Monday, May 28, 2018

Israel's Birth: Two Key Facts You Might Not Know (Plus a GIVEAWAY!)

Israel has been in the news a great deal this month. Who hasn’t been horrified by the Gaza footage? But going back to the roots of the seventy-year old conflict, there are some key facts many may not be aware of.

#1: The Nation of Israel Was Created in Response to the Plight of Holocaust Victims

Many Holocaust victims were still behind barbed wire five years later! 

Seventy-three years ago, the world was shocked and horrified as the extent of the Holocaust extermination machine was unveiled. Six million Jews, half of Europe’s Jewish population and a third of the world’s, slaughtered in less than five brutal years. Along with five million others—priests and pastors, gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, communists, anarchists, Poles and other Slavic peoples, not to mention resistance fighters. 

Holocaust survivors liberated from the Mauthausen camp in Austria.

When the Allied armies liberated the concentration camps in 1945, I always pictured that the captives were quickly nursed back to health and freed. But in researching a future novel, I’ve learned that picture is heartbreakingly inaccurate. 

The war left 250,000 Jewish displaced persons interned around Europe—many of them still confined in overcrowded conditions on the grounds of the camps in which they’d endured so much. Many Holocaust victims were still living behind barbed wire in those camps five years later. 

Wedding dress sewn from parachute silk. It was reused by a succession of Jewish brides in the Celle and Belsen camps--former concentration camps made over to house Jewish "displaced persons."

They didn’t want to—or couldn’t—return to their former homes where they’d faced so much persecution. How and where to resettle them became a humanitarian crisis of global proportion. The majority of them stated they had a single dream: to immigrate to their own land, in what was then Mandatory British Palestine. 

How British Palestine Came to Be

Let's step back a quarter century. In 1922, after the Ottoman Empire fell at the end of WWI, the League of Nations granted the British a Mandate to govern an area the British (not the Arab residents, who had been citizens of the Ottomans) named "Palestine." The Mandate's express purpose? To establish "a national home for the Jewish people." 

During the first decades of the twentieth century, Jewish people were allowed to immigrate freely into British Palestine. Some came, purchasing land legally from Arab families who were happy to sell it. But they didn’t come in great numbers. Why? Because life in Palestine was hard! The land they were able to purchase was generally undesirable. They persisted through years of toil to reclaim malarial swamps or to coax crops from arid sand. You had to be young, hardy, and a bit of a zealot for the pioneering Zionist life to appeal. 

Worse, as the Jewish population increased, it became the target of random violence by Arab neighbors. Episodes got more frequent, climaxing in the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939. More than three hundred Jews were murdered during the Revolt years alone. 

#2: The “Two-State Solution” Has Been Rejected Many Times… And Not by Israel 

Many attempts have been made to define a plan to divide the land between Arabs and Jews. 

In 1937, the British formed a body called the Peel Commission to make a recommendation. Its recommendation looked like this: 

Peel Commission Partition Plan, 1937. The Jewish State would get the smaller area within the red lines. Jerusalem would be in an international zone governed by the British.

The Jews agreed to this partition plan. But the Arabs rejected it, continuing the Arab Revolt. 

It took the sweeping horror of the Holocaust to move world sympathy enough to persuade the new United Nations to ratify a new plan. The land the United Nations voted to grant to Israel in May, 1948 looked like this: 

U.N. Partition Plan enacted in May, 1948. The crazy-shaped blue area was Israel. Jerusalem (in gray) was, again, to be a special international zone.

The Jewish State looks like indefensible Swiss cheese here! The big pointed piece at the bottom is the Negev desert--forbidding land not suitable for either agriculture or urban development at that time. Nonetheless, the Jewish negotiators agreed to this plan. The Arab negotiators did not.

Non-Jewish residents of the new nation were not asked to give up their homes or their civil rights, which were guaranteed. But those who wished to remain in the Jewish sections would need to accept Jewish leadership. That the Arab world would not submit to. Instead, Palestine plunged into a state of undeclared civil war. This began months before the partition officially took effect on May 15, 1948. 

