Friday, February 1, 2002

Promise Breaker: A Young Teen Look at Israel in 1947

Robert Elmer’s “Promise of Zion” series for pre-teens and young teenagers tells the story of Israel becoming a nation shortly after World War II. It is Europe and Palestine, 1947, and many Jews that survived the holocaust find themselves unwelcome in many European countries. Many end up in displaced persons camps, and Palestine’s allure is strong. The British rule the place of so much controversy, and use their military might to keep illegal immigrants out. But a few still manage to sneak into the country.

Promise Breaker, the first book in the series, introduces 13-year-old Dov Zalinski, a Polish Jew abandoned by his parents at the outbreak of World War II, when he was only 5. Years of life in an orphanage, followed by Nazi work camps, have hardened the boy, who trusts no one and insists he can get by on his own. His parents long ago promised that the family would move to Jerusalem. Now, stuck in a camp for displaced orphans, Dov decides to run away and find his family, whether they be in Warsaw or Jerusalem.

Emily Parkinson, also age 13, has lived in Jerusalem with her family since age 5. The only child of British Major Parkinson, Emily is spoiled and demanding. She always knows how to get what she wants from her father, but this year her actions will get her into more problems than her father can rescue her from.

The action-adventure story alternately follows the lives of Dov and Emily, showing both sides of the difficult situation. Through Dov, we encounter the Mossad, a Jewish group which sent its agents throughout Europe, helping Jews travel to “Eretz Israel,” and the difficulties that Jewish traveling groups faced. Emily’s father portrays the hard-line British military stance, determined to stop the immigrant ships. Fiery-tempered and lacking compassion, he assumes that all the incoming Jews are violent and connected with recent terrorism, such as hotel bombings. To make for interesting family relationships, the Major’s brother, Anthony, is married to a Jewish Christian woman. Emily unquestioningly trusts her father, yet wonders at things she sees at Uncle Anthony’s home.

The action-packed story never lets up, with an entertaining story suitable for pre-teens and young teens, showing life for holocaust survivors --without the many horrifying events of the death camps. Dov clearly suffers, trying hard not to remember the past. The author adds interesting background notes at the end, telling which parts of the story are true, and sources for further information. The character of Dov Zalinski was based on many events that happened to an actual Jewish Holocaust survivor, and the author interviewed him in preparation for the “Promise of Zion” series.

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