CHAPTER 1: CAPTIVITY
Doron ben Avrahim, an Israeli army lieutenant, was on his knees while a wickedly beautiful woman danced provocatively around him. Under different circumstances this might have been a prelude to something quite different. As she danced around him, an occasional drop of glistening sweat dripped off her brow falling unobserved upon Doron, moistening his blindfold until it ran down his face, to his lips. He promised himself he would remember this scent and the salty taste of her sweat, should he survive his current nightmare and should they ever, by chance, meet again. If she was ever nearby, Doron thought, whether in the darkest of nights or otherwise visually hidden or disguised, her scent, now embedded in his psyche, would give her away. Perhaps then, he would have his own chance to return, in kind, the tortured treatment now being bestowed upon him. As the lithe athletic woman danced around Doron, she held an 8-inch Russian Zuni serrated army knife in her hand, playfully brandishing, twirling, and sensually switching it between her left and right hands, running it across Doron’s army fatigues, drawing a trickle of blood in a provocative dance before death. The woman’s husband, Gamliel, smiled, laughing in derisive scorn of their Israeli captive.
Doron was motionless, appearing to silently accept his fate. A blindfold was intermittently put on him, which he was now wearing. Doron could see little, but perceived an intermittent green tint. The emerald sparkle of reflected light, he suspected emanated from Saron’s green eyes, as she danced around him. Her unusual strikingly colored eyes, particularly for an Iranian, had significantly less melanin than the more common Iranian brown eyes. Her eye color genotype was inherited from Saron’s Irish mother, combined with a mutation from her Iranian father. If, as has been said by poets and writers beginning with Shakespeare, “the eyes are a window to the soul,” her eye color might have been more appropriately colored blue, to reflect her icy demeanor toward any woman and more particularly, any man approaching her. Her red hair was a gift solely from her mother, reflective of her strong-willed fiery temperament. Her richly golden-hued skin, now shimmering in the summer heat, appeared to be a perfect sensual blend of Iranian and European pigments. Her beauty was both admired and feared by the people who knew her the best. Her 8-year-old daughter, Nadina, sat in a corner playing with a worn-out Raggedy Ann doll. In her own oblivious world, she appeared unaware of her mother’s actions. Two other Iranian terrorists, Aman Nefjani and Tesvan Recari, stood nearby sharing a cigarette.
Doron was being held captive within Iran, in a small nondescript house on the shores of the Caspian. He had lost thirty pounds during his imprisonment. His previously well-toned body now lay wasting beneath his army fatigues. Dirt and desert sand clung to his body, to his face, to his beard and previously auburn hair. His captors let him trim his beard to better see his face during the few times it wasn’t covered with a blindfold. He had only showered once in the last month, not for his benefit but to minimize the smell exuding from unwashed clothing and caking perspiration.
The army lieutenant had been captured six months earlier on a secret Israeli mission in Iran, one week before his wedding. His fiance, Sarah, had just bought her wedding dress and was trying it on the day he was captured. The white of the gown accentuated her deeply tanned skin, sugary bronzed from working outdoors on a Kibbutz in the summer sun. The ruggedly handsome man with the auburn hair and quiet affect that had stolen her heart, would now be barely recognizable. They had met working together on a Kibbutz on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, dated for two years with her family, and only the small remnant of his family remaining, but all looking forward to their wedding.
After several failed negotiations for his release, the more militant faction in the Iranian autocracy argued with the moderates to let them kill him. It was only because of his fiance that Doron even cared if he lived or died. His parents were both dead—dying within minutes of each other, each working in the separate but adjacent North and South 9/11 Twin Towers when the attacks occurred. At the time of their death, Doron was only eight years old. That shock had ended his childhood, destroyed his innocence and left him with a lingering depression. This was only partially assuaged when he met Sarah who tempered his grief, replacing it with her tender affection. She hoped to one day see him laugh again–to see death and war recede from their collective memories and an insane world return to sanity and peace. Now that wish seemed a hopeless distant memory.
Doron’s wistful blue eyes, rimmed with a thin border of gray, stared out through his cloth blindfold. Although imprisoned, his mind was still free to wander alone within the confines of his seemingly hopeless nightmare. His thoughts often turned to his fiance, now praying daily for his return, to distant memories of his dead parents, of a father who never thought his son measured up to his expectations and silent thoughts of a mother for whom he could do no wrong. By all appearances, Doron was completely alone with his captors, with his silent thoughts, on his knees, tied to a metal post in the middle of his prison home expecting at any moment to be killed, at times wishing it would be quick and his lonely nightmare over. Israeli intelligence, likewise, felt Doron’s days were numbered.
CHAPTER 2: LIGHTNING STRIKES THE WAILING WALL
One month earlier. The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem. Sunset.
Rain pelted the dusty limestone blocks of the Wailing Wall like ancient tears. Without warning, lightning struck a Christian cross placed between the chiseled blocks, momentarily lighting the interior of the wall like the inside of a marble art deco antique column. The lightning bolt traveled through the wall, carving a circuitous path to the ground, igniting scraps of paper, bits of messages stuffed into the stone crevices of the wall like transcribed mortar, detailing the hopes and prayers, the collective unconscious of diverse unknown writers beseeching God to answer their prayers. Thunder boomed, reverberating off the desert dunes. Two people touching the wall near the lightning entrance point were knocked unconscious, but alive. One could still detect a lingering stinging odor of charred human flesh. Two ambulances arrived, sirens blaring.
