The Stairway to Heaven
By Therese Zrihen-Dvir
Gefen Publishing House, 2010, 139 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - April 20, 2011
At 9:30 AM on January 22, 1995 two Palestinian terrorist disguised themselves as Israeli soldiers and approached a waiting area between Tel Aviv and Haifa, in Israel, called Beit Lid, where Israeli soldiers would gather to take buses back to their units after a weekend with their families at home. The first terrorist dropped to his knees feigning illness. A large number of young soldiers rushed to help him. He responded to their aid by and blowing himself and the soldiers up. Parts of bodies flew in all directions. The stunned on looking soldiers rushed to help the wounded. The second terrorist joined them and set off his bomb. All together twenty-two young Israelis, all between ages 18 and 21, except for one being 23 and another 34, and the two terrorists, were killed. The Palestinians in Gaza danced. The families of the victims mourned.
Therese Zrihen-Dvir wrote this novel based on this horror and describes the reactions of a somewhat traditional mother, Naomi, who came to Israel as a child who was saved from the holocaust; her daughter, a physician, who works to develop medicines to combat illnesses; her boy friend, a sensitive, caring, and helpful physician who has no background in the Jewish religion or culture; Naomi's friend who is concerned about her reactions; and Eddy, the son of a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father who received permission from his parents to come to Israel from Russia and join the Israeli army, who was a victim to another bombing after the Beit Lid terrorist attack, who almost died from his wounds, and whom Naomi adopts.
Naomi wants to know how the Arabs feel about the terrorist attacks. Are the Arab mothers pleased that their children are killing themselves during these attacks? Do they have any feelings about the Israeli people, many of whom are civilians, who are murdered? She arranges to meet with an Arab mother who hides her face and refuses to reveal her name out of fear of what other Arabs will do to her. Naomi is surprised how much she hates the Jews, how proud she is of her children giving their lives, and how satisfied she is that Jews are being killed. She tells Naomi that the Arabs will not be satisfied until all Jews leave what is now Israel and give the land to them.
Her daughter decides to marry and want Naomi to help her supervise the building of her house. Naomi hires a contractor with the condition that he does not use Arab workers. The contractor comes to work with Arabs, swearing that they are Israeli Arabs and not terrorists; however the police arrive within days and arrest the group who were from Palestinian territories. She hires s second contractor who also brings Arabs to do the work. Naomi reads the papers of the Arab workers, a father and two sons, and is assured that they are Israelis. They and Naomi get on well together. She even buys them food. However, one day she hears them bad mouthing Jews and Israelis in Arabic, not knowing that she understood their language.
Readers will find it interesting to read the details of the reactions to the terrorist murders by the Arabs and the families of the soldiers who were killed. They will discover what happens to Naomi. Will she find a husband? Will her life change because of the killings? What happens to her daughter and to Eddy, her adopted son?