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Everyday life Uncategorized

Places in Israel

We don’t travel around a lot when we’re at home. We tend to spend much of our time in our garden and leave touring for holidays. Unlike my friend, Lisa Isaacs, who travels regularly and writes fascinating blog posts about the places she goes to.

But there are a few places I’ve visited recently:

The Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art

FriederikeMariaBeerByKlimtPart of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, this pavilion provided us an interesting hour or two. Due to my forthcoming novel, written together with Emma Rose Millar, I was particularly pleased to see a painting by Gustav Klimt. This portrait was commissioned by the young Viennese socialite, Friederike Maria Beer. She arrived at the modelling session wearing a hand-painted silk dress and a fur jacket. Klimt was taken with the lining of the jacket and asked her to turn it inside out.

Sarona

As a place to eat, shop and wander around, Sarona, which is in Tel-Aviv, is still quite new. But its history goes back to 1871, when the German Templers established a colony there.

MigdalDavid19The Tower of David

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Jerusalem’s Tower of David has a much longer history, which I won’t delve into here, but I plan to write about it very soon.

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Author of the Day

Sue Barnard doesn’t parade her wide knowledge, but it accompanies her to quiz programmes and to wherever she write her novels. She’s had three published, two of those influenced by Shakespeare, and there’s another on the way. I met Sue, first online and then in person, four years ago and we’ve been friends ever since.

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Update: It was while tweeting about this post that I realised I should have mentioned an event that links two of its themes: an excellent outdoor performance of Macbeth by Theater in the Rough.

Macbeth

 

Categories
Books Interviews

Author Interview: Miriam Drori

2016Sale
Poster by Ailsa Abraham

Yes, I’m interviewing myself. Why not?

Q: Hello, Miriam. I’m delighted you could join me today.

A: I’m delighted to be here. Thank you for inviting me, Miriam.

Q: Tell me about your novel, Neither Here Nor There.

A: It’s a light romance, set mostly in my home town of Jerusalem and partly in my former home town of London.

Q: Oh come on, it can’t be that light with such a background. It must involve terrorist attacks and killing and all those scary things that go on all over the Middle East.

A: No, there’s none of that in my novel.

Q: So it’s a utopian sort of novel – the way you’d like your country to be.

A: No, it depicts everyday life in present times, just as it is. The fact is, there’s so much more to life in Israel than those troubles you hear about on the news. We follow the news, of course, and we’re so very sad about the lives that are lost. But most people go about their lives without encountering any danger at all. And so the story of Esty and Mark and all the characters in my novel is perfectly realistic.

Q: So you’re saying this is just another romance.

A: No. While it can be read as a simple romance, it also brings up some complicated issues – issues most readers will recognise in some form or other.

Q: What sort of issues?

A: Arranged marriage, living in a closed community, escaping from a closed community, emigration, life-changing decisions.

Q: Yes, some serious issues there. Tell me about the closed community in your novel.

A: The haredi community. I call it that for simplicity, although within that group are several sects, some very much opposed to others. They live in various parts of the world. Many of your readers will have noticed their distinctive dress. The men wear black hats, black suits and white shirts, with tassels hanging over their trousers, and they have beards and sidelocks. There are some who wear stranger garb. The women always wear long sleeves and long skirts, and married women cover their hair with scarves or wigs. Some people even think that all Jews or all Israelis dress like that.

In Jerusalem, they used to live only in specific districts like Mea She’arim, but they’ve expanded to other areas due to lack of space. The men often don’t work, spending their time studying the holy books. That leaves the women to support their large families, as well as caring for children and doing the housework.

Q: The women must feel very bitter about that.

A: I don’t think so. Most of them believe that’s how they’re supposed to live and never question it. They’re proud to have husbands who are able to study for long hours.

Q: What about arranged marriage? How does that work?

A: I want to stress that their marriages are arranged and not forced. They’re allowed to choose their marriage partners, but their choice is limited. They’re expected to choose one out of the few they’re introduced to.

Q: Do you think that works?

