historical fiction

All posts tagged historical fiction

26 July 2019

Published July 24, 2019 by rochellewisoff

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Genre: Historical Fiction circa 1890

Word Count: 100

EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

Eight-year-old Charity watched the strange countryside whiz by. In the glass she caught a glimpse of her reflection. She covered her ears with her hair and tried to block out the other kids’ cruel jeers. 

“Wings for ears. Beaver teeth. Too ugly for anyone to adopt you.” 

She stepped off the train, clutching her rag doll. Schubert, Missouri looked nothing like New York.

A man and woman with prominent ears approached her. The man knelt and grinned, revealing a pronounced overbite.  He caressed Charity’s cheek. “Mama, I believe this orphan train brought us the pretty little girl we prayed for.”

 

To learn more CLICK HERE

 

 

WITH THIS RING

Published June 11, 2019 by rochellewisoff

The following story is a change of pace from my usual flash fiction. I wrote it for the photo prompt below. It’s part of the Writers Unite! Monthly Write the Story. To find out how to participate CLICK HERE. 

Genre: Historical Fiction

WITH THIS RING

       Laura Gwynn cradled her month-old son in her arms. Lulled by the steady rhythm of the train taking her from familiar Pennsylvania to unknown Missouri, she shut her eyes. How had it come to this?

       She longed to confide in Mama or cry on Papa’s shoulder. This was never to be. Mama died of consumption and Papa couldn’t live with his broken heart. Laura had no siblings. Left alone at fifteen with nothing but a rundown farmhouse and a barren field, she sold the property and moved to the city. When she went to deposit the money from the sales at the bank the teller’s deep brown eyes and dazzling smile captivated her. It didn’t take long for her to fall in love with Thomas Gwynn.

      Not long afterward, she accepted his proposal making her a bride at sixteen.

      Thomas had a bright future with the bank.  He promised her jewels and servants. Instead, he managed to get himself arrested for cheating at cards. The night before his scheduled trial, the men he had cheated lynched him, leaving Laura a widow at seventeen.

      Filled with pity for her, Mr. Willoughby, the bank president, loaned her the money to cover Thomas’ gambling debts. He provided her with room and board and a position as a maid to pay off the loan.

      Afraid she would lose her job, she kept her condition a secret. However, her small build and short stature made it impossible to hide for very long.

      Mary and Charles Willoughby, who desperately wanted children, offered to adopt Laura’s baby.

      “He’ll be heir to the Willoughby fortune. Surely, you see the wisdom in this.” Charles, an imposing presence with bushy white eyebrows and balding pate handed her a contract. “If you sign this, the child will never have to work a day in his life.”

      Laura pressed her palms against her belly. The baby kicked against them. She remembered Thomas’ words when they wed. “You are now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”

      The child moved again. Laura refused to sign and uttered a feeble whisper. “I—I can’t.”

      “You can,” Charles thundered and waved the paper under her nose, “and you will!”

      “Oh my dear, consider your little one.” Mary grasped Laura’s hands, her faded eyes awash with longing. “Why you’re a wee child yourself.”

      So certain Laura would relent, Mary put a full layette together. She made sure Laura ate well and didn’t do any heavy lifting. While Laura didn’t mind being pampered she had no doubt as soon as Mary Willoughby had the baby in her clutches, she would cast Laura out on the street.

      During her seventh month Laura noticed an advertisement in the newspaper for mail order brides. Pictures of potential husbands accompanied mailing addresses. Laura scanned the blurry photographs.

      A young man with a pleasant face caught her attention. Alfred Cromwell. He listed himself as a truck farmer in Harrisonville, Missouri. She winced. More than she hated farm life, she hated being servant to a pair of vultures with designs on her child—bone of her bone, flesh of Thomas’ flesh.

      She had a photograph taken and enclosed it in a letter.

      A month later Mr. Cromwell replied in scrawling longhand.

                                                “5 May 1890

        “Dear Mrs. Gwynn,

       “I’d be right proud if you’d be my bride. I ain’t got much to offer but I got a sturdy cabin that could use a lady’s gentle touch. I promise to do my best to make you happy. If you  accept, I’ll be sending you a train ticket.”

