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Temple Mount


Temple Mount

Keith Raffel cannot be topically pigeonholed. His latest novel, TEMPLE MOUNT, eschews the historical and technological topics of his previous works to grapple with geopolitical and religious issues with an ever-topical archaeological underpinning. The result is what is arguably his best book to date by far.

TEMPLE MOUNT is narrated by Alex Kalman, a star of sorts in the Silicon Valley firmament who has made a comfortable fortune doing what came naturally to him in a challenging high tech market. While successful professionally, however, Kalman’s marriage is stuck somewhere between “pale” and “adrift.” He spends a great deal of time working out, reading, and wondering what to do next as he contemplates five decades of life and how he is going to spend his sixth. His only true and enduring joy is his daughter, Katie, a student at Harvard, a continent and a world away from him.

Two things occur, almost simultaneously, that shake Kalman out of his doldrums. The first is that his wife announces without warning or fanfare that she is leaving him for someone else. The second is a telephone call informing him that his name is Aron, not Alex, and that the grandfather he never knew he had is dying in Brookline, Massachusetts and wants to see him.

"TEMPLE MOUNT contains some of Raffel’s best writing. Even if you had no idea what the Ark of the Covenant was before reading, you would find the information that he provides fascinating."

Kalman makes the trip across the country to discover that his grandfather is a highly revered and respected rabbi. Actually, he is more than that: he is a teacher and, indeed, a leader of his religious community. From what are literally his grandfather’s last words, Kalman finds out that, some 30 years previously, the rabbi and his associate discovered the location of the legendary Ark of the Covenant --- the storage vessel for the Ten Commandments given to Moses from God --- in a secret chamber located at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Aron is skeptical; he is a non-observant Jew, a non-believer in fact. The name “Ark of the Covenant” means little more to him than Indiana Jones and a seemingly endless government warehouse.

From his deathbed, Aron’s grandfather charges Aron with the task that he himself was unable to do: reveal the Ark to the world. In order to do this, Aron will have to travel halfway around the world to one of the most disputed pieces of real estate on earth, in a country where he knows nobody, and undertake what is basically an archaeological dig, something about which he knows nothing. Aron does have a friend in high places, consisting of a college roommate who is now in the State Department. Furthermore, his daughter Katie took a class on the ancient Near East from a Rivka Golan, a highly respected professor who is a naturalized Israeli and able to gain entry to some areas of the Temple Mount that are otherwise inaccessible to tourists.

Not everyone is enamored with Aron’s mission, though. The United States, Israel and the multiple factions of the Islamic world all seem united against him, for reasons both similar and disparate, and their resistance to the efforts of Aron and Professor Golan --- who is not making a secret of her attraction to her American colleague --- range from gentle but firm dissuasion to outright hostility. Then, of course, there are the ultimate questions: If they find the Ark of the Covenant, what will they do with it? And what effect will it have upon the world?

TEMPLE MOUNT contains some of Raffel’s best writing. Even if you had no idea what the Ark of the Covenant was before reading, you would find the information that he provides fascinating. He also presents a remarkably even-handed discussion concerning Mideast woes --- much more even-handed, I confess, than I would have --- and comes up with a plausible and hopeful conclusion to the proceedings. Oh, and if you have claustrophobia, read the book outside. I am afflicted and forgot to breathe during several, shall we say, “close” passages. Either Raffel doesn’t like close spaces, or he is able to do a very good impression of someone of the same orientation. You will want to read TEMPLE MOUNT for all of those reasons and more.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 7, 2014

Temple Mount
by Keith Raffel

  • Publication Date: October 20, 2014
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Keith Raffel
  • ISBN-10: 0988509881
  • ISBN-13: 9780988509887