Well, this is a bit embarrassing.

You see, today is a very special anniversary. Forty years ago, I arrived in Israel and, although I wasn’t quite sure at the time, I ended up staying. I also got married and raised three children.



That part isn’t embarrassing at all. I’m very proud of it. The embarrassing part is this: I’m not there. Just for a few days, I’m away on another trip – one that’s also special. I’ll blog about it on my return.

Moving to Israel was definitely the right choice for me. I left a country where I never really fitted in – a fact that had been reinforced many times during my childhood. I came to a country where I felt accepted. And in the process, I learned to be proficient in another language.

It wasn’t all easy, but I crossed the bridge and remained on the other bank (except for short breaks).

I think such a momentous date deserves a competition. So I’m going to give away a signed copy of my romance, Neither Here Nor There. In the novel, set mostly in Jerusalem, the main character, who has just left the closed community in which she was brought up, meets a recent immigrant from England. Let me know, in the comments below, why you think you deserve to win it. You can be truthful or humorous. I’ll choose the commenter I think is the most deserving. The competition will end when I decide it’s time, so don’t dilly-dally! I’ll contact the winner privately and also announce the result on this blog.

Forty years! The Children of Israel wandered for forty years before arriving here (there). I came in five hours and was happy to stay put.

Samuel Pepys by John RileyAs Jonathan Sacks (who is himself quite famous) wrote in The Algemeiner, the famous English diarist, Samuel Pepys, paid his second visit to the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in Creechurch Lane in the city of London on 14th October, 1663. This was only shortly after Jews had been allowed back into England after being exiled in 1290, and this synagogue was in a private house. Pepys’ first visit had been for a memorial service, which was, of course, somber.

This visit was very different. This is how Pepys described it in his diary:

… after dinner my wife and I, by Mr. Rawlinson’s conduct, to the Jewish Synagogue: where the men and boys in their vayles [i.e. tallitot], and the women behind a lattice out of sight; and some things stand up, which I believe is their Law, in a press [i.e. the Ark] to which all coming in do bow; and at the putting on their vayles do say something, to which others that hear him do cry Amen, and the party do kiss his vayle. Their service all in a singing way, and in Hebrew. And anon their Laws that they take out of the press are carried by several men, four or five several burthens in all, and they do relieve one another; and whether it is that every one desires to have the carrying of it, I cannot tell, thus they carried it round about the room while such a service is singing …  But, Lord! to see the disorder, laughing, sporting, and no attention, but confusion in all their service, more like brutes than people knowing the true God, would make a man forswear ever seeing them more and indeed I never did see so much, or could have imagined there had been any religion in the whole world so absurdly performed as this.

Oh dear, Pepys. Why did no one tell you? 14th October 1663 was the festival of Simchat Torah – the Rejoicing of the Law. It celebrates coming to an end of the annual cycle of readings from the Torah and starting a new cycle. It’s a time for rejoicing, for dancing and singing in the streets (in some places) and in the synagogue. This and the festival of Purim are the only two days in the year when people go wild in the synagogue.

Simhat Torah Flag (7946233758)

Where Judaism goes, misunderstandings are probably many. I remember, as a child, watching a rare TV documentary about Jews. The programme was about the differences between orthodox and reform Judaism. The documentarist (yes, it’s a real word) – as if to prove another difference in reform Judaism – pointed out that the children study the religion on Sunday and not Saturday. I burst out laughing when I heard that. The same is true in orthodox Judaism. How could children study on a day when writing is not allowed?

While misunderstandings are funny, they can have serious consequences. But I won’t dwell on that now, for next week is Simchat Torah – a time to rejoice.

A lot of things have changed since I was young. One of the things is that we talk about mental health. That is, we talk about certain types of mental illnesses and disorders, while others are still off the radar.


One of the disorders that is still not talked about much is social anxiety disorder, which I defined here.


There are reasons for that. By definition, people who have social anxiety don’t like to draw attention to themselves at all. They particularly don’t want to admit to what feels like a very big failing. But it needs to be talked about, because a lot of people out there are suffering needlessly. They suffer from loneliness, from a lack of empathy and understanding, from embarrassment, from anxiety itself.

