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The Unlikely Blessings of Living on Borrowed Time in a Leased Land 405

Landsman, shocked by the indifference

the “ten thousand miles of

frozen sea” (142)

he sees in the eyes of Mendel’s father, Rabbi

Shpilman, when he informs the Rabbi of his son’s death.

As Landsman plods on, the murder case leads to the discovery

of an anti-Arab conspiracy engineered by Zionist Jews and aided by

the American government, with the dual aims of precipitating World

War III and returning the Jews to their promised land in Palestine.

Before Landsman acts on this knowledge, the Zionists-Evangelists

launch an attack at the Dome of the Rock

a sacred site for both

Jews, Muslims, and Christians

which is reduced to a “magnificent

plume of black smoke” (358), a scenario that resonates with the twin

towers destruction on 9/11.


The novel ends with Landsman

debating whether to go public with his theories, as he doubts the

information will make a difference. In other words, however hard

he tries to name the murderer, unveil the truth, and uncover the

conspiracy, Landsman is convinced he can neither change his

personal destiny nor save the world from an imminent warfare, as

the Dome has already been destroyed and a global killing spree

already started, with Jews, Muslims, and Christians pointing fingers

at one another for maliciously destroying their sacred religious

shrine. So, why and what does it matter whether or not the truth of

who killed Mendel is unveiled, or the conspiracy uncovered? Why

should one act, think, or feel otherwise; that is, what is the

justification for counterfactual thinking? What possibilities would it

open up?


I’m here echoing the argument made by Margaret Scanlan that by centering his

novel on an inverse 9/11, Chabon explores an issue that touches the heart of his

contemporary American readers; that is, “the relationship of American Zionists,

both Christian and Jewish, to their militant counterparts in Israel, as well as the

implications of that relationship for the War on Terror and for the American Jewish

community” (2011: 506).