Violence escalated. The day Israel became a nation, seven surrounding states attacked it. Heavily armored columns bore down on Jewish farming communities whose defense consisted of molotov cocktails and a motley assortment of smuggled rifles--smuggled, because they had been illegal for them to own under the British mandate. Perhaps with the addition of a light mortar or two and what little ammunition the nascent Israeli Defense Force could supply.

Jewish kibbutz members work their collective farm in 1947. The Kfar Etzion kibbutz was destroyed by Arabs on May 14, 1948--the day before war was formally declared. Jewish occupants were slaughtered after surrendering, including approximately 20 women.

Many Arabs fled Israel voluntarily at this time, understandably fearful to remain in a war zone. Some were, frankly, expelled at gunpoint. Once it became clear the Arabs would not support the Jewish state, the fledgling nation couldn't afford to leave villages in place in strategic locations where they could easily harbor and support its enemies. 

Were there wartime atrocities? Sadly, yes. Both ways. 

But the narrative that makes the Jewish state out to be the bully in the neighborhood, picking fights with unarmed Arab villagers, turns the facts upside down. 

Seventy years later, why are so many Palestinian Arabs still in squalid refugee camps?

The entire history of the conflict is too involved to sketch out here. 
One fact does seem to get overlooked in the coverage. The walls that keep the Palestinian Arabs out of Egypt and Jordan are just as serious business as the barriers that keep them out of Israel. In 1952, the Arab League agreed that no member state would grant citizenship to Palestinian Arabs. 

Israel made the Palestinians fresh offers in 2000 and 2008. Both would have given the Palestinians their own state including all of Gaza and the majority of the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as their capital. Yasser Arafat turned down the first deal and Mahmoud Abbas the second. 

And despite receiving ~$5.5B in international aid since 1993, the Palestinian Authority (now merged with recognized terrorist organization Hamas) has done little to improve the people's living conditions.

The situation in the Palestine refugee camps is indeed wrenching. But Israel is not solely to blame.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir is quoted as saying, "We will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder to forgive them for having forced us to kill theirs."

Back by popular demand! I'm hosting a drawing for a copy of Sarah Sundin's latest WWII novel, The Sea Before Us, for new subscribers to my newsletter. You'll also receive updates on my novel, including an opportunity to gain pre-launch access. To enter, please REGISTER HERE by Wednesday, May 30. (I'm also giving away a second copy to a current subscriber, so those of you who registered last month will have a second chance to win. :) )

I stepped away from a marketing career that spanned continents to write what I love: stories of reckless faith that showcase God's hand in history. I'm so excited to work with the all-star team at Mountain Brook Ink to launch my debut novel, The Plum Blooms in Winter, this December! Inspired by a remarkable true story from World War II's pivotal Doolittle Raid, The Plum Blooms in Winter is an American Christian Fiction Writers' Genesis Contest winner. The novel follows a captured American pilot and a bereaved Japanese prostitute who targets him for ritual revenge. Please also feel free to check out my blog, Five Stones and a Sling, which hovers in the region where history meets Bible prophecy meets current events. It's rich ground--we live in a day when prophecies are leaping from the Bible's pages into the headlines!

I live outside Phoenix with my husband, a third-generation airline pilot who doubles as my Chief Military Research Officer. We share our home with two mostly-grown-up kids and a small platoon of housecats.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Colonial Georgia, Prison Colony or Place of Hope?

Somehow, I’d always had the notion that the state of Georgia was founded as a prison colony. I’m not sure if that idea came from a mis-guided history text or simply an assumption on my part, but I’m surprised to learn that my long-thought (and since I just celebrated a birthday, I’m reminded just how LONG-thought) idea was partly wrong. 

 The settlement of Georgia began with one man’s mission to clean up the British prison system. Now, you might ask what British prisoners had to do with colonizing America, or you might not, but just in case you wanted to know—I’ll share the short version of the answer to that question. In the early eighteenth century, Britain’s prisons were full of its citizens who committed minor infractions. Something as minor as a small, unpaid debt could send a person to an overcrowded, filthy, disease infested hell-hole. 

Enter, James Oglethorpe—British soldier, Parliament member and humanitarian,
James Oglethorp
he worked tirelessly to help eradicate the horrible treatment of prisoners in the British prison system. Especially, those inmates who were imprisoned on minor charges such as unpaid debt. Oglethorpe’s position in Parliament gave him access to men with the mean to fund a debtors’ colony in the Americas and after about three years, King George II approved a colony in the New World which would become Georgia. 

