sword and star book 88.
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The Sword and the Star: Temple Mount
By Daymon Andrews
323 pages; $15.99
The Temple Mount has made more than a few literary appearances in recent years. Bob Stone's 1998 Damascus Gate has a messianic figure on the eve of the millennium getting involved with a group of messianists plotting to blow up the mosques there. Joel Rosenberg (a Christian notwithstanding his name) published The Copper Scroll in 2006 about a search for the Ark of the Covenant and other treasures and implements of the Jewish temple. The 2007 The Sacred Bones by Michael Byrnes has an ossuary stolen from a secret crypt beneath the Temple Mount with contretemps going on later within and outside the Temple Mount. That same year, Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union crescends as detective Meyer Landsman fails to prevent the blowing up of the Omar Mosque by Jews seeking a return to Zion from Alaska (don't ask).
Chabon's novel, we cannot ignore, was a New York Times best-seller for more than six weeks, reaching No. 2, and last February, Variety announced that Columbia Pictures acquired screen rights to the book with Joel and Ethan Coen and Scott Rudin writing, directing and producing. (As an aside, I found this sentence in that trade paper funny: "Chabon sets up a contemporary scenario where Jewish settlers are about to be displaced by US government's plans to turn the frozen locale of Sitka, Alaska, over to Alaskan natives.") If we recall that much of what was once-upon-a-time pure science fiction in novels and magazines is now reality in that these authors pointed the way for real, factual science to proceed, the question perforce arises: Are these writers on to something? Is the Temple Mount a geo-theo-political eruption waiting to happen?
I would suggest that as for quality Temple Mount fiction, it was Ehud Barak in July 2000 at Camp David, as Israel's prime minister, who made a major contribution to the field. US president Bill Clinton, in summing up in December that year what he understood Barak's proposal was, noted that the Palestinian Arabs be granted sovereignty over the Haram al-Sharif in exchange for their giving up claims to the right of their refugees to return to Israel. Israel, then, would adopt a "horizontal" division in assigning above-ground sovereignty of the Temple Mount/ Haram al-Sharif to the Palestinians, and below-ground sovereignty, where may be the archeological remnants of the Temple, to Israel. But, Barak clarified his self-defeatism, Israel would restrain itself from actually doing any excavating.
Commenting on this, Dennis Ross, present at the July conference, was a bit blunt, describing on Fox News on April 21, 2002, what we could term diplomatic fiction: that "the only new idea Arafat raised at Camp David was that the Temple Mount didn't exist in Jerusalem, but in Nablus."
We also cannot ignore that it was Arafat's distant relative, the grand mufti, who ignited the 1929 riots, leading to 133 Jewish dead, by falsely claiming Jews were intent on taking over the Temple Mount.
It is at this point in reality that we can turn to Daymon Andrews's book, which has joined the above-mentioned suspense-themed books and near-fictional political maneuvering, The Sword and The Star: Temple Mount. Plausibility is not an essential element in this genre and so, the reader must make do with a modicum of believability. And on that level, the book's plot passes muster. A ganging-up on Israel led by the new German leader of the European Union, who has made a secret deal with an al-Qaida-type terrorist. When Israel is offered by the Arabs full peace, including the symbolic rebuilding of the Third Temple in exchange for the removal of the security barrier, it accepts.
Israel, "tired," as our prime minister elaborated before the Israel Policy Forum three years ago, "of fighting... of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies," is delighted to get on with life in the Middle East. However, unbeknown to the wise Israeli prime minister, Arabs have planted an explosive charge in the bowels of the Temple Mount which goes off just at the moment of the groundbreaking ceremony for the Temple, destroying the Dome of the Rock, which then leads to an all-out attack by the EU on Israel.
If, and how, Israel wins is told with all the necessary display of expertise in military lingo, including every single manufacturer's number for every plane, ship, tank and missile used. This is de rigueur, unfortunately. There is a very pro-Israel US president and his security affairs adviser. And, yes, theological involvement is quite present although no one rants or seeks to convert.
More character development and depth definitely would have been advantageous although having an Israeli general being a student of eschatology is way out of any general's depth. And there are those few annoying minor errors such as the misspelling of the word strike (on page 217) or Samson (on page 262) but those may be there to make sure one knows a reviewer has read the book.
I am not sure that terrorists or fanatical heads of state read suspense thrillers and in fact I truly hope not. Somehow, my suspicion is that in the real world it is a lot easier to cause damage than it is to set things aright. If this book is another link in a literary chain of interest and fixation zeroed in on the Temple Mount, I hope someone in government has the time to read books like this one. If he (or she) doesn't find it entertaining, for some reason, it nevertheless possesses a riveting quality that carries you through to the end.
The writer is responsible for educational programming and information resources at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.