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 20162017 sea­son on his recent nov­el A Life Twice Giv­en.

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