Ellis Shuman
Ellis Shuman

Five years after Burgas

On July 18, 2012, a terrorist bomb exploded on a bus transporting Israelis from Burgas Airport to their hotels in the seaside Bulgarian town. The bomb killed five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver; thirty-two Israeli passengers were injured. A seventh person killed in the blast, the suicide bomber, was only identified two years later as a dual Lebanese-French citizen. His accomplices were named as Hezbollah terrorists who had managed to escape to Lebanon.

This was not the first terrorist attack targeting Israeli citizens overseas, nor was it, unfortunately, the last. I do not know any of the victims, yet this particular attack, the first ever to occur on Bulgarian soil, affected me personally and I think of it to this day.

My wife and I lived in Sofia for two years, 2009-2010. We regarded Bulgaria as a safe haven where we were in no danger of being targeted by anti-Semites or terrorists. Bulgarians have a high regard for Israel and the Jewish People. This strong friendship goes back many generations. Despite siding with Germany in World War II, Bulgaria was the only country that refused to hand over its Jewish citizens to the Nazis. As a result, its entire native community of 50,000 Jews was spared the horrors of the Holocaust.

Talking with the average Bulgarian one learns that everyone seems to have an uncle living in Jaffa, or a friend who made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The names Peres and Netanyahu are well-known in Bulgaria. A team of Bulgarian firemen came to Israel to help fight the Carmel forest fire in December 2010.

All of this made me feel quite at home during the two years of my relocation to Sofia. Upon my return to Israel, I continued to think of my experiences in Bulgaria. Bulgaria became an inspiration for my writing, as evident in my 2013 novel, Valley of Thracians, and in my blogs on The Huffington Post.

Following the terrorist attack at Burgas Airport, a joint investigation was launched by Bulgarian and Israeli security services. The results of this investigation were a long time coming, and far from conclusive. As I dwelled on this horrific attack, my creative mind moved into gear. I imagined what that investigation would be like. I began to write.

The Burgas Affair

I am proud to announce that my new novel The Burgas Affair, will be published in the coming weeks. Actually, the novel was published a year ago in Bulgaria. Ciela, the largest publishing house in Sofia, bought the Bulgarian rights for the book and it was published in June 2016. I attended the book launch in Sofia and I was interviewed on Bulgarian television and by other media there.

The Burgas Affair gives a fictional account of the joint Bulgarian-Israeli investigation in the aftermath of the Burgas attack. In the novel, a hard-drinking Sofia-based security officer is teamed up with a young intelligence analyst from Tel Aviv on her first field duty overseas. The two are assigned the task of establishing whether the Burgas terrorists were assisted by a local crime organization in laying the groundwork for the attack. Shadows of the past cloud their work, threatening their lives as well as their integrity and fortitude in getting to the bottom of the case. A shaky alliance evolves into growing cooperation and affection as they work against a deadline to uncover who was behind the Burgas bus bombing.

In my fictional writing, I have endeavored to be truly respectful to the victims of the horrific terrorist attack in Bulgaria, to those who lost their lives and those who were injured, and to their families. I also acknowledge, in a fictional way, the close cooperation between the Bulgarians and Israelis assigned to the investigation and to the security forces who work hard to prevent similar attacks in the future.

I look forward to sharing The Burgas Affair with you, as it is my way of honoring the very strong connection between Bulgaria and Israel.

This week, on the fifth anniversary of the Burgas terrorist bombing, I bow my head in memory of the victims of that attack. May their memories be blessed.

About the Author
Ellis Shuman made aliya to Jerusalem as a teenager, served in the IDF, was a founding member of a kibbutz, and now lives on Moshav Neve Ilan. Ellis is the author of ‘The Burgas Affair’ – a crime thriller set in Israel and Bulgaria; ‘Valley of Thracians’ - a suspense novel set in Bulgaria; and 'The Virtual Kibbutz' - a collection of short stories. His writing has appeared in The Times of Israel, The Huffington Post, The Jerusalem Post, Israel Insider, and on a wide range of Internet websites. Ellis lived with his wife for two years in Bulgaria, and blogs regularly about Israel, Bulgaria, books, and writing.
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