Orthodox Jews knelt in prayer, kissing the wall with the tallit, their prayer shawls, then hugging the wall with their hands. Christians and Muslims together with their Jewish neighbors at the wall, prayed together as one mass of humanity. The multilingual prayers to God mixed into the air, sent heavenward, were difficult to separate from one another but all were sent with a fervent urgency.
Shimon and Ruven, 9 and 10 years of age, playing chess near the wall, stopped their game. Happening too suddenly to shield his eyes, Ruven had a direct view of the lightning bolt. The startling ominous power of the event imbedded the scene indelibly in his memory. They both lay under their small table, as the storm continued. The rain and associated storm stopped several hours later, as abruptly as it had started. As word spread of the lightning strike, the religious and the curious gathered at the wall, a hundred turning into several thousand within hours.
Ten rabbis led prayers at the wall, putting on tefillin, placed on the head and hand, following the prescript to bind these words between eyes and hands. The rabbis recited words from Deuteronomy, that God was one and the commandment to love God with all one’s heart and soul. Shimon and Ruven were not very religious, but they were Jews, and that day they prayed as fervently as the rabbis leading them, reciting their evening prayers with a contriteness and passion they had previously never displayed. There was a uniform belief among everyone at the Wailing Wall that the lightning strike had opened a spiritual pathway, a wormhole to the other side of the universe, and standing there, waiting no longer at that faraway doorway, was God.
“Dear Lord,” Ruven prayed, “let peace come to Israel. Stop the endless wars. Let my Uncle Doron be alive.” Ruven had a slight stutter, but surprisingly, not when he prayed. His Uncle Doron was born in New York to Israeli parents who had perished in the 9/11 disaster, both working in the Twin Towers that fateful day when the Towers violently crashed to the ground, creating a funeral pyre of smoke and debris. Doron could not understand why his parents were gone, but was old enough to feel an almost unbearable loss. He was flown to Israel and raised by an uncle and aunt. When he was eighteen, Doron joined the Israeli army, seeking to avenge the death of his parents. The Israeli papers said the Israeli army lieutenant had now been missing for six months. He disappeared, they related, during a secret mission in Iran. Ruven cried out to God, pleading, begging, “Rescue Doron, dear Lord, I beg of you; rescue Doron!” Tears streamed down Ruven’s youthful face, mixing with the yellowed crumbled remnants of the prayers lying at the foot of the wall. He let his body lower as he knelt, hands outstretched against the wall, head bowed in prayer. At this moment, unbeknownst to Ruven, his Uncle Doron was also on his knees, blindfolded, captive in a nondescript house on the shores of the Caspian, an 8-inch serrated knife adjacent his skeletal ribs.
News crews came to film the gathering. “This is Rebecca Levy IBN Israeli Broadcasting News, reporting from the Wailing Wall. A few hours ago, lightning struck the Wall for the first time in recorded history. You have better odds in Las Vegas of winning a mega million lottery. The strike was caught on video by a sixty- seven-year-old apostolic minister visiting from Mississippi. Within hours of being placed on the internet,the video has already had two million views on YouTube.” As 23-year old Rebecca spoke, the amateur video played. A typical weekday group was initially at the wall observing and praying. Rebecca turned, pointing to the Wailing Wall, brushing her sun-lightened brown hair off her attractive olive- skinned face, as she continued her newscast. “The lightning struck the wall, instantly converting a metallic cross into a round blob in a wall crevice. Two people touching the wall near the cross fell to the ground unconscious. They have been taken to Tel Aviv General and we have word they are now conscious. In the background of the lightning strike, glistening with a golden hue in the setting sun, one can see the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount held sacred by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Often, after a storm, the sky clears and occasionally a rainbow appears. After this storm the sky has only darkened further, grays and blacks and deep auburn. There you can see a dust devil rising a hundred feet just above the Dome of the Rock, whirling with desert sand and debris.”
As the evening wore on, the reporter glanced at the darkening sky- -the moon now discernible, was just beginning an ascent above the horizon.
“At our studio we have our meteorologist, Steven Stern. So Steven, what do you make of this event?”
Steven was middle-aged, trained in meteorology at the Technion in Tel Aviv. His attractive charming demeanor helped attract viewers to his weather reports. He spoke English with a slight Hebrew accent. “Lightning does occasionally strike religious statues. Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer is often struck by lightning. The last time was Thursday, January 18, 2014 3:09 a.m. GMT when the right thumb was chipped by a lightning strike. But the Christ Redeemer statue is 125 feet tall and sits on top of Corcovado Mountain, 3000 feet high. The Wailing Wall sits in a desert valley without a previous recorded lightning strike in all of human history! Not an expected or common event. I have no explanation for it.”
“What can you tell our viewers about lightning, since it strikes so rarely in Israel?”
“Here are some videos of lightning strikes around the world.” The screen showed showers of lightning on land and over the ocean. Awesome streaks from cloud to ground, from cloud to cloud and cloud to ocean. As the display continued, Steven went on. “Lightning comes in many varieties, from the common forked type to shapeless flashes of light discharged between clouds, as displayed on the screen behind me. 1.2 billion lightning flashes occur around the world every year. A typical lightning flash lasts less than half a second, can be 25,000 feet long and may release enough energy to power a hundred-watt light bulb for three months. The temperature in the lightning channel can rise to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, four times hotter than the surface of the sun. This is what melted the metallic cross it struck in the Wailing Wall.”
