By: Avraham Anouchi
Publication Date: November 2009
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: July 13, 2010
The Bismillah provided for the poor in the beginning, but later the organization took a startling turn and began its evil descent into madness, destroying some of the very people it vowed to protect. In Arabic its name meant “in the name of Allah,” but just what did Allah have to do with the slaughter of innocent Jews? Palestinian Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the Great Mufti of Jerusalem had called to the Arabs to eradicate the lowly Jew. A child was born into this madness, one whose father Benjamin vowed would rise up against the pogroms and defend the Jewish honor. Avner Akiva Amram would learn about peace, about pogroms, and would ultimately chase down the clues within elusive scrolls, unraveling the threads of Jewish history.
When Avner’s life was beginning, Thubten Gyatso, the Tibetan Dalai Lama, was preparing to select his successor. A strange Shofar and a cylinder with an indecipherable Hebrew inscription were brought to him for inspection. The Dalai Lama had little time to ponder their meaning, but knew they had to be safeguarded. They ultimately drifted back into hiding as the sands of time continued to flow. In another place and time, Ibn Najad began to hatch a plot against the Jewish people but this was an intellectual plot, a plot that would confuse and shatter their notions about their history. He contemplated his scheme and shuffled through his desk and “took out one of the six old parchments he had purchased from an antique dealer in a Beirut flea market.” (pg. 42) These parchments would blow them all away and no one would be able to detect the forgeries.
As much as Ibn Najad hated the Jews, Avner began to learn about them and embrace the culture and religion. His intellect would mature and he would fight against hatred with his brains instead of with bombs and hatred. The boy became a man and had to choose his life’s path and passion. His father Benjamin listened to his son as he exclaimed in frustration, “If I choose the wrong door, my destiny may bring me to music while my passion should guide me through the door of engineering or history or archeology.” (pg. 61)
Avner’s Harvard training would suit him well as the scrolls began to come to light. The questions they posed were burning ones. “Will I ever gather sufficient clues to reconstruct the mystery of the Maccabee Scroll?” (p. 152) But what about the Shlom-Zion, the Rabbi Akiva, the Bar Yochai? And then there were the parchments. There were no “guardian angels” to help solve the mystery. Avner had to rely on his heart to solve the mysterious inscriptions of parchments and scrolls whose history was rife with intrigue, injustice, and murder. Where was the golden Ark of the Covenant? The golden Menorah? Were they even real or the figment of someone’s imagination like that of Ibn Najad?
This is a tale that, at times, seemed to cultivate a story that bordered the thin line between fact and fiction. It did not prove to be a sensational thriller along the lines of the DaVinci Code, but rather caught my attention as an historical journey. The pace was slow, methodical and carried more historical weight and intrigue than any simple supposed earth shaking thriller. The author’s knowledge of archaeology was evident in that even the names and origins of scrolls could well surface in time. For example, there has been archaeological field work in Tel Dor, Israel and the Tel-Dor scroll, although somewhat implausible, could well surface.
Some of the dialogue was uncultivated in one section and sounded as if the characters were using English as a second language. I could not discern whether or not this usage was intentional. The story was fascinating, but the reader cannot expect a fast paced work, but can expect an historical work of art that is well worth reading. The pace is slow, steady, and for me, a mesmerizing insight into Israel and its conflict with those who would choose to annihilate their population rather than appreciate them and their intriguing history of survival against all odds.
Quill says: If you want to take a mesmerizing journey through time and look at the history of the Jews through the eyes of a wide spectrum of individuals from those who embrace Judaism to those who hate it, this is an excellent choice!
For more information on The Hidden Scroll: An Archeological Adventure, please visit the author's website at: Anouchi.org