Levin Speaks on The Last Ember

[Archived from August 28, 2009]

[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]

From the moment Daniel Levin stepped up to the podium in the Patio Gallery at the Jewish Community Center, the passion that burns inside him to fight those who would obliterate history as it happened and rewrite it to serve their own purposes was evident. His dynamic presentation engaged the standing room only crowd of well over 100 at this Jewish Community of Louisville event on Monday evening, August 24.

Sheldon Gilman, who introduced Levin, recounted that he watched “Danny” grow up from a small child to a bar mitzvah, who read the entire Torah portion of the week, to a student in the honors program at the University of Michigan and through Harvard Law School. He watched Levin as he clerked for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel and then joined a firm and began practicing international law.

Gilman has been friends with Levin’s father, Sheldon Levin, since childhood, explained that he shared the senior Levin’s angst when Daniel announced he was quitting his job to write a book, and now shares his pride at the success the author is experiencing with The Last Ember.

Later Gilman also told how he helped Daniel connect with Judaism by having the Levin family, who resided in Florida, become members of Adath Jeshurun to enable Daniel and his sister to attend Camp Ramah in Wisconsin.

Levin has an abiding interest in antiquities, and, in fact, his bachelor’s degree is in Roman and Greek civilizations. While we tend to think of archaeology as the science of uncovering artifacts from the past to enlighten our understanding of history, Levin found that especially in the Middle East, archaeology is imbued with politics and “history is more fragile than you think.”

To illustrate his point, he explained that during President Clinton’s term of office, he worked very hard to achieve peace in the Middle East, but there came a specific moment when Clinton realized he could not achieve his goal. At one point, Levin stated, Yasser Arafat told Clinton, “You don’t really think there was ever a Temple in Jerusalem, do you?”

With that comment, Levin said, “history was erased.”

Levin saw evidence of this with his own eyes when he clerked for the court in Israel. During his tenure, Israel’s Antiquities Authority filed a complaint about that illegal excavations were taking place on the Temple Mount, evidenced by 20,000 tons of archaeologically rich rubble, laced with smashed Judeo-Christian artifacts.

While the law prohibits such excavation, Israel was unable to do anything to stop this activity because the Temple Mount is controlled by the Waqf Authority, an Islamic trust that has been in effect since 1187 CE.

This systematic destruction of artifacts, Levin contends is an attempt to rewrite history, by erasing all proof of Jewish or Christian connections to the site. In fact, he also believes, the Waqf is looking specifically for the menorah from the Temple with the intention of destroying it before it can be used as a solid link to the Jewish temple.

Attempts to manipulate history are not new, Levin explained. In fact, the Romans were experts at it. When Titus arrived in Jerusalem, he found a more literate and opinionated population than elsewhere in the empire, so he sacked the city and destroyed artifacts in an attempt to obliterate the Jewish presence. He went on to say there is even evidence of an active counterintelligence group working against Titus that may have involved Titus’ wife and the historian, Josephus.

In writing The Last Ember, Levin hopes to draw attention to the historical revisionism being perpetrated today by the Waqf, and along the way, that his novel provides an engaging read for many.

After the program, Levin was besieged by a long line of well-wishers who purchased books that he signed.

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