Today, 23rd March, is a day for going out and for celebrating coming out.
I, together with the rest of the citizens of this country (hopefully) will be going out to vote. It’s only a year since we last voted and we all hope the next government will last for longer. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the election results will give a better advantage to any party.
Today is also an anniversary. Twelve years ago, I began this blog, tentatively, anonymously, scared to own up to having social anxiety, even though I knew it was obvious. Optimistcally, I called the blog and myself “An’ de walls came tumblin’ down.” They haven’t tumbled, but they have some large chinks.
Nevertheless, a lot has happened in that time. It could all be summed up in the words “I came out.” It’s made a big difference to me that I can write about having social anxiety and give presentations about it, even though it’s still hard to talk about.
Where were you, twelve years ago? Have you changed over the years?
Yesterday, I got the first of two doses of the Covid-19 vaccination. The process was easy and well organised, and I’m feeling fine, thank you.
No country is perfect, Israel included, but it’s in times like these that I feel most proud of my little country. I think this article does a good job of explaining why Israel has succeeded in vaccinating a much higher proportion of its population than any other country. Basically, it’s due to our health service and the way it’s run, with clinics all over the country, and our ability to mobilise in times of emergency.
When makes me annoyed? When I read in the foreign press that Israel is going ahead with vaccinating while Palestinians have to wait. The fact is that Israeli Arabs have the same rights to health care (including vaccinations) as everyone else in Israel. Those who live in the Palestinian Authority have their own systems in place, independent of Israel. Israel is not responsible for their vaccination programme, although it will probably help them.
My appointment for the second injection is in three weeks. I would love for it to be followed by a trip to the UK, my home away from home. Sadly, I don’t see that happening.
Stay safe and healthy, everyone, wherever you are.
I read an article recently. I don’t have the link any more, but it was headed something like: I’m Jewish. Please wish me Merry Christmas. The article went on to explain that although in the author’s family Christmas wasn’t celebrated, the day was meaningful to him as a day off – a day when they, as a family, did joyful things together that were out or the ordinary.
I get it. I remember, all through my childhood, spending Christmas Day in the home of my aunt, uncle and cousins, eating different foods, doing different things. So when I changed schools at the age of eleven and was introduced to Christmas carols, drawing Christmas trees and exchanging Christmas cards, I joined in. In any case, my aim at school was always to fit in, even though I never succeeded.
The trend continued to university and work. Christmas was always a special time, so it seemed natural to exchange Christmas greetings with everyone.
Then I moved to Israel and, for the first time, Christmas didn’t exist, apart from a few cards I still sent to and received from friends abroad. Christmas Day was spent at work. That’s been the case for most of my time here. Recently, with social media and the ability to listen to BBC Radio 4, the prominence of Christmas has again increased, but it’s still not part of my life. That’s the difference between me and the author of that linkless article. He lives in the US while I live in Israel. Like him, I’m not offended when someone wishes me Merry Christmas, but for me it’s meaningless.
“Yes, but even if you don’t celebrate it, you do something special on that day,” people say.
However, this year, I will be celebrating Chanuka at the same time as Christmas, lighting candles and eating doughnuts at home and at folk dancing.
But Chanuka isn’t time off, except for schoolchildren and teachers. And us, last year:
Whatever you do, enjoy the next few days, the whole of 2020 and every other year. May whatever you wish for come to fruition.
It’s the beginning of October. That means it’s less than a month to…
…NaNoWriMo! (That month when people all over the world go a bit crazy, trying to write 50,000 words, all in November.)
The question, this year, was never whether I was going to join in. I didn’t even consider missing out on all the fun (and hard work). It was what I was going to write.
I decided on something. I created the book on the new NaNoWriMo website, complete with cover, description, Pinterest board and playlist.
Then I changed my mind. I’m going to rewrite my novel, Neither Here Nor There. When I’ve reached the end, at a date that hopefully will coincide with the end of November, I’ll examine the two versions and decide which parts to keep and which to discard.
Now I have to do some plotting. I’ve already made one decision: the title is going to change. The current title is One Foot. But I might have second thoughts about that. Or third thoughts. The cover will definitely change.
What visitors to Israel should be aware of before flying out, and landing in
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Israel?
Is it war, conflict and terrorism? As a tourist, you’re very unlikely to encounter any of that. We (not me, personally, but the authorities) work very hard and put all sorts of measures into place to keep you safe while you’re here. So, don’t worry about that.
What else comes to mind? Probably hot weather and a land of deserts. You might think you can leave coats and umbrellas at home. You might think: tropical.
Well, think again. It hardly ever rains… in the summer. But in winter, we have plenty of rain. Sometimes the heavens open and you can get drenched in minutes… seconds. You might be lucky – most winter days are dry and some are even warm and sunny. But come prepared for rain. Jerusalem, Safed and other parts of Israel can even get snow.
Why am I thinking of this now? Because a friend just came for a brief trip. During her three-day visit, rain poured down almost all the time. And she wasn’t prepared.
Another visitor once came for a ceremony, for which he had to stand outside in pouring rain, and the following day he was stuck indoors when snow fell.
When we lived in the beautiful area of Jerusalem called Yemin Moshe, we occasionally seemed to be standing in a river when we walked up and down its stairs.
