Saturday, April 27, 2019

"Lone Soldier," by author Leo Rozmaryn - An Epic Coming of Age Tale of Israel and Israelis

In writing "Lone Soldier," author Leo Rozmaryn has penned an epic tale of Israel that would make Leon Uris proud. The nonstop action centers on Arik and Dahlia, who meet as high school students at a summer camp in Pennsylvania that serves the purpose of instilling a passion for Zionism in American Jewish students. This coming of age tale follows a grueling arc as they fall in love, fall out of love, and come back together again against all odds. Along the way, each character is tested in a variety of ways that are literally life or death.

Dahlia begins her journey as a "hothouse plant" - the spoiled daughter of Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. She learns to withstand withering challenges, and blossoms into a mature and productive woman. Arik is the son of an impoverished and embittered veteran of Israel's War of Independence. Ze'ev was a hero who saved lives, losing a leg in the process. But through an error of mistaken identity, he is labelled a terrorist and flees to America to live off the the table scraps of his brother's charity. Arik grows up in poverty in a rough neighborhood of LA. He excels athletically, and his strong moral fiber shows up early in life as he risks his safety and reputation to rescue an African American boy who is being bullied. He is arrested, but is crowned a hero in the African American community. He is convinced that his father has been woefully mistreated by the state of Israel, yet he makes the tough choice to turn down a basketball scholarship to play for national champion UCLA in order to go to Israel and fight for the IDF. His motive is to find a way to rehabilitate his father's reputation - and to spend a life in Israel with Dahlia.

The mismatch of Arik and Dahlia's social and economic positions prompts Dahlia's father to use his weight as Ambassador to sabotage the relationship. In rebounding from the loss of Arik, the naive Dahlia is lured into the snare of rich sociopath Za'ev Ehrenreich, son of one of the wealthiest American patrons of Israel. He leads her down a primrose path of sexual depravity and drug abuse that almost extinguishes her candle. Over time, she rebounds, due to therapy, the harsh realities of service in the Israeli Army, and responding to emergencies that wold have crushed a more delicate flower.

As the heroic story unfolds of Arik, and the redemption of Dahlia and of Arik's father, the author weaves the action around real historic events: The War of Independence, Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the Munich Olympic Massacre, the raid at Entebbe. The action ricochets from the slums of LA to the mansions of Washington, D.C. and Herzliya, from the desert of Las Vegas to the Negev, from the fortress of Masada to the summits of Mount Hermon.

The author provides a balanced view of the many faces of Zionism, from the Orthodox and observant to the secular and liberal who want to find a way to coexist with the Palestinians. The result is a stirring work of art that creates an indelible hero in Arik. I cannot help but wonder who will play Arik in the film that should inevitably follow.

Enjoy this well crafted saga.


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