So, for my contribution to World Mental Health Day, I’m linking to an article I wrote last year for Stigma Fighters: Pressing the Button.

Have a nice day!

In my last post, I wrote about my experience, at the age of eleven, of the Jewish holidays


Honey cake and plums from the garden

that come in September or October. That year they began early in September and I took seven days off school. I remember the years when my children had only just started school after two months of summer holidays and they were home again for more holidays.

How did this state of affairs happen? Whose crazy idea was it to have days off when the school year has only just started? Perhaps the answer lies in a post by Jo Carroll (see below) in which she wrote about needing a holiday to recover from the holidays.

Just a thought…


Author of the Day

Jo Carroll is an intrepid traveller. She goes on her own to places that are far from safe. Those of us who are less daring can read about her travels from the comfort of our homes, because she has written several excellent books about her escapades.

And now Jo has surprised me again by announcing that she’s written a novel. I wonder how she kept that under her hat for so long!

In the days of primitive computers, these machines could do only one thing at a time. They would complete one task and then move on to the next. Then came a wonderful invention:


Multi-tasking meant that computers appeared to be able to perform several tasks at once. They couldn’t really. They still did one thing at a time, but they’d do part of a task, go on to parts of other tasks and return to continue the first task. And because they could work very fast, it seemed as if they were working continuously on the first task.

In order to accomplish multi-tasking, a computer has to replace pages of its memory with those of the next task. This is called:


If the number/size of tasks to be completed becomes too large for the computer’s memory size, the computer will spend all its resources on paging and will never get to perform any of the tasks. This state is called:


Why am I mentioning this? Because I feel I’m in that state now – going from one task to another and not getting anything finished. And the books I really want to write keep getting pushed back by other stuff.

I’m hoping tasks will diminish soon. Whatever happens, I’m going to shut down for a couple of days for the New Year- 5777. It’s late this year. In the year I turned eleven, my first year in secondary school, Rosh Hashana was very early – on Monday, 7th September.

On Friday, 4th September, when I was still overwhelmed by the newness of everything, the headmistress requested all the Jewish girls to remain after assembly. “The Jewish holidays begin on Monday,” she said in a voice that made me quake. “I hope that most of you won’t take all the days off, as it disrupts the lessons.” She distanced herself from me on that day and never got any closer during the seven years I knew her.


The pomegranate is one of the symbols of Rosh Hashana

Happy New Year!

(Continued from Klimt and Judith I)

The brochure continues:

klimtjudith2brochure1997reduced“Perhaps influenced by the 1907 performance of Richard Strauss’s opera, Salome, Klimt returned to the subject of the femme fatale in 1909, when he painted Judith II. Here again, critics mistakenly identified the subject as Salome. Indeed, this Judith appears threatening and monstrous: her face and claw-like fingers instil fear, and her dress engulfs Holofernes’ head, symbolising his loss of identity. As in Judith I, the artist’s counter-decapitation of Judith is suggested by the two white stripes cutting across her neck.

“Klimt’s depictions of Judith and Holofernes deviate from the traditional narrative and express the ambivalent attitude towards women in fin-de-siècle Vienna. In art as in society, women were compartmentalised into one of two categories – vulgar prostitute or untouchable ideal creature. Sexual hypocrisy was rampant: many upper-class men carried on affairs with working-class young women, prostitution flourished and pornography developed into a thriving industry. Women’s unprecedented demands for political and social emancipation, the Secessionists’ call for sexual liberation and Freud’s writings on the unconscious all heralded a revolution in traditional perceptions of sexuality and guilt. However, the new, sexually-liberated life-style was seen by many men as a threat to their identity and also brought with it a gnawing fear of venereal disease. It was this terror which gave birth to the image of female lover turned insatiable predator – the femme fatale, epitomised in Klimt’s Judith I.”

The Women Friends is a series of novellas written by Emma Rose Millar and Miriam Drori, and based on the painting of the same name by Gustav Klimt. The first in the series, The Women Friends: Selina, will be published by Crooked Cat on 1st December, 2016.


