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Don’t Plant Seeds of Despair

I write mainly for adults, but of my four novels for young people two depict traumatic situations. Storm Among the Palms (1975), for example, describes how during the Second World War, while for a short period in Iraq there was a pro-Nazi government, there was a frightening pogrom against the ancient Jewish community of Baghdad. In the book, Nuri, a brave and appealing Jewish youth in a middle- class family, loses his girlfriend who is killed in the violence. I believe the book became a bestseller and a classic of Hebrew literature for young people, because it portrayed courageous and optimistic characters. It had love and humor. Also, the other side is not portrayed as a monstrosity. There were Muslims who identified with Nuri’s pain, there were those who rescued his aunt and her baby from murderers. A young hungry Muslim boy was also a victim of the pogrom. Seeing the other side as uniformly cruel enemies might plant the seeds of despair that don’t suit a novel for young readers.

It’s possible that some of those who suffered from the trauma of September 2001 will find comfort in the message that just as the impure hands of the villains reach the entire world, so too courageous and good people can be found in every corner of the world. I don’t believe that WC are returning to the dark past that destroys both the cradle and the baby lying it. Maybe the cradle will be damaged here and there, but humanity from its dawning days has always occupied itself with saving its baby.

Sami Michael was born in Iraq and lives in Israel. He is author of A Trumpet in the Wadi which will be published in English by Simon Schuster, and was made into a feature film that opened the New York Israel film festival this past June.