“Thank you, Steven,” Rebecca stated, before continuing. “As you can see, the lightning not only struck the Wailing Wall but has awakened a spiritual cord in many people. The throng of people coming and praying at the wall has grown into the thousands, a remarkable response to the evening’s events.” The camera panned the Wall and the growing crowd. The reporter called to her cameraman, “Benjamin, we should…” As she turned to where he had been moments earlier, Benjamin and the rest of the camera crew were already gone, wending their own way to the Wailing Wall, transfixed in a lingering, deepening sense of awe and a palpable communal spirituality.
Fox News, CNN and ABC all telecast specials on the events of the preceding month. John Forsaith, the religion editor for CNN, gave his own commentary. “In the ensuing weeks the signature event in the Middle East has brought more converts to God than evangelical preaching had achieved in the past decade. From inside orthodox Jewish synagogues throughout Israel, rabbis say the signs of God had always been there.” After interviewing one of the rabbis, he continued on.
“From evangelical pulpits in Mississippi, evocative soulful songs of worship echo amongst an enlarging throng of emotional parishioners filling overflow church pews.” Images from a Southern Baptist church were displayed on the screen.
“It has been no different at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, attended by the vice president of the United States, or at the Crystal Cathedral in California,” Forsaith continued. “Religious gatherings worldwide are trying to shed meaning on the recent events in Jerusalem and their significance to the world.”
“Now let us visit Saudi Arabia. From the air, we can see the golden dome of the Al Qhwari Mosque glistening in the morning sun. Even outside the Mosque one can hear the rhythmic mournful communal chant of a thousand Shiite Islamic faithful, heads bowed, dutifully praying within at a special convocation in Mecca. Following the prayers, numerous Islamic leaders are sharing their own interpretations to the Jerusalem events.
“A similar scene is also being repeated, now toward dusk at the Vatican in Rome where the Pope is praying with Catholics filling the courtyard outside the papacy, each person holding a candle, casting a surreal glow during the Papal prayer service, hoping for answers to events they cannot fully comprehend.” A camera pans the crowds in Rome, lit by hundreds of candles.
A special event was held last week at the Kennedy Center by a joint committee of Christians and Jews. It started with poetry from the Bible with recitals from Job, from the Song of Songs, from Isaiah, read by American and British performers, by baritones booming the words of God, by philosophers and even ethical humanists, while ballet dancers evoked feelings of love and beauty. Here are some of the images and speeches from that event.” Images from the Hubbell space telescope played on a huge screen. Forsaith continued. “Josiah Watson, a baritone recently retired from the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, is now on stage in one of his rare appearances since retiring. Josiah was recently diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer, but has still chosen to perform. It is worth noting, Josiah’s distant great great grandfather had been a slave on a cotton plantation in Mississippi. And I am sure somewhere in heaven he is looking down proudly at his descendant.”
Josiah spoke in his inimitable deep baritone. “Who was there before there was a universe, before there was any man to even conceive of a universe? Who ignited the spark, the Big Bang, creating a universe for man to explore? Before Adam and before Eve? Whose breath sent forth the North Wind? Whose handiwork fashioned interstellar gas into the Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula 7,000 light years from Earth, where new stars are yet being formed from the dust of creation? And who is humanity who cannot fathom a creator, the God of this creation? Humans who hypothesize a universe created from virtual particles smaller than a proton, smaller than an electron, lasting for a mere billionth of a second rather than believing in an author, a God of creation. Who would choose to marvel at the limited creations of humanity and yet not be in awe of God’s creation of a universe thirteen billion light years in expanse?” A camera panned the audience who stood in rapt admiration then broke out in heartfelt applause.
Rabbi Herzfeld, 75 years old, gray beard, old saggy brown suit, deep piercing eyes then took the stage. He was the director of education at Yeshiva University in New York City. “The signs of intelligent design have been taken as proof of God by faithful Jews and Christians for over 2000 years. In spite of these signs of God’s presence, of the reverent worship of God, Jewish history is fraught with incredible suffering, thus casting questions on the value of this faith in God, even the reality of God.” With knuckles deformed by rheumatoid arthritis, the rabbi gripped the podium for support. He looked out at the audience as though giving a sermon to a Saturday morning congregation, wearing the same tallit he wore the previous Sabbath.
The rabbi continued. “Between the destruction of the Temple of Solomon in 586 B.C.E. and the destruction of the restored temple in 70 C.E. the Jews knew four conquerors—Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. How could any nation survive such utter destruction, its people scattered to the wind? The persistence of the Jewish people is a mystery. And perhaps this too is a sign that God would not let this people, His people, vanish into oblivion. Embedded indelibly into the genome of each Jew is the remembered anguish from centuries of persecution.”
An audiovisual attendant adjusted the rabbi’s microphone and raised the volume as his voice quivered with emotion. “The Roman civilization, so powerful at the beginning of the Christian era, eventually faded into obscurity. The Jewish civilization, then on the verge of extinction, was banished into the Diaspora, enslaved, tortured in the crusades, gassed en-masse in the Holocaust. However, they would eventually make a miraculous recovery and return to this land, answering the cries first uttered at Masada and by countless other souls before their lives were extinguished. It lent credibility to the biblical prophecy in Isaiah; “For a small moment I have forsaken thee; but with great mercies shall I gather thee.” Rather than dying off, Christianity and Islam grew out of its branches. The very survival of the Jewish people is an unmistakable signature from God!”
