“Frankfurt, the month of October, weather heralding the threatening approach of a cold European winter beats mercilessly at people’s faces. The great doors of the hall open wide and a buzzing stream of men in suits and women in official dress flows in. Security people checked bags and one of them looked penetratingly for anyone suspicious looking. Something in the air gave a sense of calamity about to happen. Suddenly two serious looking men wearing dark jackets passed through the doors. They passed the security people and slowly approached a young man sitting at a small table. When he noticed them, a bit too late, he stood up and braced himself…”
You’ll certainly agree with me that this sounds like a not bad opening to an ominous thriller. It’s just that this “thriller” actually happened and the results of this encounter were surprising to both parties. In October, 2013, I took part in the International Book Fair where I showed, in the Israeli pavilion, the books that the publishing house I own, "Lavi P. Enterprises", Ltd.” puts out. I had an intensive schedule of meetings, one after the other, which didn’t let up. The Israeli pavilion attracted much attention and on its fourth day, when it was opened to the general public, people visited from all over the world. At a certain point I told my colleagues at the Israeli pavilion that if I had had an official mandate I could have solved the Middle East conflict immediately and creatively through the love of books which acts as a bridge to the solution of the conflict. I met Iranians, Iraqis, Kurds, Palestinians, Syrians, Pakistanis and more. And then two serious looking men in dark jackets approached my booth. They introduced themselves and said they came from Croatia. One of them held a fancy box under his arm containing three books. After exchanging greetings, it became clear that my interlocutors were a Croatian author known by his penname Patrick Hughes, and his companion who invested with him in producing the “Countdown” trilogy.
Patrick showed me the trilogy which he defines as a spy novel with a political edge. The plot of the trilogy takes place on a number of continents and the third book deals, among other things with Jerusalem during the time of the suicide bombing that took place in the Mahane Yehuda market in April 2002. Those of you who have read my previous articles, know a thing or two about the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem. This marketplace has seen some of the worst terror attacks in the history of the state of Israel. This attack was perpetrated by a female suicide terrorist wearing an explosive device on her person. She exploded herself next to a busy bus station at an especially sensitive time, on Friday, just before the Sabbath (Friday evening is holy to Jews) at a time when people arriving at the market are doing their last minute shopping. Six people were killed and over eighty were injured.
And here before me stood a man, a gentile, asking me if I would be his publisher and representative in Israel. He gave me the details of the trilogy’s plot and told me that intelligence agencies like the CIA, the Chinese Intelligence and the Israeli Mossad are talked about.
Patrick and I had never before met. Patrick and I had never known of each other before. In fact, he made the journey all the way from Samobor, Croatia to Frankfurt, just to get to the Israeli Pavilion and look for an appropriate publisher. He never imagined that he would chance upon a publisher from Jerusalem, who moreover knows the Mahane Yehuda market well, has written a book about it and also knows a thing or two about intelligence matters. Little by little, it became clear to Patrick and to me that we shared other common interests and that our chance meeting may not have been chance after all. He told of his childhood memories of his father’s stories of the little country in the Middle East that defeated seven Arab armies in a brilliant campaign that lasted six days. His father admired this country, Israel, for its victory and this admiration passed to his son. Of course I agreed and after a while we signed a contract.
Both the Croatians and the Israelis, experienced wars of survival against enemies along their borders who conquered parts of their lands. In the military history of Croatia there is a battle similar to the Israeli Six Day War, after which Croatia could breathe a sigh of relief that the threat of total conquest was thwarted.
These days when I think about us human beings, I know for sure that, at the end of the day, we are all the same. Even if we are taught differently, even if we are dressed differently, and even if we are sometimes taught to kill each other. We are human beings and we are different from animals because we can always, and I mean always, atone and ask for forgiveness and for the friendship that can arise between people regardless of sex, race, or religion.
This journey to Frankfurt of mine and of Patrick’s traversed borders and may bring us both to the cultural cooperation of our two countries. So what if I’m Israeli and Patrick is Croatian? We are both book lovers. We are both authors. We both love poetry and music. So may be the time has come to introduce into international politics more people of culture and fewer professional diplomats. Think about it.
Think also about this fascinating aspect of writing. A person, who never before visited Israel, sits before his burning fireplace, while heavy snow covers his town, and writes about a different country, different kinds of people. He describes anonymous streets and alleyways he never visited. He enters secret offices and creates credible characters based on common sense and imagination. And he is able to rivet your attention. He succeeds in making the reader see before his very eyes everything that is taking place between the covers of the book or on the computer screen.
And now take me. I read about Patrick’s hero who tours around the old city of Jerusalem and comes to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Why, I know these places by heart! This is my town!
The only thing left to for me to do is to host Patrick and his friend in Jerusalem, to take through the alleyways of the Mahane Yehuda market and from there to the old city to check out the places he wrote about and to discover with him some of the hidden places only locals know about. This is the beauty of writing that becomes reality.
Our meeting in Frankfurt has led to the digitization of his trilogy, which can now be purchased at Amazon, and will soon be available in the Apple online bookstore. We are about to translate the trilogy into Hebrew as well and hope to find a producer to take on the project of making a suspense film based on it.
Finally, I’d like to thank another person. I won’t reveal his name to protect his privacy, but I am grateful to him for enabling me to join the group of writers of articles for this magazine. Before I left for Frankfurt I never imagined I would meet him at the book fair and get to know him. And I don’t think he did either. And here before your very eyes, the results of this encounter and acquaintance. Did I say chance? Apparently nothing is chance.
To return to my new friend Patrick, in his case, reality exceeds the imagination.