A Death in Jerusalem

By – August 14, 2022

Adam Lapid is a Holo­caust sur­vivor who lost his fam­i­ly in Auschwitz. He has police train­ing, but now, in the young state of Israel, he is work­ing as a pri­vate detec­tive. In 1952, Adam gets him­self in trou­ble with the law when he joins pro­test­ers in Jerusalem march­ing to the Knes­set to speak out against Israel’s accep­tance of Ger­man repa­ra­tions. His char­ac­ter stands in for the sur­vivors who were not ready to for­give Ger­many their crimes, much less accept their mon­ey and goods.

The his­to­ry of Jerusalem as a divid­ed city and the efforts of David Ben-Guri­on and Men­achem Begin dur­ing this time in Israel’s his­to­ry are all entwined with the mys­tery plot of a young girl, Moria Gafni, who has died by sui­cide. Her father, a wealthy busi­ness­man with con­nec­tions in high places, is able to res­cue Adam when the police inter­vene. In exchange, Adam has agreed to find out why Moria took her own life.

There are many twists that lead Adam into dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions and a few dis­trac­tions that keep the read­er from guess­ing what hap­pened to Moria. The sto­ry­line is unusu­al and inter­est­ing. The thor­ough­ly researched Israeli his­to­ry is an added bonus, illus­trat­ing the ear­ly days of the state’s first lead­ers and how they were able to improve Israel’s econ­o­my and avert finan­cial catastrophe.

In each chap­ter, we learn more about Adam’s past and his strong moral code as an empath­ic char­ac­ter. Fol­low­ing him through the live­ly streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the read­er feels like she is walk­ing at his side.

Mer­le Eis­man Car­rus resides in New Hamp­shire and writes book reviews for the NH Jew­ish Reporter news­pa­per. She is a grad­u­ate of Emer­son Col­lege and received her Mas­ters of Jew­ish Stud­ies from Hebrew Col­lege. She blogs her book reviews at biteofthebookworm@​blogspot.​com

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Jonathan Dunsky

  1. Do you think Israel made the right deci­sion to nego­ti­ate with Ger­many for repa­ra­tions for the Holo­caust? Dis­cuss the moral, finan­cial, and his­tor­i­cal argu­ments and implications.

  2. Dis­cuss David Ben-Gurion’s deci­sion to not pros­e­cute the demon­stra­tors? Did he make the right call?

  3. Shmuel Birn­baum tells Adam Lapid that lov­ing your coun­try even when it does things you detest is as good a def­i­n­i­tion of a patri­ot as he has ever heard. Do you agree with this state­ment? If not, sug­gest another.

  4. Ben-Guri­on pushed for nego­ti­a­tions with Ger­many despite fer­vent pub­lic oppo­si­tion. When should a leader do not what the peo­ple want but what he thinks they need? Can you give oth­er exam­ples of such decisions?

  5. Dis­cuss the char­ac­ter of Men­achem Begin. On the one hand, the leader of the Irgun and the cat­a­lyst of the storm­ing of the Knes­set; on the oth­er, a man of peace who signed Israel’s peace agree­ment with Egypt. How did A Death in Jerusalem change your view of Begin, if at all?

  6. Between 1949 – 1967, Jerusalem was a divid­ed city, with access to Judaism’s holi­est sites blocked to Israeli Jews. How did the descrip­tions of a divid­ed Jerusalem make you feel? Have they influ­enced your opin­ion of the cur­rent sta­tus of the city?

  7. Sev­er­al char­ac­ters in this nov­el resort to vig­i­lan­tism. When do you think vig­i­lan­tism is war­rant­ed and just? Where do you draw the line?

  8. Apart from Adam Lapid, who was your favorite char­ac­ter in A Death in Jerusalem, and why?

  9. Ben-Guri­on ordered the police defend­ing the Knes­set to refrain, at all costs, from using their firearms. Dis­cuss this order by Ben-Guri­on. How might his­to­ry have changed if not for this order?

  10. Dis­cuss the top­ic of repa­ra­tions. Can they ever resolve a his­toric wrong? Can they be a means for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and greater under­stand­ing between for­mer per­se­cu­tors and victims?

  11. Today, Israel and Ger­many enjoy close rela­tions. How do you feel about this? What lessons can be applied from this his­tor­i­cal devel­op­ment to oth­er conflicts?

  12. Dis­cuss the char­ac­ter of David Ben-Guri­on. Has read­ing A Death in Jerusalem changed your views of Israel’s first prime min­is­ter? If so, in what way?

  13. Putting your­self in Adam Lapid’s shoes, can you see your­self tak­ing part in the assault on the Knes­set? What does it say about Adam’s char­ac­ter that he par­tic­i­pat­ed in it?

  14. What do you think about Nao­mi Hecht? Dis­cuss her character.

  15. What themes did you iden­ti­fy in A Death in Jerusalem?

  16. If you wished to rec­om­mend this book to a friend or fam­i­ly mem­ber, how would you describe it?