             “Yours truly,

                  “Alfred C. Cromwell”

      How could she refuse? The baby would be here any day.

      The promised ticket arrived a week after Jason’s birth. One night, as soon as she felt strong enough, Laura packed her suitcase with her few belongings and Mary’s layette. She swaddled the baby, tucked him into a large wicker basket and laid a light blanket over it. Without so much as a note of explanation, Laura stepped out into the night and made her way to the depot.

      By now, the Willoughby’s had discovered her treachery. Did they send someone after her? The countryside zipped by. Jason opened his brown eyes and squinted at the early morning sunlight. Laura’s heart thudded against her ribs. She hadn’t told Alfred about the baby. What would he say—or do?

***

      Clutching a bouquet of roses, Alfred studied Laura’s photograph. “She claims she’s almost eighteen and widow woman, but she don’t look much older than fourteen, does she, Bert?”

      “That’s a fact, Alf.” His brother Bert let out a long slow whistle. “Didja happen to tell her you’re nigh onto thirty-seven? You was a might younger when that picture you put in the paper was took.”

      Alfred’s face warmed. “I mighta forgot to mention it.”

      Bert’s wife Ginny adjusted Alfred’s necktie. “Don’t you worry none. You’re still a fine specimen. Any gal would be proud to have you. As for her being a widow, it don’t matter how old a woman is. If her husband dies, she’s a widow. Plain and simple.”

      The train pulled up to the platform, its whistle heralding its arrival. Alfred tightened his grip on the flowers. He surveyed the passengers exiting the train. “She says she’s not very tall.”

      Ginny shielded her eyes with her hand and craned her neck. She pointed. “Wonder if she could be that little girl with the big basket slung over her arm.”

      Alfred inched closer for a better look. The girl in question was clad in black from her bonnet to her shoes. She stood on tiptoe as if she were searching for someone.

      “Mrs. Gwynn?” He stepped toward her. She couldn’t be more than five feet tall, if that. “Laura?”

      She raised her head to reveal surprised blue eyes and freckled cheeks framed by sleek amber locks. “Mr. Cromwell? I thought—”

      “—I’d be younger?” He took her suitcase and handed her the bouquet. “I can explain that.”

      A tear made a trail through her freckles. His heart sank. He reached for the basket. “Lemme carry that for you.”

      “No.” She blushed and shrank back. “I’ll carry—it.”

      She laid the bouquet on top of the basket and slipped her hand through the crook of his offered arm.

      “I hope the ring I bought ain’t too big.” He pointed to Bert and Ginny who waited in the carriage. “There’s our best man and maid of honor.”

      “You mean…?”

      “I figured we’d go straight to the courthouse while we’re in town.”

      Laura bit her lip.

      “Unless you’re a-changing your mind. I’ll understand. On account I lied about my age and all.”

      She flashed a quivering smile. “No. I gave you my word. My mama used to say it’s bad luck to get married in black.”

      “Hogwash!” He helped her into the carriage’s back seat and climbed in beside her. “Let’s get ourselves hitched.”

      A noise came from Laura’s basket. “That ain’t what I think it is, is it?” He leaned over and pushed the blanket aside. “You never said nothing about no baby.

      Ginny turned in her seat, her gray eyes sparkling. “Now ain’t that something, Alfie? I guess you ain’t the only one keeping secrets.”

***

      A week later, Laura cuddled Jason and drank in his sweet scent. Alfred’s snores came from the front room where he slept on a palette on the floor. On their wedding night, he had gathered his blankets and left the bed to her and the baby. “I don’t expect you to be beholding to your wifely duty until you’re ready.”

      Although Alfred couldn’t hold a candle to Thomas when it came to looks, he had nice enough features. She liked his sky-blue eyes and dimpled smile. The honest face of a simple man.

      She held her left hand up to the lamp on the roughhewn night table and studied her new wedding ring. Unlike the cheap band Thomas gave her, Alfred had taken great care to choose one with style. She admired the way the intricate filigree shimmered in the light.