A: It seems to work as much as our system of random meetings does. The divorce statistics show that. I think a couple can grow to love each other after marriage, although I don’t have first-hand experience of such a relationship.

Q: How do other Israelis regard the haredi community?

A: There’s a lot of resentment. They generally don’t have to serve in the army, and they get grants for studying, which many view as a complete waste of time. On the other hand, they do jobs that no one else wants to do. There are at least four major associations run by people from the haredi community and serving the population at large. There’s one that deals with everything surrounding burials. One that provides all sorts of medical equipment. One that provides food for hospital visitors. And one that picks up and identifies all body parts following an explosion.

I saw an accident once at a junction in Jerusalem. I looked down from the top of a hill and saw a man lying on the road, having been thrown off his motorcycle. Immediately, someone got out of a car and started redirecting the traffic. Someone probably phoned for an ambulance. Two minutes after the accident, a haredi man who happened to be passing stopped his car, took a first-aid kit out of the boot and rushed over to the victim.

Q: Well I think we’ll leave it there. Thank you for coming, Miriam.

A: Thank you, Miriam.

Neither Here Nor There, published by Crooked Cat Publishing, is available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iTunes and elsewhere.

Miriam Drori can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Wattpad and on her website/blog.

Stop press: Neither Here Nor There is on sale for a few days on Amazon. In honour of that, several bloggers will be featuring the novel. I’ll update this post as those posts appear.

Categories
Books Letters from Elsewhere

Letters from Elsewhere: Rivka

Letters from ElsewhereMy visitor today is Rivka, mother of Esty, the heroine of my novel, Neither Here Nor There. Rivka was called Rose in her previous life. I’ll let her tell you more.

BS”D

Dear Readers,

At first, I was pleased to receive this opportunity to explain myself and my actions to you. I thought I’d write it all down and then it would make sense. But when I sat down with a pen and a blank sheet of paper, doubts filled my mind. I’m not sure I can explain it logically to myself. How can it make any sense to anyone who hasn’t experienced what I experienced? How can such people comprehend the decisions I made?

Don’t get me wrong. I have plenty to thank G-d for. I love my husband and my children – all of them. I have much joy from watching and helping them to grow up and take their places in the world. I take pride in trying to steer them in the right direction – in the path of good and righteousness, but I know that eventually I will have no influence over them.

Mea Shearim 2014 Street
A street in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem, where Rivka lives.

Esty, my first-born, has chosen a different life for herself, away from the fold. I miss her so much, even though I see her occasionally. She was such a good girl, always ready to help me with the housework and the little ones. That’s not why I miss her. It’s because she’s one of mine, but she’s no longer one of us. Also, it’s possible I’m a bit jealous, because a part of me wants to be out there with her, although I do my best to suppress those feelings.

It’s easier for people who’ve always lived this life. My husband, for instance. It’s all he’s ever known. He’s never considered any other lifestyle. But I grew up with no religion at all. I could have stayed in London, studied at university, worked and settled down there. And kept in touch with my parents. I do regret making that break. And it wasn’t necessary. I suppose I worried they’d try and influence me to return to their way of life. I suppose I doubted my ability to stand up for what I’d chosen.

How can I explain why I gave it all up? How, at eighteen, I thought I was grown up enough to make my own decisions without any help from anyone. How I thought I’d found everything that was missing in my life – the spiritual stuff – and was happy to give up all the rest, even seeing my parents. I didn’t miss them then. It was only when the babies started arriving that I realised how much I missed my parents and how much they must miss me. Only then, when it was too late, did I realise what an awful thing I’d done to them. Their only child. How could I have left them like that?

No, I don’t expect you to understand. I don’t expect you to empathise with my situation now. I will endeavour to concentrate on being a good and pious woman and thank G-d for everything He has bestowed on me.

Yes, that’s a message I can leave you with – one that can be understood whatever culture you live in. Be thankful for what you have.

Rivka

Thank you, Rivka, for sharing your worries with us. I’m sure you didn’t envision all these difficulties when you decided to join the haredi community. Readers may remember the letter from Leah, Esty’s ex-friend, who has none of these doubts, having been born into the community.