Those deserts… they’re only in the south of the country.
You have been warned!
Do you want to write (or talk) about one or more of the SIM topics – Social anxiety, Israel, Misunderstandings? The details are here.
For the second SIM Talk, I welcome back Jo Fenton to the blog. She brought Tina to Letters From Elsewhere, and also wrote a lovely post for my other blog. I wonder which of the three topics – Social anxiety, Israel, Misunderstandings – she’s going to talk about…
When I was 19 I went on a six-week trip to Israel. It was my first visit there and I was very excited. The main purpose of the trip was to work as a youth leader in a summer camp in Ashkelon, under supervision of a Hebrew speaking youth worker.
I went as part of a group, and there was to be time afterwards for touring the country. I had foolishly planned to do the touring with a young man who was the friend of an ex-boyfriend! More to follow on that subject…
I was a shy, nervous nineteen year old. Although I’d had a fantastic time during my first year at Uni, being away with a group of strangers brought all my social anxiety to the fore.
There were some lovely people in the group, particularly amongst the girls, and I did make some friends. I’m not sure if it helped that my closest friend in the group was a recovering anorexic, and the other girls and I spent a lot of our time making sure she ate, and trying to convince her that her view of her body image was distorted. At the time, I didn’t realise how similar I was to her in many ways, having an inaccurate view of myself due to the unkind comments of just a few.
There was a young man amongst the group – an attractive-looking guy with a charming smile and a Scottish accent. I don’t know if he understood how hurtful he was when he commented almost daily on my nervous laugh. Perhaps he was stupid enough to think he was helping me. Not surprisingly the more he commented, the more nervous my laugh became!
Ashkelon was beautiful. I loved working with the kids, many of whom came from deprived homes; but who were lively, cheeky and resilient. It felt great to be able to do something worthwhile with them. The highlight of each week was the Israeli dancing on the beach, where we would dress up, enjoy ourselves, and socialise. I kept away as much as I could from the young Scotsman. My anxiety always returned ten-fold whenever he was near. I spent several weekends with the girls in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and fell in love with the country.
Eventually the time arrived for us to say goodbye to the children, and go off on our more extended travels. My ex’s friend, whom I shall name P to save anyone embarrassment, agreed to do a brief tour taking in Lake Tiberias and Netanya before meeting the girls back in Tel Aviv for the flight home.
P refused to accompany me to Masada and the Dead Sea as he had already been. Without knowing it, he did me a favour, as I’m sure I got much more out of the trip to those fantastic places when I visited with my husband, sons and my mum last year!
From the minute we set off on the bus towards Tiberias, he started moaning: I was cramping his style. The fact we appeared to be travelling together meant that all his potential girlfriends would be put off from approaching him. This complaint continued throughout the three days we spent in each other’s company. He thought nothing of my own feelings, but by then, I was so downtrodden, the idea of me getting a boyfriend seemed a million miles away. One thing I was certain though – he was not on the list!
Overall, the trip did little for my confidence. All the anxiety that had been squashed during my first year as a student, returned in full force thanks to these somewhat insensitive young men. It was not until I met my husband-to-be a few months later, that some confidence returned.
Looking back, I see that I shouldn’t have allowed these individuals to get to me, any more than my anorexic friend should have been affected by the idiots who joked that she was fat. (She was the opposite!) I’m happy to say that I haven’t been criticised for my laugh or my existence since then, and as stated above, I returned to Israel for a most enjoyable and fulfilling trip with my family last year.
Ah, the tribulations of the young! I’m so glad you had a much better experience on your second visit. Thank you, Jo, for that entertaining account, which includes all three topics of the series!
Jo Fenton grew up in Hertfordshire. She devoured books from an early age, particularly enjoying adventure books, school stories and fantasy. She wanted to be a scientist from aged six after being given a wonderful book titled “Science Can Be Fun”. At eleven, she discovered Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer, and now has an eclectic and much loved book collection cluttering her home office.
Jo combines an exciting career in Clinical Research with an equally exciting but very different career as a writer of psychological thrillers.
When not working, she runs (very slowly), and chats to lots of people. She lives in Manchester with her husband, two sons, a Corgi and a tankful of tropical fish. She is an active and enthusiastic member of two writing groups and a reading group.
Today, instead of Letters from Elsewhere, here’s a post about me, to catch up with some of the things I’ve done since… whenever.
The other day, I wrote two new verses to an old song. They’re inspired by a strange phenomenon: rain.
Look what they’ve done to my June, Ma
Look what they’ve done to my June, Ma. Look what they’ve done to my June. Well it’s the only thing they could do half right, And it’s turning out all wrong, Ma. Look what they’ve done to my June.
Look what they’ve done to my sun, Ma. Look what they’ve done to my sun. Well, they took some clouds and made them black And covered up the sun, Ma. Look what they’ve done to my sun.
Yes, it’s been raining heavily in various parts of the country, but not so heavily in Jerusalem. There has been flooding. One of the most afflicted towns was Sderot. You’d think they’ve had enough to contend with without the weather joining in.
It never rains in June in Israel. Don’t they know that?
If you don’t know the original song, I’m sure you can find it on Youtube. “Look what they’ve done to my song.”