Their naivete and youthful enthusiasm is played out against a background of bigoted parental figures and the endless war in the Middle East. Just as they are about to achieve the long-wished-for dream of a music company contract, Jaron’s brother is killed in Israel, the band breaks up, and (evidently to please his grieving parents) Jaron returns to Israel and joins the army. Not, however, before he unknowingly impregnates Sam with a son, Gabriel, causing her family to disown her.
She has no way of knowing that Jaron, who doesn’t write to her, has latched on to a twisted and dangerous interpretation of the familiar childhood remonstration: “If you two can’t share it, then neither of you can have it!” The final section of the book, in which Noah tries to find and rescue Jaron, reads like a Dan Brown story, in which spiritual ideas become the basis for great, if disturbing, adventures.
Here’s an excerpt from the section called,
THE BOOK OF NOAH
I hadn’t been to Israel in years. Anxiety bubbled up inside of me as the blue waters of the Mediterranean turned into the green, western band of the tiny, smoldering country. We landed in the coastal city of Tel-Aviv at 2:45 P.M. Israel time. My heart dropped as the plane’s tires struck the tarmac. I tightened my grip on my backpack and looked out the window. “Hello, old friend.”
fe to my experience in the region and fluency in Arabic and Hebrew, my job in the Red Cross was to monitor Palestinian prisoners and provide community support to war-torn sectors around Jerusalem. The plan was for me to use my Red Cross mission as a cover to glean information about Jaron’s location. I would be in the country for one month. It was a long shot; Jaron could have been anywhere. If I was discovered, I’d be sent packing. I didn’t know what was more dangerous: Sam’s wrath or being in the middle of a war between people who had hated one another for thousands of years.
A convoy of Red Cross vans shuttled international volunteers and me to one of three hotels in Western Jerusalem with two Israeli Humvee escorts. We twisted through the foothills of the mountainous spine that separates Israel from the Jordan Desert and the rest of the eastern world. Most vegetation was sparse due to generations of settlement, agriculture and war. I gazed up at the rocky ground where gnarled pines, oaks and shrubs wrped their roots to whatever foothold they could manage. It was late May. We had just missed the rainy season, and the forecasted summer looked hot.
The hairs on the back of my neck tingled. I glanced sideways at the girl who sat beside me. She quickly looked away from my scar. I tugged the white Red Cross hat over my face, leaned back, and tried to catch a nap along the rocky road.
We bunked four to a room in a small hotel on the western edge of Jerusalem. The location provided centrality for our two responsibilities: prisoner care at the Israeli frontal POW camp near the limestone quarry at Ma’oz Tsiyon, and relief aid to the city’s interior.
I laid my duffle bag over a fold-out cot and walked to the window. The air was saturated with dust and the tinge of sulfur from expended mortar rounds and rockets. A plume of black smoke curled up toward a blue sky from the east.
‘Unreal, isn’t it?” a college student said from the other side of the window.
I bit into a red apple. The crunch boomed in my head and sounded like a neck being broken. The shockwave of another mortar shook the floor.
“Whoa,” the young man said and stepped away. His mouth hung open as he pointed. “You see that?”
My hand shook with the apple in my grasp. I heard screams in my head, the echo of the bark of my own commands. I could taste sand, smell sweat. It was time for my meds
I set the apple on the sill and grabbed the anti-depressants out of my bag, silently praying that Sam hadn’t switched them with Ibuprofen again.
…. Our first task the next day was prisoner visitation near the limestone quarry. We were charged with enforcing the recognition of Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which ensures the humane treatment of prisoners.
Frontal POW camps are temporary camps set up in about four days during times of war. Run by about three platoons of Israeli madaks, or prison instructors, they’re designed to house 500 inmates and serve as distribution centers for prisoners that eventually end up in larger, permanent regional camps. Each POW is absorbed, processed and distributed within 72 hours.
We counted over 600 POW’s.
I overheard Mr. Pascal, the director of our mission, speaking with the rav-seren, an Israeli Defense Force major, in charge of the camp.
“There’s no way you can sustain and accommodate this number of inmates, major. It’s unsafe and unsanitary.”
Major Halutz, a tall, stern man with sunken cheeks and blue eyes, dismissed an enlisted soldier and faced Mr. Pascal. “We are doing all we can with what we have, Mr. Pascal.” He laced his hands on the small of his back and looked over his shoulder at the line of eight Palestinians in front of a medic awaiting inspection. “I‟m not going to ask our men to stop capturing the enemy. Perhaps your organization could lend us workers to help with the construction of additional camps.”
…. With the first day under my belt, I began to understand my chances and opportunities for success. I initially thought I’d be able to interact with the POWs more and ask questions about Israeli captives but that was a no-go. With prisoner rotations every 72 hours, it would be impossible to build enough trust to harvest intelligence.
I opened my laptop that evening as the three other guys in the room watched international news. Internet access was sketchy, but existent. I logged onto my Skype account and hoped Sam would be online. She was.
“Can you hear me?”
“Noah! Oh my god I was getting worried. How are you? How was the flight?”
The others peaked over their shoulders at me. I hooked up a set of headphones.
“I‟m okay. How‟s Gabriel?”
Static. “—fine. He misses you.” She went quiet for a few seconds. I could hear Gabriel cooing.
“So, what do you think?”
I quieted my voice. “Not sure. I’ve got some limitations to work around but I think I can manage.”
“Okay well, please hurry and be safe.”
“I will. Email me some pictures of Gabriel will you?”
“Be happy to. Take care, Noah.”
I wanted to touch her face, look into her eyes when I spoke. I wanted to tell her how much I missed her. I wished I could take back my answer about marriage, but that was a dream.
Her name went gray on the screen and she was gone. I closed the laptop and sighed as I took out my pills.
“So, your name’s Noah,” the lanky kid from the window earlier said from his cot.
I nodded, reclined against my pillow and opened my Bible.
“That your girlfriend or something?” He had an accent, probably from Manhattan.
“Oh, cool.” He set down a copy of Arabic learning software and offered his hand. “Name’s Joseph. I’m an ambulance driver. Nice to meet you.”
I shifted my eyes from the Gospel of John to Joseph as I took his hand and shook. “Likewise.”
A mortar went off.
For Andrew Bowen, theology is a playground. His fiction and essays splash in the often murky waters of religion and spirituality, and have appeared in over a dozen venues like decomP, Metazen, Pulp Metal Magazine, Sheldon Lee Compton’s Bent Country, and Not From Here, Are You? He is the creator of Project Conversion, a year-long immersion into and adoption of 11 distinct world faiths.
TODAY’S PRIZE CONTEST!
Andrew is offering a Free Copy of TRIUNE, in PDF format, to today’s lucky winner.
Today’s Prize Giveaway has the same rules as the other giveaways:
1.To enter to win, simply COMMENT ON THIS BLOG, leaving an email address so we can contact you if you win. All names of commenters go into the ‘hat’.
2.The giveaway period runs for ONE week following posting. The winner will then be chosen by random drawing and contacted.
3. Only one entry per giveaway. (But you can enter as many different Daily Giveaway Contests as you want!)
If you don’t win this one, be sure to order a copy of TRIUNE from Amazon: