I wished they weren't.
Seriously, these two countries have so much to offer the world in terms of brain power and energy. If they were allies, they'd be unstoppable. And the food! Italy and France might as well just surrender now because they would never win that competition.
I sat in that cafe and suddenly saw two people thrown together in the war. I loved them from the first moment I saw them, but I could never complete the story simply because I did not have cultural access to the 10 million details I would need to create a believable story.
But I didn't need knowledge to write the first scene. I just needed to bring them together briefly. Here it is, the first thing I ever wrote, nearly seven years ago.
The Prologue to "Katyusha Country"
Grit filled her mouth.The stream of popping bullets sometimes sounded far away and at other times close enough for her to have pulled the trigger herself. Amal thought she might suffocate in the rocky grotto underneath the crumbling wall of a ruined Crusader outpost. The space had seemed barely big enough for a family of rabbits, but somehow she and Itai had squeezed themselves into the hollowed out space, pulling leafy branches behind them to mask the opening. Her back was pushed against the back rock wall of the grotto and her cheek rested against Itai’s shoulder. In the bud of Itai’s military earpiece, she could hear a whisper of a foreign language. Occasionally, he would whisper back in the same language so quietly it might have been the rustle of a leaf.His arms were wrapped protectively around her. Before the war they had joked that they would have to meet in a neutral third country. Switzerland, perhaps, but more likely Turkey. The mountains of Southern Lebanon had seemed eternally off limits.Itai bent his head in order to whisper in her ear. His breath warmed it. He told her to stay hidden until the sun was high in the sky. Amal bit her lip to keep from making any noise, and nodded her head to show that she understood. He kissed her hair, squeezed her shoulders and then crawled quickly out of the crevice into the dangerous night, replacing the branches to conceal it. More gunfire erupted and Amal was left alone in the dark, feeling the weight of the heavy earth press down upon her.