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July 18, 2012

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Hudson Mohawk Press

Peace in the Middle East remains as elusive as ever as Jews and Palestinians continue a century-old fight over the same land. This struggle for the Holy Land provides the backdrop for Bernard Amador's novel, The Hei, which takes us from New York City to Jerusalem and back. Each chapter leaves us wondering what's going to happen next, drawing in the reader as the suspense builds.

Ethan is a religion professor at Columbia University addicted to the altered state of consciousness he experiences when praying. Every week he goes to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and enters a trance state as he meditates on Marc Chagall's painting The Fallen Angel. He is trying to enter the Kabbalah's 32 Gates of Wisdom, convinced that he must open all 32 gates so that he and his Muslim partner, Yaqub, who is not particularly religious, can be together in the afterlife. Yaqub is jealous of Ethan's student, Naomi, who has a crush on Ethan. Yaqub starts to explore his own spirituality by experimenting with Ethan's Jewish prayer rituals and also praying at a nearby mosque. Tension builds when a Zionist terrorist group bombs the Israeli Consulate in New York and tries to blame it on radical Islamists. Yaqub is accused of the bombing because of his visits to the mosque. Ethan travels to the Parliament of the World Religions in Jerusalem to give a talk on the "end times" and while in Jerusalem Ethan tries to clear Yaqub's name. At the same time Ethan tries to stop the Zionist terrorists who want to blow up the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim holy site, so that they can build the third Jewish temple on the Temple Mount.

Hei is the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Its original meaning is shrouded in mystery, but great power is associated with it in the spiritual realm. It has a numerical value of five and thus represents the five fingers, the five senses and the five dimensions, in addition to the five levels of the soul which are detailed in Kabbalistic teachings. The letter Hei is also often used instead of writing out one of the most common names used for G-d (HaShem). It serves as a fitting metaphor for this novel in which Ethan tries to reach the place where "thought and breath join, and time and space begin to form".

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