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A Bell in Ch’ongiu

When well-known New York Times journalist Joseph Schneider boarded a plane at Athens airport, he did not imagine that a few days later he would find himself on a remote island off the South American coast in the company of seven other passengers, the captain, and a small band of fanatic terrorists. The year is 1969 when hijacking planes was one of the methods of negotiation favored by national liberation organizations that wanted public attention. Schneider quickly discovers that the hijackers belong to a Palestinian organization, and that what he and most of the other hostages have in common is that they are Jewish. Schneider, an American Jew, is indifferent to his religion and has nothing to do with Israel; in fact he supports the right of the Palestinians to self-determination, but this is of no interest to the hijackers. Nine middle-aged people are held hostage for more than a 100 fear-filled days, isolated from the world and forced to adapt to one another as they struggle to maintain their humanity.

Twenty-six years later, Schneider is finally able to start dealing with the traumatic episode in which some of his fellow hostages were killed, and he begins writing the story of the hijacking based on a journal he kept in prison. In the years between, he has met Al-Amari, the man who was in charge of the hostages and who has since become a high-ranking member of the Palestinian leadership. Already during his captivity, Schneider sensed that the educated Palestinian engaged in terror reluctantly, and something close to friendship has developed between the two. Shaham`s book is neither a political nor an action novel, although it contains elements of both. It is first and foremost a conceptual novel that examines ethical questions to which there are no simple answers. The hostages and Schneider himself need to do some serious soul-searching.

Title A Bell in Ch’ongiu
Writer's Last Name Shaham
Writer's First Name Nathan
Genre Fiction
Publisher (Hebrew) Yedioth Ahronoth
No. Pages 303pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Paʹamon Be-Tshongiu