Raphael, Kate Jessica. “Murder Under the Fig Tree: A Palestine Mystery”, She Writes, 2017.
Hamas has taken power in Palestine thus causing the Israeli government to round up threats. Palestinian policewoman Rania Bakara is thrown in prison even though she has never been part of Hamas. Her friend Chloe flies in from San Francisco to help get her out of jail. Chloe asks an Israeli policeman named Benny for help and Benny offers Rania a way out—she can get out if she agrees to investigate the death of a young man in a village near her own. The young man’s neighbors believe the Israeli army killed him; Benny believes his death might not have been so honorable.
At first, Rania refuses to help since it would meet turning her back on her own people to help Israel. Nonetheless, she is released but when she gets home, she learns that she is suspected of being a traitor and so she lost her job with the police force. As she tries to find some kind of redemption, she decides to investigate the young man’s death and this pulls her into a Palestinian gay scene she never knew existed.
Along with Chloe and Chloe’s Palestinian Australian lover as guides, Rania explores a Jerusalem gay bar, meets with a lesbian support group, and goes deep into the victim’s world. This makes her question her beliefs about love, justice, and cultural identity.
Just as I suspected, the book is filled with political themes. But then how could a novel with a Palestinian main character not be? We do read of the difficulties being gay and in Palestinian society. Author Rafael does a good job highlighting the issues
between the Palestinians and the Israelis on the West Bank and we see how internal politics are always at play. When Raina is released, I thought that she would be recruited by Israel to be an informer especially since she lost her job. She begins investigating the death of the young male that was murdered and she learns a great deal about
an entire underworld network of gay and lesbian people about which she had no knowledge. It seems that Daoud, the young dead was gay and worked as a female impersonator in a club. This was the reason for his murder. Non-acceptance and lack of tolerance can be killers in their own ways and we certainly see that here.