SEEKING SINAI: Synopsis of a novel by Barry Pollack
In 500 BC, a Persian general discovers papyri buried in the tombs of a pharaohs sons. The princes had written a history of what had taken place during their fathers reign in the 14th century BC, a story of the pharaohs battle to save his throne from a usurper and foreign gods. The general gives the ancient papyri to Herodotus, a famed Greek writer who would become known as the Father of History. Herodotus records this new history of ancient Egypt but his writings are lost except for a copy he had inscribed upon a gorget, a piece of armor used in ancient times to protect the vulnerable neck of a soldier. The gorget was to be a wedding gift intended for the Persian general. But the general was murdered, the gift was never given, and the gorget, inscribed with a history of ancient Egypt, is lost for two millennia.
In 2010, the gorget is purchased by Arthur McGraw, a young California entrepreneur, an adventurer, and a collector of presidential memorabilia. The artifact was a collectible, not because of what was written upon it, but because it had once been owned by one president and gifted to another. In fact, no one in more than two thousand years had thoroughly read what had been inscribed upon it until a rabbi, familiar with Greek, again read what Herodotus had written. The rabbi, Nathan Lachsman, is a religious scholar and a guest attending an ecumenical meeting in McGraws gated estate when he discovers the gorget. The story he reads shocks him and, to verify that his translation is correct, the rabbi secrets himself in the homes garage, planning to sneak back into the house after the guests have left to study the object more thoroughly. However, when he re-enters the house to retrieve the gorget with the Greek words that have shaken his faith, he is confronted by the housekeeper. Inadvertently, he kills her.
Natalie Adler, a young, vivacious, and driven real estate agent, is in the process of selling Arthur McGraws estate. While holding an open house there, accompanied by her boyfriend, LAPD detective Elmo Bernize, they discover the rabbis victim. Bernize reluctantly gets involved in the murder case which is out of his jurisdiction. Later, Natalie, with a realtors attention to detail, discovers what had been stolen from the estate, the gorget. Before that information can be provided to the police in charge, Bernize finds himself suspended for unprofessional conduct. At the same time, Rabbi Lachsman, tormented by his sin, confesses to the murder but says nothing of the stolen gorget. The authorities have no idea that anything from the home has been stolen and, with a confession and the killer in hand, for them the case is closed.
Natalie convinces Bernize, who is out of a job, to accept a position as consultant to McGraw who wants to know why an obscure piece of presidential memorabilia led a rabbi to kill. Natalie and Bernize meet with antiquities dealers and uncover the story written upon the gorget. Herodotus history tells of Moses and pharaoh and events in ancient Egypt more than three thousand years ago. But it describes a Moses quite differently from the only other written account of that time, the biblical Book of Exodus. He portrays a malevolent Moses with a lust, more for power than the love of God. Thats what had put fear into the heart of the rabbi. If Moses was the ignoble character described in Herodotus story, how could he have been the prophet of God? Herodotus not only told a different version of Exodus, he also described the exact location of Mount Sinai. Many mountains have been suggested as the site of Sinai, but no one has ever known its location with certainty. Herodotus not only describes Sinais location, as an unpretentious hill in Saudi Arabia, he also suggests that the wealth of ancient Egypt, taken by the Israelites fleeing Egypt, remains buried on the mountain.
McGraw becomes intent on determining the truth of Herodotus history and partners with Natalie and Bernize in a search for Sinai and the treasures of ancient Egypt. His quest to explore a mountain in Saudi Arabia on Moslem holy lands requires him to create a subterfuge for being there. So, he contracts with Saudi ministers to drill for oil there. The Saudis are pleased to accept this foolish millionaires money for a license to search for oil where no one believes oil can be found. And McGraw is pleased that his pretense of drilling for oil will allow his quest for Sinais treasures to proceed. McGraws faux drilling, however, soon alarms the neighbors, the Israelis, who have other interests to protect. The Israelis attempt to scare off the Americans but when those threats fail, Colonel Veasman of Israeli military intelligence decides to imprison the Americans in a four-star hotel in Tel Aviv until a better idea comes to mind. Danny Menachem, an Israeli air force colonel and the estranged son of a renowned orthodox rabbi, accidentally comes to their rescue. Rabbi Lachsman had sent the stolen gorget to his friend in Israel, Rebbe Moshe Menachem, who he hoped would have better insight into how to deal with the sacrilegious object. The rebbe, whose faith remains strong despite the alternative Exodus story he reads, decides that to avoid further sin, by returning the gorget to its rightful owner. He entrusts his son, the air force colonel, to the task.
