The phrase is well known to many around the world who concern themselves with the
tumult in the Middle East in general, and Israel/Palestine in particular. Contrasting with the inanimate rocks forming ancient shrines, synagogues, mosques and churches, “living stones” are people. (Centuries ago Peter wrote of “living stones” in the New Testament referring first to Jesus, but also his followers.)
Reading the headlines today of hundreds of families killed with poison gas in Syria is hard enough. But what if one of them is your mother or son? Understanding that most men in Palestine have spent time in Israeli jails as a youth, for nothing but attending a protest and perhaps throwing a stone at a tank brings a shrug, tough for them. But feeling the pain of a friend who is still terrified by the thought of being re-arrested years later brings it home. (He declined our request to record him—“Mossad (Israeli intelligence) has a long arm.”
Encountering the “living stones” in Israel and Palestine in 2008 and again living there in
2012, our hearts burned to get the stories out, of real people caught in the vice of a conflict not of their choosing. Of friends deprived of freedom, even of their houses and lands. Relegated to refugee camps for a lifetime, with no job or possibility of living a normal life in their own home.
Many excellent books tell what has happened from the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, a triumph for Jewish people escaping from the pogroms and holocaust in Europe. But a catastrophe “Nakba” for 750,000 residents of the land driven into refugee camps…if they survived. Scholarly histories, accounts of real people’s stories and thoughtful explanations of the issues abound. They provide a broad and deep picture to understand the current conflict. Almost all these books are non-fiction, read by people with a special interest in the Middle East.
On return to the U.S. Marianne and I realized that the average American prefers fiction, a good story. Why not write an action/adventure to entertain and inform?
In “Living Stones,” an American graduate student’s adventures weave through the conflict in the Holy Land. Ashley’s nearly killed in a jihadist synagogue bombing in Seattle and also when abducted in Jerusalem. She grows to love Najid, a Palestinian Christian foreign student at the University of Washington. Meeting other “living stones, “the people of Israel/Palestine, triggers disturbing questions in Ashley about her Zionist convictions. She’s also dismayed by the entrenched opposition of her parents to her marrying a “Palestinian terrorist.”
The book (koehler/Morgan James Publishing) is available now as an e-book, with paperback release scheduled for early September 2013. It can be pre-ordered. We hope you enjoy the story. But more than that, I hope you are shocked. I wish for you a sleepless few hours questioning what you think about the issues in the Holy Land. Mark Braverman, Jewish author of the wonderful book, “Fatal Embrace” that means much to me, said it well in his endorsement. I like particularly: “Don’t pick up this book if you are not willing to have your assumptions challenged.”
Lloyd Johnson has done an important and wonderful thing in bringing the reality of Israel and Palestine to the fiction reader. In Living Stones he shows us what most Americans don’t see: the real face of Palestine and of life under occupation. Just as important, Johnson’s strong faith shines through in every page. This is a story about crossing boundaries and about forgiveness. Don’t pick up this book if you are not willing to have your assumptions challenged. But don’t miss the opportunity—your faith will be strengthened and your horizons widened.
Mark Braverman is the Program Director of Kairos USA and the author of A Wall in Jerusalem: Hope, Healing and the Struggle for Peace in Israel and Palestine.