On another dry, sunny day in Jerusalem during the summer of 2010, I weaved through the crowds of tourists, baby-faced soldiers, and packs of Orthodox settlers milling around on Ben Yehuda Pedestrian Mall, and headed toward Pomeranz, a Jewish book emporium on Be'eri Street, a busy road a few blocks away.
As soon as I was inside the shop, a short, mild-mannered man greeted me in American-accented English. He was the owner, Michael Pomeranz, a former undercover narcotics agent and firefighter from New Jersey who had experienced a religious awakening and immigrated to Israel. When I inquired about the availability of a widely discussed book called Torat Ha'Melech, or the King's Torah, a commotion immediately ensued.
"Are you sure you want it?" Pomeranz, asked me half-jokingly. A middle-aged coworker chortled from behind a shelf. "The Shabak [Israel's internal security service] is going to want a word with you if you do," he warned. When a few customers stopped browsing and began to stare in my direction, Pomeranz pointed to a security camera affixed to a wall. "See that?" he said. "It goes straight to the Shabak! [Shin Bet]"