Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel. Since 1951, this day in the Hebrew calendar (one week after the end of Passover and one week before Memorial Day and Independence Day) has been set aside to remember the Holocaust.
At ten o’clock today, I stood on the roof and turned towards Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum, as the siren sounded and the country stopped for two minutes.
I didn’t want this day to pass without posting something, so I’m going to list three excellent stories that I’ve read, all books containing horrific events but also optimism. After all, Holocaust memories come from those who survived.
I am definitely not the right person to explain about Mimouna. Wikipedia has a much better explanation than I could give, starting with:
Mimouna … is a traditional Maghrebi Jewish celebration dinner, that currently takes place in Morocco, Israel, France, Canada, and other places around the world where Jews of Maghrebi heritage live. It is held the day after Passover, marking the return to eating hametz (leavened bread, etc.), which is forbidden throughout the week of Passover.
Unfortunately, the celebration in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park was rather a washout, this year, as thunderstorms lasted for most of the day. However, we were invited to the dry quarters of our next-door neighbours, who served muflettas and all sorts of sweet things, and also dressed up for the occasion.
Years ago, some visitors to this blog asked me to write more about living in Israel. This worried me. I thought there would be aspects of living here that would be hard to explain. But I decided there must be a few “normal” parts that I could expand on.
So, under the category of Israel, I created a sub-category called Everyday life. I posted a few things I thought would be universally understood. Then, one day, I wanted to post about an unusual occurrence. So I created another sub-category called Extraordinary events. We’ve had many of those, over the years, although I usually don’t mention them here.
Fast forward to the present. I tend to post more on Facebook than on the blog. What have I posted about recently?
A video of folk dancing taken ten years ago
Holiday greetings to all
Cake and other food I made for Pesach – Passover
A memory from my sadly defunct writing group
A video from last year’s trip to South Africa
The discovery that Google translate can now read out text in Hebrew
Finally, as I scroll down, I get to something more serious: my one and only share about the current wave of protests in Israel. The current government is trying to bring in a law that would give less power to the Supreme Court and more to the politicians. In one of the photos in the post, author Etgar Keret holds a sign that reads: “Once I wrote books; today I write signs.”
It’s sad to realise how split this country is – not that we didn’t know before, but now the situation seems worse than ever.
However, one thing that’s guaranteed to bring the Jews together is when terror strikes, as it has done several times recently. When two sisters, aged sixteen and twenty, are murdered and their mother is fighting for her life in hospital, it feels as if this is our family. Yes, we still go out for trips in nature, or to dance, or do whatever else we enjoy, but part of us is grieving for those girls and for the other victims.
Sometimes, we’re split as a country. Other times, we’re split inside. That’s what living in Israel is like, and always has been. Hopefully, it won’t always be like this.
Update: Sadly, the mother of the two girls succumbed to her wounds.
Apparently, this was my Facebook profile pic on this day in 2014.
To me, now, it looks as if I forgot to comb my fringe (bangs?). There are some better pics taken later that month.
Well, I’m not planning to change my profession to model of a certain age. But 1st January 2014 is significant because it’s the day I had my hair cut short, hoping for further changes that year. And they came, starting with a publishing deal with Crooked Cat for my romance novel (currently unavailable), Neither Here Nor There.
As I wrote to a friend on Facebook, that was the day when I shortened my hair and lengthened my expectations.
Do you have a significant first of January? Maybe yours is happening as I write. Do tell. And…
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Watch out for my next post, which will be about an uplifting story.
My job was to announce the occasion on social media and respond to well-wishers, as well as sharing various guest posts that bloggers had kindly posted for me.
I did just that – in the morning. And then, after lunch, I went to Tel-Aviv. Why on earth…?
The publication date had been fixed for 27th October when our musician daughter asked if we’d like to go to a birthday performance by singer Ronit Shachar, held in a garden in Tel-Aviv. We couldn’t turn that down – we knew it would be good. Besides, I reckoned that after spending the day with my novel, it would be all right to go out in the evening.
