Author Questions and Answers
1.This is your third novel written about biblical heroines. Why did you decide to write about Deborah? What about her did you find compelling?
Deborah was the most eminent woman in the Bible: she was a national leader, or what we might call today a President, a Chief Justice and a Chief Rabbi, all wrapped in one. She did not have an "administration," or a "police force" and her power derived from the adoration of the people. This was enough of a reason to write about her.
In addition, her story leads us back to the roots of Judaism, the roots of our Jewish identity today.
2. In what way does Deborah lead us back to the roots of Judaism and how can her story strengthen our Jewish identity today?
Deborah lived at a time when the Israelite religion, the original version of what today we call Judaism, was struggling to establish itself.
As described in the Bible and further enlarged upon in my novel, she was a staunch defender of this monotheistic faith against idol worship, or what today we would call assimilation.
In ancient Israel, the Israelites were losing out against the Canaanites because many among them accepted the Canaanite culture. Deborah convinced a significant part of them that with the help of the Lord they could stand up for themselves and their beliefs, and so it was.
In addition she stood up for Israelite (Jewish) solidarity, particularly at a time when Israel was in dire straits and mutual support was of the first order of importance for the survival of the people.
In all this, her story can strengthen us as Jews and she herself may serve as a role model for us today. It is of special importance at a time when the "new anti-Semitism" is rearing its head and doing its best to de-legitimize Israel and Judaism as well.
3. Was there anything in her personal life story that you found compelling?
I found Deborah's personal tale, as described in the Bible, particularly intriguing. The Scripture (JUDGES 4-5) tells us that when Deborah instructed warrior Barak to go out to war against the Canaanites, who threatened Israel with destruction, he demanded that she accompany him to the battlefield. It further recounts that she ended up going with him to his hometown as well. Yet she was a married woman and a mother, and the text does not indicate that the husband, Lapidoth, accompanied her, and certainly her children would not have gone out into the battlefield.
Long before deciding to write the novel, as I read the story, I began asking myself: what did her husband have to say to that? What would ANY husband say if his wife went off to distant parts with another man? It makes good sense that this created marital problems between them. Would they be able to overcome those problems? Further, I asked myself, what transpired between Deborah and Barak when they were together with no husband in sight? These were the aspects of Deborah's personal story that I found most compelling, and they, too, prompted me to write the novel, in which I used my imagination to answer these questions.
4. Do you think that contemporary women can find inspiration in biblical women and particularly in Deborah?
I certainly find women of the Bible, and especially Deborah, inspiring for us today. The biblical women lived in a male-dominated society, in which they had few legal rights and their position in the family and society was far from equal to that of men.
Yet they were strong personalities, who did not just sit around and bemoan their fate. Instead, they took destiny into their own hands and shaped it to do their bidding.
Deborah is a prime example. Despite the difficult conditions for women prevailing at the time, she "cracked the glass ceiling" over three thousand years ago, and did so without losing her femininity: she refers to herself not as a leader, nor as a prophetess or a judge, but as "a mother in Israel."
Women today do not necessarily want to become national leaders. But what contemporary women can learn from Deborah—as portrayed in the Bible and amplified in my novel—is that no matter what the field in which they choose to realize their potential, no matter what is right for them, they can draw on their inner feminine strength to achieve their goals.
The lesson that women today can derive from Deborah is: "I can do it. No matter how difficult the circumstances, I can overcome them."
5. is there any other topical message that emerges from the novel?
Based on the Bible, THE TRIUMPH OF DEBORAH describes a prominent woman leader who led her people to war but also to peace. Hence it should be of special relevance at a time in which women assume prominent positions both in the United States and Israel, a time in which the topic of female leadership in time of war and peace is on the agenda of both countries.
The message that emerges between the lines of the Bible and is expanded in my novel is that a woman is capable of leading her nation to war whenever necessary, and to peace whenever possible.
6. You’ve had to do a significant amount of research in the past to write about the ancient Israelites. Did this new book require new research?
I have in fact been doing extensive research that spanned over several years, and included:
- Scouring the Bible itself for all hints it yields about social structure, family structure, the position of women, adultery, foods, cosmetics, diseases, medicinal herbs, and more.
- Visiting a variety of excavations, which showed the layout of houses and temples, cooking utensils and the like, in the period described.
- Visits to museums, which showed images of what people looked like, what they wore and what utensils they used, and a lot more.
- Traveling to the locations in which the plots of the novels took place.
- The additional research I did for THE TRIUMPH OF DEBORAH was to visit some locations in which the plot of this book took place twice. It was awesome to see the castle in Hazor, in which part of the story takes place, still in existence, though in ruins
7. What made you decide to write novels about biblical heroines? Do you see yourself continuing to explore your roots through these stories?
It so happened that rather late in life, as part of searching for my Jewish roots, I began reading the Bible on my own, and I was fascinated by it.
What enthralled me was that the people described in it, although they lived thousands of years ago, were so strikingly similar to us in their hopes and fears and anxieties. That so much has changed, yet human nature has not. I took an amazing journey thousands of years back in time, yet when I arrived, I felt myself back at home.
I was also enchanted by the fact, that the people in the Bible, even the most exalted heroes and heroines, are described not as angels, but as true human beings, with strengths but also with weaknesses, many of which stemmed from their sexuality. I found it especially noteworthy that the women are presented as intensely sexual persons, who at times initiated sexual encounters.
I began to identify in particular with the women, whose feelings I could visualize as if they were my own. So I began to write about them, stories of love and betrayal and redemption through more love and friendship, written for reading pleasure, yet meticulously faithful to the Bible—a divine, but also a very human collection of books.
I was attracted to those heroines as part of searching for my roots in my faith, and the more I wrote, the more my faith was strengthened. Certainly I hope to continue in this vein.
8. Are you writing anything new right now? What can we expect to see from you next?
I am now working on my fourth novel about women in the Bible, temporarily named THE RUSE OF TAMAR. It concerns the second Tamar in the Bible, the daughter of King David, she who was the victim of incestuous rape by her brother Amnon. Based on the biblical text, the novel depicts the trauma that the abuse caused the young girl to suffer, and then goes on to show how in time she succeeds in rebuilding her life through her feminine strength and her love for a mysterious young man, whose true identity is revealed only toward the end of the novel. All this takes place against the backdrop of various intrigues in King David's court, which are described in the Bible, and elaborated in the novel.
However, the novel is still at a rudimentary state, and I can only hope that my readers will bear with me for a while, until I bring it to its conclusion.