On September 15, 2008, Julie Wasserman’s life collapsed. In the morning, she lost her job at Lehman Brothers. That afternoon, she lost her twin brother, Jack, in a car crash. A year and a half later, she returns home to Pittsburgh to start a new job and live up to a pledge to visit her brother’s grave every day. With six weeks to wait before the start of the new job, she steps out of character and purchases a plane ticket to Thailand, the one place her brother dreamed of visiting. She arrives in Thailand, focused on trying to figure out how she is going to live in the world without her twin brother and best friend. But an interruption in the form of a sexy Israeli, Avi, distracts her from this goal. As he tries to make her see that their meeting was bashert, meant to be, she insists that she must return home to live up to her promise to Jack. Feeling responsible for Jack’s death, Julie believes that he wouldn’t want her to be happy but would expect her to mourn for the rest of her life. Can Avi find a way to convince her they are bashert and Jack wouldn’t want her to stop living, or is Julie doomed to a life of guilt and unhappiness unless a higher power steps in?
Targeted Age Group:: 18-55
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I was inspired to write this book during a trip to Thailand for my 25th wedding anniversary, which was two years after my brother was killed in a car accident.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I met a twenty-one year old woman travelling alone in Thailand and wondered why would a young person travel so far from her home in the United States alone.
Patong Beach, on the western side of the island of Phuket, blistered in the tropical sun. People wallowed in the warm ocean waters like hippos
desperate for relief. European tourists filled the two-mile
stretch of silky white sand, basting their bodies with
coconut oil, aiming for skin the color of mocha. But I
suspected many of these sun gods and goddesses only
created more business for the local hospital’s emergency
department burn unit. Something I refused to do.
To avoid the direct sunlight, I staked out a semi-
shady spot under one of the coconut trees lining the edge
of the beach. Under a neighboring tree, a little boy and a
little girl giggled as they attempted to bury their long-
legged father in the sand, using dollar store plastic
The obviously pregnant mother sat on a king size
blanket, laughing and snapping pictures. The children’s
antics made me smile and wonder if they were twins, like
me and my brother, Jack.
The mother’s demeanor radiated love. Occasionally,
she set down the camera and grabbed one of the toddlers
and planted a kiss on his or her cheek. It reminded me of
18 Susan Sofayov
our childhood family beach trips, except we only traveled
as far as the Jersey Shore.
The little boy plopped down and began rolling in the
sand, squealing in delight that moments later transformed
into a loud screech. He crushed his little fists against his
eyes, until his mother gently peeled back his hands.
Using a small white T-shirt, she whisked away the sand
clinging to his eyelashes and eyelids.
I’d always dreamed of having children. As a five-
year-old, I informed Jack that someday, he and I would
marry a set of twins just like us, a brother and a sister and
buy side-by-side houses so our children could play
together every day. The crushing sensation that accosted
my ribcage, every time I thought about Jack returned with
a vengeance. I pulled my book from my bag, rolled onto
my stomach, and started reading.
“Do you know that over two hundred and fifty
people each year are killed by falling coconuts?” a male
Based on the volume, the voice sounded close. I
closed my book and rolled over.
He smiled, and his white teeth shone against his tan
skin. “That may be an urban legend, but why take the
I looked up at bunch of coconuts, dangling high
above my head, appearing hard and loose on the branch.
“You may be right. Those do look rather ripe.”
“Yep,” he said, inviting himself to sit down on my
mat. “I’m Avi Gold.”
He looked like a career backpacker, tan skin, but not
the worked-on tan tourist guys sported. His looked native,
like he’d spent the last six months surfing under the
tropical sun. But his most striking feature was brown
dreadlocks, bleached by the sun and sea salt, falling a few
inches lower than his shoulders. “Now,” he said. “This is
JERUSALEM STONE 19
the point in the conversation you’re supposed to tell me
“Yep, common introductory courtesy dictates that I
tell you my name, and you respond in kind. So, your
I shifted to a sitting position and couldn’t help but
notice that he smelled delicious, a sweet scent mixed with
an Earthy musk. “Excuse me.” I reached behind him,
grabbed my cover up, and pulled it over my head.