Daughter got the tickets for the four of us. Then there was a suggestion that as we were all going to be in Tel-Aviv, we could meet earlier and do other things. We ended up meeting in Yarkon Park, where we went for a longish walk, then walking by the sea around sunset and eating some delicious vegan food in a restaurant called J17.
The concert, which also included other performers like Corinne Allal, was excellent and even worth the cramped seating on damp fake grass. And the proceeds went to an animal sanctuary.
After the performance, we had to collect a rather large electric piano which was hard to fit in our van. It was after 2 a.m. when we returned home.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to do the driving, and I spent the journeys trying to catch up with all the kind posts and comments about my book launch.
This post is about a hangover. No, it’s not what you think. I haven’t taken to the bottle. Well, not in excess, anyway.
Living it up on safari in South Africa.
No, it’s about a hangover from childhood. And the town of Akko, called Acre in English.
I first discovered this ancient and modern town from a book I read as a teenager. I think the book was The Source by James A. Michener, a fascinating story of a fictional archeological dig and the ancient stories it uncovers. For some reason, at that young and impressionable age, I couldn’t accept that a town would have a name that I knew to be a unit of measurement. (It’s about 4047 square metres, which I didn’t know then and won’t remember now). Every time I came across that name in that book, I thought how weird it was.
After moving to Israel, I learned the Hebrew name for the town, and I’ve always used it, even when speaking in English. I wouldn’t say Yerushalayim in English, or Natzrat. I’d use the English names: Jerusalem and Nazareth. Yet Akko remains Akko because, in my mind, Acre is a strange name for a town.
Recently, because this town appears in the novel I’m currently writing, the sequel to Style and the Solitary, I asked a group of authors which name they thought I should use. None of them had a problem with that name: Acre. It’s just me, then.
That led me to wonder about hangovers from childhood. I’m sure I must have a lot more. Do you? I’d love to hear about them.
Friend and fellow author and editor, Sue Barnard, posted this image from the Metro newspaper on Facebook last week.
I imagined the scene in the newspaper offices.
“Is it a boy or a girl?” “I haven’t heard yet.” “Let me know ASAP. I’ll write boy for now and change it if it’s a girl.”
Then I remembered the term for this from my hi tech days: reverse engineering. The Oxford Shorter English Dictionary says this is:
the reproduction of another manufacturer’s product following detailed examination of its construction or composition.
Well, maybe that’s not quite what I meant, but you get the idea. I’m thinking about working out how mistakes arise. That reminded me of those weird automatic translations. We’ve seen plenty of those around the world.
But the translations that make me laugh the most are the ones I see here in Israel, because I can work out how they came about. Take this one that I saw recently in Akko (Acre):
The word ‘character’ doesn’t describe the privileged residents; it means a letter or digit. But it’s incorrect here because it’s translated from the wrong meaning of the Hebrew word ‘tav’. ‘Tav’ can mean many things, including a ‘character’, but in this case it refers to a car sticker. So, there’s a double confusion here.
Automatic translations do not replace editors.
And changing something in a text often has implications for the rest of the text.
Look out for my next post, which will be about identity. That’s who you are, rather than the card you do or don’t carry.
Remember that novel I was going to write in November? Well, I wrote it. I didn’t reach the magic total of 50,000 words, by I did pass 40,000, and now I have the first draft of a sequel to Style and the Solitary that will need a lot more work before I can submit it for publication.
As well as spending time writing every day in November, I wandered around Jerusalem and further afield, gathering information for the novel. Here are a few of the pictures I took:
As every year, there was plenty of support from our local group of writers, and in particular Melina Kantor and Shoshana Raun. I wouldn’t have managed without them.
Now, I’m trying to catch up on all the tasks I postponed in November.
I’m also looking forward to the publication of Dark Paris, an anthology of dark stories set in Paris, all proceeds of which go to two charities: Restaurants du Cœur and Fondation Brigitte Bardot. My contribution to the anthology is called Train Trouble.
