Sunday, May 24, 2020

Book Review: 'A Ticking Bomb' by David Izhar

A Ticking Bomb by David Izhar

A galvanizing and absorbing true story

Israeli author David Izhar earned degrees in economics, business administration, Islam and Middle East studies, law and administration and leadership in education, and is a high school teacher and educator. His experience in his service with the Israel Defense Forces and his experience as a Field and Operations Director with the Israeli Security Agency form the core of this impressive book.

The signature impression of insight this book offers is evident in David’s introductory note, in which he states, “I am not an author. The book was written not as a novel but as a part of a journey that I took while writing it. The story is my story, although I chose to write if from “Alon’s”’ point of view. The characters are real, but their names have been changed. The sections between chapters that are composed in the first person were written before I wrote the book. During long, sleepless nights, I tried to escape from the nightmares and dark thoughts that haunted me while writing them down.’

Given the impact of that reality makes experiencing this book even more engaging: this is a true story – all the related events and details actually happened. Though memoirs by soldiers from various wars through past history to the present are frequent, few match the veracity of this well told tale from a director of the Israel Security Agency who not only recounts the event of his history in that role, but also shares the impact of the terrifying events on his psyche. Relating the story with an alternative name of Alon allows literary distance from the reality of events while entering his own moments in medias res secures our compassion.

The story is complex and is distilled in the author’s synopsis – ‘ September 2000. The Al-Aqsa Intifada, a violent conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority breaks out, opening four years of bloody combat during the course of which over 6,000 people lost their lives and tens of thousands more were injured. Alon, the protagonist of the story, is caught between two different worlds. In the world visible to the public eye, he is a decorated director with the Israel Security Agency, where he deals with the prevention of terror attacks, recruiting and handling spies, intelligence operations and targeted assassinations. In his other, secret world, out of the view of family and colleagues, Alon suffers from PTSD. He lives in gloom among the victims of operations he directed and attacks he found impossible to foil. All the while, attempts to hurt him never stop and his life is under constant threat: A terrorist group is planning to reach his home and murder all members of his family; one of the spies he used to handle betrays him and tries to poison him; and another guerilla group tries to kidnap him and his bodyguard. The snowball rolls on, sweeping Alon in its path, as he struggles to stop an unprecedented wave of suicide bombers while becoming a ticking bomb himself. Soon after receiving the news of his upcoming appointment to a very senior position within the organization, Alon goes up to the balcony on the seventh floor and considers committing suicide…’

David Izhar may not call himself a novelist, but his book reaches that rarified peak. Very highly recommended. 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.