Jerusalem Interlude

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Jerusalem Interlude

The Zion Covenant Book 4

Bodie & Brock Thoene


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Copyright © 1990 by Bodie Thoene. All rights reserved.

Cover illustration copyright © 2005 by Cliff Nielsen. All rights reserved.

Edited by Ramona Cramer Tucker

Designed by Julie Chen

Published in 1990 as Jerusalem Interlude by Bethany House Publishers under ISBN 1-55661-080-7.

First printing by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. in 2005.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version or the Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors’ imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the authors or publisher.


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Printed in the United States of America

11 10 09 08 07 06 05

7 6 5 4 3 2 1

With much love

we dedicate this story

to Luke,

who has a heart for God

and a talent

that just might create

a second generation

of Thoene writers!


Our special thanks to Joseph Samuels, whose extensive knowledge and experience earns him the title of our honorary Rebbe! After a lifetime of building great synagogues across America, Joe has brought the same dedication to the monumental task of helping with the research of this series.

We thank the Lord daily for bringing you into our lives and work.


San Francisco


Outside the ornate façade of the Far East Café, the neon lights of San Francisco’s Chinatown blinked and shimmered a bright reflection on the rain-slick street.

Dr. Charles Kronenberger loved this street. Ever since Murphy and Elisa had brought him and Louis here as children, the place has reminded him of a set for a Charlie Chan mystery movie. He had never shed the little-kid excitement of those days, and tonight he felt it again, stronger than ever. He hefted Tikvah Thurston’s cello case and pulled her beneath the awning as rain pelted from the sky.

It was almost midnight, yet a few souvenir shops remained open. Through plate-glass windows, Charles and Tikvah could see round-faced clerks reading Chinese newspapers behind cluttered counters.

A clique of die-hard tourists shouted and laughed as they trudged from one shop to the next in search of some elusive bargain.

A yellow cab splashed by, and Tikvah smiled up at Charles. Her eyes were warm, happy—familiar to Charles, although he had never met her before tonight.

“What is it?” he asked, sensing there was something this beautiful woman wanted to say.

Her smile became shy. She looked away at the pools of color and light mirrored on windshields and hoods and bumpers. “I…I love…San Francisco. That’s all.”

He felt an urge to stoop and kiss her, but he did not. Instead he brushed a damp strand of hair from her forehead. Even that small touch seemed to startle her. “Yes.” He averted his eyes quickly, glad he had not followed his first impulse. “Me too. I love this place. It doesn’t matter if it’s midnight. Chinatown is on Hong Kong time. It’s lunchtime in Hong Kong. Are you hungry?”

She nodded, moving toward the doorway of the restaurant. She seemed to have recovered from his too-familiar touch. A diminutive and ancient Asian in a headwaiter’s tuxedo shuffled toward them, worn menus cradled in his arm. He bowed slightly and gestured toward a carved teakwood arch. Beyond lay a long corridor lined with private dining rooms with curtains across the doors.

Tikvah craned her neck upward as she gazed in astonishment at enormous bronze chandeliers suspended above them. Several decades of dust coated the massive fixtures. She grinned back over her shoulder at Charles. “I hope this is not the night the big quake happens!” She laughed, and Charles knew she felt in this place the sense of mystery that had always captivated him. Even if he had not been sent to find her, even if he were not carrying the letters he must deliver to her, he would have wanted to be here with her.

The waiter paused halfway down the corridor and drew back a curtain to reveal a round table in the center of a small cherry-paneled room. Tikvah entered, and Charles followed. Before they could turn around, the curtain was drawn and they were alone.

Tikvah did not meet his eyes as she unbuttoned her coat. Charles propped the precious cello in the corner. Strange. Never had he thought of this wonderfully sinister place as romantic—until now!

“All these years in ’Frisco, and I’ve never been here.” Tikvah’s voice betrayed her excitement. “Private dining rooms; perfect for musicians. It’s the same size as a practice room, so I won’t have withdrawal being away from the concert hall.”

The clatter of dishes drifted over the partition.

“A bit noisier than the practice room,” she added. “Maybe next time we can order takeout and eat back at the hall.”

Next time! He could not believe he had said that. Too quick. Too sure. Too hopeful.

He had not felt this way about any woman since Edith had died. He had not wanted to see anyone. He had almost forgotten what it was like to have a woman smile at him.

Once again the urge to kiss her swept over him. He fumbled with the buttons of his overcoat, then frowned as he reached into the deep inside pockets to retrieve two bound packets of letters. He placed the packets on the table between them. He had meant to give them to her after dinner, but he needed the distraction from this unexpected jumble of emotions.

Her smile was curious as she reached out to touch one packet of yellowed envelopes. In faded ink, the address read:

Mrs. Elisa Murphy

#36 Red Lion Square

London, England

The postage stamp bore the emblem of the British Mandate of Palestine and the postmark of Jerusalem, dated October 1938.

