The Eyes of Abel: Daniel Jacobs
Reviewed by Fran Lewis
The beauty of Israel, the warmth coming from the sun as it is about to set, and the stillness in the air are the setting for the first scene in this novel. As Roger Charlin and Maya Cohen sit together, discussing their lives, his stories and their feelings about Israel, Palestine and more, something will shake the foundation they are sitting on. The horizon and landscape will explode within seconds, as bombs fill the sky, hotels and buildings collapse, a boat explodes and the world changes.
Thinking about his publication and his recent expose´ of Newton Oil’s corrupt practices, Charlin reflects back on his sources, his initial encounter with Maya Cohen, and, even more, his feelings about Israel/Palestine. He reflects on their conflicts, his take on the situation, and why he feels it has never been resolved. The Eyes of Abel answers these questions, and much more, as the author flashes back three months before this attack on Israel, describes another terrorist attack over San Francisco, and shows what Charlin did to prove that terrorists similar to the one who got through in San Francisco can often fool security officers. But, what he learns will hopefully change things for readers and for him.
At the beginning of the novel, Roger, with the help of some of his colleagues, creates a new image for himself as an Arab, traveling from America to Israel. This is part of an expose´ he conducts, intending to bring to light how sometimes airport security is too tight, and that profiling certain people and singling them out for extra interviews or scrutiny is often based on race or nationality. What happens during his brief encounter, how and why the agent realizes he is using a fake passport and fake identity, just lets the reader know that the agents at El Al Israel are truly always on target. Investigating a secret energy project at Princeton, we hear him speaking with his source, getting the information, and we understand just how creative he will get, and how in-depth he will go to get a story, and in this case, the Pulitzer Prize. But March 26, 2015, will change it all.
Trans Flight 144 goes down and the events spiral out of control, as Roger Charlin immerses himself in more than just the story about racial profiling at the airport. Trying to find out more about Maya Cohen leads him to many discussions and negative viewpoints about the state of Israel. Maya relates her position, and her discussions with Charlin are heated and well-informed, and each side is vividly presented.
But, Roger is trying to create an article that will break open the fact that EL Al security seems to target those who are Arab or appear to be Arab. Is it politically correct to single out these people? Shouldn’t everyone receive the same security clearance? And why is he so concerned with Middle-Eastern people at the airport? But, meeting Maya will change it all.
Who is she, and why is she really here? Within this complex plot, there is much more to uncover. The Princeton Plasma Lab that has been lying dormant for so long now seems to have come to life, igniting more than just the possibility of a new energy program. Things get out of control for Charlin, as his relationship with Maya heats up when his reporter friend and mentor Ben Lampsky breaks the Princeton research wide open, in an article that sets events in motion, which causes lives to be lost. Israel comes into the limelight, and the light shines, but the truth is clouded.
Reporters, Charlin states, are supposed to report the truth and not worry about who gets the story out first. Reporters, Ben states, report events as they see them, write the story through their own eyes, and give the public what they want everyone to see and hear. Next, a video that has been doctored, or at least, whose credibility is in question, sparks more negativity about Israel, before the scientists at this lab are whisked away, and hopefully back home, before more lives are lost.
Project Sherwood, in Jacobs’ novel, “was a secret effort in the 1950’s, during the Eisenhower administration, to produce unlimited energy through fusion.” But, finding this information, taking a trip to Princeton, and signing on to assist Lampsky to learn just who in the government is funding an energy program that was declassified decades ago, sets in motion catastrophic events of huge proportions. Observing several men walking dogs in the middle of the night might not trigger anything suspicious, except in this case, the location is near the lab.
As the author elaborates about the program, and discusses energy production, we learn more about what might be driving this program to be restarted and we wonder why anyone would unleash it to the press and not protect its security. World energy would change, and telling the world about it, would do more harm than good. So, why did Charlin agree to find out more about the government and take the bait?
