“Good Heart” by Alan Newman is a novel that weaves together the story of a Jewish family and a Christian family, who unite over their support for Israel. It is strikingly detailed and well-researched, and the characters are relatable and easy to connect with. I had the opportunity to talk with Newman about his novel a few weeks ago.
“At the heart of why I wrote the book, knowing about Israel [and] its storyline is so important,” Newman said. “I consider Israel to be the central dramatic story for Jews in the last 120 or 130 years.” Newman told me that he has been to Israel nearly 20 times and that traveling to the country has been paramount in his research for the book. He continued, “After the temple fell in 78 A.D., for almost 2,000 years, the Jews simply were in exile. And if I asked you what happened to the Jews in the last 500 or 1,000 or 1,500 years, the most you could tell me is what countries they were kicked out of. There’s really no history in the last 2,000 years of Jews in America or anywhere else.”
I am the ideal audience of the book, as I’ve never been to Israel, I am not Israeli and I am generally unfamiliar with the country. I live in Austin, Texas, one of the biggest cities in the U.S., though its Jewish population is (generously) around 0.009 percent. Combined with an extremely liberal climate, favor for Israel is not high, so I have grown up in an environment where few support the Jewish homeland. I discussed this briefly with Newman and asked what he would say to a reader that was unsure of their stance on Israel.
“Without Israel, I’m not sure where Judaism would be in America,” Newman said. “And I guess the other thing is that I think that it’s such an exciting story. It’s such a miraculous story, [from] 1967 and then rescuing the Ethiopians in the 1980s and 1990s. Unfortunately, in the press and in the history, it does include the complexity of the Palestinian people. And I hope that someday there’ll be a solution so that both people feel that they’ve come away with some kind of sovereignty and I can understand that.”
In regard to the book itself, Newman added, “It’s just a remarkable story and I think that young Jews should feel excited by it. I wanted to try to write a book that would not a lecture. It would not be a sermon, but it would give a little bit of a hint as to why Jews should feel very excited about Israel, why they would want to go there, why they’d want to support Israel. There’s something like 33 countries that have a cross on their flag. And there’s about 20 countries that have either a Symitar or a Crescent moon in a Muslim country, but there’s only one country that has a Star of David.”
Whether you’re a Jew that goes to Israel every summer, one that has never been, a Christian wanting to know more about Israel’s history, or anyone in between, “Good Heart” is a quick and interesting read that will increase your knowledge about Israel in an engaging and insightful way.