Author of the Day

Sarah Louise Smith writes chick-lit. Her four novels to-date have all been published by Crooked Cat and one of them, Izzy’s Cold Feet, is free to download from Amazon for one day only. Sarah can be found all over the Internet, sometimes with Arwen the puppy.

The story of Judith and Holofernes is told in the Apocryphal Book of Judith (a text not  included in the Jewish canon but preserved in the Christian tradition). The story’s plot develops in the context of Nebuchadnezzar’s military campaigns against his neighbours, including the nation of Israel. Under the command of Holofernes, the Assyrian army besieges  the Jewish city of Bethulia and cuts off its water supply. When the thirst becomes unbearable, the town elders decide to surrender to the enemy. At this critical point in the story, Judith, a wealthy widow famous for her beauty and wisdom, appears on the scene. Rebuking the town elders for their  lack of faith, she bravely sets out with her handmaiden for the enemy camp, plotting Holofernes’ downfall. The Assyrian commander is captivated by her beauty, and invites her to his tent. During a feast in her honour, Judith gets Holofernes drunk and, while he sleeps, takes his sword and decapitates him. Carrying the severed head, she returns victorious to Bethulia. Holofernes’ death horrifies the enemy camp and the Assyrians flee in terror with the Israelites at their heels.



So says just one paragraph of a brochure I received from Esther, one of the members of my writing group. The brochure dates from 1997 and accompanied an exhibition in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem of Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece known as Judith I.

The brochure goes on to explain that Judith has been depicted in different ways over the centuries: as the the triumph of good over evil, of virtues over vices, of freedom over tyranny; and also as a sinful woman who dared to use her sexuality as a weapon.




In 1901, Klimt shocked the Viennese critics and public with the daring eroticism of his painting Judith I. Despite the title, viewers were unable to reconcile Klimt’s interpretation with that of the modest Jewish widow and courageous heroine from the Book of Judith. It was assumed that Klimt had really meant to depict Salome, a favourite femme fatale of turn-of-the-century artists such as Franz von Stuck, Gustave Moreau and Aubrey Beardsley (who illustrated Oscar Wilde’s play Salome). Aware of his departure from artistic tradition, Klimt modelled the rounded mountains and stylised date palms in the background after an Assyrian relief, in order to connect the figure to its Assyrian context. In addition, he inscribed the names Judith and Holofernes on the ornate picture frame made by his brother, Georg.

Klimt created the sensation of a direct encounter with a living and breathing femme fatale by realistically rendering Judith’s face, body and arm. This style contrasts with the geometric, two-dimensional decorations on Judith’s clothes and in the background. Judith’s destructive potential, reflected by Holofernes’ severed head, is encountered by Klimt’s powerful mutilation of Judith’s figure conveyed by the jewelled collar separating her head from her body, and the composition that cuts her off below the navel. Sexual ecstasy is expressed through Judith’s half-closed eyes, parted lips, semi-nudity and her hand that caresses Holofernes’ head. This ecstasy is particularly unsettling as it results from the assassination of her partner. The pairing of sexuality and death (Eros and Thanatos) fascinated not only Klimt, but Freud and many other members of European society at the end of the nineteenth century.



Klimt’s model for Judith was probably Adele Bloch-Bauer, the Jewish wife of a wealthy Viennese banker, whose 1907 portrait by Klimt became the subject of the 2015 film, Woman in Gold.






(continued in Klimt and Judith II)

The Women Friends is a series of novellas written by Emma Rose Millar and Miriam Drori, and based on the painting of the same name by Gustav Klimt. The first in the series, The Women Friends: Selina, will be published by Crooked Cat on 1st December, 2016.


Author of the Day

Esther Rafaeli is an amazing woman with an amazing history. Spanning ninety years, it hovers between the Land of Israel and Australia before settling here in Israel and bringing her into contact with many special people. Esther is full of surprises, the last one (up to now) being that despite a horrible fall, a very short time after her ninetieth birthday, leaving her lying on the floor for 36 hours, she couldn’t wait to get back home and start writing again. Her latest piece doesn’t describe the fall in detail, but lists the fortunate coincidences connected with the fall. I am in awe.

Update: It wasn’t 36 hours. It was 56! Also, I failed to mention Esther’s books, available on Amazon US, Amazon UK and elsewhere.