The rabbi again paused to look at his audience filling every seat at the Kennedy Center and spilling into the aisles. He continued. “That was the past. Where do we stand today? Jerusalem is imperfectly balanced at the center of three religions. Over 60 years after the birth of Israel, there are still questions regarding Israel’s survival. A country the size of New Jersey lies surrounded by Arab neighbors. Beyond Iraq lies Iran, a theocracy on the verge of developing a nuclear weapon, a device it has promised to drop on Tel Aviv. The world is held at bay by Iranian oil and a desire for neutrality reminiscent of European appeasement of Hitler a half century ago. Skirmishes with Palestinian extremists escalate daily. Syria is in turmoil. Al Qaeda stalks the world, fomenting terrorism with a desire for a new world Islamic order. Isis, even more radical, more violent, threatens us all. Amidst these looming threats how are we to interpret the recent events at the Wailing Wall?
“To help answer this, we have invited a young witness to that event.” With that, the rabbi introduced Ruven, one of the young chess players who had been at the wall. Ruven was bashful, concerned about his stutter. A few freckles dotted his tanned countenance. He wore jeans and a sky-blue shirt, matching his blue eyes. A small hand-sewn brightly colored yarmulke covered curly brown hair, lightened from the Middle Eastern sun. “Ruven,” the rabbi said softly, “can you tell our audience what you saw that day of the lightning strike?”
Ruven did not turn to the audience, looking only at the rabbi. “I saw the face of God in the Wailing Wall,” he stated matter-of-factly, without a stutter.
“You mean you saw the bright lightning strike,” the rabbi said.
“I saw the lightning strike the wall, but in the wall I did not see lightning. I saw the face of God lighting the inside of the wall.” He spoke with only a slight stutter, making him more comfortable on the stage.
“How can you say this?” the rabbi questioned.
“I could feel His presence, a warmth that filled me from head to foot, that filled me with this knowledge. Just like I know I see the large nose on your face.” Again speaking with only a slight stutter. The rabbi smiled at Ruven’s humor, as the audience let out a cheer and stood in united appreciative applause.
“Thank you, Ruven.”
Over 50 candles surrounded the stage, creating a symbol of hope for a troubled precious land. A screen in the background showed images from the most recent events in the Middle East, as the rabbi continued. “On September twenty-third the sun appeared magnified as it set low over the Wailing Wall, a blood red manifestation of God.” Rabbis were shown praying at the wall with their Jewish brethren, pressing tallit, their prayer shawls, to the wall. The elderly rabbi kissed his own tallit draping his shoulders.
Images on the screen showed evangelical Christians at the Wailing Wall saying their own prayers to Jesus Christ. In the ensuing weeks, vendors offered tee shirts and symbols of the Wall, silver and gold plated Jewish stars, crosses and Bibles. An artist at the wall drew charcoal portraits.
The rabbi continued. “After the lightning strike, the Israeli orthodox Rabbinate convened, interpreting the event as a revelation of God’s presence and a warning; but a warning to whom and of what they did not say.”
On the vast Kennedy Center stage, Rabbi Herzfeld looked up at his audience, speaking with a hushed solemnity. “There is a person we need to remember and honor this night. His Israeli name, “Doron,” translates as gift in English. He has been a gift to the U.S. and to Israel. Tonight we need to remember and pray for him, as he remains captive, a prisoner in Iran. It is fitting that we at the Kennedy Center pray for him because he is also an American, born in New York City of Israeli parents that worked for an Israeli company with a branch in the U.S. His parents died in the twin tower destruction on 9/11. He lived in the U.S. for only eight years before moving to Israel. I knew Doron’s parents very well and the boy, as well, from a very young age. As a child he started drawing and desired to become an artist. He drew pictures of far off worlds. Worlds with double stars he saw in his dreams.” One of Doron’s early paintings was shown on the screen, depicting an astronaut on a far off earth-like planet with butterflies flying from his hand.” The rabbi continued. “Doron’s father, Isaac, wanted him to be an engineer, saying to Doron his paintings did not depict reality. He believed the boy needed to live in the real world, not in his dreams. Within the dreams of our children may lie a child’s innocent unrecognized strivings for a better future. The young man, to please his father, begrudgingly gave up his artistic passion and instead devoted his energy toward gymnastics. On the screen you can see a homemade movie of Doron ben Avrahim competing in gymnastics in the junior Olympics where he won many first-place awards. His parents told me, he broke his finger once in a floor tumbling routine and competed with his broken finger.
After his parents died, despondent and heartbroken, Doron quit all his studies, his art, even his gymnastics. He moved to Israel and when he turned fifteen enlisted in the Israeli army to fight terrorism on Middle Eastern soil to avenge his parents’ murders and the murder of thousands of his fellow Americans, as a dual citizen of Israel and the U.S. So Doron gave up his art and gymnastics to become a soldier, a warrior, for Israel, for the U.S., and I believe for the sake of all humanity. Here is a picture of him in his Israeli Army uniform, a lieutenant in the Israeli army.”
The screen showed a strapping young man of about 22, dirty blond hair, wistful blue eyes, rimmed with a bluish gray tint, clowning with a fellow soldier, toasting one another with a beer. Beneath the frolicking there was somehow a visible despondent affect etched in the young man’s face and demeanor, perhaps from weathering too much grief for someone his age.
