Murder Over The Border by Richard Steinitz

Richard Steinitz
Richard Steinitz

Yossi is an unusual and likeable personality, smart, somewhat handicapped, and with a cultured attitude, (his passion is nature photography). He takes us on the serpentine walk through the tricky negotiations involving the Israeli government and the PLO, each hoping to reach a peace settlement.

There is no straight split between the good guys and the bad guys, and you sense the writer’s urge to show Israel in a positive light.  Steinitz is at pains to show the decency of the Israeli cop. He succeeds by having Yossi in a work setting that includes dedicated men and women in law enforcement and in government.

Yossi’s life changes dramatically when he tumbles down a steep precipice after seeing a murder over the border (of the title) and he is permanently hurt.  This brings him to a dull desk job which produces another dramatic occasion. When Yossi puts himself in the line of fire protecting a new Jordanian acquaintance, he is badly injured, and thus is forced to retire.  This leads him to a more fascinating role as assistant to the Prime Minister’s aide, getting involved in high level, secret talks with the PLO. Meanwhile he continues to conduct his own inquiry into the murder of a man he accidentally witnessed being killed over the Jordan Israeli border.

The activity is set primarily in Jerusalem, and there much pleasure in reading about the ancient biblical environment and the routines going along inside the walled city.

The writer peppers important details throughout the narrative. For instance, Yossi’s friend and collaborator Arieh, who works for the Israeli secret service worries about his personal security when he decides to quit the MOSSAD, a telling detail.

Then you’ll find amusing touches, such as the delightful contradiction when Yossi and Arieh happen upon the long-dead corpse of an Arab soldier. Being good and decent fellows they take pains to bury the body with dignity, even whilst plotting to abduct (and ‘gently’ torture) another Arab suspect for questioning.

The writer shows life going on in Israel, and the encompassing territories, supplying intimate facts about a rich and varied landscape, from the old alleyways and streets of Jerusalem to the dry desert.

I specially loved Stenitz’s descriptions of the Israeli diet, including the small detail that Yossi enjoys his falafel produced from Egyptian ful beans in the place of chick peas. Or that chicken is readily available while lamb or mutton is longer used for the famous shwarma.

Overall, the book is well-written, though occasionally it reads like a primer for understanding Arab-Israeli relationships.  Predictably, (the writer being Israeli) the book is biased towards Israel; the Palestinians are viewed as a threat. While the situation between the occupiers and the occupied of Israel is more nuanced than the press and TV presents, I would have preferred a deeper integration of the viewpoint of the Palestinians within the narrative structure.

Nevertheless, the writer succeeds in showing us a fuller picture of Israel than we see in the Western media.  Overall, this is a worthwhile book giving valuable insight into the nuances of the Israeli character.  The book should appeal to both sexes.  Find it on Amazon.

 

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