Since the TransCom 144 incident, he has done nothing significant. Within Chapter Four, taking place Feb. 5, 2015, we learn about an Israeli Medical Team being killed, and the details are graphically described. As his relationship with Maya intensifies, he finds out information about her that would change their fates.
Learning her real reason for being in America and knowing why she disappeared, does not stop him from wanting answers, and trying to find her. But before long, he is interrogated by the Senate Congressional Committee when Lampsky breaks open the story about the fusion program, and the possibility of an energy breakthrough.
When asked why he never filed his article about racial profiling, readers will be surprised at his response, knowing his negative views towards Israel. But, things change, perceptions differ, and although he still has some misgivings about how Israel handles and responds to attacks, we see him becoming more open-minded.
As readers see Lampsky’s expose´ about the breakthrough at Princeton Labs, and hear his words, they can decide for themselves if he intentionally endangered the scientists at the lab. Especially when they see what happens when Charlin explains Maya’s role, and how this article affected the situation.
Throughout the next two chapters, Jacobs vividly presents many incidents, focusing on attacks on Israeli soldiers and letting readers decide whether the reporter really told what happened, or just what he or she thinks happened. We see slanted journalism in many cases, and incidents ignited by the press, with the aid of Youtube videos.
When interrogated by the State Senate Committee, Charlin realizes just who set him up, and why. His remarkable comeback, and his response, will impress readers. Just who in the government is pulling the strings? And why, when Charlin relates information regarding the killing of federal funding for fusion research, does the tone of the hearing change?
A news bulletin relates events in Israel, global reactions, and a world turned against a people just trying to live and survive! Near the middle of the book, there’s a section where we hear the voices of so many. A reporter’s vision or viewpoint of certain events and how different sectors of different countries react to the same incident. This underscores the role of media bias in shaping the Mideast conflict.
Hidden behind the walls of a nondescript building, is a projector, whose screen will emit slides that change the course of the world, change Charlin’s perspective about Israel, and bring the fusion program to life. But, when secrecy is breached, and Israel is in danger, what chance do they have? While he and Maya look bravely to the future, she formulates his next move. Will Charlin agree to the terms? Will he risk it all to help Israel, the United States, the fusion program, and hopefully dismantle a war, before it’s too late?
What happens next is explosive, and the one person that is the key, turns in different directions.
Background on Abel in the title: Abel was the second son born to Adam and Eve. Abel was the first shepherd, the first martyr in the Bible and murdered by Cain, his brother. This murder, of course, did not please God. Cain, a farmer, grew grains and vegetables, and Abel was a shepherd, tending the family’s herds. They were brothers, who never got along, yet loved each other.
The family had to sacrifice something to God to atone for their sins. Abel was worried about making his sacrifice special to God and he offered his best lamb. Cain sacrificed crops from his garden, yet, God was not pleased with his offering. So, Cain asked his brother to walk with him and struck him down to the ground and killed him.
As with Abel, other countries see her as being favored by the United States and other countries, and thus not punished for her violence and retaliation. So other nations feel justified in attacking Israeli civilians.
Cain was only concerned about getting caught and not the consequences of his actions, but they caught up to him over time. The ending of The Eyes of Abel, you might say, parallels life in the fact that we often have to deal with and live with our choices, and face the consequences within ourselves. What happens at the end, is quite explosive, thought-provoking, and proves that while we teach children to think before they act, adults don’t always do the same. The description of the lattice is quite extraordinary; the events of March 26th will burn within Charlin’s and Maya’s minds, and readers’ minds forever.
Decide for yourself who is right, and who needs to understand: too many Cains in the world, and not enough Abels, to provide the stability needed to protect everyone.
Israel is here to stay. She will not give up, and In the Eyes of Abel, in the Eyes of the People of Israel, we see hope for freedom for everyone and someday peace within the Middle East and the world. This is one powerful novel that will create much discussion and controversy over the material offered. It’s definitely a must-read.
Charlin and Maya: What’s next?
Fran Lewis: Reviewer