When Colonel Menachem comes to the aide of the Americans and reveals that their intent is not to drill for oil but rather to seek some nebulous Egyptian treasure, Israeli authorities elect to trust the Americans and disclose their reasons for discouraging their drilling in Saudi Arabia. They divulge that they have discovered a source of deep oil in southern Israel but only have access only to the stem while the great bulk of the find lays in Saudi Arabia. If the Saudis discover the field, the Israelis are convinced that theyll do whatever they can to deprive Israel of the resource. The Israelis contract with McGraw to continue the feign drilling in Arabia to allow the Israelis to slurp up the resource unimpaired. In return, McGraw is given free rein to continue his quest for the treasures of Sinai.
When a Greek shipping tycoon lets slip that Israel continues to import the same amount of oil as it has in the past, despite its new found resource, Bernize becomes suspicious that the Israelis have lied to him and soon learns that they have discovered something more valuable than oil, a vast underground fresh water aquifer. The Israelis, as a matter of survival, have protected their scarce water resources, harshly rationing the water of their Arab neighbors, alienating them and breeding new young terrorists. With this new discovery of fresh water, Bernize and Natalie press the Israelis to share it, to promote more prosperity among their neighbors and with it the possibility of peace.
When Arthur McGraw informs Bernize that theyre on the brink of finding the treasures of Egypt atop Sinai, Bernize relays that information to his new friend, Danny Menachem. The colonel, although a secular Jew, understands the consequences should McGraws team prove the truth of Herodotus version of Exodus. Intent on protecting his religious heritage, Colonel Menachem fires four missiles into the mountaintop. Whatever ancient treasures might have been there are vaporized leaving only doubts as to the truth of Herodotus version of history.
In an epilogue, when the reader returns to ancient Egypt and the days of Herodotus time there, we learn that a scribes shortcuts and mistakes in the transcribing of Herodotus story may have altered the location of Sinai, that perhaps Egypts treasures and the true Exodus story still remain to be found.
Trim size: 6" x 9",
Page count: 300,
Interior type: Black and White,
Page color: White,
Spine width: 0.676"
Who are your readers?
Fiction readers who enjoy adventure stories with intellectual, religious and political subplots. This book might be described as a Jewish Da Vinci Code, with less violence and more metaphysics.
What 3 things would you like to communicate to your readers with this design?
It's a treasure hunt for the lost treasures of ancient Egypt.
It involves tests of religious faith. A rabbi comes come to doubt Moses as prophet.
Israel is protecting a secret. Israeli secret service and air force are involved.
Style and Content
What colors do you want to see in your design?
What colors do you NOT want to see in your design?
Don't like purple.
Describe the style(s) you like (traditional, modern, etc.)
A modern style overlying something ancient, classical.
Some ideas that come to mind:
Flaming title letters over the gold of Egypt or a mountaintop ablaze.
Hieroglyphic background (as if engraved into a wall) with the title SEEKING SINAI in there as well.
An oil well in the desert before a mountaintop with Israeli jets flying overhead.
What content must be included in your design?
Please check out the cover of my first novel: FORTY-EIGHT X: The Lemuria Project. I liked the gritty look of that book cover with bold but distorted title letters and author name.
I would like something of the underlying themes of the story to peak through. You might choose among the following images that are pertinent to the story:
A Greek translation of hieroglyphics.
The lost treasures of ancient Egypt, i.e. a pharaoh's gold.
A climb up a mountain (Sinai) seeking those treasures.
A mountaintop exploding with an Israeli jet in the distance.
A solitary oil drilling operation in the middle of the desert.
Orthodox rabbis - in study, in prayer.
A rabbi hovering over the woman he killed by breaking her neck.
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