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Authors: Alan Gold

Stateless

BOOK: Stateless
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THE STORY SO FAR . . .

In
Bloodline
, the first novel in the Heritage series, we meet Bilal HaMizri, a radicalised Palestinian youth, who is shot during a botched terrorist attack. His life is saved by a young Jewish surgeon, Yael Cohen, who makes the startling discovery that her DNA is identical with Bilal's. Almost immediately, they become caught up in a high-stakes conspiracy – a disturbing plot that will blow the region to pieces and stun the world with its audacity.

Unknown to Bilal and Yael, theirs is the last and bloody chapter in a story that crosses millennia. Century after century, two ancient families – bloodline ancestors of Yael and Bilal – defied the corrupt power of kings and conquerors, and their struggles forged a fiercely proud people and an enduring hope for peace. But through war and atrocity, kinships were shattered, forcing dynasties apart and allowing evil to gain a foothold.

And in modern Israel, confronted with exposure, those sinister forces will do anything to take control of the Holy Land and silence Yael and Bilal, who must run for their lives. Through imprisonment, assassination attempts and political machinations, they must ultimately confront the truth of who they are.

Read on for the next thrilling story in this epic series of power, corruption and family.

The Middle East Crisis Areas, 1933–1948

PART ONE

Kibbutz Beit Yitzhak, Northern Palestine

1931

F
our-year-old Shalman Etzion ran as fast as his little legs could carry him and hurled himself into the void as the ground disappeared beneath him. He plummeted like a diving bird, arms and legs akimbo, screaming as he flew through the air. He felt the air hurtling past as he plunged over the edge of the sand dune, exhilarating in the heat of the sun and the acrid perfume of salt and sea-spray. Neither his mother nor his father, seated nearby, turned as Shalman shrieked into the wind.

His body landed with a thud, and nearly disappeared into the soft white powder as he slid with the sand, gliding down to the bottom where his parents, dressed only in their swim suits, were sitting on a rug eating hummus, t'china and pita bread.

‘Shalman,' said his mother, Devorah, turning when she heard him stand up and laugh, ‘come eat. You'll hurt yourself one day. Come, bubbeleh. Have some food.'

The boy brushed the sand off his body. Ari, his father, continued to read his copy of the
Palestine News
, but said softly to his wife, ‘Devorah, leave the kid alone. He's having a good time. He'll eat when he's ready.'

But Shalman was ready. Spending all of Saturday at the beach was the greatest fun in the entire world, and even though his week was filled with learning to read and write and singing songs and playing with his brothers and sisters on the kibbutz, there was nothing he loved more than when he had his abba and imma to himself. Sometimes the family came to the beach for a picnic with other families from the kibbutz and then the fun would be multiplied as all the kids ran wild across the sand. But there was something special on a Shabbat morning when his abba was given permission by the kibbutz director to borrow the organisation's truck and drive his family to a beach.

And this beach, some thirty miles south of Haifa, was the one he enjoyed the most. There were beaches on to which his kibbutz faced, beaches where the cultivated land and the orange and grapefruit groves gave way to the sand and then to the sea. But this beach, a half-hour drive away from his kibbutz, had towering dunes that curved so that when large waves thundered down onto the sand, they sent up white clouds of spray and salt. It was incredibly exciting.

Shalman, hair tousled and full of sand, walked to the rug and sat cross-legged as his mother put a plate of the pastes and bread in front of him. He turned up his nose, which his father noticed. He knew that there was chicken and coleslaw, and didn't want to waste his time eating this grown-up food.

‘Stop it, Shalman. Do you know how lucky you are to have good food? Little boys and girls in Europe are starving. You should eat everything and be grateful.'

‘Why can't they come here, Abba?'

‘Bubbeleh, it's easy for people like you and mummy and me to travel – we just get into the kibbutz's lorry and drive. But it's not so easy for others. The British have stopped many of our people from coming here, and many have died trying.'

Only a few years had passed since Jews in Palestine were
barred access to the temple in Jerusalem amid riots and violent bloodshed between them and their Arab neighbours. This had prompted the British, who administered the land of Palestine under the mandate, to crack down and restrict Jewish migration.

Devorah interrupted. ‘For God's sake, Ari; he's a child. Don't tell him such things.'

‘No!' said Shalman. ‘Tell me now, Abba. Tell me. I hate the British. I want to kill the British. And the Arabs.'

Devorah was shocked. ‘Don't say such horrible things! You mustn't talk about killing and murder.' She looked at her husband. ‘Where does he learn these things?'

Ari shrugged. ‘It's a kibbutz. Kids talk. They repeat what they've heard their parents talk about. But what am I supposed to tell him? The British and the Arabs are our best friends?'

‘He doesn't have to learn hatred while he's a child. He can be different to us,' Devorah replied.

‘It's important he knows his birthright!'

