'The Student': Exciting Israeli counter-terror thriller addressing BDS

A US college hate crime turns into a murder mystery when when an Israeli student and her Lebanese roommate discover that there’s something hidden in their computers worth killing for.

 AN ISRAELI student and her Lebanese roommate discover there’s something hidden in their computers worth slitting a man’s throat.  (photo credit: Tianyi Ma/Unsplash)
AN ISRAELI student and her Lebanese roommate discover there’s something hidden in their computers worth slitting a man’s throat.
(photo credit: Tianyi Ma/Unsplash)

Author Steve Gordon bends the threads of reality in his newest edition to the Gidon Aronson Thrillers, The Student, as former IDF elite forces soldier and hero Gidon must undertake a Herculean task to protect the people and country he loves. Gidon’s daring, complex character and the book’s thrilling, action-filled scenes make for a classic superhero story with shockingly realistic implications.

An exciting thriller of a former IDF elite forces soldier

What begins as a United States college hate crime soon turns into a murder mystery, when an Israeli student and her Lebanese roommate discover that there’s something hidden in their computers worth slitting a man’s throat. Recruited to protect the girls, Gidon Aronson, who has just returned to the US from a covert IDF operation in Syria, quite unexpectedly finds himself amid an international terror crisis. With the help of an FBI agent who suspects him of spying for Israel’s Mossad and his police friend, Gidon must uncover what exactly it is that the terrorists are after and stop them before they kill again.

In a struggle against time and an elusive anti-Israel terrorist cell, Gidon puts his remarkable battle skills, martial arts and keen sense of perception to the test, displaying superhuman strength and stamina when shielding the girls from harm’s way. While Gidon’s courage, strength and resolution to save lives are quite heroic, like all superheroes, he harbors a dangerous Achilles heel.

Soldier Depressed 311 (credit: Marc Israel Sellem)Soldier Depressed 311 (credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

The burdens of tragedy and trauma

Throughout the novel, Gidon struggles to move past the tragic death of his fiancée in a terrorist bombing and the countless traumas he experienced as an IDF soldier. He rashly risks his life to save others because he cannot bear to watch any more innocent victims die. He cannot move on from his grief and role as soldier, bringing him to feel trapped, lost and alone. “I began to sob. The tears came freely. There were the funerals, flag-draped coffins, and clusters of families and friends hugging each other and shaking uncontrollably,” Gidon recalls in his anguish.

“I began to sob. The tears came freely. There were the funerals, flag-draped coffins, and clusters of families and friends hugging each other and shaking uncontrollably.”

Gidon Aronson

The inspiration and deeper meaning behind the character

Gidon’s character is reflective of many American IDF soldiers, who feel they must play an impossible role of stoic savior when confronted with tragic loss, yet underneath their masks lie vulnerable, flawed and very human emotions. Gordon in an interview with the Magazine explains that Gidon is “a bit of a lost soul, trying to rebuild his life... He’s split between Israel and the States.” Indeed, Gidon returns to the US hoping to find solace in a safe place, but he is tied to Israel, unable to let go of both the good and the bad. “I felt like I needed to go back, and just walk the streets and paths of that land,” Gidon reflects.

“I wanted to create a series where the hero had a love of Israel.”

Steve Gordon

While Gordon’s plotline follows Gidon as he miraculously fights off terrorist villains, his story has a deeper underlying message. “I wanted to create a series where the hero had a love of Israel,” Gordon told the Magazine, recounting that the idea to write the thrillers came to him during the intifada when he saw “Israel was getting horrible press.” Gordon has since endeavored in his series to shed light on the reality in Israel and the positive facets of Israeli society. Throughout Gidon’s engrossing tale, Gordon creates characters and a storyline that have both fantastical undertones that keep readers engaged and on their toes, and a realistic basis that allows readers to relate to Gidon’s struggles and acquire a better understanding of Israeli culture.

One such notable instance is Gordon’s attempt to build relationships between Jewish and Arab Israelis in the book, such as the mysterious Ibrahim, who saves Gidon’s life. “There are relationships in Israel between Jews and Palestinians... people do have really positive relationships,” Gordon remarked on his motive for developing the friendship. Gordon also designed a plotline highlighting the effects of the BDS movement exploding all over American college campuses, wanting to address the devasting consequences of such hate crime and antisemitism in his book.

Gordon’s The Student is a gripping murder mystery that fuses a great story with a powerful message. The plotline and hero illuminate the terrifying effects of terrorism and present a testimony to the courageous heroism of individuals like Gidon, who while forced to carry an unbearable weight of responsibility on their shoulders, have made the world a safer place for the rest of us. 

The StudentBy Stephen GordonLoyola College/Apprentice House426 pages; $21.99