      A hollow sense of desolation and shame flooded her as she reflected on her wedding day.

      The tight-lipped justice of the peace droned the marriage ceremony as it was written in his book. Ginny held Jason who howled from “Dearly beloved” to “I now pronounce you man and wife.” Laura clung to her slightly wilted bouquet to keep her hands from shaking. Alfred promised to “love, honor and cherish.” All the while he glowered at the baby.

***

      Alfred leaned against the doorjamb and watched Laura sleep. Her son curled up in the crook of her arm. Morning sunlight illuminated her flaxen hair which splayed across her pillow. Her long eyelashes fringed her translucent cheeks. He ached with longing, but he’d vowed not to push her.

      She opened her eyes. “Good morning, Mr. Cromwell.”

      A month had passed since the wedding. She still refused to call him by his first name and continued to wear black. Ginny assured him his young bride would warm up to him. She just needed time. How much time? His back hurt from sleeping on the unforgiving floor.

“Good morning, Mrs. Cromwell.”

***

       Laura decided it was high time she repay Bert and Ginny’s kindness with a home cooked meal—fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans from the garden.

       The older woman provided good company and made Laura feel welcomed and appreciated. More than that, she made Laura feel like family. 

       While Bert and Alfred worked the fields, Ginny helped Laura put the finishing touches on gingham curtains. As her needle flashed in and out of the cloth, she chattered, regaling Laura with amusing stories about Alfred.

      “He’s always been kind of awkward and tongue-tied around women. I’m the one who suggested he send away for a bride. Honey, you could be exactly what the doctor ordered.”

      Laura put down her sewing. “Could be?”

      Ginny leveled her gaze on Laura. “You ain’t man and wife yet are you?”

      Laura’s cheeks blazed. “I said ‘I do.’”

      “‘I do’ don’t amount to a hill of beans when you’re dressing like a widow and dragging your chin on the ground. Alfie deserves better and so do you.”

      Hours later, fingering the pink polka-dotted fabric of her new dress, Laura grinned. “Ginny’s right.” She dropped the green beans in salted water and stirred them.

      “Why don’t you look purty, Mrs. Cromwell?” Alfred circled his hands around her shoulders. “Smell nice, too.”

      She whipped about and gently poked his shoulder with her spoon. “Please, Mr. Cromwell. Don’t disturb the cook.”

      He dropped open his mouth. “Are you flirting with me, Mrs. Cromwell?”

      The baby in his basket whimpered. Soon the whimper grew into a squall. Laura heaved an exasperated sigh. “He can’t be hungry. Would you mind holding him while I fry the chicken, Mr. Cromwell?”

      Alfred knelt and gathered Jason in his arms. “You shore is growing, son. Come to Papa.”

      Laura’s pulse raced. “What did you say?”

      “I—I know I ain’t his pa. It jest slipped out.” Alfred held the baby tighter. “I ain’t no fool, Laura. You didn’t marry me for love. You married me to get out of a bad situation. Fact is I do love you and this here young’un. Would ya consider allowing me to give him my name?”

      She sank down on his lap and wreathed her arms around his neck. “My darling Alfie. Cromwell is a wonderful name.”

      Jason’s indignant cries rousted Laura from Alfred’s deep and lingering kiss. She looked up to see Ginny and Bert.

      Bert chuckled. “Time for dinner yet?”

      “Come to Aunt Ginny before you suffocate.” Ginny lifted Jason from Alfred’s shoulder. “Looks to me like dinner’s gonna be a bit late tonight. Your ma and pa got some serious business to attend to.”

 

 

5 April 2019

Published April 3, 2019 by rochellewisoff

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As always, please be considerate of your fellow Fictioneers and keep your stories to 100 words. (Title is not included in the word count.)  Many thanks. 

The next photo is the PROMPT. Remember, all photos are property of the photographer, donated for use in Friday Fictioneers only. They shouldn’t be used for any other purpose without express permission. It is proper etiquette to give the contributor credit. 

PHOTO PROMPT © Ronda Del Boccio

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Genre: Historical Fiction

Word Count: 100

BEYOND THE BUCKSKIN CURTAIN

Wide-mouthed comic, Joe E. Brown gave Harry a movie extras card. “You oughta be in pictures, handsome.”

