I’ve always wondered what brings people into a room together or onto a street at the same time, and where their souls’ journeys will be leading. This can give rise to many curious inquiries, each one yielding its own story.
Sometimes, something captures my imagination.
The story in Night In Jerusalem takes place in a city redolent of mystery and the unseen. It is not uncommon for visitors there to fall completely under the spell of its energy, having visions of the archetypes of religious faith as they wander the city streets. Psychiatrists call this experience the “Jerusalem Syndrome.” I have always been affected by the energy of place, and never more so than in Jerusalem. Its unseen, nighttime world is the wellspring of the book’s plot, even though the story is set against the backdrop of the Six Day War. I want the cover on Night In Jerusalem to evoke the mood of the city and point to the spiritual story that unfolds there.
I have always been intrigued by the miraculous: how and where the soul’s journey leads and how it reveals its destiny; how two people who are destined to love, even under the threat of war and extinction, can find one another. Night In Jerusalem is a love story set during Israel’s Six Day War in which passion, mystical encounters and the miraculous come together to change the lives of everyone caught up in it.
The story came to me on a movie set. We were filming on a blazingly hot day, dressed as lightly as possible. A young Hasidic woman in long black clothes and a wig kept coming out to look at us from her balcony. We spent most of the afternoon filming there, and she kept reappearing. I realized she was attracted to one of the crew members who had unbuttoned the top of his shirt, exposing his handsome chest. I sensed how strongly she yearned for contact. The gap between us could have been crossed in a few paces, yet we were centuries apart. I imagined what it would be like to be her, what courage it would take for her to break free, how she might do it. Decades later, I wrote her story in Night In Jerusalem.
I set the book in Israel at the time of the Six Day War, which I experienced firsthand. I remember vividly huddling in shelters with other women, listening to Arab radio news reports proclaiming victory while we contemplated how we would end it for ourselves. It turned out, of course, that the war went the other way. We were to live! Winston Churchill wrote that there is nothing as exhilarating as when someone shoots at you and misses. Emerging from that shelter was exhilarating. It also brought up questions that have been with me ever since - why does it take such courage to truly love, how impossible it seems to bring peace to the world, and, of course, why “God works in mysterious ways.” There are endless ways to work with these themes, it’s just a matter of grounding them in a time and place, with characters you love and admire. The characters in Night In Jerusalem, and their responses to the challenges they encounter, express different points of view that I share, even as they conflict with each other.
We live with and by each other’s stories.
The themes in this novel have been with me my entire life. I do not have easy answers to the questions they bring up: why does it take such courage to truly love, how impossible it seems to bring peace to the world, and, of course, why “God works in mysterious ways.” The characters express different points of view that I share, even as they conflict with each other. I want the book to show how these differences can be contained in fulfilled and inspiring lives, and how happiness depends on us embracing our individual destiny, not on following any prescribed path.
About the Author
Gaelle Lehrer Kennedy worked as an actress and writer in film and television in the United States and Israel. Night in Jerusalem is her debut novel, which she has adapted to film. She lives in Ojai California with her husband and daughter.
She writes, “I lived in Israel in the 1960s, a naive twenty-year-old, hoping to find myself and my place in the world. The possibility of war was remote to me. I imagined the tensions in the region would somehow be resolved peacefully. Then, the Six Day War erupted and I experienced it firsthand in Jerusalem.
I have drawn Night in Jerusalem from my experiences during that time. The historical events portrayed in the novel are accurate. The characters are based on people I knew in the city. Like me, they were struggling to make sense of their lives, responding to inherited challenges they could not escape that shaped their destiny in ways they and the entire Middle East could not have imagined.
I have always been intrigued by the miraculous. How and where the soul’s journey leads and how it reveals its destiny. How two people who are destined, even under the threat of war and extinction, can find one another.
Israel’s Six Day War is not a fiction; neither was the miracle of its victory. What better time to discover love through intrigue, passion, and the miraculous.
Writing this story was in part reliving my history in Israel, in part a mystical adventure. I am grateful that so many who have read Night In Jerusalem have experienced this as well.”
WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:
About the Book:
A bewitching love story that is also an extraordinary portrait of Jerusalem, its faith, spirituality, identity, and kaleidoscope of clashing beliefs, Night in Jerusalem is a novel of mystery, beauty,
David Bennett is invited to Jerusalem in 1967 by his cousin who, to the alarm of his aristocratic British family, has embraced Judaism. He introduces David to his mentor, Reb Eli, a revered sage in the orthodox community. Despite his resistance to religious teaching, David becomes enthralled by the rabbi’s wisdom and compassionate presence. When David discloses a sexual problem, Reb Eli unwittingly sets off a chain of events that transforms his life and the life of the mysterious prostitute, Tamar, who, in a reprise of an ancient biblical story, leads both men to an astonishing realization. As passions rise, the Six Day War erupts, reshaping the lives of everyone caught up in it.