Oct 2016

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!