Charles saw Tikvah’s smile fade as realization flooded her. She looked from the packets into Charles’s eyes.

He answered the unspoken question. “A gift for you. From my mother. From Elisa.”

“From…” Tikvah’s fingers trembled as she picked up a packet and turned it to reveal the return address written in delicate hand:

Leah Feldstein

Post Office Box 679


British Mandate Palestine

She gasped and held the packet against her cheek as if Charles had presented her with a priceless treasure. Indeed he had. “Elisa,” she managed to say. “My mother wrote her.”

“Of course. They were friends. Best friends. Elisa kept these in a shoe box. Sometimes she would take them out and read them over and over again. Especially aloud. And she would tell Murphy that someday the story must be published—you know, all the early struggles in Jerusalem. What it was really like. Leah was a wonderful writer. She recorded all of it.”

Tikvah’s tears spilled over, and she carefully wiped the drops from the frail envelopes lest the ink run.

“There was nothing left, you know,” she whispered. “After the Arab Legion captur

ed the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem where she lived, everything was destroyed. Everything. It was a miracle the cello survived. And then for nineteen years the Arabs would not let any Jew come home. No one to visit her grave.” She faltered. “Or my father’s.”

“Elisa knew you would want her letters.”

“All my life I have longed for some word from my mother. All…no matter how wonderful others may be—” she touched her hand to her heart—“I never stopped wishing for her! Sometimes in the music I heard her voice. In the music I thought I could almost feel her holding me.” Tikvah brushed away her tears, appearing embarrassed by her emotion. “I never told anyone that before. Silly. I am older now than she was when she died. But still—I long for her!”

Charles nodded, saddened at the years that were lost to Tikvah. “Elisa and Murphy were told your mother died in the siege. Elisa knew Leah was expecting a child, but no mention was made of the baby…of your survival. As soon as she found out, we traced you. Traced you here to San Francisco.” He paused awkwardly as a waiter slipped in with a steaming pot of tea.

Tikvah looked away, hiding her emotion in silence until the man left the room. Then the emotion returned with a rush. She grasped Charles’s hand. “If only I had known!”

Charles nodded. “Yes. My real father was a journalist in Germany. When I grew up I made my way back to Hamburg and dug up everything he had written that had not been destroyed by the Nazis. Every word…a gift.” His eyes lingered on the packages of letters, then rose to meet hers. “Everything you heard in her music, Tikvah—it’s all there. So full. From the day she arrived in the Holy Land with your father. Ah, such a story she told! It is your story, Tikvah! Maybe she sensed that one day you would need to know.

Tikvah carefully unwrapped the first packet, fanning dozens of letters out on the table before her. Here and there was an envelope addressed to Charles and Louis as well. She glanced up at him as she let her fingers rest on his name. The name her own mother had penned! “I have never even seen her handwriting before now. And you were growing up in the same house where these letters were sent.” A tone of awe entered her voice. “She loved you, Charles. Do you think she would have…how would she have felt about me?”

His reply was a gentle laugh. The question was so poignant, so filled with longing and self-doubt. Charles knew the certain answer to her query, but he would let the living words of Leah Feldstein answer a question that had lingered for thirty-seven years.

“We watched for the postman every day. We waited for her letters. Laughed and cried with Elisa over the news of this and that.” Charles pressed his lips together in thought. “There was so much happening then. I can tell you our side of it. But Leah alone must answer your questions. Read the letters and know her, Tikvah! Then you will know how she would have loved you. How proud she would have been.”

Charles leaned forward and kissed her softly. She did not resist his gentle hand against her cheek.


The Parting


Autumn 1938


Was there a more painful word in any language? Today, in the ache of their parting, Elisa Murphy and Leah Feldstein could not remember any word that had ever cut deeper.

The beauty of the afternoon somehow made it harder. Warm sunlight bathed the ancient houses of Marseilles. Browns and yellows, soft blues and rusty oranges; the pastel facades glowed like a patchwork quilt on a clothesline. Windows of the houses were shining squares within the squares that reflected the vivid blue of the sky and the movement of the clouds.

Such beauty was meant to be shared over coffee at a sidewalk café. Such a day should have been savored leisurely with laughter and conversation. But all that was ending forever.

The two friends clung tightly to each other as the ship’s whistle split the air. Their final words were drowned in the commotion of boarding passengers and shouting dock workers.

Leah kissed Elisa lightly on the cheek. More than sisters. Warm brown eyes held the gaze of intense blue eyes. All was spoken in that long last look: I will miss you. Thank you for everything. Be careful. I will pray for you. Please write . . . I love you!

These silent words were heard by both hearts and answered by a nod. Elisa shook her head and brushed away the tears on Leah’s cheek. Leah managed a smile and did the same for Elisa. One more hug . . . The whistle again! Lord, why must it be so hard to leave her now?