‘He'll learn soon enough. When this is our country, then . . .' A sudden gust of wind carried her words away.

But Ari's attention was suddenly drawn away to something in the distance. His expression hardened and his mood suddenly changed, which little Shalman noticed.

Ari had heard the noise of a vehicle. ‘Quiet!' he ordered. Devorah and Shalman looked at him in concern as he stood and scrambled up the dune. The road from Haifa to Tel Aviv was fairly busy, but there were very few cars or vehicles that turned off on to the long side road that led to the beaches. And these beaches were too far from villages or other centres of population to be visited by many people.

Ari popped his head up just above the line of the dune so that he could see the kibbutz truck he'd borrowed. But it no longer stood alone; parked beside it was a military vehicle carrying four British soldiers.

With a sinking heart, Ari watched them walk towards the beach, two carrying their .303s and one carrying one of the new Bren guns. The fourth soldier, a sergeant, carried a side revolver.

Ari didn't know what to do. He could climb up over the dune and greet them, and dressed in a swim suit he would appear patently unarmed. But, to better protect his family, he crawled back down to where Shalman and Devorah waited. ‘The British. A four-man patrol. Armed. Just sit and eat like everything is normal.'

‘Everything
is
normal, Ari. We're just having a picnic.' But her words were more for Shalman than her husband.

Shalman turned towards the dune, but Devorah said urgently, ‘Bubbeleh, just look this way, towards the sea. Keep your eyes on Abba and Imma.'

Ari said loudly in English, and somewhat too theatrically, ‘Well, I see that you're both eating the kibbutz food. It's really good, isn't it?'

Devorah glared at him. ‘Stop pretending, idiot. You're no actor. You sound like a
meshuggeneh
.'

Suddenly, the four soldiers, weapons ready, appeared at the top of the dune. Ari glanced up, and smiled and nodded. ‘Good morning, gentlemen.'

The soldiers didn't return the greeting. Instead, the sergeant pointed to the basket and said loudly, ‘You. Missus. Open the basket very slowly, and show us what's inside. Very bloody slowly.' As she moved to follow his order, one solider levelled his .303 from the hip, pointing it directly at Devorah, fearful she might draw a weapon. In Palestine anything was possible.

Devorah moved to open the basket, lifted it and showed it to the soldiers. Then she put it back onto the rug, and slowly took everything out; first the chicken, then some salad, then two bottles of water. When she'd done so, she turned it upside down to prove that there was nothing else inside.

The sergeant nodded. ‘What are you doing here? Why so far from town? Where are you from?'

‘We're from Kibbutz Beit Yitzhak, about ten miles south. It's our day of rest, and so I'm here with my wife and son having a picnic.'

One of the other soldiers, standing next to the sergeant, whispered into his ear. The sergeant nodded. ‘My corporal's going to come down and make sure you're not hiding weapons under your rug. Don't make any moves. Understand?'

The younger man descended the dune, slipping on the sandy surface, and walked over to the family. He pointed his .303 at them. ‘Move off the rug. Now!'

Shalman involuntarily let out a whimper, the sudden quiet of the beach seizing him with uncertain fear. But the Tommy was unmoved and continued to point his rifle at them. Ari picked up Shalman and they moved on to the sand. The corporal poked the rug with the barrel of his gun, but it was obvious that nothing was hidden beneath. He looked up and nodded to his sergeant. The other three men descended the dune, and the sergeant smiled at Ari and his wife.

‘Sorry, mate, but you Jews are causing us no bleedin' end of problems these days. You never bloody know who's going to stab you in the back at the moment.'

Silently, under her breath, her face turned away from them towards the sea, Devorah whispered to herself, ‘Nobody trusts anyone anymore . . .'

Moscow, USSR

1931

L
ittle Judita Ludmilla hid beneath the table but, try as she might, she couldn't stop herself from crying. While her older brother and sister were hiding under the sheets of the single bed the children all shared, the two-year-old tried to block out her father's stentorian voice rebounding off the walls of their tiny apartment. It was the third time this week, and once again Abel Abramovich was shouting at his wife and three children. His thundering voice was punctuated by the sounds of his fist pounding on the table and furniture being kicked over as he stumbled drunkenly across the room.

The little girl, perpetually hungry, limp, ragged and exhausted, squeezed her eyes shut to block out the sight of her father's teetering body. She was frightened that her father would do to her what he did to her mother. Sometimes the marks on her mother's face and shoulders didn't disappear for a week. Her mother would make excuses to stay in the house then, but later, when she was older, Judita would understand that her mother was ashamed.

Abel Abramovich reeked of vodka, there were borscht stains
on his work clothes and he was covered in concrete dust from his construction site. From under the table Judita could hear her mother, Ekaterina, trying to calm her husband down. But her mother's shallow voice was no match for her husband's bombast and her attempts just made him more furious with the world.

BOOK: Stateless
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