            Harry had gained notoriety in boxing, wrestling, and lacrosse. Thoughts of seeing his name up in lights enticed him.

            After playing several bit parts, he answered an audition for the new medium called television. He soon found fame to be a mixed bag of blessings and curses.  

            In 1963, Harry, now known as Jay Silverheels, founded the Indian Actors Workshop to encourage aspiring Indigenous performers to shoot for roles with better lines than, “Sheriff have sickness in head, Kemosabe—cannot fix with medicine.”   

To learn a little more about this Canadian-born hero CLICK HERE

 

 

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8 March 2019

Published March 6, 2019 by rochellewisoff

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The next picture is the PHOTO PROMPT. Let it speak to your imagination. I appreciate the loan of photos from various Fictioneers and like to give credit where credit is due. Please acknowledge the photographer in your post. It’s the right thing to do. 😉

PHOTO PROMPT © CEAyr

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This week, I’m sharing an excerpt from my WIP with working title WHAT THE HEART WANTS. Most of my snippets have spotlighted Bear Starfire, the unfortunate girl who was taken from her tribe to an Indian boarding school. My other main character is Asher Gorovich, a Jewish boy whose journey begins in Eastern Europe. These two are destined to meet but I’m not going to tell you how. 😉 After all, I only want to whet the reader’s appetite. 

Genre: Historical Fiction

Word Count: 100

LUST AT FIRST SIGHT

The horses’ hooves clopped along the cobblestones. Ilya clucked his tongue as he steered the carriage. Asher’s heavy eyelids lowered and he slumped in the seat. He had almost drifted off when Ilya said, “She is beautiful. She likes you, too.”

            “You really think so?” The idea of Kreindel returning his feelings filled Asher with yearning. The mere touch of her hand sent curious flames raging through him, making it difficult to sit. “Have you ever—? I mean it hurts.”

            “Da.” Ilya pushed his limp hair off his acne-scarred forehead. “But no girl’s ever given me a second look.”

INDISTINCT

Published February 23, 2019 by rochellewisoff

A word prompt to get your creativity flowing this weekend.  How you use the prompt is up to you.  Write a piece of flash fiction, a poem, a chapter for your novel…anything you like.  Or take the challenge below – there are no prizes – it’s not a competition but rather a fun writing exercise.  If you want to share what you come up with, please leave a link to it in the comments.

Thanks to Sammi Cox for the challenge. 

Word Prompt

Indistinct

This week is a snippet from my WIP “What the Heart Wants.”

The shop dissolved into a miasma of indistinct outline and shadow. Asher saw only Papa’s oozing, hollow eyes.

Kishinev slaughter
Kishinev Pogrom 1903

22 February 2019

Published February 20, 2019 by rochellewisoff

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Please be considerate of 70 or more participants and keep your story to 100 words. Thank you. 

The next photo is the PROMPT. Remember, all photos are property of the photographer, donated for use in Friday Fictioneers only. They shouldn’t be used for any other purpose without express permission. It is proper etiquette to give the contributor credit. 

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

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Genre: Historical Fiction

Word Count: 100

AWAKENED AND STIRRED

“You admit to helping to spread leaflets for those subversives calling themselves The White Rose?”

            “What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did. And I would do it again.”

            Swastika flag draped behind him, the judge stood and shook his fist. “For your crimes you’ve been sentenced this 22nd day of February 1943.”

            “As you will be judged for yours.”

            Schubert’s “Andantino” played in twenty-one-year-old Sophie Scholl’s mind. Birds sang and the whole of creation called joyfully to her as she trembled before the guillotine, head held high.

 

*Note: This Friday is February 22, 2019 …76 years to the day Sophie, her brother Hans and his friend Christof were executed for standing up to Nazi barbarism. May their memories be blessed. 

Sophie Scholl

***

The following video I add “just because.” The fact is the Nazis often forced Jewish musicians to accompany the condemned to the gas chambers. It’s long and not directly related to the story. To me it seemed to fit. Listen or not.