The rabbi continued. “He always requested the most dangerous details and over six months ago, on one of these missions he was captured. Let us pray for Doron’s safe return and that God’s return to Palestine heralds the peace we all seek.” The lights in the Kennedy Center dimmed as the rabbi recited a prayer in English and Hebrew for Doron and Israel. The Kennedy Center was permeated with a hushed silence as the rabbi left the stage.
Several church groups, country singers and poets sang and recited worship songs and poetry to God, ending the evening in a prayer for peace in the Middle East.
Galbraith, the CNN religion editor, then continued his own report. “Every religious faction has their own interpretation of the signature event at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. The prevailing consensus outside Israel is that it was not ultimately Israelis, Palestinians or Christians that held title to this most sacred of all places but rather that it is the divine province of God. Last week Time magazine put an artist’s depiction of the lightning strike on its cover with the title, “God takes Possession of the Wailing Wall.” The screen displayed Time Magazine’s cover.
Bill Mason, a reporter on Fox News, interviewed Richard Simmons, a well known scientist and atheist, showing him the latest cover of Time Magazine. “Have the recent events at the Wailing Wall changed your opinion about God? Mason asked.
“No,” replied Simmons, returning Mason’s glare. “Lightning strikes are a common occurrence. Lightning striking the Wailing Wall is just an unusual location of a common physical phenomenon. It…”
Mason interrupted, scornfully replying to his British guest. “Lightning may be common elsewhere but it has never previously struck the Wailing Wall. We’re not talking about Kansas!”
“Is there any truth to the rumors circulating on Facebook and You- tube that you have converted to Judaism? You know it’s ok if you have,” Mason quipped.
Simmons laughed. “The pictures of me converting at the Wailing Wall are fabricated as is the video of my baptism in Rome!”
Churches that a week previously had trouble filling their pews now had standing room only. Synagogues had newfound members and new converts from other faiths.
Jay Landau, on his new comedy special, quipped that as soon as the corporate execs found him, God would be invited as a guest on his show but they would still interrupt Him for commercial breaks.
“Why did God wait so long to show up after Adam and Eve and the Ten Commandments?” Landau asked his audience. “If you knew your creation would rob and pillage and I’m not just talking about Congress, but knowing that in the future your creation was responsible for the lousy programming on ABC and NBC being broadcast throughout the universe you created, wouldn’t you hide for a few thousand years, if you could?”
CBS sponsored “The Creation Debates,” with the national audience voting on the results, an audience that proved larger than American Idol and proved to the execs at CBS that whatever the ultimate truth proved to be, there definitely was money in God. God was both the newest and oldest rock star. Rabbis, ministers, scientists and atheists participated in the emotionally charged debates with each side claiming victory. An empty chair was left in case God showed up to end the debate. The audience voted 70 to 30% in favor of the reality of God, citing the recent events at the Wailing Wall as the most convincing evidence.
Intermixed with the humor, hidden in the questioned mystery, dormant yet brooding, there was a solemn foreboding among the orthodoxy of all religions, a tremulous awe that the ancient God, the fire-breathing, vindictive God of the so called “Old Testament,” the Hebrew Testament, was awakening as though from a deep slumber.
At the Wailing Wall, it was rumored by many, a low rumble could still be heard by a throng of both the religious and the curious, for several evenings after the singular event, reverberating off the desert dunes like lingering aftershocks from the recent storm. A blood moon rose in the evening sky, reddish rays sparkling through crevices in the Wailing Wall, pinpoints of light, like the reticle of a gun sight, perceived as an ominous portent of a future yet to unfold.
CHAPTER 3: HURRICANE ON THE SHORES OF THE CASPIAN
Arul Turkmenistan on the Caspian Sea.
Aman Jemale, a 70-year-old sturgeon fisherman, stood on the banks of the Caspian staring at the sea. The deep azure of the Caspian continued to the horizon meeting and perfectly blended with the sky as though there was no sky, just an endless ocean of blue continuing heavenward at the horizon. It was no wonder that the ancient Romans thought the salty water was a sea that emptied into the ocean. They were not completely wrong. Five to six million years ago the Caspian was part of the Tethys Ocean. Due to continental drift, the Caspian became landlocked, becoming the largest enclosed inland body of water on Earth, classed as the world’s largest lake or a full-fledged sea covering an area of 143,200 square miles, 3.5 times the size of all five Great Lakes put together. Its northern border with Russia freezes in the winter and waves at its shoreline can tower 30 feet high. Its size and variable ambient temperatures can create storm systems, much like the more common hurricanes and cyclones over the southern oceans.
The Caspian Sea is bordered by five countries: Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and most significantly, Iran to the South. Aman stared at the sea, as he did every morning, deciphering the day’s weather before venturing out. A hazy layer of fog nestled on the water surface this morning, like a rug rolling out toward the horizon. As he breathed in the cool salty air, Aman felt the morning chill. There was something foreboding about the lingering darkness this morning, as though the sun was hiding. No Caspian seals were out, no gulls, no terns.
Not far from Aman, bordering the Caspian, was the Iranian port city of Chaloos, only partially visible from Aman’s location, too distant, too shrouded in fog. Inland from the nearby seaside of Cabul, lay Iran’s Northern Caspian Hyrcanian mixed forest, surviving by moisture rising from the Caspian and the Alborz Mountain range of Iran. Within this forest there had once roamed indigenous Caspian tigers until they became extinct in the early 1970s.