“You do have a name, right?”
“Julie.” I shifted on the mat to see his face without
the sun blinding me. His eyes were blue, not the blue-
green of the Andaman Sea in front of us, but the blue of
the Caribbean, pure and bright.
“Nice, but surprising, I pegged you as an Emily or
Jessica. What’s your Hebrew name?”
“Your Hebrew name. All American Jews have one.
You should know your own Hebrew name.” His gazed
remained fixed on my face, which caused a tingling
sensation to zap through me.
This guy was presumptuous, but instead of feeling
insulted, I struggled against an urge to run my hand along
the day-old stubble on his cheek. “What makes you think
“Well, for starters, the gold Star of David hanging
around your neck.”
I reached for my neck and felt the small star. Damn.
I’d forgotten I was wearing it.
“Second, I saw you last night at the Chabad House,
eating dinner all by yourself.”
His smile lit his face, and his eyes twinkled. It
appeared this Avi guy was proud of himself—gloating
over some imaginary victory.
20 Susan Sofayov
“Really? I don’t recall seeing you there, and the
place wasn’t crowded last night.”
He leaned back on his elbows, stretched his long,
lean-muscled legs, and shook the sand off his feet.
Why did I buy a two-person mat? Who in the hell
does this guy think he is? “Please, make yourself
comfortable,” I said, hoping he’d catch the sarcasm in my
“Thanks. I’ve been combing this strip of beach since
noon, looking for you. I was a few minutes away from
giving up. The sand fried my feet. I don’t know how
these pasty tourists stand it. Maybe it’s like that tribe in
Africa that can only see green and red because those are
the dominant colors of the jungle. Maybe all these
Scandinavians can’t feel the heat because it’s so damn
cold in their country.”
What the hell was this guy talking about—hot sand,
Scandinavians, and looking for me? “Huh?”
“What don’t you get?” he asked, rolling onto his side
and propping his head on his hand. “The Africans that
can’t see colors or the hardy-footed Swedes?”
“Neither! Why were you looking for me?”
“Every Monday and Wednesday night, I study
Talmud with the rabbi and a few backpackers. Last night,
when I walked into the building, you were sitting alone at
a table by the wall, reading your book, and eating what
appeared to be schnitzel.”
“So, you decided to stalk me, because of my taste in
food?” At this point, I didn’t understand why, instead of
being creeped out, I was mentally wrestling against an
urge to run my finger down his stomach muscles, which
rolled like moguls down a ski slope.
“Stalk, no. Find, yes.” He sat silent, scanning me
from hair to feet, leaving me with the feeling, he was
confirming that I was, in fact, the same woman he saw
JERUSALEM STONE 21
eating at the Chabad House. It appeared as if his
assessment was complete when his beautiful features
settled into a position of contentment.
“Well, you found me,” I said, crossing my arms in
front of my chest.
“Excellent. Let’s hang here for a while and then we
can grab some dinner at Chabad. It’s a good day for
swimming. The beach isn’t crowded.”
I’d met many types of people in my life, but never,
ever, did I encounter someone this presumptuous. “What
makes you think that I want to ‘hang here’ with you and
eat dinner with you?”
He gazed into my eyes for a moment and I suddenly
felt hot. Very, very hot.
“Do you want me to leave?”
His eyes never flinched, gripping mine in a way that
made my stomach flutter. I’ve always been attracted to
guys who wore suits to work, polo shirts on weekends,
and exuded an air of responsibility and ambition. This
Avi person appeared to be none of these things, just a
beach bum with no ambition and from the look of his
ripped cargo shorts, no steady income. But he was sexy
“No. You can stay,” I said, not believing the words
came from my mouth. “For a while.”
“Excellent,” he said, lying flat on his back. “I wasn’t
joking about the coconuts. Maybe we should relocate this
We moved my bag and mat to a shady spot under the
sprawling branches of a heliotrope tree. Avi wanted to
swim, so I followed him to the water and stepped into the
surf. The sea was calm, clear and clean. Three years ago,
the pharmaceutical company Jack worked for named him
top salesman of the quarter and with that honor came a
week-long trip to Puerto Rico for two. The girl he loved
22 Susan Sofayov
was busy serving in the Israeli Army, so he dragged me
I loved the azure color of the Caribbean Sea, but it
was too warm to swim for extended periods, like a hot
tub, I had to jump out every twenty minutes. Jack, on the
other hand, adored the warmth and spent hours just
floating around and snorkeling. The water of the
Andaman was just the right temperature.