 

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR RICHARD D. SMALL

Published January 14, 2019 by rochellewisoff
Two and a half years ago I received an email from a man in Israel named Rich Small who had submitted his manuscript to my agent entitled “Elisheva’s Diary.” He had found PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME on my agent’s website and ordered a copy. Over the course of a few emails we found much in common, including Eastern European Jewish backgrounds. Meanwhile, my agent rejected his manuscript, saying it needed too much work. So my newfound friend asked if I might take a look at it. 
As it turned out, I took many, many looks at it and had the privilege of watching the work grow and progress. Rich has been gracious about accepting my suggestions and putting up with my kvetching and nagging. 😉 Between emails, hangouts and Skype we’ve become friends. And the proverbial icing on the cake is that ELISHEVA’S DIARY has been published by Touch Point Press
Feeling a little like the book’s auntie, I interviewed Rich for my blog. I hope you will enjoy both our conversation and his book which is a unique little gem that blends past and present, as I did. 
Richard D. Small lives in Metula, the northernmost point of Israel, not far from Tel Dan and Tel Kedesh.  He received  PhD from Rutgers University in Aerospace Engineering. He taught at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology before joining a California Think Tank as Director for Thermal Sciences, founded Eastwind Research Corporation, and served in the Israeli Army.  Biographical sketches have included Who’s Who in America, and various scientific Who’s Who listings.  His work in science has been internationally recognized and featured on TV and radio including 60 Minutes, newscasts, and in magazines.  He is an avid student of history.  His passions include cooking, opera, reading, building cabinets, and gardening.  Elisheva’s Diary is his first novel.
***

 

  • Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.

Nature and its mysteries fascinated and motivated me to study science and pursue a career solving problems. I was fortunate to work on several problems of national interest.

I live in Metula overlooking the Hula or as it was known in biblical times the Merom Valley. From my living room, I see ancient locations that carry the long history of the Jewish people. In front of my house is a Tel, Evel Beit Maacah, that is now being excavated. Maacah was King David’s fourth wife and the mother of Tamar and Avshalom. Many of the great leaders of the ancient world passed through the valley.

The valley, aside from being spectacularly beautiful in all seasons, has several ancient sites: Tel Dan, Tel Anafa, Hazor, Banias, and Tel Kedesh. The streams flowing through the valley water a fertile soil that provides a rich bounty. It is a peaceful valley replete with protected wildlife and dotted with national parks celebrating and preserving the beauty of nature.

It is special to live in a place where recorded events date from the beginnings of western civilization. It is a land that beckons the history and civilization buried in us all.

 

  • After a career as a renowned scientist, why did you decide to write a novel? What inspired you?

I had always wanted to write a novel. From a very young age, I enjoyed reading and greatly admired authors that could transport you to another world and portray love, hate, tragedy, triumph, the beauty of nature and the magnificence of the human spirit.

 

  • What was the most difficult scene in Elisheva’s Diary? What made it difficult?

The death of Elisheva’s husband. For me, death is difficult to describe. It is definitive that leaves surviving family injured, saddened and takes a little of life from them.

 

  • What sort of research did you do for your work?

I read several books about the history of the Mediterranean focusing on the Galilee region of Israel. I picked the period about 50 BC for several reasons. Momentous events such as the clash of empires, the emergence of Rome as the predominant power, and a political atmosphere not unlike today were shaping the world at that time.

 

  • Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?

I have quite an eclectic taste in books. I enjoy novels, history, cook books, science fiction occasionally, and books that make me think. At different periods, I have enjoyed John Steinbeck, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Bruce Catton, Barbara Tuchman, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Francis Fukuyama, Mark Helprin, and a long list of others including RW-F. 😉

 

  • Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
  • I wanted to write, but found I had a lot to learn about writing and crafting a story. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields guided, taught, encouraged and without her, Elisheva’s Diary would never have been completed.
  • What would you say are your strengths as an author?

I cite two: empathy and a great appreciation for nature which I can translate to words.

 

  • Do you have another work in progress? If so, how often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?

I have started research for a new book. It will relate a story from the time of King Solomon. The research will take another half year or so before I start to write.

