US title: The Collaborator of Bethlehem
This novel is Matt Rees´ debut. The writer lives in Israel, and as the title indicates, the story takes place in a town that many of us associate with birth, not death. But this is Bethlehem in the twenty first century:
“George Saba´s family huddled against the thick, stone wall of his bedroom. It was the side of the house farthest from the guns. George came through the front door. The shooting was louder inside and he realized the bullets were punching through the windows into his apartment. He ducked into an alcove in the corridor and crouched against the wall.”
The protagonist, Omar Yussef, is an Arab history teacher. One of his old students, the Christian antique dealer George Saba, is arrested, suspected of having killed a member of the Palestinian resistance movement. Yussef cannot believe Saba would collaborate with the Israeli, he suspects his former student must be set up, possibly because he is a Christian.
Omar Yussef is a wise and likeable, very human character, who has had problems with alcohol, and who does his best to make his pupils think for themselves, not just accept the ´truths´ they hear or read. As Yussef makes it clear at some point, it is difficult to decide who are the terrorists and who are the terrorized, but though he fears for his own and his family´s safety, he fights for George Saba´s life, and for everything he believes in.
This crime story, which is built on real events, is a story that should be told! Like many other stories about real crime, the plot is not the strongest point, however. So this is a novel you should read for the very vivid sense of place and the credible characters, which makes it a good choice for the Global Reading Challenge.
I bought this book myself.