Smashwords even travels to the other hemisphere (which is more than I’ve done). That’s why their current sale is called The Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale. Even my book, Social Anxiety Revealed, has travelled further than me. Try it. It might transport you to a world you don’t know, or one you know all too well. In either case it will further better understanding.
Fear of other people? Most of us feel this occasionally, when giving a presentation or being grilled in a job interview. This is not social anxiety disorder.
Fear of what other people think of you? We have all felt this, too. It is why we dress as we do and generally try to behave in a way that is expected of us. This is not social anxiety disorder either.
But when those fears become so prevalent that they take over your life? When they cause you to hide away, either literally or by not revealing your real self? When you keep quiet in an attempt to avoid those raised eyebrows and the possible thoughts behind them? That is social anxiety disorder.
And it is much more common than you might think. In the mental health table, it comes third – after alcoholism and depression – and yet most people don’t even know it exists.
If you have social anxiety disorder, this book is for you.
Even if you don’t have social anxiety disorder, you might have a friend, a relative or a work colleague who does. You might see it developing in your son, your daughter, or a child you teach. This book is for you, too.
Social Anxiety Revealed is created by people who yearn to ditch all these problems and live their lives to the full.
Can you help? When you have read and understood, you’ll be in a much better position to do that.
3. A First
My granddaughter is now old enough for her first form of self-driven transport.
And somehow, despite raising three children and definitely having one of these in the house, I’ve only just discovered the name for it in Israel: Bimba. What do you call it?
This post is about a new novel. It’s one that covers four thousand years and follows a stone on its travels close to home and then further afield. I was lucky enough to read a draft, about which I made suggestions that have been incorporated by its author, Olga Swan (pen-name). I look forward to reading the final version, which has just been published as The Meleke Stone.
Here’s the author herself to tell you about it.
Thank you so much, Miriam, for allowing me on your blog. I’ve been working towards The Meleke Stone all my life. Included are all the times, and perpetrators, from 1900 BCE to the present when the Jewish people were ousted from their land. It’s a novel with a strong underlying message. Here’s the blurb:
“A meleke stone from the ancient plains of the Dead Sea is passed down by generations of females through four thousand years.
In 2019 Sami, the son of Egyptian immigrants in Toulouse, is traumatised by the family’s hardships in France and plots revenge.
Menes, Sami’s father from Cairo, had emigrated to France in search of peace. An unlikely friendship forms with Holocaust-survivor Moshe, each recognising their past struggles.
Suddenly, a terrorist bomb explodes in a Toulouse synagogue. Moshe asks his son, Simon, to produce a film showing the true history of his people from the time of Sodom and Gomorrah.
What will happen to Moshe’s and Menes’ special relationship when an intrepid French detective’s efforts to find the terrorist reveal the horrifying truth?
In a soul-searching conclusion in Jerusalem, having no female descendant to whom to give the meleke stone, there’s only one thing that Simon can do to maintain the survival of his people for all eternity.
…..are you ready for the four thousand year journey of the meleke stone?”
Follow the story as it moves between Toulouse, Warsaw, Cairo and through to Jerusalem. Read the historical truths about Sodom and Gomorrah, the Maccabees and what happened during the Six-Day War in the Sinai. But above all, recognise the lifelong friendship between a Jewish man and an Egyptian Muslim. Enjoy!
About the Author
Olga Swan has a B.A. Hons. (Open) in English language and literature. For many years she worked at The University of Birmingham, following which she spent twelve years living in S.W. France before returning to Birmingham in 2017. She has had 7 books (3 non-fiction) published by indie publisher Crooked Cat Books, which has now closed. Three of Olga’s works are narrative non-fiction, one of which (Pensioners in Paradis) is approaching one million pages read and is already a four-times international best-seller. A second edition of this and of An Englishwoman in America have now been reprinted. Three novels form a series set in wartime Germany, France and Poland. Dunoon Assassin moves between NY, Dunoon and Amritsar.
Olga has been writing her blog every Sunday for 13 years with hundreds of regular readers each week from around the world.