Neither Here Nor There

Neither Here Nor There CoverSo much more than a romance, this is a tale of transformation in an exotic setting. Esty’s life was laid out for her from birth. She would marry one of a handful of young men suggested to her and settle down to raise a large family in a tiny space within the closed community of her parents, near to and yet far from the modern world. But Esty has decided to risk all by escaping while she still can. Will she make it to the other side? Mark, who is struggling with his own life changes, hopes that Esty will find a way through her troubles. He is fast falling in love with her. Separately and together, in Jerusalem and London, Esty and Mark need to overcome many obstacles in their endeavour to achieve their dream.

Neither Here Nor There is available from Amazon, Smashwords and elsewhere.

Miriam Drori

Me with Neither Here Nor ThereMiriam Drori was born and brought up in London and now lives with her husband and two of her grown up children in Jerusalem.

With a degree in Maths and following careers in computer programming and technical writing, Miriam has been writing novels and short stories for eleven years. Two of her short stories have been published in anthologies and others have been published online. Neither Here Nor There is her first novel.

Miriam began writing in order to help raise awareness of social anxiety. Since then, the scope of her writing has widened, but she hasn’t lost sight of her original goal.

Categories
Letters from Elsewhere

Letters from Elsewhere: Leah

Letters from ElsewhereFictional characters sometimes do uncharacteristic things when their authors pull the right strings. That’s how I can bring you Leah today. Take it away, Leah. Ah, that means… let’s hear from you.

BS″D

Dear Readers,

It feels very strange for me to be writing this letter. Usually, we keep ourselves apart from all the infidels who haven’t yet learned how to live as G-d wants us to. I feel blessed to have been born into a righteous, G-d-fearing family, who brought me up to fulfil all six hundred and thirteen of G-d’s commandments – or rather, those that apply to women.

Now I have a family of my own. I was lucky enough to marry at sixteen. My husband is a good, studious and pious man. He gets up very early every morning to lay tefillin and pray before going to study in the yeshiva, where he spends long hours. I get up early, too, of course. When I’ve said my prayers, I have to tend to the children and the flat and help my mother in her grocery store.

Bli ayin hara, I have three wonderful children and with G-d’s help I will have many more. I feel so proud to be able to fulfil the commandment: Be fruitful and multiply. My eldest is a boy. He has beautiful long flowing hair, which I comb every morning and tie in a ponytail. I will be sorry when he reaches the age of three and has to have it cut short, but I’ll also be proud to see him become a real boy with peyot, and wearing a kipah and tzitzit, a boy who is old enough to do good deeds. The other two are girls; I love them all.

My life has changed so much and so quickly. Not so long ago I was a young girl, playing, studying and helping my mother with the chores. Truth be told, I never did study much. It was hard for me to concentrate. I was never like my friend, Esty, who thought deeply about the things we learned. I remember her trying to discuss them with me, but I wasn’t really interested.

May G-d forgive me for mentioning Esty’s name. I can’t help thinking about her sometimes and wondering why. She was so pretty and clever. How could she have done such a stupid thing?

I saw her the other day in the Interior Ministry office. I’d gone to register the birth of my little one. I was just wheeling out the babies, my son holding onto the pram, when she called my name and I instinctively turned round. I was shocked at what I saw. She stood there, in the hallway, wearing a man’s clothing – trousers and short sleeves. She knows what a sin it is to do that, but she did it anyway.

I just stood there, transfixed. I couldn’t talk to her, of course, but I should never have turned when she called my name. Fortunately, my son called to me and I turned back to him and we continued to the lift. I don’t know what I’d have done otherwise. She could have become a light to the women of our community, I know she could. She was clever and wise, but she threw it all away. I’ll never understand why.

Well, I must go. The baby needs a feed and I have plenty of chores to do before the Sabbath. Life is good, thanks to G-d.