Unfortunately, Oglethorpe’s dream of a place where the destitute of Britain could learn a new trade and become useful citizens was put on hold when the king stipulated that the new colony must make money for the crown. So, Oglethorpe gathered a group of 114 men, women and children and set sail for the new world.

The first ship of James Oglethorpe’s ships landed in Georgia late in the year of 1732. By February of 1733, Oglethorpe had befriended the local natives, and he negotiated for a plot of land near Savannah to settle.

Back in their home country, the colonists had been gifted with cotton seed which eventually would become the main crop of the state of Georgia. After their arrival, James made certain that slavery was outlawed in the new colony.

Through the colonial history, Britain sent about 60,000 men, women, and children, who were considered ex-convicts, across the Atlantic. Very few of them ended up in the state of Georgia. Most were sent to Maryland and Virginia

James Oglethorpe never obtained his goal of a debtor’s colony, but he wanted to be certain that everyone who settled there had an equal chance of becoming a prosperous citizen. Though in 1749 the ban on slavery was overturned and by the American Revolution in 1776, Georgia had over 18,000 slaves within its borders.

James Oglethorpe was a man who tried to make the world a better place by teaching his fellow human beings to do for themselves. His dream of creating a colony where ex-debtors could colonize and learn a trade, in the hopes of becoming prosperous citizens, never came to pass, but his legacy of founding Georgia became an even greater achievement. 

As I researched the prison colony of Georgia, I found myself thinking how so many times in life we have a plan to accomplish something we think is necessary to have a fulfilled life. But as our plans are way-laid, and we feel like we may have failed something bigger and better happens instead. The story of the failed Georgia prison colony is a good example of that thought.
Have a wonderful Memorial Day and thank you for stopping by Heroes, Heroines and History.


Award winning author, Michele Morris’s love for historical fiction began when she first read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series. She grew up riding horses and spending her free time in the woods of mid-Michigan. Married to her high school sweetheart, they are living happily-ever-after with their six children, three in-loves, and six grandchildren in Florida, the sunshine state. Michele loves to hear from readers on Facebook, Twitter, and through the group blog, Heroes, Heroines, and History at

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The David Rumsey Historical Map Collection

By J. M. Hochstetler

I’ve loved maps ever since my geography, history, and social studies classes in grade school. I’d often draw and trace maps just for the fun of it, and I’m still fascinated by them. Which is a good thing since I depend a lot on historical maps in writing my novels. So when I discovered the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection while doing research for my American Patriot Series, I was thrilled.

Tennassee Government, Gilbert Imlay, 1797
David Rumsey is president of Cartography Associates, a digital publishing company based in San Francisco. In addition to a whole lot of other impressive experience and involvements, he’s also chairman of Luna Imaging, which provides enterprise software for online image collections. In 1980, after making a fortune in real estate, Rumsey—who clearly is even more fascinated with maps than I am—began to collect 18th- and 19th century maps of North and South America, the era during which modern cartography began. Eventually he expanded the collection to rare 16th though 21st century maps of America, North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Pacific, Arctic, Antarctic, and the World. Then in 1995 he decided to make his collection available to the public by building the online David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. It now contains over 150,000 maps and other cartographic items and is one of the largest private map collections in the world, with maps that can be used to study history, explorations, genealogy, and art.

David Rumsey Map Center
Rumsey donated the entire collection to Stanford University in 2009; it’s been housed in the David Rumsey Map Center in the university’s main library since 2016. The website continues as a separate resource for the public. Over 82,000 maps have been digitized and made available there, along with downloadable viewers from Luna Imaging. The most popular is the LUNA browser, which enables users to view the collection, zoom into details, and create slide shows, presentations, and more without any special plug-ins or software. Users can search through about 60,000 maps with a MapRank tool, and a helpful new Georeferencer tool allows for georectification of any of the maps in the collection.

Largest Early World Map - Monte's 10 ft. Planisphere of 1587
The website also offers a blog that lists new additions to the collection, featured maps, news, videos, and related sites. In addition around 1,000 maps can be accessed through Google Earth layers, while selected ones are featured in the Rumsey Maps Island on the virtual world Second Life, as well as in 2D and 3D GIS. If you love maps or are doing research and need a map of just about any place and time, this amazing collection is just what you’re looking for!

