Next Year in Jerusalem – Johnny Richards


An epic saga chronicling the life of the Bronowski clan

Next Year in Jerusalem_cover


From 1917 Poland to 2020 Israel, the book has the structure of a family drama intermingled with the politics of Israel and its rich vein of history.  

There is a comic element as the would-be President of Israel is slowly revealed as a sociopathic murderer on his way up the greasy pole of Israeli politics plus a totally fantastical ending – but then as Ben Gurion once said: ‘Anyone in Israel who does not believe in miracles cannot be a realist!’

The novel aims at striking a balance between humour and seriousness in the pursuit of providing an enthralling read.

  • There is love, romance, domestic violence, war and non-gratuitous sex.
  • There is the vivid colour of the Yiddish for whom most non-Jewish readers will require their search engines but which is always self-explanatory by context.
  • There is an insight into Jewish family life and its time-honoured customs.
  • There is always suspense.

Click here to contact us to obtain a review copy of Next Year in Jerusalem

1917 Slezny Gvedik, Poland

Mordechai finished donning his tefillin, the ancient phylacteries utilized daily in every orthodox Jewish man’s morning ritual and began praying by the brook. A couple of oxen looked on in equanimity from beyond a ramshackle fence, their indifference to the timeless scene borne of lifelong familiarity. The long straggly beard of the man began oscillating ever so slightly as he commenced his prayers, a dilapidated siddur in hand

there by virtue of custom rather than necessity, so long-steeped in the piety and verses of his People had he been from infancy…if not even from beyond; the Hebrew faith sometimes seemingly instilled as much by genetic memory unto each successive generation as by prosaic book-learning or by rote.

Hay bales glistened in the field as the sun crept ever higher in the ultra-marine sky.

Mordechai’s almost sotto voce prayers moved into their dénouement. Facing east, as was the aeons-observed ordinance of not one but two Abrahamic religions, he crinkled blue-grey eyes against the incongruous ferocity of the autumnal rays.

Suddenly a voice came almost caterwauling from beyond the willows and field maples that fringed the stream. Mordechai started …as he had that fateful day five years previously when the pogroms had finally reached this bucolic backwater and hitherto quiescent oasis in a desert of anti-Semitism.

“Aba, Aba,” the voice shrieked. “Uncle Moishe has come back from the city.”

Mordechai closed his siddur, the gold leaf nowadays tatty, the spine frayed, yet it had been his father’s and his zaide’s – his grandfather’s – and his great grandfathers going back six generations. He kissed the tome in reverence, for them as much as for its liturgical content.

“Whatever is it, my noisy son?” he asked the young boy. “You know better than to disturb me during my davening!”

His voice was mock stern yet his eyes betrayed a certain glint, for the timing of the interruption, in truth, could not have been better. He had finished his morning incantations and was looking forward to breakfast, a daily anticipation that always put him into a rather good-natured mood, somewhat against the normalcy of his dispensation that could tend towards the melancholic.

“So sorry, Aba. Ssssso…so…sorry,” his eldest son stammered, his natural proclivity for stuttering exacerbated by indecision as to whether his father was joshing with him or was indeed serious.

For a boy of eight it was unheard of to question one’s father’s methods and so he accepted his admonition without rancour.

“Papa, Uncle Moishe has news from Warsaw. You must come! You must come!”

“What can be so important, Benjy?” his father chided him, ruffling the luxuriant curls on his son’s temple, the insignia of unshorn piety whereas elsewhere on the body shearing may indeed take place to similar ends. “Come, my son,” he went on before Benjy could answer. “Let us go home and see what your mother has prepared for us. I am hungry. You may tell me on the way.”

Mordechai checked the hasp to the gate was fastened and threw some millet from his pouch to the geese that waddled on the riverbank. Their wings had been clipped, just as psychologically had the wings of the youngsters in the village for which the outside world would never hold any allure because of ingrained manacles to tradition. He was fattening these fowl for the Chanukah festivities when the whole extended family – which comprised at least half the village – would come to their humble cottage and Yentla would do them proud in the victuals department … as she did every festival. They would consume vast quantities of latkes and doughnuts, oily foods to remember the

Maccabees’ miracle of the lamp, before the goose would be served with pickled red cabbage and raisins, potato salad and peas. All over Poland three and a half million

Jews would celebrate the festivities in their own unique yet similar fashion.

“All right, Aba,” Benjy concurred, smiling now at his father’s jocular conceit today’s breakfast may be different, if not at the thought of the rudimentary oatmeal and honey that would be their first repast as per usual.

The strong, sinewy arms of his father lifted the boy onto his shoulders and they started out for home.

“Papa, can I tell you the news now?” he asked nervously.

“Of course, my son. Tell me,” Mordechai replied. If it were news of another atrocity in the ghetto, then in all earnestness, he really did not wish to know…at least not now, not here in the beauty of the fields in the new dawn and amidst the songs of the finches and the tits. Even the malfeasant squawking of the crows had not yet started. He had prayed fully and voraciously in the arena that was his own, as was his wont, an hour before the community at large would meet in the communal cowshed, which doubled as the synagogue. He had conducted his early morning ablutions. He had done his early morning chores: cleaning out the stables; feeding the chickens; loosely tethering the oxen ready for their stint on the plough: milking the cows. He loved this life, this agricultural idyll, for all its privations and he did not want this fresh, dew-laden morn sullied by thoughts of the evil men do unto men of his own caste far, far away in the metropolis that was a universe distant in cultural, if not latitudinal terms.

“Aba, Uncle Moishe says there is important news from London.”

“Important news, eh?” Mordechai echoed.

He was only half-listening to his youngest son as he ambled along the dirt track that had served also his forebears for a millennium.

“Yes, Aba,” the son reiterated. “The King of England is going to give the land of Israel to the Jews.”

Click here to contact us to obtain a review copy of Next Year in Jerusalem

About the Author

Author, Johnny Richards is a modest man of 52, currently living in Hove on the South coast of England.

His previous books are Damage Rendered, a thriller set in the aftermath of 9/11 and 2020, a dystopian novel set in the eponymous year.