Earlier this week, David G. Daniel shared how an encounter with a moose, her calf, and a bear reminded him of the difficult questions following a tragic loss. He is guest blogging for Jewish Book Council all week as part of the Visiting Scribe series here on The ProsenPeople.
This year, Tisha B’Av arrives in mid-August. Tisha B’Av commemorates a number of tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people on this date, including the destruction of the First Temple in 423 BCE, the Second Temple in 69 CE, the crushing of the bar Kochba Rebellion at the final battle of Betar, and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. Tisha B’ Av is sometimes used to commemorate the six million Jews lost in the Holocaust as well.
In my family, Tisha B’Av has a very personal meaning, beyond the broader mourning for disasters that have befallen the Jewish people. My son, David, who plays a major role in the novel, was killed in a freak accident very close to that time.
But when I taught my children the meaning of Tisha B’Av, I was caught off guard when they asked me what disasters our people should bring to mind from their own experiences.
I recalled that during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, my parents had made plans to escape any attack on our home town of Jackson, Mississippi by sailing down the Pearl River in a houseboat. They stocked the craft with food, medical supplies and extra gasoline. Even to me, a five-year-old child at the time, this seemed like excessive concern from my ordinarily very level-headed parents.
Fifty years later, I walked my own children through a new National Archives exhibit in Washington, DC. It displayed secretly recorded White House discussions warning that tens of millions of American citizens in large- to medium-sized cities in the southeast United States might be killed by the medium-range Soviet nuclear missiles installed in Cuba.
In my own children’s lifetime, they had heard on the evening news of Al Quaeda attempts to obtain nuclear and biological weapons, and advisories to Washingtonians recommending that they create emergency kits including duct tape to seal windows against pathogens and toxins.
I advise my children that there is very little danger of weapons of mass destruction being deployed, but they continue to express concern for their aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends in Israel. They are quite avid readers of the news. Recently The Jerusalem Post reported that among the shouts of “Death to Israel” and “Death to America,” Hussein Salami, Deputy Commander of the Iranian IRGC, boasted that their “ability to destroy Israel is now better than ever,” citing 100,000 missiles in Lebanon at the ready to hit Israel.
This is the real-life background for the drama that unfolds in the latter section of my speculative fiction novel A Life Twice Given, as the Ninth of Av approaches in the year 2032. Nuclear weapons, nobody is sure how powerful, have been smuggled into DC and Tel Aviv. They will be detonated on Tisha B’Av unless Israel withdraws from Jerusalem and all occupied territories and the United States removes all troops from the Middle East and South Asia.
David G. Daniel is a psychiatrist and the author of numerous scientific papers, book chapters, and abstracts in psychiatry. He is currently touring through the JBC Network for the 2016 – 2017 season on his recent novel A Life Twice Given.