Which forty years am I referring to in my title?

The Children of Israel spent forty years wandering in the desert before they came to the Promised Land. (Some say that’s because they got lost, which in turn is because men are always too proud to ask for directions.) Some of the Israelites gave up hope of ever arriving and wished they’d stayed in Egypt rather than following Moses out and across the Red Sea as the waves parted. Yet they reached their destination in the end and lived happily ever after… well, almost. We’ve just celebrated their escape from Egypt as we do each year on Seder night – the first night of Passover.

But that’s not the forty years I meant.

Alan Bennett’s first West End play was called Forty years On.

No, not that either.

WeddingRingThis is it: Forty years ago, David Drori placed this ring on my finger and we’ve been together ever since… he and I, that is. The ring and I, too, but that’s less important.

When exactly did that happen? This is where things get complicated. The date we remember is 11th April. In fact it’s more than what we remember; it’s the actual date. But is that the date we should be celebrating?

David and Miriam, 1978

I didn’t really colour my hair for the wedding. The scanning process changed its colour.

One year, when we were both working in the same office and mentioned it was our anniversary, someone remarked, “This is why you should celebrate the Hebrew date and not the Gregorian date.”

We probably looked confused and she added, “You didn’t get married after Pesach (Passover) did you?”

The asimon dropped. (That’s the literal translation of the Hebrew expression. An asimon was a telephone token, used in public phones instead of coins, probably because of rampant inflation at that time.) No, of course we didn’t. Jews don’t get married from the beginning of Passover for at least thirty-three days (depending on their branch of Judaism) because of the Omer, which is like Lent, I think. But as Jewish festivals take place according to the Hebrew calendar, they vary according to the Gregorian calendar. In 1978, 11th April fell more than a week before Passover. Most years, Passover begins before it.

How does the Hebrew calendar work? A year usually has twelve months, the names of which I learned to recite at the age of five and still remember. Every so often, according to a calculation I don’t remember, there’s a leap year during which a whole month is added.

David has no trouble remembering the Hebrew date of his birthday. He was born on the eve of Passover and was pleased to discover that this year his Gregorian and Hebrew birthdays coincided.

The modern State of Israel mostly works according to the Gregorian calendar. Things would get confusing if we didn’t. And that’s why we don’t remember the date of our wedding according to the Hebrew calendar, although this year it was probably at around the time we celebrated it with a meal in Petersham Nurseries, Richmond Park, UK, before we left for another trudge through the snow.

Petersham Nurseries - Richmond Park

One thing I can be sure of: There will be no snow when we celebrate again, in Jerusalem, on 11th April.

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Sorry about the recent quiet from within the walls. I’ve been editing and writing and thinking about a new cover and…

But I couldn’t let yesterday’s double anniversary go unnoticed.

Three years ago, my first novel, NEITHER HERE NOR THERE, was published by Crooked Cat. Seven years ago, my metastory, called NO MIDDLE, was published online. Here it is:

Strawberries

No Middle

His eyes lit up. “You’ve made soup. And strawberries. Mmm. What’s the main course?”

“Sorry, I didn’t get round to making a main course.”

“No main course? You wouldn’t write a story like that, with a beginning and an end but no middle.”

When they finally broke in, the smell drew them to the kitchen. On the table, beside two empty soup bowls, lay two dishes of rotting strawberries.

***

The novel is here.

Neither Here Nor There

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.

40YearsInIsrael

Blush

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.

On 3rd March, 2002, I received an email. It began: “Hi, it’s Gill Balbes (as was) here. Was talking to Jane the other night and she was telling me about how she’d been in contact with you and that you remember me (as I do you) so I thought I’d say hello. Schooldays seem a long way off but it would be nice to hear how you’re doing.”

Schooldays certainly were a long way off. It was over thirty years since I’d walked out of the school gates, vowing never to have any connection with any of the girls I’d known over the previous seven years – a few even longer. It was only recently that I’d added my name to the Friends Reunited site, opening up the possibility of contact, although I didn’t expect anyone to write to me.

But Jane did write and I made a decision: that if I was going to correspond with anyone from school, I would make the relationship meaningful by being open about what happened to me there. If they didn’t want to discuss it, there wasn’t much point in reuniting.

Fortunately, Jane did agree to discuss it. She also apologised for what she did to me, although I didn’t hold her or any of the former pupils to blame as adults for their actions as children. I always knew the bullying (which I called teasing then) had had a bad effect on the rest of my life, but never thought the children were mature enough to understand what they were causing.

Jane soon put me in contact with Gill, who had more time to write. Gill and I corresponded almost daily for a long time, and she became a very special friend to me. It was Gill who told me about social anxiety. I didn’t realise the significance of it at first, but gradually two things became clear. I was not alone in being this way and it’s possible to improve. (I don’t think it makes sense to say there’s a cure, and I don’t think there needs to be one.)

Gill has been the catalyst for many changes in my life – for starting to write, for starting a blog, and much more. We have now met several times. After ten years, I still count Gill as a very special friend.

—o—

Do you have a friend story you want to share?

Please note: I have scheduled this post to appear on the right day, but probably won’t be available to comment for a day or two.