#SIMTalksWithMiriam

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…

Jo FentonWhen 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!

ashkelonsunset

Ashkelon (photo by David Drori)

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.

Her first novel, The Brotherhood, is available from Amazon.

The sequel, The Refuge, will be released this summer by Crooked Cat Books.

Jo can be found on her website, Facebook and Twitter.

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I happened to read this in a recent article in the Jewish Chronicle:

In recent years, as antisemitism has become ever more of a news item… lazy journalists reach for some easy stereotypes of black- hatted and bearded Jews in Stamford Hill to illustrate any news piece about the Jewish community.

This notion might have grown, but it’s not new. It must be over twenty years since my son got separated from his father in a funfair in England. He found himself searching a CCTV screen along with a man who said, “Oh, you come from Israel. So we’re searching for a man with a black hat and a beard.”

Another time, I was sitting in a little tourist train in Bournemouth when I saw two women watching a family whose dress made them stand out. You know, hat, beard, black suit, dress covering knees and elbows, little boys with dreadlocks and tassles. One woman turned to the other and said, “They’re Jews,” and I wanted to say, “We’re not all like that.”

It’s been an awfully long time since I visited Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel-Aviv. The part I remember most about it is the never-ending pictures of Jews flashing past on a screen. And they’re all so different.

That’s all I wanted to say in this post. Jews come in all shapes, sizes, colours and dress.

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I looked up “Jews” in some free image sites, looking for a picture for this post. Guess what I found and why there’s no picture attached to this post.

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We’re remembering one Jew and Israeli who sadly passed away two days ago: the brilliant author, Amos Oz. While not everyone agreed with his views, we all acknowledge and appreciate his love for this country.

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I’m in the middle of writing and editing and preparing and more, but yesterday we had an opportunity to attend a public rehearsal of Don Giovanni and we took it.

Love SeatAfter the performance, we had a bite to eat at the nearby Sarona Market, where we saw this seat. It plays love songs. Well, there’s probably a loudspeaker hidden behind it, but you can sit on the bench and listen to love songs. Isn’t that sweet.

After that, we enjoyed an evening walk by the sea in un-sea-sonably warm weather.

But the strangest things happened during the performance. Really, they both happened. I’m not making this up.

Maybe because it was a rehearsal, a few members of the audience thought it was all right to talk to each other or to use their smart phones – silently. Some people up in the gallery were talking quite loudly. Eventually, the disturbance was dealt with somehow and the talking stopped. Just then the translated text of the opera, displayed above and next to the stage said:

We’ve finally got rid of that fool.

Later, the man directly in front of me was using his phone, holding it so that its light shone in my eyes. I put my hand up in front of me to block the light and again looked at the text of the opera. It said:

He dazzled me for a moment.

I kid you not.

It’s good to get out sometimes and experience life outside the computer.

Right, back to editing.

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

 

Jane Charlesworth and the novel she comes from, Rebellious Cargo, were featured in my series, Letters from Elsewhere in October.

The novel is one of three featured this week by Crooked Cat Publishing.

All three are romances – two historical and one contemporary: rebellious shenanigans in the Scottish Highlands in Cathie Dunn’s Highland Arms; romantic adventures out at sea in Susan Lodge’s Rebellious Cargo; and unexpected surprises in a dating agency in The Love Shack by Tina K Burton.

More posts about these stories will probably appear on the Crooked Cats’ Cradle.

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I’m continuing to write for the English Informer about life in Israel. My latest post is about Sundays. Do you know what we get up to on Sundays?

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My husband takes wonderful photos.

Nahal David with Dead Sea in background

At Nahal David, Ein Gedi with the Dead Sea in the background

Hidden waterfall at Nahal Arugot

Hidden waterfall at Nahal Arugot, Ein Gedi

Hyrax at Nahal David

Hyrax at Nahal David, Ein Gedi

Sunset2016

Sunset in Tel-Aviv

100 Word Challenge

Click to join in the fun

The challenge: 104 words including:

the extreme weather meant

I’m throwing fiction to the elements this week. We had our extreme weather about a week before most of you.

So near and yet so different

In Tel-Aviv, the extreme weather meant flooding, road closures and terrible traffic jams.

In Modi’in, a shopping centre was flooded, giving rise to the picture of a restaurant, the diners with their feet in water, that appeared on Facebook. Another interesting picture compared the shopping mall to Venice. They did look rather similar.

In Jerusalem, the extreme weather meant a traffic shutdown, a welcome holiday, snowmen, snowballs and beautiful, silent whiteness. What a difference a few kilometres and a few hundred metres make!

A week later, we sat lazing on the grass in warm sunshine, not a trace of extreme weather in sight.

Frozen pond

Frozen pond

You’ll be able to read two blogs about a single event. Erika and I met on Thursday for an evening out and decided we’d both blog about it and compare our views. Which parts made enough of an impression to be included? What did each of us enjoy?

So, I took the light railway again. Well, why not? It’s free (still), comfortable and takes a reasonable amount of time to arrive. Entering the bus station (I’m so used to this, I don’t usually think about it), I walked through an xray machine and then put my backpack through another machine. I’m not crazy about the way the bus station is designed. For me, it’s a bus station and not a shopping centre, and I don’t enjoy pushing my way past shoppers to reach the buses, two floors up.

Some things can be confusing for those who don’t know. The two bus stations in Tel-Aviv are known as central and north, but the north station is also the central railway station. At least they’re both also called Arlozorov, so if you use that name, you can’t go wrong. Although the station is also called Savidor.

The journey to Tel-Aviv was fast, comfortable and cold. I tried to keep my bare arms under my backpack to protect them from the cold air from the air conditioning. I hadn’t taken a bus along this route for some time and was pleased to note that the new(ish) bus lane saves a lot of time. Just to show I was in the big city, I took this picture, although it doesn’t really prove anything:

Erika picked me up at the station and drove me to the sea. (No, I didn’t say into the sea.) Then we walked to Jaffa’s famous Clock Tower.

On the way, we passed a large number of people and realised they must be celebrating Eid-Ul-Fitr (the end of Ramadan). They were spread out all over the grass and busy grilling meat or just hanging around. Erika hadn’t realised this was going to happen and apologised to me for the commotion around us, but I didn’t mind. I’ve done this walk before when it’s been quieter.

As we walked, we caught up with each other’s news, in particular we talked about her recent trip to Latvia and mine to Italy.

Our destination was the flea market. We wandered along its streets, which were quiet as the shops were about to close, looking at the shops with their mixture of old and antique. We entered one shop where the goods were expensive and interesting. Unusual plates, a lamp shade with a wooden base, mirrors with ornate frames.

Then we looked around for somewhere to eat and settled on a small café, where we sat outside during a quiet period between the day and the evening. I ordered a sandwich with aubergine and other vegetables. It came with salad. The lemon drink with mint had an unusual, not-so-pleasant taste. Afterwards, on Erika’s recommendation, I bought kurtosh, a sweet Hungarian pastry. Later, my family and I enjoyed eating it. It tastes very much like yeast cake, but it’s shaped like a tower and hollow in the middle.

We walked back by the sea and I returned from whence I came. A very pleasant evening. Thank you, Erika!