Written by Charles Lichtman
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, I grew up in Gary, Indiana, a blue-collar steel town. As far back as I can remember, my parents talked to me about the Nazis murdering all of my Hungarian family in the Holocaust. My parents estimated that between both sides of the family, we lost over 400 great-grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
The Holocaust was forever a regular theme of discussion in our home. To complicate this, my first anti-Semitic incident was in first grade, and then it was pretty much nonstop from eight through tenth grade, as I regularly got beat up simply for being Jewish. That violence finally mostly ceased when I learned martial arts and most of the bullies realized they could no pick on me. But even in my freshman year of college, when the 1973 Yom Kippur War ignited, the anti-Semites cut up some of my clothes and poured a large garbage can of water onto my bed.
The 1972 attack at the Munich Olympics against the Israeli athletes by Black September was my starting point for learning everything I could about terrorism. My family huddled around the television for the duration of that tragic event believing that my Israeli Uncle Oskar, our sole family Holocaust survivor, was a victim of the terrorist attack. Fortunately, he wasn’t. But that event, combined with the Holocaust stories and falling victim myself to the anti-Semitism jump started what became a personal, now 49-year obsession with learning about terrorism, Israel and the Middle East that continues to this day.
My first novel, The Last Inauguration, dealt with these topics and featured the notorious terrorist Carlos the Jackal as the antagonist. The Sword of David, my current novel, is in the same Middle East terrorist genre, but has a unique ending that New York Times # 1 best-selling author Brad Meltzer said “is truly amazing.” Numerous reviewers have called it the “Jewish DaVinci Code.”
In 1998, my in-laws took our collective family of fourteen to Israel for their 50th anniversary. My life changed because I instantly fell in love with the country. I was awestruck seeing the big empty field where David slew Goliath. Next was standing on top of Masada.
Then came my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah at the Wall and going on top of the Temple Mount. Indeed, I equally enjoyed The Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus was crucified and resurrected. And the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque were equally fascinating. The whole trip positively overwhelming. After that first visit to Israel, I pledged to keep coming back, and I have, five more times.
Those visits to Israel have given me a sensitivity to the Palestinian people. I have spent countless hours in Arab cafes and the streets of Jerusalem and the West Bank discussing peace with everyday Palestinians. They are not the enemy. I’ve walked away from every one of those conversations believing that the vast majority of Palestinians are not filled with hate towards Israel or the Jewish people. What I consistently heard is that they want better lives for their children. Better education, healthcare and job opportunities. Don’t we all want that?
How To Find Peace?
To me, the two-part question is (i) how does Israel remain secure and (ii) the Palestinians get better lives, thus leading to a peaceful co-existence? Having long paid attention to the peace process, as a starting point, the parties must move forward on the framework set up in the Oslo Accords and United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 fulfilling the “right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.” Let the Palestinians have their own country. Israel has enough to deal with every day.
No doubt there are complicated issues regarding establishing borders and assuring Israel’s security, but the discussion has to start somewhere. The parties are stuck. We all know the classic definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, expecting to get a different result. I am driven to attaining peace, because I never want to see Israel disappear from the map.
In reality, the Palestinian people do not control their own destinies, because the corrupt Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank and Hamas terrorists run Gaza. That is Israel’s enemy; not the average Palestinian regardless of where he lives in Israel. Consider that Hamas and other terrorist groups want nothing more than to cause harm to Israel and its citizens. But if Yasser Arafat and the PLO can come to the negotiation table, so can today’s Palestinian leaders.
Inspired To Write The Sword Of David
What would happen if, subject to a true and viable peace accord, a benevolent Israel and the world community provided the Palestinians with better housing, education, technology, health care and a starting point to install a true democracy where the Palestinian people actually get to choose their leaders in regularly scheduled, full and fair elections. Might some of the mutual long-embedded hatred dissipate? Couldn’t Israel use a boost in the worldwide court of public opinion? Isn’t it feasible that Israel would become stronger in its internal security, if peace could be achieved? Of course, nothing happens overnight, but you don’t know unless you try.
Long term, staying on the existing course does not provide Israel with eternal security. The long play must be to work towards a situation where Israel has security and everyone has opportunity.
With that, given my life experiences and deep love of Israel, I have conveyed my perhaps utopian dream of peace in The Sword of David. The novel’s goal has been to educate the reader, but more important, with its unexpected ending, to make you think about peace in Israel, which is why I wrote the novel. What if?
More About Charles Lichtman:
Chuck Lichtman is author of The Last Inauguration and The Sword of David. He is a practicing attorney in Florida and serves on the national Board of Directors of Secure Community Network, an arm of the Jewish Federations of North America, responsible for protecting all Jewish buildings and people in the United States, and serving as Chair of the Security Committee for the South Palm Beach Jewish Federation.
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