Author: Avraham Azrieli
Few novelists succeed in making the past come alive, particularly when they attempt to juxtapose historical facts with storytelling, which often slows down the flow of the novel. However, such is not the case with Avraham Azrieli’s The Jerusalem Inception-a tale that is beautifully and superbly narrated.
The opening chapter of the novel sets the tone for the remainder of the narrative and takes us to somewhere in the Swiss Alps where we encounter seventeen-year old Tanya Galinski, a Jewess and her German lover, General Klaus von Koenig, Heinrich Himmler’s deputy. As the story unfolds we are informed that Tanya had been saved by her lover from certain death at the hands of the Nazis. Klaus and Tanya are delivering valuables stolen from murdered Jews in the concentration camps to a Swiss banker, all of which are meticulously listed in a ledger. Klaus subsequently writes down a number in the space for the account number and for a password he writes AYNAT, after which he signs his name and dates it January 1, 1945.
Elie Weiss and Abraham Gerster are two young Holocaust survivors that escaped from the German slaughter of their shetl (small village). They learned to survive in the thick forests, stealing food when possible and killing as many Germans as possible. Elie is described as someone that had “the devil’s eyes, small and black and all-seeing, even in darkness.” As Klaus and Tanya head back to where they are stationed, they are spotted by Elie and Abraham, wherein the latter grabs the trunk of a fallen tree, drags it into the road and causes Klaus’s Mercedes sedan to lose control, crashing into a ditch and landing on its roof. Klaus manages to crawl out of his car but is shortly murdered by Elie and Abraham after they utter the Hebrew word Nekamah, which translates as revenge.
As for Tanya, she is dragged from the car and questioned as to where is the truck that transported the valuables, who took them, which bank were they being transported to, and where is the ledger? What shocks Elie and Abraham was their discovery that Tanya is a Jewess traveling with a Nazi general. Tanya refuses to give any information to her two assailants. All three hide in the forest for the next several weeks whereupon Abraham falls madly in love with Tanya. During their concealment, the trio become embroiled in a gun battle with some Germans and Elie informs Tanya that her beloved Abraham was turned into a “bloody sieve.” Heartbroken, Tanya flees.
Fast forward twenty-one years later where we discover that Abraham did not die but has become Rabbi Abraham Gerster living in Meah Shearim, the enclosed neighborhood where the insular sect of Neturay Karta lives in strict observance of the Torah, insulated from the sinful ways of the surrounding Zionist society. Now married with a son Lemmy, Abraham is the leader of the sect and deeply revered. And unknown to his followers, he is also a devout nationalist who is willing to do what it takes to control Jewish fanatics from destroying Israel. Tanya, who had given birth out-of-wedlock to a daughter, has become a Mossad agent and still yearns for Abraham. Lemmy, who is half the age of Tanya and a Talmudic scholar enters into a forbidden relationship with Tanya. Elie is the head of the Special Operations Department (SOD) and is obsessed with finding General von Koenig’s fortune and winning control over the Mossad. He strongly believes that “with both money and the infrastructure of overseas espionage, he would become the master of a formidable clandestine apparatus with limitless powers.” He will do anything and use anyone to further his ambitions to exterminate all those that wish to kill Jews or as he terms it, “Counter Final Solution”-to save Jews from another Holocaust. Although he is somewhat of a madman, his role prior to the Six Day War proves to be crucial in Israel’s swift victory over their Arab enemies.
Throughout the absorbing tale, Azrieli smoothly intertwines the inner lives of Abraham, Elie, Tanya and Lemmy which prove to be tragic, complex and with vast landscapes. At the same time, he manages to imbue the novel with a mixed bag of themes such as the Holocaust and why did God permit such a horrendous happening, revenge, loyalty, honesty, religious fanaticism, the manoeuvrings among Israeli politicians prior to the Six Day War, forbidden love, the duplicity of some members of the United Nations prior to the Six-Day War and Israeli’s abandonment by the United States and France.
What is quite noteworthy is that Azrieli manages to effectively combine both important challenges Israel faces from extreme fringe groups of anti-Zionist extremists that reject Israel and view it as a heretical entity with riveting thriller elements to interesting effect. In addition, the four principal characters are far from being forgettable, all leaving readers with lasting impressions with their divergent beliefs and views that engage us on deeper levels. This one is certainly a chilling good read! Is there a sequel in the offing?
Click Here To Read Norm’s Interview With Abraham Azrieli