A lone inhabitant on the sandy beach, Aman lit a hand-rolled cigarette. Six-foot waves lapped at the shore, roughening the water current. After a few minutes staring at the sea, Aman bent down, burying his half -finished Turkish cigarette in the sand. He could feel a storm brewing in his weathered bones. He would not venture out on the Caspian this day.
* * * *
“We will kill you and then I will find the woman you want as your wife and tell her how you died like a coward. Then I will kill her!” Gamliel Gazzeri, six foot two, unshaven, grisly bearded, stood menacingly over his captive Israeli soldier. Despite his outward appearance, Gazzeri was a well-respected tenured mathematics professor at the Baghdad University of Science and Technology. His twenty-first century knowledge of mathematical theory was contrasted by a deeply held twelfth century radical Muslim theocratic world view. He saw no conflict, no anachronism living in both these worlds.
Gazzeri was an Iranian militant, a holy warrior, freedom fighter, Jihadist, raised from birth to hate Israel the Little Satan, to despise America, the Great Satan. He was totally committed, addicted to his cause. His world view was the perfect embodiment of the feudal religious Iranian autocracy, which instilled their beliefs in him from childhood, glorifying suicide and holy war. Doron was on his knees next to Gazzeri, still blindfolded. Gazzeri glared at his prisoner, grabbing his sun-bleached dirty blond hair, pulling his head back. The veins in Gazzeri’s neck bulged as his words exploded in pent up rage. “I want to be the last person you see before I kill you!”
“Let me kill him!” shouted Gazzeri’s wife, Saron. The two quarreled over the honor of killing the Israeli soldier. Most of her face was usually hidden, shrouded beneath a charcoal black niquab. For certain prayers and weddings, she would wear a green niquab to complement her emerald green eyes. The eyeholes of the niquab were separated by a thin vertical stripe of fabric, helping the niquab frame her eyes. A glance, a stare with those piercing green orbs, framed by long reddish black lashes was akin to a male spider being captivated by his black widow mate. Viewing only Saron’s eyes left everything to the imagination. In Saron’s case, less was more, more than most men could handle. Outwardly, she gave off an aura of a striking, wickedly exotic Islamic beauty. Numerous magazines wanted to use her as a model. She refused them all. Those who knew her, said her raw captivating exterior was more than balanced by her icy interior. As a soldier, she needed mobility and usually wore jeans and sneakers or army fatigues and boots, rather than a cumbersome chador, the full body cloak worn by many Iranian women. Nothing about Saron was ordinary, including her fiery temper and her strident terrorist ideology.
At one point, she and Gazzeri had offered their only child Nadina at the age of two as a suicide bomber for an airplane hijacking and explosion. The plot was foiled, saving both the airplane passengers at London’s Heathrow airport and Nadina’s life.
Saron brandished her Russian Zooni army knife, brushing it along the skin of Doron’s ribs. He caught momentary glimpses of Saron as she danced, barely visible, only a hint of her ghostlike visage seen through his blindfold.
Suddenly Saron stopped, noticing the Jewish star around Doron’s neck. “You won’t need this anymore!” Saron ripped it off, placing it in her pocket. Maybe she could sell it for the gold.
“Let me kill him now!” Saron wailed, turning to her husband.
In the corner of the room, 8-year-old Nadina continued playing innocently with her rag doll. Unlike her mother, Nadina had brown eyes and jet black hair. She appeared oblivious to the violence around her, hiding, many believed, in an autistic child’s world, compensating, in her own innocent child’s way, for the violence around her. She never smiled. She never laughed. Her childhood was embedded, lost within her parent’s terrorist rhetoric and nihilistic world view.
Gazzeri did not respond to his wife’s plea to let her kill Doron, but instead pointed the business end of his Russian made AK-47 at the Israeli lieutenant’s head. This would be his killing, his honor. It was not the place of a woman.
Doron’s bruised ribs appeared through his torn soldier’s uniform. His prison home was in a small nondescript wood frame house in the town of Chaloos, on the northeast coast of Iran, on the Caspian Sea. A few gentle raindrops on the dusty windowpanes gave no hint of what was to come.
Hunters of African big game, as well as safari tour guides and the African indigenous people, will all tell you, the most dangerous African animal is not necessarily the largest, or even the strongest, but the cornered animal with no apparent means of escape. At the point of apparent greatest weakness to the animal, is also the point of greatest danger to the captor. And so it can be in war. During the outset of the Israeli Six Day War, October 6th, 1973, two Israeli army brigades were severely outnumbered and seemingly outmaneuvered by the Syrian army on the Golan Heights that fateful day. Although cornered and outnumbered, the Israeli brigades held until support arrived. By the third day, the defending Israelis went on the offensive, waging an aggressive prevailing counterattack, turning a seemingly impossible position into a victory studied to this day by military strategists.
Doron was likewise a cornered animal, with no means of escape, with seemingly no means to even call for support. To the casual observer of the scene, the situation was beyond hopeless. To the more astute observer, one might have noticed several pertinent details of unknown meaning at the time and certainly not recognized by his captors. Doron was not sweating like his captors. He was not showing any signs of fear, or anger and was not speaking, at least not outwardly. He appeared if anything, distracted, like Nadina, quietly residing in his own world. Doron heard the threatening words of his captors, but remained oblivious. Methodically, silently, speaking only inwardly to himself, he repeated the Shemah three times: “Hear O’ Israel, the Lord is your God, the Lord is one.” “Hear O’ Israel, the Lord is your God, the Lord is one.” “Hear O’ Israel, the Lord is your God, the Lord is one.”
