(photo credit: Sarit Uziely)
Israeli author Naomi Frenkel is to be laid to rest on Kibbutz Beit Alfa at 2 p.m. on Monday, three days after dying at Sheba Medical Center on her 91st birthday.
Frenkel catapulted to fame with her triumphant trilogy, Saul and Johanna (1956-67), which tells the story of two young men who grow up in assimilated Jewish families in Germany before the Holocaust and find freedom through Zionism.
"I don't know what need it met; it's still a mystery to me," Frenkel told The Jerusalem Post's Esther Hecht in 1998 when asked to explain its phenomenal success.
She returned to her native Germany briefly after receiving an Anne Frank Foundation scholarship to write the second part of the trilogy.
Born in Berlin to an assimilated family herself, Frenkel was spirited out of Nazi Germany on a boat in 1933 by her guardian after both her parents had died.
She attended Havat Halimud Lebanot, an agricultural school for girls in Jerusalem, studied Jewish thought at the Hebrew University and moved to Kibbutz Beit Alfa, where she married a teacher, Yisrael Rosenzweig, and had a daughter, Idit.
According to Frenkel, she had a falling out with the kibbutz when it wrongly accused her of pocketing reparations from Germany.
"It was character assassination, one of the methods the Left uses," she charged.
In any case, she left the kibbutz and when her husband died and remarried journalist Meir Ben-Gur. In 1969, she helped Meir Har-Zion, the hero of Ariel Sharon's legendary Commando 101, edit his autobiography.
She worked for the Israel Navy from 1970-8, doing highly classified work and earned the rank of major.
Frenkel later revealed that she had edited protocols of the navy and army before and after the Yom Kippur War, and the material that passed through her hands shocked her deeply.
"I saw a country that was corrupt, a party that was corrupt, generals who acted out of personal interest," she said.
In her latter years, Frenkel's political views swung from the Left to the Right, she became religiously observant and settled in Kiryat Arba with her family in 1982. Although she was ostracized by the left-leaning arts community, Frenkel - who had always considered herself an outsider - finally felt at home.
"I felt I had found what I was looking for," she said. "I had found my place. I found what it means to be a Jew. I will never leave Hebron, under any circumstances."
After the terrorist murder of 10-month-old Shalhevet Pass in Hebron in 2001, she wrote, alluding to the Hebrew meaning of the baby's name: "Despite the murder, the flame will never be extinguished. We have returned to our land, and we live now in the city of our forefathers."
Last year, she sent a much-publicized message of
support to families who returned to the Amona outpost after it had been violently evacuated in 2006, saying: "I bless you in the laying of the cornerstone of your new home. If they destroy it, build it again!"
Frenkel won several prizes for her books for children and adults - many of which were translated into German and English - including the Ruppin and Levy Eshkol prizes as well as the Ussishkin, Neumann and Press awards.
Her most popular books include My Beloved, My Friend (the story of a young woman who is treated as an ugly duckling when she arrives on a kibbutz) Wild Flower, A Boy Growing Up on the Banks of the Assi, Racheli and the Little Man, Morning Star, Barkai, (which traces the history of a Sephardi family in Hebron),
and Preda (her last book published by Gefen in 2003 which is the story of two very different friends: Malchiel, a member of the Old Yishuv, and Yoske, his commander in the Palmach and the Israeli of modern times).
Several of Frenkel's books were turned into radio dramas and television movies.
She never cut ties with Kibbutz Beit Alfa, especially because it was the birth place and home of her daughter, and requested that she be buried there.