Friends of the Opposite Sex


The novel opens with a small plane flying over the Sinai mountains, where Moses supposedly received the Ten Commandments.

“A perfect 1980’s love story—a sensual sexual adventure about redemption.”

  —Anne Roiphe



Shortly after sunrise, a Cessna 402 was flying to Santa Katarina in the Sinai Mountains. The mountains were most impressive at this hour, rising from the desert floor, red and stark, empty and silent in the pale gold sky. The mountains contained no roads, and appeared to contain no trees, but in a high valley, hidden between two ridges, was an oasis toward which the Cessna 402 was beating.

“You see,” said Uzi, the pilot, “it’s Garden of Eden.” The plane made a low pass over the valley, offering a sudden view of palm trees and pools. The plane rolled up over the ridge, circled and flew back down.

“Aren’t we awfully low?” Lucy said. She was sitting in front, trying to clear her ears from the drop in altitude. “No worries.” Uzi circled and made another low pass. Joe, the other passenger, seated behind Lucy, leaned toward the window. They were coming to the cliff. Uzi advanced the throttles and raised the nose of the plane but as they were about to cross the ridge, an air current took hold of them like a hand and pushed them down. They cleared the ridge, but the plane began to shake all at once. Every surface was buzzing and vibrating—dashboard, seats, windows.

Lucy’s hands flew out, trying to grab hold of something.

“What’s happening!”

“Propeller strike,” Uzi shouted. “It’s okay.” He reduced the power and the vibrating lessened. “I think I can make it to Santa Katarina.”

“What do you mean you think!” Joe said.

Uzi shut down the right engine. Lucy saw the propeller blades slow down and stop in air. Sweat ran down the center of her chest. It was 120 degrees.


“What!” Lucy said.

“Losing oil.”

No, it can’t be. She saw a chunk of the propeller blade break off.

Uzi cupped his mouth so the sound would be directed. “I’m going to take her down in the wadi. I can land in the sand easy, no problems. I want you to lean forward, hold your ankles and put your head in your lap. Stay like that until the plane stops. Try to relax.”


Joe was saying in her ear, “Get out of that seat and come in back.”

The ground was slanting up fast; there were cracks in the earth, boulders.

Bad, it’s going to be bad. No, there has to be a way out! “Get in back, away from the windshield. Undo your seat belt,” Joe yelled.

Lucy’s fingers fluttered helplessly. She began reciting the Shema.

Joe stood up, leaned over and struggled with her belt. “Stay put,” Uzi cried, “don’t move around.” Joe was pulling Lucy—yanking her—between the front seats into the back, buckling her in. “Now lean forward.”
Why? She had read somewhere about the crouch position.

Joe pushed her head down.

Shema Yisrael Adonai Elohenu . . .

The plane hit the sand, knocking the wind out of her. The plane bounced again and again—like a series of belly flops from a high board. She bit through her tongue and blood ran out her mouth.

She was hurled sideways, her head smacked against the cabin as the plane skidded wildly over the rocks. There was the sound of metal crunching, glass breaking. Her leg was caught, it was burning, twisting, and her mouth, her eyes . . . The plane rammed into something hard and stopped.

This has happened. She could not go back and start again, play it over, make it come out better. This has happened. When she opened her eyes, she saw double. Joe was moaning but no sound came from the front. She leaned forward . . . she screamed. Uzi’s neck had been snapped, his head was hanging slack like the head of a puppet. She smelled gas; straining ahead, she saw a fire sputtering in the engine.

She pushed open the left rear door. She tugged at Joe’s arm, but he would not move. “Joe, we have to get out!” She was dizzy, everything was swirling. She slapped his face, tried to lift him but he was too heavy. Black smoke seeped into the cabin and at last, with her help, Joe rose and stumbled out the door.

Holding each other, the two survivors struggled toward a cliff at the side of the wadi. A large rock threw shadows on the sand, and as they reached it and sank down, the plane went up in a ball of fire.

Hours passed; the temperature rose to 140. Joe lost consciousness and lay sprawled on his back. High above, an Israeli jet fighter flew over, breaking the sound barrier, disappearing with a trail of white vapor. No, don’t hope. I gambled on what mattered most. She laughed ruefully. No one will come. There are no telephones at Santa Katarina. When we don’t show up, they’ll assume we’ve changed our plans. They’ll think we’re in Jerusalem and people in Jerusalem will think we’re in Santa Katarina.

We have to walk out. She began to shiver and perspire at the same time. Later, when it’s cooler. Her lips and tongue were parched and cracking. She was feverish, she wanted to sleep, but she thought, if I do, I won’t get up. Dear Lord, have you brought me all this way just to stop?

The blurring in her eye was becoming worse.

Joe . . .

Her head drooped over her knees and she went out.