Novelist takes Israel to the brink in political thrillerby dan pine, j. staff
|Follow j. on||and|
In his recently published debut novel, “The Eyes of Abel,” Bay Area author Daniel Jacobs takes Israel to the brink of war. And beyond.
Partly set in Israel, his story methodically constructs a pretext for all-out conflict against the Jewish state, describing the bombs over Tel Aviv in unnerving detail.
Jacobs is married to an Israeli woman, and formerly served with the Israeli Air Force. He loves Israel; another Arab-Israeli war is the last thing he wants. But as a page-turner, he couldn’t have picked a more riveting topic.
Those characters include his protagonist, Roger Charlin, a skeptical American journalist who holds Israel in low regard, and Maya Cohen, an Israeli femme fatale who changes his mind while winning his heart.
The plot revolves around an Israeli technological breakthrough that would make fossil fuels obsolete. This upsets the status quo of global petro-politics, with vested American oil interests and Muslim oil tyrants equally out to stop Israel.
It takes the intrepid Charlin to uncover the evil machinations.
Along the way, Jacob’s characters debate Israel’s legitimacy in terms that can be heard on any college campus today. That meant the author had to get into the heads of the very anti-Israel zealots with whom he disagrees.
“Even though I clearly believe that Israel has a right to exist and is a powerfully introspective self-challenging society, nevertheless there are two sides to this,” he says. “It would be helpful if we spent more time thinking about the other side.”
The Mountain View plastic surgeon developed the idea for the book in the weeks after the infamous 2010 Gaza flotilla incident, when nine Turkish anti-Israel activists onboard were killed and for which Israel endured scathing global criticism.
Jacobs wanted to change the conversation about Israel, and thought fiction might be a way to do that. As a busy surgeon, he had little time to write — at least like a more typical novelist, sitting in a quiet room with a cup of coffee and a cat sleeping in the corner.
“We have a daughter in Tel Aviv,” he says, “which means long flights. I’d write then. And when I’m on call I can’t do much, so that’s a good time to write. You get the bug when you find yourself with a few minutes.”
A Marin County native (his parents still live there), Jacobs grew up attending services at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael. His wife, Ronit Jacobs, is the director of Israeli Cultural Connections at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto, and formerly served as director of the the annual Israel in the Gardens celebration in San Francisco.
From 1996 to 2000 the family lived in Israel. Jacobs served as a surgeon with the air force, doing duty in the waning days of the first Lebanon conflict. He saw war up close — including night skies filled with the deafening roar of F-16s — but he also witnessed the moral foundation of the Israeli military.
“I was struck by how much ethics played a role even in day-to-day discussions,” he recalls. “One of our most challenging missions was a helicopter evacuation to extract a Lebanese child wounded in a civilian accident. We flew right over hostile territory to bring the child to Rambam Hospital.”
Now, busy as he is with his surgical practice, Jacobs says he has another novel in him, this one exploring what he calls “the Arab side of the story” and “what it would take for the Arab street to make peace with the Jews.”
Overall, Jacobs remains optimistic that true peace can someday come to the region.
“I believe this problem is solvable,” he says. “Not every problem is, but I think this one is.”
“The Eyes of Abel” by Daniel Jacobs (208 pages, West Hills Press, $15.95)
Be the first to comment!