“First Among Nations,” a debut novel by Ira Mosen, who make Aliyah with his family in 2018, explores the challenges and determination experienced by immigrants to Israel.
By Pearl Markovitz, JewishLink
Ira Mosen is the pen name adopted by Ari Mosenkis, an American nephrologist who made aliyah in 2018 with his wife and seven children and who currently resides in Ramat Beit Shemesh.
During his initial year as an oleh, Mosen traveled frequently back and forth to Ohio to his position as chief of nephrology within the Cleveland Clinic Health System.
Currently, he practices telemedicine from his home in Ramat Beit Shemesh for communities in the Southern U.S., including Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi and Alabama.
Twice a week, he runs a nephrology clinic in an Israeli kupat cholim (medical services) that serves Israeli citizens of all nationalities and religions. (When he is not in the clinic, Mosen spends his mornings in the beit midrash studying talmud.)
Through his interactions with a diverse population of Israelis, he has observed an Israel that is markedly different from the one often portrayed in the media, with much grassroots desire for peaceful coexistence.
These experiences inspired him to write his debut novel, “First Among Nations.”
An “aha” moment, which Mosen credits as a jumping point for his novel, took place in an Israeli pharmacy on the eve of Passover. Mosen entered the pharmacy and handed his prescription to the female pharmacist, a Muslim Arab wearing a hijab. She took note of the prescribed medicine, excused herself and went to an inner room. When she returned, she handed Mosen a container and assured him, “Not to worry. This version of your medication is kosher for Pesach as it contains no chametz. Chag Sameach.”
For Mosen, this simple act of consideration, as well as the camaraderie that he witnessed among doctors and nurses in hospital settings, represented the vast opportunities across Israeli society to spread understanding, tolerance and coexistence.
Mosen saw an opportunity to spread this spirit of collaboration through writing a novel. The three protagonists are fictional, as is the story, but they each represent recognizable segments of Israeli society.
Zar, short for Elazar, was raised in an insular ultra-Orthodox community where everything outside was considered treif, impure. He ultimately joins the IDF. Egel hails from a secular kibbutz set in an oasis of orange orchards and cotton fields. Hajji is a Muslim who grew up in an Arab village in the Galilee. He is named for the sacred pilgrimage, or Haj, during which his mother died in childbirth.
The trio are brought together by their passion for soccer. Their destinies intertwine as they become teammates on the Israel National Football Team, where they represent their tiny country in the Soccer World Cup held in Germany.
Through the process, they are forced to confront stereotypes and beliefs, contend with rabid anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, and endure nearly insurmountable setbacks and challenges. They are also forced to make difficult personal life choices.
Mosen was raised in a vibrant Modern Orthodox community in New York. He attended Jewish day school and high school. After two years at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh, he attended Yeshiva University.
After earning his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, he completed a fellowship in nephrology at the University of Pennsylvania. During his medical training, he took off a year to study in the chaver program of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.
After his marriage to Judy, the Mosen family lived in Cleveland, Ohio, for 13 years. The Mosen children range in age from 10 to 23.
“My goal in writing this book is to find a common ground that binds us all together, to build bridges and to change the conversation from a contentious one to one of mutual respect and understanding,” Mosen said.. Ultimately, my goal is to help, in any tiny way I can, to promote peaceful coexistence. I pray every day for peace, and I thank God for His promise that peace—as elusive as it may seem—is ultimately attainable.”
First Among Nations is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the Book Depository. To learn more about the novel and the accompanying podcast, go to www.iramosen.com or email [email protected].