Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Therese Zrihen-Dvir, an author who was born in Morocco and has been living in Israel since 1967 (except for a five-year excursion to Canada). Her academic training is in French literature and the arts. Her published works include The Challenge, a biography of her former husband, painter Eitan Dvir; The Hand of Divine Justice, a novel; and A Quest for Life, a work of biographical fiction. She writes for the Israeli francophone websites. Her latest book is The Stairway to Heaven. Visit her website:www.therese-dvir.com.
FP: Therese Zrihen-Dvir, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Tell us what The Stairway to heaven is about and what inspired you to write it.
Zrihen-Dvir: Thank you Jamie.
After a long trip to the north of Israel with my family, as we were driving back home, my son-in-law unexpectedly turned the steering wheel of the car in the direction of Beit Lid junction. “Have you seen the memorial erected at Beit Lid?” he asked me. “No, I haven’t. I didn’t even know that there was one,” I replied.
“There certainly is, and it is very unusual,” he said, taking the road to the memorial site.
It was still bright enough to see, although twilight flooded the sky. All of a sudden, an almost perpendicular giant staircase, with twenty-two soldiers, each mounting a stair, could be seen emerging on the horizon. It was monumental, and so real-looking that it was hard to believe my own eyes. Indeed, the huge concrete edifice with its twenty-two stiffened statues brought back in full the memory of the tragedy. I walked around the monument lost in thought.
The Israeli soldiers and citizens killed in the terrorist attack were walking up a stairway that was meant to lead them to Paradise. However, by killing kuffār (“infidels” – a term used by Muslims to describe non-Muslims) and themselves, the two Palestinian terrorists, according to their faith and to the promises of the Imams, could also expect to gain a place in Heaven. Both were dead.
The year was 2003 and this monument reaching upward to empty space between the earth and the sky brought home to me the absurdity and futility of war, the senseless loss of young lives and the human bankruptcy of it all. There and then, I pledged to the twenty-two shadows my humble contribution to honor their sacrifice and their pain as well as my own.
FP: Share with us your interviews with a number of Israeli victims’ families.
Zrihen-Dvir: Somehow, at the side of the gigantic memorial monument, I felt courageous and absolutely determined to take this challenging subject and investigate it in all its aspects. But, when I was left alone and was confronted with the idea of approaching the families and reviving the terrible events that they had suffered through, my heart leaped wildly and my resolution temporarily wavered. I felt strangely ashamed and defeated by my own fears, but mostly by the pain I was going to inflict on the wounded families who were trying to return to a normal life after their disaster.
During the process of interviewing the families and writing this book, which lasted several years, my strong resolutions vacillated a few times when the pain compelled me to run away and relinquish the project for good. Deep within, the obligation to continue the writing governed me. I couldn’t stop. This was an event that should not be forgotten. Wrong conceptions should not remain as true; truth and justice should not be buried. No culture in the world should celebrate senseless death. Radical religious leaders who advocate death represent the antithesis of civilization and God’s commands.
FP: For our readers that might not know, illuminate for us a bit more what this terrorist attack was about. What happened?
Zrihen-Dvir: Immediately after the Oslo peace agreement was signed by Arafat (PLO leader) and the Israeli P.M. Yitzhak Rabin and the F.M. Simon Perez, Israel underwent a series of terror attacks. These included suicide bombers and the invasion by an army of terrorists who aimed at the complete destruction of the state of Israel.
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