The unspoken words, rolled over his cerebral cortex, causing changes in oxygen content, picked up by an implanted Microelectronic Biologic System (MEBS) coating the dura covering his cerebral cortex. The device, like a functional MRI, detected the cumulative but unique electromagnetic pattern created by 85 billion cortical neurons, imprinting a signal in the device, recognized as changes in cortical oxygen potentials through his silently spoken words. The inwardly repeated Shemah was a code sending off an emergency GPS radio signal from his cortical device to the bowels of an Israeli intelligence base in Hebron, Israel, silently instituting Operation Maimonides. Maimonides, in Hebrew known as Ramban, is considered one of the greatest and brightest Jewish scholars and philosophers of the medieval period.
* * * *
I ignored my surroundings, the mocking anger of my captors, the shimmering presence of the dancer. Instead I was with my mother, watching her standing over her oven, baking in our small kitchen two blocks from the World Trade Center. The scent of terrorist sweat and body heat were now replaced by the warm nurturing aroma of baking bread. I was arguing with my father at age 10, on a fishing trip at a lake in upstate New York, fall leaves surrounding us as we missed yet another opportunity to connect as father and son. Then I returned to when I was age 13, my bar mitzvah just a month previous, now running towards the exploding 9/11 twin towers, my face and body covered in white dust like snow, till stopped by fire fighters, tears streaming down my face, my arms flailing in helpless hopeless crushing grief and anger, my world destroyed. Then I was with my fiance, Sarah, feeling her soft arms embracing me, while still oblivious to my captors as they mocked me. This went on for hours. I was physically captive, but my thoughts, my feelings, my memories wandered free. And then I recited the Shemah three more times as I had practiced in my hours of training.
* * * *
Two days after the Shemah signal, the gentle rain mutated into a downpour and four days later the downpour became a hurricane blowing in from the Caspian. The storm outside quickened then raged, winds howling as though some vengeful God was sounding the Shofar of reprisal. Not apparent in the thunderous storm were two Israeli jets and numerous small drones racing from the scene. The drones were covered with a layer of stealth cloaking material, making them undetectable by radar.
The evening sky directly above the prison house was now filled with a circular classic supercell thunderstorm. A striated shelf cloud lay above the house and continued heavenward two miles. Sandy yellow clouds were interspersed with various hews of gray and dull black, ominous and foreboding against the reddish hue of the setting sun. Lightning was followed by thunder with an ever-heightening crescendo with shortening intervals between them as the storm grew closer. From within the eye of the storm, a tornado developed, resembling an expanding nuclear mushroom cloud, as it gradually snaked its way until centered over the small wood framed prison home. The occupants were still oblivious to their fate. The rainfall, now thunderous, pounded the tin roof and windowpanes with a growing incessant clamor.
Repetitive streaks of lightning flashed within and above the vortex of the storm cloud, spreading across the sky, as though the very heavens were shaking. Lightning persisted, strobe like, across the entire expanse of darkening sky in crescendo scintillations, ominous and foreboding. As the storm gained in intensity, the howling wind ripped signs off nearby businesses. The tornado circled Doron’s prison home, engulfing the wood-framed prison house as though made of paper mache. The house shook, helpless in the face of an angered God.
Nadina, lying alone, in a corner of the prison house was overwhelmed with fright. She felt she would die if she stayed in the home that was shaking with the storm’s approach but unaware of the approaching tornado, now within several hundred feet of the wood framed house. She took her raggedy Ann doll, ran through the kitchen of the home and out a back door. Then she ran to the front of the house and down the road leading away from the house. She did not turn to see what was shaking the house until she had run a hundred feet from the home. Partially turning, Nadina looked over her shoulder filled with trepidation and fear. She looked back at house she had just left, still clutching her raggedy Ann doll.
It was only then, for the first time, she saw the full height of the tornado, this monstrous creature extending from the ground to the clouds above. It was now within 50 feet of the house, the house holding her mother and father! It spiraled up with its high winds churning black and gray debris around it, dust and dirt rising from the ground into the maelstrom, as the tornado slowly snaked towards the prison home, the lone house stoically awaiting its destruction. Nadina, transfixed, couldn’t help staring at the scene, the tornado whirling hysterically, an eerie high pitched sound emanating from it, only adding to her fright, filling Nadina with abject fear. Frozen in place, continuing to stare at the scene, Nadina dropped her raggedy Ann doll momentarily unable to move, or feel or think. Then she turned to continue running, ran a few steps, then realized she had dropped her doll. She ran back a few steps to pick it up, then continued to run from the house and the spiral monster approaching the house.
A few hundred feet away there was a large 50 year old leafless majestic oak tree with several low lying branches and steps that had been built to allow children to climb into the low lying branches. She climbed the steps and reached the lowest limb of the tree, seeking refuge in its extending arms, thinking she could hide in its branches, away from the nightmare back at the house. Still holding her raggedy Ann doll she climbed into its lower branches. Then a flash of lightning near by made her decide to climb higher in the tree’s branches, to further flee this new fright. Several additional lightning flashes and the accompanying thunder only drove her higher into the tree’s branches until she was 30 feet up and from there climbed out along a long branch, hoping to escape the horror of the spiral monster and the lightning demon seeming to be chasing her. There she stayed, her eyes closed, her clasp of her raggedy Ann doll tightening, her mind riddled with fear, her body convulsing in shaking abject fear. Nadina’s heart pounded within her chest. She lay elongated along an upper branch of the mighty oak, her sobs inaudible, lost in the shrieking whirlwind. Then a lightning strike hit a branch in the tree, causing Nadina to scream and lose her balance. She was now hanging, dangling 30 feet in the air, from her oak branch, holding on for dear life by one little child’s hand, her other hand stubbornly still holding on to her raggedy Ann doll.