It didn’t take long to figure out that Avi loved two
things, swimming and talking, which was fine by me,
talking was never my strong suit. My mom always said
that Jack was the talker and I was the stalker. No matter
where Jack was in the house you could hear him, talking
to his toys, the television, and quite often, himself. Mom
said that I moved through the house so quietly that many
times she would turn around, startled to find me standing
Eventually, Avi ran out of energy and we returned to
the mat. As I dried myself, I considered offering him the
use of my towel, which turned into a bigger decision than
I expected, because of the mesmerizing effect the water
sliding down his body had on me. More than anything I
wanted to catch a drop on my finger and taste it. “Hey!”
He flipped his dreadlocks forward like an elephant
spraying with his trunk, soaking me and the towel. He
tossed his head back, laughing.
“What the hell!”
His eyes beamed unabashed joy. “Sorry, you looked
really hot all wet in that bikini. Your towel screwed up
I found a dry spot on the towel and began mopping
his hair spit off my chest. “Did anyone ever tell you that
you’re rude and slightly obnoxious?”
“Sure, at least once a day.” He plopped onto the mat
and pointed for me to sit next to him.
JERUSALEM STONE 23
Logic would dictate that I tell this strange guy to get
lost or leave me alone, but his smile, like my brother’s,
could melt rocks. I sat next to him and spent the next
hour listening to him describe the high points of
Southeast Asia, and occasionally, drifting off, imagining
what kissing his full lips would feel like.
The sun dipped lower on the horizon and he stood. I
thought he was leaving, but instead he reached for my
hand and pulled me to my feet. “Time to take a walk.”
“I can’t leave my stuff. Someone might take it.”
He scanned the area. “Do you really think that
anyone one on this beach wants another damp towel, a
beat-up beach bag and a worn copy of The Drifters? By
the way, I’m impressed with the reading choice.
Personally, I love Michener. He’s terribly underrated
these days. The Source is my favorite, but The Drifters is
a close second.”
We walked side by side in the surf for about a half a
mile until three very pretty bikini clad girls yelled and
waved. “Hey Avi.”
“Not really. I know them from Chabad. They eat
there every night, too.”
We talked about food and the sanitary conditions of
the Thai restaurants, agreeing that no one would ever call
either of us “foodies.” Listening to him speak had the
same effect on me as hearing Morgan Freedman narrate
anything. His deep, throaty voice lulled me into
mellowed out state, until we were interrupted by more
people waving and yelling. “Hi, Avi.”
“You seem to know a lot of people in this town.”
“Well.” He shrugged. “When you hang out on this
beach, you meet people. I’ve been here for about a
We returned to the towel just before the sun leveled
24 Susan Sofayov
with the horizon and sat side by side watching the sunset.
He described it as God is painting stripes of blue and
orange around the setting sun. And he was exactly right.
As darkness blanketed the beach and only a tinge of
orange remained on the horizon, fireworks exploded from
the part of the island that jutted into the sea. Someone
was wishing the sun a good night.
“Where are you staying?” he asked.
“Not far.” I pointed in the general direction of my
“I’ll walk you back and we can figure out what time
we’re meeting for dinner.”
There was no reason to bother acting indignant over
his assumption that I would have dinner with him. Other
than the fact he was an unemployed beach bum, there
was no reason for me not to want to spend many more
hours with this guy. He was smart, charming, and
possibly the sexiest man I had ever encountered—ever.
We reached my hostel and agreed to meet in front of
Chabad in an hour and a half. Avi turned to walk away
and for a moment, I let myself enjoy the sight of his
stride and the way his shorts hung low around his hips.
As I was about to enter the hostel, I heard him. “Be
forewarned, before this night is over, I do plan on kissing you."
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