Daniel Silva’s Crystal Ball
The novelist’s work regularly foreshadows actual events. In his latest book, the action finally shifts to Israel.
When I asked Silva whether Israelis and Palestinians could conceivably balance the need to respect the Islamic holy places with responsibly excavating artifacts so critical to Jewish history and culture, he replied that “what could be a realistic solution would be to do it jointly, as I wrote in the afterword [to The Fallen Angel]. But that’s simply not going to happen. In the old days, you used to go to the Temple Mount and the Haram and Al Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock all the time. Forget it now. If you even get too close to the gates, Palestinian street toughs will get in your face and tell you ‘Move away, mosque is closed, Muslims only.’ ”
The problem also persists on a larger scale. “One of the things I wanted to talk about in this [latest] book,” Silva told me, “is to look at the arc of history in that part of the Mediterranean, and all the great powers that have come through that patch of land, and how tenuous their grip has always been, how tenuous the Jewish home is in the land of Israel. When I was in Israel last summer working on the book, I encountered this animation ‘Maps of War,’ about all the great powers who’ve ruled the Eastern Med, starting with the ancient Egyptians, and it’s a reminder that history does not come to an end.”
Both Gabriel, the character, and Silva, the author, are somewhat cryptic about their views on the peace process. “Regarding Gabriel,” Silva said, “I’ve never sat and pinned him down. But I don’t think there’s a lot of daylight between us. I think if Gabriel were put under oath, he’d say he’s a two-stater. He would willingly give away virtually all of the West Bank to a reasonable Palestinian government that had forsworn violence and given up the dream of driving the Jews into the sea. But he’s not at all confident that there is this possibility for peace.”
And if life imitates art, the very end of The Fallen Angel suggests some ill omens for the region. In particular, there’s an apocalyptic Iranian regime dedicated to making the Temple Mount squabble look like a trifle. And while Silva said he was gratified that Stuxnet and related attacks have “worked, to some extent,” there’s a long way to go before Israel and the world are safe.
As for where future books in the series will take Silva and Gabriel, the author’s keeping mum: “I learned long ago never to comment about books that haven’t yet been written.” But he does note the increasing difficulty—for him, and for his protagonist—of operating elsewhere in the Middle East. “It’s not so easy for Gabriel Allon to work in the Arab world,” Silva said. “He has gone to Cairo [in Prince of Fire] and Dubai in Portrait of a Spy. It’s not so easy for me to go to the Arab world anymore.”
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