Book Review: “Good Heart” weaves Christian-Jewish friendship, support for Israel

By Richard Friedman 

“Good Heart” is a sparkling first-time novel by Al Newman, a long-time pro-Israel activist who lives in south Florida. Newman, who is Jewish, believes deeply in expressing thanks to the millions of Christians who are Biblically-inspired to support Israel and he does this beautifully in his new novel, which was published by Gefen.

The importance and impact of Christian support for Israel and friendship toward the Jewish people is skillfully told by Newman through his saga of the relationship between a Christian and Jewish family over three generations.

A gifted writer, his narrative travels through small-town Indiana, south Florida, Austria, Russia, Ethiopia and Israel, with some surprising plot twists along the way.

Characters in each generation, bound by experiences you would not typically imagine, jump off the page thanks to Newman’s deft story-telling. He knows his terrain well, having grown up in small-town Pennsylvania, later moving to south Florida and spending lots of time in Israel.

Four themes recur throughout this book: Gratitude for the rebirth of Israel and the success and achievements of the Jewish state; appreciation for the steadfast support that the Jewish state and Jewish people are receiving today from Biblically-inspired Christians; the heroism and sacrifices of Israel’s Lone Soldiers (soldiers serving in the Israeli military who have no family in the country); and the miraculous immigration to Israel by the Jews of Ethiopia.

Newman has written an enjoyable and emotional novel — and an educational book as well. His knowledge is evident, his writing is authoritative, and he teaches, rather than preaches, about the history of Israel, the Jewish people and the other subjects he tackles. His own heart is on full display as his love for these two families and their intertwined lives remains constantly evident.

“Good Heart” is a book for Christians and Jews of all ages. Newman’s characters stay with you even after you’ve finished reading “Good Heart.” You think about them, their lives and whether these two families will remain connected on into a fourth generation. (You sense somehow they will.)

In a moving passage at the end of the book, the reader learns the meaning of the book title “Good Heart.” However, even without that explanation you find yourself touched by the characters Newman has created — their kindnesses, their love for each other, the mutual love and respect they have for each other as Christians and Jews, and, most of all, their enduring good hearts.

“Good Heart” is now available for purchase from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It also can be purchased in Israel at most Steimatzky book stores.

Richard Friedman, executive director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation and a well-known Alabama journalist, will join the staff of Israel InSight magazine on Jan. 1, 2020.