Are you a map lover like I am? Or do they drive you crazy—literally—when you’re trying to decipher how to get from one place to another? What about our most common navigational device, GPS systems like Google maps? Love ’em or hate ’em? Share your experiences and frustrations—I totally understand!
J. M. Hochstetler is the daughter of Mennonite farmers and a lifelong student of history. She is also an author, editor, and publisher. Her American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. Northkill, Book 1 of the Northkill Amish Series coauthored with Bob Hostetler, won Foreword Magazine’s 2014 Indie Book of the Year Bronze Award for historical fiction. Book 2, The Return, received the 2017 Interviews and Reviews Silver Award for Historical Fiction and was named one of Shelf Unbound’s 2018 Notable Indie Books. One Holy Night, a contemporary retelling of the Christmas story, was the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year and a finalist in the Carol Award.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Alexander Graham Bell and the Deaf Community

As I wrote my most recent release, Heartfelt Echoes, which is part of the First Love Forever Romance Collection, I found myself challenged in a new way. Because both my hero and heroine in that story are deaf, I had to be careful to not use any sounds in my writing. Their deafness caused me to really think about how to convey a scene without one of the senses we take for granted. In order to get this right, I spent a lot of time researching deaf education, deaf culture, and other topics related to deafness. Through that research, one of the interesting things I learned was the role that a fairly famous man played in the deaf culture.

Most everyone has heard of Scottish-born inventor Alexander Graham Bell and his invention of the telephone. We reap the benefits of that famous discovery and other lesser-known ones by Bell, even today. However, what many of you may not know is that Bell did a lifetime of research and work with both elocution (the study of speech in grammar, pronunciation, and tone), and also with the deaf community. Perhaps this interest came about because his mother—and later his wife--were deaf.

In Bell’s youth, he started out as a rather lackluster student. It wasn’t until he was 15 or 16 and spent a year living with his grandfather that his studious side emerged. Under his grandfather’s careful direction, Bell learned how to speak clearly, concisely, and with conviction. Long discussions and hours of study with his grandfather turned this poor student into a lover of learning, which enabled Alexander Graham Bell to become a pupil-teacher at the Weston House Academy. There, he taught music and elocution, which provided him the ability to study Latin and Greek at the same school. He progressed on to tutoring various students in elocution, including deaf-mute students.

He began researching and tinkering with various inventions with sound, all while teaching or tutoring. But he and both his brothers grew ill. Younger brother Ted died of tuberculosis in 1867. In 1870, elder brother Melville died of complications from the same disease. At this point, Bell’s parents realized their remaining son, who had suffered and seemingly recovered from a debilitating illness around the time of Ted’s death, was still ill. They made the decision to move to the Americas in hopes the change of climate might help Alexander’s health. Bell wrapped up his tutoring business and moved across the pond to Canada with his parents, widowed sister-in-law, and her children.

Alexander Graham Bell in the upper right corner while teaching
the "Visible Speech System."

It was in Canada that Bell learned of the Mohawk Indian tribe. The Mohawk language was an unwritten one, and being the lover of language and elocution that he was, Bell took it upon himself to learn the language, then translate it into Visible Speech Symbols. This exercise led him to be named an Honorary Chief of the tribe—and it also led to various teaching positions at several American institutions for the education of the deaf. The teachers of those schools sought Bell out to teach them this “Visible Speech System.”

After six months in the United States, Bell was unsure what he wanted to do. He considered a return to London in order to pursue further education but ultimately settled on a life in Boston, teaching. With his father’s help, he made the move and began tutoring students in elocution. Many of his students were deaf. One very notable student of his was Helen Keller, who came to him as a young child.

Bell with his wife Mabel and two
daughters. Mabel was deaf.
But while Bell seemed to be one with a real heart to help the deaf community, there was one major issue. Bell, along with several other well-known people, felt that deafness should be eradicated from the face of the earth. So rather than teaching (or allowing deaf students to be taught) sign language, he preferred to make his deaf students learn to read lips and use verbal speech rather than signing. The idea behind this was to make the hearing world more comfortable and accepting of the deaf. This, in turn, would reduce the need for the deaf to group together in their own communities, which would limit the number of deaf people marrying a deaf partner. And in Bell’s estimation, that would reduce the number of children being born deaf. So he fought to make the deaf speak, rather than sign, their words—a practice known as “oralism.”

