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Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center

Alpha and Omega by Harry Turtledove

April 1, 2020

Del Rey Publishing:  New York City
2019 (HC)

Harry Turtledove has been for many years the acknowledged master of Alternate History.  In Alpha and Omega he sets his sights on a starkly different genre:  an eschatological foray into the End Times, e.g., Armageddon, End of Days, Day of Judgement, etc., etc.

Eric Katz is an American archaeologist—a secular Jew– who is participating in a dig in the literal shadow of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  The excavation is headed up by sardonic Israeli archaeologist (and ex-Israeli Defense Force officer) Yoram Louvish; and the team is rounded out by Betsy Taylor, an American evangelical Protestant volunteer; Israeli graduate student Orly Binur (also ex-IDF); and Arab Israeli archaeologist Munir al-Nuwauhi.  As they excavate for artifacts from the First Temple of Solomon (6th Century BCE), events are stirring around the globe that will have a profound effect upon, in effect, all of mankind.

An ultra-Orthodox organization called the Reconstruction Alliance has planned for years to build a Third Temple on the Temple Mount, which would require the destruction or replacement of Islam’s Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque—an act that could upset the approximately 1.8 billion Muslims in the world!  While Muslims controlled the Temple Mount for the past 1,300 years, the Israeli military conquered East Jerusalem (including the Temple Mount) in the 1967 Six-Day War.  In an act of incredibly deft diplomacy, General Moshe Dayan negotiated an agreement that allowed the Waqf, the Muslim religious foundation, to administer the Temple Mount, while Jews were allowed on the Mount but not allowed to worship.  This uneasy compromise had lasted for more than fifty years, but the situation begins to fray badly.

Religious zealotry seems to control events as tensions in the Middle East ratchet up after a dirty bomb is set off in the Tel Aviv bus station, the de-construction of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa commences, and Eric and his archaeological crew unearth the long-lost and nearly-mythical Ark of the Covenant beneath the Temple Mount.  End Times prophecies of all three Abrahamic religions seem to be playing out at a furious pace as the Middle East perches on the edge of nuclear war and normal everyday people—even archaeologists—seem to be little more than pawns in the hands of a waking and vengeful God—especially as Iran launches an all-out missile attack on Israel in retaliation for the removal of Islam’s holy shrines from the Temple Mount.  Can anything short of Divine Intervention keep the world from tumbling into total destruction—the literal Armageddon?

Some readers, whether Jewish, Muslim or Christian, may find Alpha and Omega profane and downright sacrilegious—and this book is not for them.  But other readers may find the novel a serious inquiry into the nature of God and the Abrahamic religions that claim to reveal that nature to its adherents.

Three trowels for Alpha and Omega.