By Deb Silverthorn
Martin Fletcher’s discussion of his novel “Promised Land” guarantees a special evening at the Tycher Library Community Read, beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, at the library, on the second floor of the Aaron Family JCC.
The event, part of the 2018/2019 Margot Rosenberg Pulitzer Dallas Jewish BookFest, is co-sponsored by the Center for Jewish Education (CJE) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, with the support of the Jewish Book Council.
“Martin Fletcher’s writing style is incredible, and with ‘Promised Land,’ he has given us a very new look at a Holocaust story — this is anything but typical,” said Karen Schlosberg, CJE coordinator of projects and administration. “(He is) a charismatic journalist and author with a great reputation. We were thrilled to secure him for our Tycher Library Community Read.”
The annual Community Read is a free lecture, designed to encourage readers, book club participants and individuals to share a book. This is the library’s 12th annual event.
“Promised Land,” the first of a trilogy Fletcher is creating, covers the first 20 years of Israel’s development and ends with the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. It is the story of Arie, a business magnate, and Peter, a Mossad agent. They are two Jewish brothers born in Germany, separated during the war, with the rest of their family murdered at the hands of the Nazis.
The story begins when 14-year-old Peter is sent west to America to escape the growing horror of Nazi Germany while younger brother Arie and their family are sent east, to the Nazi death camps. Only Arie returns. The brothers reunite in the new Jewish state, where they both fall in love with Tamara, a Jewish refugee from Cairo. Over two decades, their intrigues and jealousies threaten to tear their new lives apart.
Arie becomes a businessman and one of the richest men in Israel. Peter becomes a top Mossad agent heading some of Israel’s most vital espionage operations. “One brother builds Israel,” Fletcher said, “and the other protects it.”
“Martin Fletcher is a treasure, and we couldn’t be more excited about this event. He was here the first year I started at the J, presenting his Breaking News, and I’m thrilled to welcome him back,” said Rachelle Weiss Crane, JCC’s director of Israel engagement and Jewish living, who worked on the event with lay BookFest Chair Liz Liener. “He is an incredible researcher and author who we know offers a good, trusted story. He’s been so generous with his time and he has a special place in my heart. Our guests will not be disappointed.”
Fletcher, who also wrote “Walking Israel,” “The List,” “Jacob’s Oath,” and “The War Reporter,” spent 32 years at NBC as a foreign correspondent based in London, Brussels, Israel, Rhodesia, South Africa, Paris and Frankfurt — 26 of those years covering the Middle East, 15 as news bureau chief in Tel Aviv. He has received many honors, including the National Jewish Book Award, a Columbia University DuPont Award, several Overseas Press Club and five Emmy awards.
“This trilogy is really a ‘Dallas’ meets ‘Exodus’ story, following the generations of a family and the building of a country,” Fletcher said. “I started out writing a nonfiction book about the history of the State of Israel, but I realized I wanted to tell the story of the land, not the history. As a journalist, even though this is fiction, it is still important for me to get it right — to have a storyline that accurately reflects the reality.”
While this series is completely fictional, Fletcher said he received help from those whose lives mimicked the stories he tells, from businessmen who raised the dollars to help Herzliya grow in the early 1950s to former Mossad agents who provided authenticity and background.
“Tom Brokaw wrote of ‘The Greatest Generation’ and I wanted to tell of Israel’s greatest generation,” Fletcher said. “The surviving 20-year-olds of 1948 are now gone or in their 90s. I wanted fact to become fiction, but with lots of facts. How this incredible country was built from scratch by a generation amid anti-Semitism and Nazism; from the camps these displaced people made their way to Israel, and fought three wars. As a journalist, my focus is always on who did what, when and where, but not always what it’s like to be those people, to be there.”
Calling Israel, Mexico and New York home, Fletcher is often on the road. He and his artist wife, Hagar, a Sabra and former sergeant of the IDF whom he met while she was hitchhiking, are the parents of sons Daniel, Guy and Jonathan, and grandparents of Gali.
“Martin Fletcher balances the contributions of Ashkenazi Jews, Jews from the West, Sephardic Jews and Jews from the Arab lands to Israel’s success. The story poignantly grapples with the tragedy and scars of the Holocaust by telling the story of two brothers who reflect the challenges facing the fledgling state,” said Tycher Librarian Judy Borejdo. “‘Promised Land’ brings to life the first 20 years of Israel’s existence, which were a historic challenge for the Jewish people.”
As Fletcher says, “Promised Land” is “a love story set to a historical backdrop — the story of a nation, through the story of its people.”
For more information or to RSVP (requested by Dec. 3), email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 214-239-7131 or visit jewishdallas.org/communityread.