SLITTING THE MAN’S THROAT wasn’t the problem. Bilal waited, watching the Jew enemy shift position in his chair, and fought to overcome his rising panic by remembering the lessons he’d been taught. One hand over the man’s mouth to stop him screaming as the knife in the other hand sliced through the soft tissue of the throat and all the blood vessels. Keep the hand tightly over his mouth for at least a minute for the lifeblood to drain away. He’d practiced the movement in his bedroom until he was fluid as a dancer.
Bilal crouched and held his breath as the Jew, remembering his duty, stood, scratched himself, walked around his position glancing left and right, up and down, made certain that everything was in order, and then sat again. Bilal saw the man looking directly upward to the white walls of the ancient city of Jerusalem and the golden mosque beyond—but what was he thinking? And did it matter?
The panorama in front of Bilal made his heart beat in excitement. The massive walls of the Old City that surrounded the Temple of Solomon gleamed white in the glow of the arc lights. The moon was a thin crescent over the distant mountain ridge. In his rising panic, he tried to calm himself by remembering what his imam had taught him. That the great sultan Suleiman the Magnificent had built those walls and Bilal even remembered the date: about 1538. It was impossibly long ago. Bilal couldn’t even understand how long. But it all seemed so grand and old.
Above the walls was the gray-blue dome of the third holiest site in Islam, the al-Aqsa Mosque. And beyond that, the gleaming golden cupola of the Masjid Qubbat As-Sakhrah, the Dome of the Rock, both mosques the symbol of Islam’s ancient claim to the city of Jerusalem. Bilal found himself imagining pictures from the stories he’d been told since a child, of Mohammed tethering his wondrous horse al-Buraq, with its head of a woman, wings of an eagle, tail of a peacock, and hoofs reaching to the horizon, before ascending on his journey to heaven.
“Peace and blessings be upon him,” Bilal murmured under his breath as a reverential reflex to using Mohammed’s name. But Bilal’s mission wasn’t to pray. He prayed every Friday in his own mosque and lately, urged on by his imam so that he could familiarize himself with the terrain, he prayed in the al-Aqsa. No, today his mission was to begin taking back Jerusalem; to take revenge on the Jews who had dispossessed his family, destroyed his homeland, made his people into paupers, imprisoned his brother as a terrorist, and cast him as a refugee.
Jerusalem’s night air was cold, but he felt comfort and warmth when he remembered being in the mosque of Bayt al Gizah, his village just across the valley, sitting at the feet of the imam a month ago, along with twenty other young men from his village. The imam sat cross-legged on a cushion, surrounded by Bilal and his friends on the carpet. His imam was smiling and talking with such ease and confidence about the splendors they would each experience in the afterlife; but then his face and voice became severe as he spoke of the way in which their people, the Palestinian people, were daily abused and murdered, tortured and brutalized, by the Jews. He asked each youth on his way home that night to glance over the valley toward the city of Jerusalem; to look at the glory of the mosques, one gold and the other silver, their subtlety and quiet beauty, and then to look at the gaudy, tawdry, and immoral modern city the infidels had built. One day it would be gone.
When they were leaving the mosque, the imam asked Bilal to wait. At first he thought the imam had made a mistake, confusing him with one of the older boys whom Bilal so looked up to. But from the moment he spoke, Bilal knew that his words were for him, and him alone. Barely able to breathe, the young man wondered why the imam had held him back. Was it because of the way he worshipped? Was it to ask him to do a job? Was it to say something now that he was approaching his eighteenth birthday? It was none of these.
“Allah has chosen you for a special purpose, Bilal.”
The boy made no response but his heart thudded in his chest. Of all the prospects of hope and excitement that the sentence suggested, it was the sound of his own name from the imam’s lips that filled him with the greatest pride and settled any doubt that his holy teacher spoke only to him. His shoes were worn near through, his family wasn’t rich, and he’d long since stopped going to school. But there, staring up at the imam, he felt for a moment like a prince.
