Bestselling author Scott Turow is visiting Israel this week to mark the 60th anniversary of the Fulbright scholarship program in Israel.
Turow, 67, the author of ten bestselling works of fiction — including his first novel, “Presumed Innocent,” which was adapted into a film starring Harrison Ford; its sequel, “Innocent”; and “Identical” — is set to speak at several events during his week-long stay in Israel.
The visit was organized by the Fulbright Commission for Israel, the United States Israel Educational Foundation and the US Embassy, as part of an American speakers program. Turow had only visited Israel once before, with his parents, 48 years ago.
Turow is also a practicing lawyer who is known for his staunch and vocal opposition to the death penalty. He has been a partner in the Chicago office of an international firm, Dentons (formerly Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal), since 1986, concentrating on white collar criminal defense while also devoting a substantial amount of time to pro-bono cases.
The Times of Israel asked Turow what he thought about the relatively low levels of street crime in Israel, as compared with the streets of Chicago.
“I think it’s wonderful that you have very little street crime and that probably is a testimony to the way that this society works” he said, mentioning specifically Israel’s “strong social safety net.”
“Israel was founded on a socialist vision and, even though that’s clearly no longer the dominant political party, it seems to have produced a society that is less class bound so there is less class and racial anger and less sense of desperation, and that’s good,” he said.
As a part of his trip, Turow spoke at the American Center in Jerusalem and at Bar Ilan University’s Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing where he answered questions from aspiring writers and read an excerpt from his soon-to-be-released novel, “Testimony.”
“Testimony,” which hits the bookshelves in May 2017, is set in The Hague and, unlike his previous novels, focuses on international law. Asked why he thought it was important to write about international law and war crimes, he explained: “Justice in itself is a good thing. You can’t remake these horrible events, but you can denounce them and you can punish those responsible; you can allow a society to start to heal.”
Turow is upbeat about the future of America but said, ”No matter which side of the political divide you’re on, I think everyone would say it’s a scary time in America. People exist in silos, they talk only to people who share their own opinions; that’s how fake news is able to propagate itself.” People read material that feeds their prejudices, he warned.
Nonetheless, he went on, “I have a lot of faith in the American democracy. If we can survive the impeachment of a president, a contested national election and the worst attack on our soil since 1812, we should be able to get through where we are now.”
Turow hopes to gain “a sense of the society” from his visit in Israel and see “what Israel is like and how it’s prospering.” He explained that “Israel has been the center of all kind of ferment for decades and, as an American Jew, it occupies a place of importance in whatever discussions I have.
“So it’s part enigma and I just want to learn more about Israel.”