspects of the Israeli experience while dealing with themes of home, family, displacement, love and loss."

The Best Place on Earth
has been long-listed for the prestigious international Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. I interviewed Ayelet by email about her stories, her background, and her connection to Israel.

Monday, May 6, 2013

First Volunteers on Kibbutz Yahel

In the beginning, there were no sidewalks. This is one of my most vivid memories of being a founding member of Kibbutz Yahel. It was February, 1977, and I was still officially serving in the army, but I was glad to be able to take off my uniform for six months of agricultural work at the kibbutz my Nahal garin had established in the middle of the desert, some 60 kilometers north of Eilat.

Kibbutz Yahel was set up in semi-circular rows of pre-fabricated housing units, planted down on the rocky ground at the output of a wadi and across the Arava highway from where our fields were located in the sandy soil along the Jordanian border. Everything was dry and barren around us. And there were no sidewalks.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

On Races to Mongolia, an Interview with Helen J. Beal

A race from London to Mongolia. Across deserts and up mountains, where there are no roads. In ambulances, no less. It sounds very much like a work of fiction. It sounds like the book Rich in Small Things, by Helen J. Beal, which I just read and enjoyed.

The race portrayed in the book was fictional, but it was depicted so realistically, complete with overnight delays at border crossings, curious and hospitable natives, and mechanical failures of vehicles' prop shafts, that it had to be based on something very real.

I interviewed Helen about her book and about her part in a very real race to Mongolia.