Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Dara Harow, the daughter of a rocket physicist for the US department of defense, sends her parents into a tailspin of dual-loyalty anxiety when she plans to wed Roni Ben-Ari, an Israeli officer in an elite counter-terrorist unit. When the Harows are targeted by a terror cell in hot pursuit of technology not yet found in any country s arsenal, Dara finds herself at the center of a hierarchy of terror that threatens her life and the lives of those she loves. The Gilboa Iris is a blazing tale of romance, deceit and international intrigue. Its rich characters and explosive plot take readers from Israel s Gilboa Mountains to the streets of New York, to Germany s Zehlendorf Forest, and back to Israel amid seminal events that rocked the world between 1983 and 2002.
When I arrived, Roni was standing outside. Is he frowning at me? No, I quickly surmised, it’s just his usual disposition. Minutes later, however, I heard him arguing with one of the regulars, a short, powerfully built man named Moti, who supervised all the fieldwork. Although I was well versed in Hebrew and had no trouble conversing in it, I didn’t understand the content of the argument – at least not right away. Roni rattled off his words with such speed that I didn’t pay attention, nor was I interested in any case.
Despite my indifference, I couldn’t help but notice him gesturing toward me – and about me, I realized – his golden mane dancing around his face as his argument became more animated. It was then that I discerned the words frying omelets in the kitchen! Moti’s response was inaudible, but Roni stormed away jabbering in what sounded surprisingly like fluid Arabic.
It was impossible to grasp that this was purely about me! I wasn’t the only female volunteer and I didn’t understand what his problem was. Why was he singling me out? And why wasn’t his face under some truck or tractor? I soon gathered that when there were no machines or engines that required fixing or maintenance, Roni would lend a hand wherever it was needed. This morning he would be helping in the fields.
Evidently, he lost the argument, since Moti didn’t relegate me to kitchen duty. They were shorthanded in the fields and needed every volunteer. This was going to be a splendid day. Grim as it seemed, I was determined to be upbeat, despite Roni.
As chance would have it, there was no room for me in the regular vehicle transporting the workers to the cotton fields, and Moti instructed me to ride in the front cab of the pick-up truck carrying the irrigation pipes. A moment later, to my consternation, Roni opened the driver’s side door and his stunning, sparkling eyes widened in surprise to see me sitting in the front of his truck.
This was the first time I saw him up close, since he took pains to avoid me like the plague. It was obvious that he was handsome, but whoa! I wasn’t prepared for the full-scale view of those eyes in such close proximity. They were…staggering. The cliché of one’s heart skipping a beat had new meaning for me. Mine, however, more like trotted right out of my chest. My knee-jerk reaction unsettled me. I didn’t want to give him a second thought, and yet some emotion inside me flashed a different signal, which was decidedly vexing.
Clenching his jaw, Roni jumped into the driver’s seat, unlatched the hand brake and brought the engine to a roar. He didn’t hide his irritation at my presence, muttering something in Hebrew under his breath that sounded like he called me a chirping bird. I must have heard wrong, I thought, since I hadn’t uttered a syllable. We rode in silence the entire way.
An agonizing ten minutes later we reached the cotton fields, and I grabbed the door handle to scoot out of the cab. It was stuck. Great. As I fiddled with the handle, a surge of heat rose up to my face, as if it wasn’t already hot enough in the Beit She’an Valley. I was not prone to blushing, but I could sense I turned beet red, more out of annoyance than anything else. I already knew what Roni thought about me working in the fields, and this little glitch was not helping my case. With what looked like another one of his customary scowls, Roni leaned over me and jerked the car door open. He met my eyes with a forbidding gaze, his face just inches from mine. I was unfamiliar with the tumult raging inside of me when the curl of his lips parted long enough for me to feel his breath against me. Unnerved, I mumbled a thank you and jumped down from the truck, his muted, arrogant laughter wafting behind me.
A native of New York, Zahava Englard lived in Teaneck, NJ, before moving with her family to Israel in 2006. An outspoken activist in the United States on behalf of Israel, she served as trustee on the executive board of One Israel Fund, and as its executive director. Presently Zahava lives in Israel. Her writing includes Settling for More: From Jersey to Judea, and she lectures in the United States and Israel about her books, Jewish activism, and her passion for Israel’s well-being. Gilboa Iris is her first novel.
Posted by Anne Patrick at 7:31 AM