* * * *
Within the prison house, the four Iranian militia crowded together, looking out the single window at the blackening sky, a small rodent flew by their window, caught in the storm vortex. The house creaked, swaying, shutters snapping. The pressure differential inside the house imploded the single window, the divine wind entering, uninvited, spiraling inside, causing the atmospheric pressure within the house to rise until it exceeded the ambient pressure outside. Gazzeri turned his AK-47 at Doron to be certain to kill him, even if he, himself, would die in the maelstrom. At that moment, without warning, the house lifted off its foundation, carrying the four Iranians with it. Gazzeri’s shot misfired, coursing through the subcutaneous skin of Doron’s left shoulder. But now Doron was also at the mercy of the violent storm.
The Israeli lieutenant was still tied to a drain piping until it too was torn loose and the soldier with it, thrust into the powerful maelstrom. One of his Iranian captors, Aman Nefjani, was the first killed, tossed several hundred feet to his death, impaled on the pointed metal fencing outside the foreign embassy of Kazakhstan. Gamliel Gazzeri was crushed under a wheel of a careening Venezuelan Citgo fuel truck, exploding in its own massive fireworks display. A third Iranian, Tesvan Ricari was shot by an Israeli sniper spotting his target through the reticle of his Manning Mark IV sniper scope, while riding on an Israeli Apache helicopter. The copter then further descended into the vortex, the engine straining in the violent wind. A gun sight signal on the copter console locked onto microelectronic sensors on the Israeli soldier, who was hurtling by. A Spike missile was fired from the helicopter, retrofitted with an encircling net, targeting sensors on Doron, engulfing him in a net which was then hoisted into the copter.
The Spike missile, like many technologies, arose out of a previous failure. Israel’s Operation Edge was a response to 182 Hamas rockets and mortars fired into Israel in July of 2014. News reports, at the time, intimated that the U.S. was concerned about “heavy-handed” Israeli battlefield tactics. In response, the supply of U.S. made Hellfire missiles was halted to Israel. In response, Israel adapted the Spike antitank missile technology to the Apache, while still retaining Hellfire capability. The Israeli Spike proved superior to the Hellfire, providing nontrivial non- line-of sight firing capability. From there, further refinements using microelectronic sensor and radar technologies enabled it to provide unique rescue capabilities previously unheard of.
The Apache’s engine rumbled and the rotors issued a pulsating vibrato, as the copter strained momentarily in the heavy storm winds. Doron spotted Nadina perched on the top of a tree, hanging precariously by her left hand from a limb, her right hand still clutching her rag doll, screaming between her tears.
“Save the girl!” Doron demanded, his voice rising emphatically.
The pilot turned to Doron. “We don’t have time. Iranian ground to air rockets will soon be firing.”
“Just do it!” Doron repeated. “We can’t just let her die.” The hair on the back of his neck bristled.
The Apache turned toward Nadina, fired a net-mounted Strike missile at her silhouette captured on a digital screen, radar targeted, the net catching her just as she fell from the limb, the missile path self- correcting in midflight. Nearby on the ground lay her semiconscious mother, Saron, just able to see Nadina hoisted aboard the chopper before passing out.
NORMAN M. JACOBS, MD, MS
I first thought of a writing career as a 16 year old, third year high school student when a gifted creative writing teacher read the best story to the class every week. For some reason, unknown to me at the time, every week she read my story… I was a physics major but for a few weeks I entertained the idea of a writing career. I would write creative stories and with the proceeds of these stories, live on Sarah Lee Chocolate Cake, my favorite food. Then I thought, what if I couldn’t sell enough stories to buy the Sarah Lee Chocolate Cake? So I stayed in physics and in graduate school switched to medicine and practiced diagnostic radiology for about 40 years. But the idea of writing creatively stayed with me, like an annoying habit, hard to break. My debut novel, “A Divine Wind,” a a future science action thriller set in the Middle East was published January of 2021 through Outskirts Press. I am now 74. The wait was a mere 58 years.
I grew up in upper Manhattan in New York City. I came to Southern Ohio from a position on the staff at Georgetown University Medical Center. They say it took me 10 years to adjust to living in Appalachia. I left after one year and took a job in Sacramento but a year later, decided to come back, for many reasons, including something personal, I needed to prove to myself. I’ve had many experiences here.I owned a bookstore for about 7 years, named Martin Russell’s Bookstore after my first son. I’ve raised two sons and have 3 grandchildren.
I started an internet online service about 30 years ago that became an IPO on the NASDAQ at the height of the internet craze. On the first day of the IPO my $1,400 dollar initial investment was worth $5.4 million. In many ways, I was sorry I ever started it. This is described in my next book, “Finding Home, How a New York City Boy Came to Find a Home in Appalachia and Life Lessons Learned Along the Way.” An excerpt of this memoir is present at the end of “A Divine Wind.”
What is my ultimate wish for my debut novel, “A Divine Wind”? Simply, to sit in an IMAX theater with my wife and kids, nervously munching on popcorn as we watch the drama enfold. As has been said: “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” Oh, and there is one more goal. To have used the power of the written word to create a better world.
To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.