A peaceful Sabbath,
Leah

Neither Here Nor There

Neither Here Nor There CoverSo much more than a romance, this is a tale of transformation in an exotic setting. Esty’s life was laid out for her from birth. She would marry one of a handful of young men suggested to her and settle down to raise a large family in a tiny space within the closed community of her parents, near to and yet far from the modern world. But Esty has decided to risk all by escaping while she still can. Will she make it to the other side? Mark, who is struggling with his own life changes, hopes that Esty will find a way through her troubles. He is fast falling in love with her. Separately and together, in Jerusalem and London, Esty and Mark need to overcome many obstacles in their endeavour to achieve their dream.

Neither Here Nor There is available from Amazon, Smashwords and elsewhere.

Miriam Drori

Me with Neither Here Nor ThereMiriam Drori was born and brought up in London and now lives with her husband and two of her grown up children in Jerusalem.

With a degree in Maths and following careers in computer programming and technical writing, Miriam has been writing novels and short stories for eleven years. Two of her short stories have been published in anthologies and others have been published online. Neither Here Nor There is her first novel.

Miriam began writing in order to help raise awareness of social anxiety. Since then, the scope of her writing has widened, but she hasn’t lost sight of her original goal.

Categories
Books

2015 A to Z Challenge: M is for MUSEUMS

A-Z Challenge 2015One of the best places to go to for some in-depth researching is a museum. You can find answers to your questions from the exhibits, on information boards, from computer screens, audio guides or human guides. Displays often show how ordinary people lived. Libraries contain books that provide specialised information and museum shops sell books and objects that can help you reconstruct the background to your novel.

Israel Museum: the Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls
Jerusalem’s Israel Museum: the Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls
Categories
Books

The View from Heaven – a flash story

As part of Indie Authors Appreciation Week, I’m reposting this story because of its connection to Jerusalem.

They stood, she and he, embracing in the centre of a perfect garden. Flowers all around. Pinks, reds, yellows, purples, whites. Water cascading down the rocks into the pool. Maturing plums and kumquats nested by sun-frolicked green leaves. Sweet, juicy fruit waiting to be gathered and consumed.

Over there, on the same level, stood a large bald prism. One triangular end thrust out through needle-sharp pine leaves. Acute angles pointed and menaced. Inside the prism, as clear as if its walls had been transparent and its position much closer, people wandered in a daze, struggling to grasp the horrifying enormity exhaled by tragic reminders.

“It looks quite near,” she said. “Could we walk there, down into the valley and up the other side?”

“Do you want to?” he replied in question.

“How long would it take?”

“Oh, about seventy years, going backwards.”

She glanced at him with a frowning half-smile. “We’d die before we got there.”

“Just as well,” he said, without smiling.

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Explanation: The beautiful view from our beautiful garden includes the prism-shaped building that is part of Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s Holocaust museum.

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My spot in Indie Authors Appreciation Week is at 5pm GMT today (Sunday). Do join me there if you can.

Indie Authors Appreciation Week PosterI will also be running a competition, which you can find on the event page during my spot and also on my Facebook author page. The prize is a signed copy of Neither Here Nor There, which I will send anywhere in the world.

Categories
Blogging Books

Wrapping up before the break

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November, for my third year running, means: NaNoWriMo, that month when crazy people around the world, together or alone, type out a lot of words, hopefully 50,000 of them. So if you don’t see me around so much, you’ll know what I’m doing. As usual, I haven’t planned enough of the novel in advance, but I have a provisional title and a cover that I rather like.

Cover2

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Last night, at my Toastmasters Club, I gave a speech called: A Novel Approach. I’m sure you can guess what that was about. It was my second speech there. I didn’t think my first one was good enough to publicise. This one wasn’t perfect either, but it’s an improvement:

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Today, I discovered a new, comprehensive map of the Machane Yehuda market, which features in my novel: Neither Here Nor There. It’s designed by Joel Haber and includes a complete list of all the stalls, shops, bank and whatnot in the area. I used the map to rewrite part of the novel:

So, Esty is at number 7 when she spies Mrs G and her accomplice marching towards her. She has to get away from them. Along 16 and back along 3 and 4? No, she’d be too visible there. So she goes along 6 and 5, then turns along 12 and hops on a train at 29. But the two women are just behind. Will they catch her?

but I think  prefer the original!