“You will be among the blessed. You, Bilal, will be a hero to our people, the pride of your mother and father. You will strike a blow from which the enemy will never recover. And I will ensure that your name is inscribed in the holiest of holy books and kept in pride of place in Mecca.”
“Me? My name?” Bilal could barely speak.
The imam smiled and put his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “You, my son. Though I’ve only been your leader for a year, I have grown to love you and the other young men who have flocked to sit at my feet and listen to the words of Mohammed, peace and blessings be upon him. And in these past months, you, as well as a number of others, have impressed me, Bilal. You will lead the fight of our people against the Zionist enemy. Soon, I will inform you of a mission I wish you to undertake.”
Close to tears of pride, Bilal whispered, “I won’t let you down, Master. This I swear.”
And during the month, the imam and the mosque’s bomb maker had worked hard to ensure that Bilal’s mission would be successful. His training done, his prayers said, his will written, his face and voice recorded for all the world to admire on the Internet, Bilal stood in the shadow of the wall with the imam’s words still fresh in his ears. He smiled to himself as he waited and watched the Israeli guard shift his position protecting the entrance that led into the tunnel. He ached to strike a blow for the freedom of his oppressed people, to reclaim his land from the Jews. He lived a degraded life in a crowded village while just over the valley the Jews lived in luxury houses and had maids and manservants and wore gold jewelry and drove expensive foreign cars around a city that should have been his.
Bilal was a Palestinian but his culture told him he was born a refugee because of the 1948 war, and the war of 1967, and the war of 1972, and the other wars waged by fearless Arab armies to push the Jews back into the sea. Each war, each attempt to eliminate the Jewish presence from Palestine, had ended in failure and misery; but the Jews were few, and the Arabs were many and they could wait for a hundred, even a thousand years to win, but win they surely would, according to his imam.
And so Bilal waited patiently for the right time to kill the Jew. He hated waiting, but his imam had told him that patience and judging the moment were more important to his mission than rashly moving forward and exposing himself to the enemy.
The Jew guard seemed to relax; he moved his head in a circular direction as though massaging his neck muscles, put down his rifle from his shoulder to his lap, and reached down to a thermos; he poured himself a drink and Bilal saw the steam coming out of the cup. As the man lifted it to drink the coffee, Bilal slipped his knife from its scabbard, ran forward silently to cover the twenty meters between himself and the Jew enemy, and, before the man even knew that his life was in peril, put a hand over his mouth, pulled his head back, and sliced his throat in a gash of crimson from ear to ear.
Bilal kept his hand over the man’s mouth so that he couldn’t scream and embraced his body firmly against his own to prevent him from struggling. Even though the guard was seated, Bilal could barely constrain the tough body flailing against imminent death. He felt it through the shirt. It was a hard body, a strong body. Not a bodybuilder’s physique with constructed muscles only good for posturing and lifting weights; no, this was the taut body of a man who’d done physical work all his life. Compact, tight, beautiful.
He put his face close to the Jew’s, smelling his sweat and fear and blood. And in the moonlight, Bilal saw that he wasn’t a Westerner but a Yemenite, a Moroccan or maybe even a black Ethiopian Jew—certainly a Jew with Arab blood, but difficult to tell without the daylight sun. Bilal felt a moment of empathy with the man. Killing an Arab Jew was different from killing one from Germany or Russia or America. As he held the man’s increasingly limp body, he worried that he’d killed one of his own; but the man wore an Israeli Border Police uniform, and that made him the enemy, no matter where he’d been born.
With his hand still over the man’s mouth, Bilal held him closely until he felt no more struggling. Just a body slumped in his chair, the stench of urine, coffee, blood mingling in the cold night air, making Bilal want to gag.
YES, SLITTING THE ENEMY’S THROAT was easy. As was concealing his body. He just pulled the dead Jew out of the seat and dragged him inside the fence where the excavations were being conducted to reveal the City of David at the base of the wall that encircled the Old City of Jerusalem.