 

  • Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?

Hopefully having published a second novel.

 

  • If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?

Don’t quit. Keep writing until your story is complete.

  • What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?

“I liked Elisheva.”

  • Would you provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with my readers?

Chapter Four

My City—April 3675 (85 BC)

I was born in paradise three thousand six hundred sixty-five years after the creation of the world. Dan was well known when Abraham and Sara arrived from Ur. In the beginning, the city was named Laish, and only hundreds of years later did the Israelite tribe of Dan cross the Jordan, after 40 years in the desert, to settle in the city. Legend says Dan first arose a thousand years after Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden. I am proud of my city; it has a grand history filled with triumphs as well as much sorrow and anguish.

I cannot imagine a more beautiful place on Earth than the Merom Valley. To the east, the Golan Heights rise to a high plateau. Across the valley, the hills, home to the tribe of Naphtali, frame the Merom Valley in the west. Every evening, I delight in the breathtaking harmony and beauty as the Golan glows a soft pink in the setting sun, while the hills of Naphtali darken to a deep purple. The valley floor accents the surrounding hills with a rainbow of colors from the orchards, fields, vineyards, and forests.

Twice a year, countless numbers of storks, cranes, egrets, pelicans, and herons fill the sky heralding a change of season. Vast flocks, tired from their journey, seek safety and respite in the fields around the small sea. In the morning, I watch amazed as they face the warm sun, capture its energy, and spiral upwards to continue their journey.

I have always taken the beauty of my city and its surroundings as normal. Aba often told me of his travels across Israel to the Great Salt Sea in the west, to magnificent cities along the coast, to inland valleys, and to the desert in the south. He said the desert holds a special beauty—siren colors at sunset and the tranquility of a seducing wind at night under a sky filled with countless stars. Often shooting stars, traversing the heavens in seconds, punctuate the night panorama. But surely, nothing compares with Dan.

From my home, I look east to Mount Hermon. Like a giant shielding us from a hostile world, it stands over Dan dominating the hills to the north and the plateau to the south. Clouds sometimes hide the peak’s majesty, and swirling storms mask it in a threatening atmosphere. On clear days, sunlight reflects from the forests and valleys on the lower elevations and projects magnificence, breathtaking to behold. During much of the year, a blanket of snow covers the upper reaches of the mountain. It is the source of the icy pure water flowing through Dan. In the winter, the blinding white peak often mirrors the sunset’s rainbow of pastel colors.

I am lucky to live in the most beautiful part of the most beautiful kingdom in the whole world.

I have listened to travelers talk about the Galilee. They describe marvelous towns and villages built in beautiful settings: sculpted valleys with plentiful water and rich soil. Their descriptions of Kedesh are so vivid I can almost feel the excitement of the big market. Farmers send produce from the fields around Dan, and our artisans send goods from our ceramic and metal workshops through Kedesh to the coastal cities of Lebanon in return for rare woods, glass, cloth, dyes, and manufactured goods that arrive in Tyre and Sidon from Greece, Egypt, and Rome. Kedesh itself is built on a large hilltop surrounded by a rich valley famous for well-kept vineyards and exquisite wines.

They speak of olive groves on the road leading to the Great Sea. The trees twisted and gnarled as generation after generation of growth is added to life drawn from the soil.

Travelers from distant lands tell me the Great Sea is a wonder. Salty to the taste, it contains strange fish and exotic creatures not found in the Merom or the Kinneret seas. They say, sometimes, like the tempests blanketing Mount Hermon, storms rage over the Great Sea, with relentless waters swirling in an angry rhythm and pounding the shore; sometimes the sea turns a deep blue hiding a mysterious depth, and sometimes it is tranquil.

They speak of a beautiful land beyond the Galilee: villages located across a varied geography, ranging from mountains rich in forests, tranquil deserts producing fine wines, a coastal plain with thick forests, abundant agriculture, and rich fishing: all with a well-developed ethical and cultural life.

And towering above everything, the crown jewel of Israel and the world, the magnificent city of David and Solomon, the location of our Temple, Jerusalem.

 

 

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