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The other day, I read a blog post that made me angry. I was so angry that I decided to write a blog post about it, even though it wasn’t about anything this blog is about. When I’d finished writing it, I felt less angry and decided it really wasn’t suitable here. So it remains in my draft posts. Perhaps I’ll put the sentiments into a novel one day. Perhaps I’ll put them into the novel I’m about to write. We’ll see.

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Whether you’re doing NaNo or not, I wish you lots of success and will be back on the other side, if not before.

BackInApril

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No, that’s from a different break.

This time it’s December.

Categories
Books Israel

Exploring my Inner World

These are the comments that halted me in my perusal of the Internet this morning and made me decide to pour out part of my inner world. Sorry if it makes a stain on your day.

Rosalind Adam said,

…writing helps us cope with our ‘inside world’ in a therapeutic way. It allows us to explore our innermost feelings, fears hopes etc, in a safe environment, safe because we can stop writing at any time we want.

Jo Carroll replied,

Sometimes internal and external worlds blend, like knitting, and writing can help with the unravelling.

Some time ago, readers of my blog asked me to write about every day life in Israel – about ordinary life that doesn’t make its way to your newspapers. I created a new category and called it, “Everyday life in Israel.” I had no intention of ever writing about politics or to take sides in any conflict. There are plenty of blogs that do that. They are written by people who are much more knowledgeable than I and hold much stronger views.

Me and Jerusalem
Me and Jerusalem

That said, the very fact that I live here, and chose to live here, says something about my opinions. I’m always amazed at the surprise shown in the media at the fact that general opinion in Israel is so much at odds with general opinion around the world. The reasons for that are clear to me.

We’re fighting for survival. Ever since the State of Israel was created in 1948, we have fought those trying to destroy us. We continue to do that now no less than previously. Yes, the means we have to protect ourselves have increased over the years, but so have those of all the other sides. I realise the rest of the world doesn’t see this as a fight for survival, but we who live here do, and that makes us think in a different way.

And we know the media lies. We have husbands and sons who serve in the army, who risk their lives to protect us, who risk their lives in an attempt to protect the lives of the citizens caught up in the place – Gaza – that has become such a mess. Clearly the thoughts and opinions coming from this knowledge will be different from those who believe those reports in the media.

So what is life like in a time of war/conflict? I can’t tell you what it’s like for those living in the south of the country where there are constant rocket attacks. I can’t tell you what it’s like for people who have to carry sleeping babies out to relative safety in fifteen seconds, although I do remember a previous war when we did have babies. I can’t tell you what it’s like to lose a son or husband or other family member. I can only tell you what it’s like for me, in one of the safest parts of the country.

I went to folk dancing twice this week in two different places and run by two different people. In the first, we danced to the usual songs but the atmosphere was not as usual. During a break, I sat with a group of people and the conversation was all about the situation. Did we know about the tunnels? How much did we know? Did we know about the mega-attack planned for the eve of the New Year holiday? And someone mentioned something I remember, too. During the ’80s, people who lived in Ashkelon often used to visit nearby Gaza City. They especially liked to buy the furniture sold there. I remember going there too, once, along with friends who lived in Ashkelon. No one felt afraid of going there. Times change.

At the other folk dancing group, the instructor managed to create a lighter mood. I welcomed those few hours when my mind didn’t dwell so much on all this.

Wars and conflicts have changed for me over the years. In the past, we watched the news in the evenings and went to work during the day, where we naturally discussed what was happening but otherwise got on with work.

Now I’m at home, and now there’s social media. I see a lot more of what’s being said around the world and a lot of what I see makes me sad. I’ve often been upset by being misunderstood (which happens often) and I’m similarly upset when my country is misunderstood.

I’ve never written a story that involves this conflict. My romance, Neither Here Nor There, doesn’t mention it. I’ve always thought I wanted to keep away from it, but now I’m not so sure. Anyway, I’ve exposed a bit of my inner world here. It’s not everyday life in Israel, but everyday life in Israel in times of war.