Shimon and Murphy looked on self-consciously. There was no way to make this easier. They had spent a week longer together on the crossing from New York to France, thanks to Murphy. He had found some excuse to stop over in France instead of traveling directly to London with Elisa and the boys. The extra week had been a time of peace and elegance, like the old days in Vienna. The women had learned to laugh again. The heartache of the recent months had at least receded from the center stage of their lives. Little Charles and Louis had explored every corner of the ship while Murphy and Shimon had played chess and talked politics and watched the friendship of their wives with a sort of envy. Such friendship was rare, and yet they made it look so easy—that is, until now.

Now it suddenly became hard. Painful. Almost cruel to know that the daily familiarity must stop at the edge of the Marseilles quay.

The whistle. Insistent, unforgiving, calling Leah to leave for Palestine, while Elisa must travel to London.

Shimon cleared his throat. He touched Leah’s shoulder. Elisa turned and hugged him too. More tears.

“Take care of her, Shimon!” Elisa cried as she thumped his arm and stepped back.

Shimon nodded and shook Murphy’s hand. Leah hugged Murphy hard, then patted his cheek. “Take care of her, Murphy,” she likewise admonished the tall handsome American.

Elisa handed her a handkerchief. “Blow your nose,” she instructed.

Leah laughed and obeyed.

Then it was time to gather up belongings. Handbag. Cello case. Always the cello . . .

Elisa captured the picture in her mind like the after-image of a bright light: Clouds of confetti fluttering down from the decks of the ship. Shimon and Leah together at the rail on the last leg of their journey to Zion. And beside Leah, leaning against her like a well-loved child, was the cello.

Now Leah was on the ship. She tossed down a long red streamer to Elisa. The two friends held each end as the mooring lines were cast off.

“Next month in Jerusalem!” Elisa called.

Leah must have heard her. Or at least she read the message on Elisa’s lips because she nodded as she tossed loose her end of the streamer. It floated down like a final embrace.


The air of Jerusalem smelled of rain. As if the population sensed a coming downpour, most of its residents had taken shelter indoors. The Arabs gathered in the gloomy coffeehouses of the Old City to smoke their water pipes and sip thick Turkish coffee. Jews of all sects gathered beneath the domes of their synagogues for Sabbath services. Armenian shopkeepers stood in the doorways of their empty shops and stared bleakly up at the clouds that kept the tourists away.

Here and there, small groups of British soldiers hurried through the crooked lanes of the Old City. Some would stop and browse, looking for a memento to send home to England. A few would bargain and buy today, but most would return empty-handed to the Allenby barracks to play cards and bemoan the fact that they had been stationed in such a godforsaken place as Jerusalem. In India, at least there were brothels. In Jerusalem there were only pious Jews and fanatic Muslims and shy Armenian girls who attended convent school.

A truly brave and desperate Englishman might find a female companion among the veiled women in the Arab Quarter. But lately the Arabs had been killing as many British soldiers as Jews. It was not wise to seek solace beyond the Damascus Gate. Many a man had met his end on the curved blade of a Muslim dagger.

On this gloomy day only a handful of the twenty thousand British soldiers in Palestine passed through Jaffa Gate into the souks and bazaars

where Doktor Hockman walked. They passed him without noticing the scuffed leather briefcase beneath his arm. Homesick guardians of the great British Empire, they never suspected that this tall stoop-shouldered man carried within that case what was perhaps their own death warrants. Certainly it was the death warrant of the British Mandate in Palestine, and the command for the destruction of every Jew who lived there.

Hockman observed these sad-faced young men with the same emotion with which he examined the piles of oranges in the produce market. If these are the best England has to offer, he thought, then certainly the Führer is right in his predictions about their destruction of the British Empire.

He opened a shopping bag and counted out six oranges, oranges grown on the trees of the Zionists. Planting fruit trees was one thing the Jews had done for Palestine. But soon not even a trace of their trees would remain. At that thought Hockman picked out another half-dozen oranges, and after a moment of discussion paid the wizened old fruit vendor half his asking price.

Two young soldiers joined him at the booth. A short man wearing the stripes of a corporal grinned. “It took me two months to figure out you don’t pay what they ask. Not like a shop in Liverpool!” he exclaimed.

“Jerusalem has no equal,” Hockman responded in flawless English, “either in the quality of oranges or the number of bargains struck in a day.” He smiled and bowed slightly as the soldier proceeded to haggle noisily with the merchant. Oranges. The British were mad for oranges. Hockman sometimes thought that orange marmalade was the sole reason England clung so tenaciously to Palestine.

It made little difference what their purpose was, however. Doktor Hockman was dedicated to setting a different course for Palestine. For two years he had been pursuing a goal, and now it was about to become a reality.

By the clearest of German logic, the Führer had chosen Hockman to guide the Muslim religious leadership of Jerusalem. As a Nazi archaeologist, Hockman, like Hitler and Himmler, believed without question that the Aryan race was the original race created by God. All other peoples and tribes were the result of inbreeding between man and the subhuman creatures who occupied the world in the distant past.