And weaving his way through the digs, it was easy to ascend from deep in the valley at the base of the City of David, up the newly discovered tunnel, and out of sight into the Old City, where he’d create mayhem, headlines that would be read around the world.
Bilal stood at the base of the tunnel and switched on his flashlight. He remembered the feeling two days earlier when he pretended to be nothing more than a tourist, joining lines of people walking up through the tunnel. He was there to memorize the way, to plan every footstep, for when he came again to complete his mission, it would be dark.
On that day, the first time he’d been in the tunnel, he stood at the back of a group of American evangelical Christians, some black, some white, waiting for them to finish praying. Their leader, a tall, white-haired black preacher, was holding up the other tourists, but the man of the Christian god didn’t care. He raised his arms and shouted to his congregation, “Brothers and sisters, let us ascend to the Temple of Solomon as the ancient Israelites did three thousand years ago, and raise our voices in praise of the Almighty . . .”
Every evangelist shouted, “Praise the Lord . . . Hallelujah . . . Praise be to God.”
“Praise the Lord who has brought us to the Holy Land and enabled us to walk in the footsteps of our very Lord Jesus Christ himself, who came from the line of King David, who built this very tunnel three thousand years ago, my brothers and sisters . . .”
“Praise the Lord!” they all shouted as the guide for the City of David tried to round them up and usher them all into the tunnel.
Bilal hung around the group, and when the last few were walking toward the tunnel, he attached himself to the rear, trying to hide himself in the crowd, avoiding the eyes of the guards and police and soldiers. And as they walked up the slope, which once was a waterway from the top of the city down to the Pool of Siloam, they began to sing “Onward, Christian Soldiers” at the tops of their voices as they slid and stumbled on the slippery floor and clung to the handrails in the dark. Had he been born across the valley, as a Jew Bilal might have known that this tunnel was used by King David to breach the defenses of the Jebusite city. But the intricacies of such history were unknown to him. All he knew of his people’s history was filtered through devotion to the Koran. Yet, even so, Bilal knew that his beating the security in the tunnel would grant him accolades. It was history repeating itself. King David’s captain had climbed the tunnel to open the gates, capture the city, and slay its people, and now Bilal, too, would climb the tunnel and kill the Jews who had usurped the holy city of Islam.
So Bilal sang along with the Christians, raising his voice for most of the song, mouthing the words he didn’t know and quietly, under his breath, changing the word to “Muslim” when the evangelicals shouted out “Christian.” He was a proud Muslim soldier marching onward, like the armies of Mohammed, peace and blessings be upon him.
And now that the Jew guard was dead, there was nothing to stop him carrying out his mission. Tonight he was climbing the tunnel again. There were
The Heritage Trilogy: Book One
The Heritage Trilogy: Book One
Bilal, a radicalized Palestinian youth, is promised paradise if he destroys the Western Wall. But his attempted terrorist attack fails and he finds himself in the hands of a young Jewish surgeon, Yael Cohen. After saving his life, Yael makes the startling discovery that her DNA and Bilal’s are nearly identical, sparking suspicion that their connection is greater than mere coincidence. Their search for answers soon puts them in the middle of a high-stakes international conspiracy—one that has its roots in the blood of thousands, and now threatens to spill the blood of thousands more.
Unknown to Bilal and Yael, theirs is the last chapter in a story that crosses millennia. Century after century, two ancient families—bloodline ancestors of Yael and Bilal—defied the power of corrupt kings and conquerors, fighting to forge an alliance and lasting peace. But through many years of secret dealings and war, kinships were shattered, dynasties fell apart, and evil gained a foothold. Now, in modern Israel, those same sinister forces are at work, stopping at nothing to take control of the Holy Land and silence anyone in their way. Through imprisonment, assassination attempts, and political machinations, Bilal and Yael must ultimately confront the truth of who they are. But is the common blood of two individuals enough to bring two enemy peoples together, and stave off the destruction that threatens them both?
Crossing borders, centuries, and battlegrounds, Bloodline is a thrilling, ultimately redemptive story taking place in the shadows of one of the oldest, most sacred cities in the world.