Q&A WITH LEO M ROZMARYN, M.D.
AUTHOR OF Lone Soldier
Question: What exactly is Lone Soldier all about?
Leo M Rozmaryn: Lone Soldier brings alive the shifting motivations and allegiances of larger- than-life characters during the early 1970s, some of the most significant years in the history of Israel and the United States. In the spirit of Herman Wouk’s novel, The Winds of War, Lone Soldier is part military thriller, mistaken identity and complicated star-crossed love story. Fast-paced action is paired with meticulously researched historical events. Lone Soldier features a mixture of real and fictional characters to create a sprawling epic of the tensions between Israel and the U.S. and between a range of social issues in a time of love and war. What emerges is the portrait of one man, Arik Meir, a hero for his time – and for all time.
Question: What are the real-life historical aspects of Lone Soldier?
Rozmaryn: The Six Day War in 1967 marked the beginning of what is considered today to be modern Israel. For the first time in nineteen centuries the old city of Jerusalem and all of biblical Israel was in Jewish hands. The stunning success of that conflict and the fact that for the first time Israel’s borders were relatively far away from its main population centers gave Israelis a deep sense of security and for many, invincibility. Although faced with the new threat of Palestinian international terrorism, unrest in the main centers of Palestinian population and a continuous war of attrition across the Suez Canal, and the Egyptian border, Israelis experienced a cultural revolution where the classic Zionist “kibbutz” lore was exchanged for European and American culture, fashion and rock and roll. This was also the beginning of real “class consciousness” and a struggle between the various Jewish ethnic groups which arose in part from the civil rights struggle that was taking place simultaneously in the US.
There was also a genuine sense at the time that Israel would never again have to fight an existential war for existence. In the Israeli army that translated into a sense that the Arabs would be too afraid or inept to start another war. This illusion was shattered in October 1973 when on Yom Kippur Israel experienced a sudden invasion from two fronts that nearly ended the Zionist enterprise. This era saw the real beginning of the modern American Israeli alliance, whose effects are still felt today.
Question: What makes this book different from other Jewish historical fiction works?
Rozmaryn: Very few books focus on the inner life of modern orthodox Jews or religious Zionist Jews and even fewer focus on the period of time from 1969-1974 as it relates to U.S and Israel. Lone Soldier covers both of those aspects, which though under-represented in Jewish fiction literature are still very fascinating. I’d been told that “you can’t write a book about modern orthodox Jews. We’re simply too boring.” I beg to differ. While it’s true that most Jewish genre fiction relates to the holocaust, the life in ancient and modern Israel, Hasidic tales both old and modern and the travails of assimilation into Western culture, virtually nothing has been written about this narrow strip in the spectrum of Jewish cultural life. It is generally assumed that Modern Orthodox Judaism is synonymous with Religious Zionism. While there is some cross over, they are quite distinct and become much more apparent after the Six Day War in 1967. Most books that focus on the years between 1967-1973 are non-fiction. This period and it’s people are brought to light in many different ways in Lone Soldier.
Question: Why did you choose the years 1969 – 1974 to set Lone Soldier in?
Rozmaryn: Those were my “coming of age” years which I spent partly in the U.S. and partly in Israel. This period had a profound influence on the type of person I became and the kind of life I’ve lived since. As one moves through adolescence into adulthood there are many issues and experiences that remain unresolved for most people. Many choose “the couch” to resolve them. Although this book is truly fiction, the process of writing it helped me move back through those years in a meaningful and constructive manner.
Question: Can you discuss how your fictional characters interact with genuine historical figures?
Rozmaryn: Historical fiction set in a relatively modern era is replete with real-life characters that are well known and accessible both in terms of their biographies and character traits. In many cases there are people living today who knew the people who took part in the story and the real-life events that surrounded them. In such cases the author must be exceedingly careful to portray the “real people” in a sensitive and true to life fashion. This requires an enormous amount of research into non-fiction books of this period and also detailed interviews with people who knew the real people. The interaction between my fictional characters and the real-life ones must be seamless and “feel real”. While an educated reader will forgive the author for “inaccuracies” in the narrative of historical events constructed to advance the fictional plot, that reader will not forgive the author for gross misrepresentation of real-life people, especially those who lived heroic lives and are universally admired.
While I certainly beat up on my fictional characters, I generally leave the real ones to the judgement of history.
Question: What role does prejudice play in Lone Soldier?
Rozmaryn: Much ink has been spilled over the years on the terrible cancer that is prejudice which we all experience to a greater or lesser extent. Mostly we read about the victims of prejudice and rightfully so, but not enough is said or written about the corrosive effect that being prejudice to others has on its perpetrators. Lone Soldier explores the myriad forms of bigotry and the terrible cost that is paid by all involved. Most of us when asked what prejudice is, say racial prejudice. While that is the most pervasive form of prejudice especially in the US, in Lone Soldier prejudice is about making judgements about any person without the benefit of sufficient factual support. Reading the book with “an ear” towards prejudice will open the plot and make the reading of the book a much richer experience. Studying the effects of prejudice is becoming increasing important in our day with an upsurge in its ugly face all around the world.
Question: What about the Israeli Palestinian conflict do you want people to take away from Lone Soldier?
Rozmaryn: War and conflict is a messy business that rarely corresponds to the tidy accounts taught in schools. That can certainly be said about Israel’s struggle. Intellectual honesty demands a hard look at all aspects of the turmoil and its effects on both Israelis and Palestinians. This book explores the travails of one man caught up in the maelstrom of that story and the price he pays for his idealism.
TheArab Israeli conflict is exceedingly complex. In my view, the Israeli Palestineconflict will never be resolved at its root cause until each side reaches a profound conclusion that the other has a valid narrative that binds them to that land. Only then can the process of true mutual respect begin, coupled with the understanding that in no way shape or form can one side hope to exert total control over all the land. Once that is understood both sides are left with three options: unending conflict, division of the land where each side must compromise deep seated religious beliefs, or all living as equal citizens in one multiethnic society. Teaching students only one side of the story, something that is becoming increasingly prevalent in American universities today, is not only intellectually dishonest but will ultimately perpetuate the conflict indefinitely.
Leo M Rozmaryn, M.D., is a reconstructive hand and microvascular surgeon by trade. A native of New York City, Dr. Rozmaryn graduated from Queens College in 1977, and later received an MD from Columbia University. Dr. Rozmaryn has a busy private practice in the Washington DC area, and has been selected by Washingtonian Magazine as one of its “Top Doctors” for the past twelve years, and has been cited by the Washington Post and the U.S. News and World Report for professional excellence.
Dr. Rozmaryn grew up in the religious Zionist/Modern Orthodox Jewish community. Besides his medical career, Dr. Rozmaryn has a keen interest in history, especially Middle East history. An avid reader of Jewish and Israeli history and a frequent visitor to Israel after completing high school there, he brings to bear a lifetime of experience and scholarship into the writing of his debut novel.
Dr. Rozmaryn lives with his family in Silver Spring, Maryland. For more information visit www. lonesoldierbook.com.
Lone Soldier is available on Amazon.