Because of Bell and other well-known proponents, oralism seemed to gain a foothold for a time. Many deaf people were forced to learn lip-reading, which could be an absolutely exhausting skill requiring great amounts of concentration. They were also forced to spend many hours practicing verbal speech, learning to adjust their lips and tongues just so in order to make intelligible sounds. Even today, many deaf people have learned both skills but have chosen to abandon them because of the concentration they require. Instead, they prefer to speak in American Sign Language, which requires far less mental energy on their parts and allows them to enjoy their relationships more.

It's Your Turn: Were you aware of Alexander Graham Bell’s work with elocution? Did you know he was a teacher of the deaf? Have you heard of “oralism” before? What are your feelings about that practice?

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions, and been on the ECPA best-seller list numerous times. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children.

A first love is never easily forgotten...
and coming face to face with that person again can be awkward when the heartstrings are still holding on to the “what ifs.”

In settings from 1865 to 1910, nine couples are thrown back on the same path by life’s changes and challenges. A neighbor returns from law school. An heiress seeks a quick marriage. A soldier’s homecoming is painful. A family needs help. A prodigal son returns. A rogue aeronaut drops from the sky. A runaway bridegroom comes home. A letter for aid is sent. A doctor needs a nurse. Can love rekindle despite the separation of time and space?

Heartfelt Echoes by Jennifer Uhlarik
1875—Virginia City, Nevada: A short, urgent letter mentioning his childhood love, Millie Gordon, forces deaf Travis McCaffrey to turn to his estranged birth father for help rescuing the woman he can’t forget.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Fun Town Names and How They Got That Way

I'm writing a new series based in Texas and I've been studying maps.  Texas sure does have some odd, charming and altogether weird or funny town names. Here's just a couple that caught my eye.   
Cut and Shoot, Texas
Believe it or not, this town name was the result of a church fight.  No one really knows what the dispute was about. Some say it was over the new steeple; others say there was a disagreement as to who should preach there. Still others insist it was over church member land claims. Whatever the reason, the meeting at the church turned violent.  
A small boy at the scene declared he was going to take up a tactical position and “cut around the corner and shoot through the bushes.”
Later, after the matter was taken to court, the judge asked a witness where the confrontation had taken place.  Since the town didn't have a name the witness described the location the best way he knew how. “I suppose you could call it the place where they had the cutting and shooting scrape,” he said, and the name stuck.
Ding Dong, Texas (which just happens to be in Bell County)

As the saying goes, if you find yourself in Ding Dong, you had to be looking for it.  Two early residents Zulis Bell and his nephew Berth ran a general store and hired a local painter named C.C. Hoover to make a sign for their business. Hoover illustrated the sign with two bells inscribed with the Bells’ names, and then wrote “Ding Dong” coming out the bottom of the bells.  No one remembered the Bells but they sure did remember Ding Dong and the name stuck. 
Jot-Em-Down, Texas
This is a small unincorporated community in Delta County.The town's name comes from the name of a fictional store in the Lum and Abner radio show from the 30s and 40s.
Dime Box, Texas
The name originated from the practice of leaving a dime in the box at Brown's Mill to have a letter delivered.  The practice stopped when a post office was opened in 1877.
The following town isn't in Texas, but I just love the name—and of course the love story.

Total Wreck, Arizona.
Total Wreck was discovered by John L. Dillon in 1879.He named it such because he thought the ledge the mine was on looked like a total wreck. A man once got into a shooting at Total Wreck and survived because the bullet lodged in a stack of love letters he had in his jacket. He later married the girl who wrote the letters!

Watch out for Haywire!
Haywire is the name I chose for my fictional town in Cowboy Charm School (Coming September 2018).  You'll have to read the book to find out how the town got its name.
What town have you visited that had the strangest name?  
 For me it would have to be Monkey's Eyebrow, Arizona 
(and I have no idea how it got its name). 

More shenanigans in the town of Two-Time, Texas!