There’s plenty more that I could say and probably some that I wouldn’t say. I’m not about to give out my phone number, for instance, or talk about those closest to me. If you want to ask anything, please do. If you want to pick a fight with me, please don’t. This is not the place for it. You can write your own blog post. You can comment elsewhere. Attacks here will be deleted.

 

Categories
Books

Meet My Main Character

I’m joining in the Meet My Main Character blog hop, in which I answer a few questions about my main character and pass the baton on to two or three other writers. I had a little problem with the latter, as you’ll see later.

I was tagged by fellow Crooked Cat author, Michela O’Brien, whose latest novel, A Summer of Love, was released in January 2013.

What is the name of the main character? Is she real or fictitious?

Esty Sherman. She is fictitious. The name Esty is short for Esther.

When and where is the story set?

This is a contemporary story that takes place over about four months in Jerusalem, apart from a brief trip to London.

What should we know about Esty?

Esty was born and brought up within the closed haredi community. But she has long felt she didn’t belong there and has decided to leave everything and everyone she knew and start afresh.

What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

Contacts with people from her former life make her current life very hard. She is finding it hard enough to acclimatise to new ways of life without constant reminders from the past.

What is Esty’s goal?

To become part of her new world and to become a permanent part of Mark’s life. At least, these are Esty’s goals for most of the time.

What is the book’s title?

Neither Here Nor There, because Esty is no longer a member of her old community but still feels she doesn’t completely belong  in the world she has chosen.

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As I mentioned, I had a problem finding people to continue with this. All the ones I asked had either done it before or were much too busy.

If you would like to answer these questions, please let me know. I will edit this post to tag you, and you can post your answers next week.

Categories
Books Israel

Worlds Apart

My world and your world. Their world and our world. Where am I? Where are you? Where are they?

Somewhere, further down in this post, I will talk about tomorrow’s book launch. If you don’t want to read my prattle, you can go there now.

Things used to be easier in the old days. Worlds kept themselves separate. Facebook brings them all together. It’s hard.

One minute I’m reading about the topic that’s uppermost in the mind of all Israelis. Three teenagers were kidnapped by terrorists. Parents look at their children, knowing it could have been them. How can a sixteen-year-old cope with being held by people who want us all dead?

The next minute, without even scrolling or clicking, I see a joke and I try to laugh. Then there’s a beep and I have to read and comment on a totally unrelated topic. Yes, have to, because it’s part of my job of being a writer. I have to look away from my world and become part of yours for a while.

Yes, I know it’s happened to you, to. There was 9/11, 7/7 and all the rest. But when those things happened, all the worlds were feeling similarly shocked. Now, it’s just us. For everyone else it’s business as usual. Who cares about three boys?

Then there’s their world: the world of those who are euphoric over the news. I see that, too, when people post their pictures and comments, before I look away in disgust.

But I really wanted to talk about another world, one that is right here in Jerusalem. The other day, I walked into the haredi world to take pictures. But when I was there, I didn’t feel good about photographing them, even though no one took any notice of me at all.

Signs that make me feel unwelcome, Mea Shearim
Signs that make me feel unwelcome, Mea Shearim

I hurriedly snapped a few photos and escaped from another world where I don’t belong.

A street in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem
A street in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem

Esty, the heroine of Neither Here Nor There, did belong there. She grew up there. Her family and friends and everyone who knew her expected her to remain in that world for the rest of her life.

And they expected her to meet her future husband two or three times, sitting far apart from him so as not to touch him by mistake, before making a decision about whether to spend the rest of her life with him.

If you look carefully below the Old City walls that are lit for the Jerusalem Festival of Lights, you can make out the man on the left and the girl on the right
If you look carefully below the Old City walls that are lit for the Jerusalem Festival of Lights, you can make out the man on the left and the girl on the right of the bench

In my novel, I don’t make any judgements. My characters make judgements occasionally, but mostly this is a novel of discovery. The characters find out about the other world on their doorstep.

I’ve said enough for now. If you want to join in tomorrow’s festivities, which will include a competition, go to this Facebook page. You can join it now.