As Firefox likes to say: Well, this is embarrassing!

But this really is.

At the beginning of the scavenger hunt that I described in my previous post, Tali, who runs Israel ScaVentures, held up some cards with words on them and asked us to think of associations. Words like DANGER and OPPORTUNITY.

I’m not good at these excercises. My mind tends to go blank when it’s expected to be spontaneous. Fortunately I didn’t have to say anything; the others all come up with associated words.

Then Tali held up a card with the word

WallsI didn’t suggest anything for that word, either.

All the words were connected to our activities for the rest of the morning. WALLS was no exception.

Moses Montefiore, the British philanthropist, decided to build the neighbourhood of Yemin Moshe in an attempt to alleviate the poverty and overcrowding within the old city walls. 15,000 people lived there at the time (mid-19th century).

Montefiore also used money bequeathed by the American, Judah Touro, to set up the adjacent neighbourhood of Mishkenot She’ananim. Its high walls and barred windows were designed to give people the confidence to move into it.

Attacks by Arabs during the 1930s prompted the destruction of internal walls so that fighters could move around Yemin Moshe without detection. The five iron gates were also built at that time, effectively walling in the neighbourhood.

Tali Kaplinski Tarlow of Israel ScaVentures

Tali Kaplinski Tarlow of Israel ScaVentures

But before we learned all that, when Tali held out that card with the word WALLS, I thought of an association immediately. But I didn’t say it. I was too embarrassed. What I thought of was social anxiety and the way it builds an imaginary wall around a person, keeping that person separate from the rest of society. It’s the reason for the title of this blog. It’ll come up in the interview I’m posting on Thursday.

But it didn’t come out of my mouth on Sunday.

As I might have written in a story about me, “She sighed, slowly shaking her head from side to side.”


Israel ScaVentures

The Almond Bakery Café that replenished us with cakes after the hunt.

Yesterday morning I attended my third scavenger hunt, organised by Israel ScaVentures.

Israel ScaVenturesAlthough the whole event took just two hours, I feel it needs at least two blog posts to do it justice. This one is about what we saw and learned.


Selfie by Yoni Cantor Wiseman

This year’s hunt took place in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Yemin Moshe. The location was very significant for me because we lived there for thirteen years. It’s one of the first neighbourhoods to have been built outside the city walls. I have blogged about Yemin Moshe several times. Here’s the list, if you’re interested:

A-Z Challenge: W is for Western, Wailing, Wall, Windmill

Root Finder

Writing Seminar and Memories

Places in NHNT

So obviously I knew all there is to know about Yemin Moshe. Wrong. I discovered plenty from the scavenger hunt. The Lion Fountain, we read from the excellent Mission Pack, was donated to Jerusalem by Germany in 1989 and each part of it symbolises something.

I heard a third reason why the windmill was hardly used, on top of the two I mentioned here: it was designed to work with British wheat and was not suitable for the hard wheat of Jerusalem.

And there was plenty more fascinating information, all absorbed in a friendly, fun atmosphere.

Other posts about the hunt can be found at:

One Tired Ema

Managing Greatness

i-Point Media Group

Handmade in Israel – the most detailed post.

If you’re in Jerusalem, Israel ScaVentures is a great, fun way of learning about this special city.

Photo by Yoni Cantor Wiseman

Photo by Yoni Cantor Wiseman

My novel, Neither Here Nor There, due to be published later this year, describes several places in Jerusalem that I’ve mentioned before on this blog. Like the market, Machane Yehuda.

Machane Yehuda market

Machane Yehuda market

Jaffa Road and the light railway (which has been going for two and a half years).

Jerusalem Light Railway at night

Jerusalem Light Railway at night

The German Colony, which I mentioned here.

House in German Colony

House in German Colony

Yemin Moshe, where I used to live, and which I described here and here and here.

Yemin Moshe windmill

Yemin Moshe windmill

There are some other places in Jerusalem that get a mention in the novel. I’ll have to photograph them, too.

There are also places in London that feature in the novel. I haven’t taken photos of them and they’re a bit far away from me for a quick snapping session.

Place can often drive a novel. It certainly drives mine.

A lane in Yemin Moshe

A lane in Yemin Moshe

Nothing can happen nowhere. The locale of the happening always colours the happening, and often, to a degree, shapes it.

~ Elizabeth Bowen

… is today!




Yes, it’s Tu B’Shvat – the new year for trees. The name means the 15th of Shvat, which is today’s Hebrew date. In Israel, this is traditionally an ecological awareness day. People plant trees on this day. Schoolchildren are taken on trips to plant trees and learn about nature.





The weather today, here in Jerusalem, is cool and sunny, an excellent day for planting trees.







I decided it would be appropriate to take some photos of our garden.




But the typical photo to take on this day is of the almond tree. Somehow almond trees always blossom on this day. We don’t have one in our garden, so I went out in search of one. Where we lived before, in Yemin Moshe, there were always almond trees.

I couldn’t see an almond tree in any of these:

IMG_0558This didn’t look like an almond tree:

IMG_0560and neither did this:

IMG_0561nor this (I think):

IMG_0562This certainly didn’t look like one:

IMG_0563And so I returned home without seeing any almond blossom. Next year, I’ll have to visit Yemin Moshe.

Happy New Year to all trees!

I spent the last two days at a memoir writing seminar led by the author Ilana Blumberg.

I haven’t attended many such activities, so I can’t compare, but this one was excellent. It covered many topics, let the participants participate and included writing exercises. Sharing our hastily written pieces showed up the similarities and differences in our lives.

It came as no surprise to me, in a seminar held in Israel and conducted in English, that all the participants had moved to Israel from other, mostly English-speaking, countries. None of us was forced to leave our native countries and for all but one the move was intended to be permanent.

But, as I listened to the tale of one woman who’d moved with her husband, ten children and twenty-four suitcases, I realised how different the emigration/immigration process can be. I came on my own with one case. I hopped on a plane and landed less than five hours later to join a year-long programme. My stay in Israel could be temporary or permanent. I didn’t have to decide at that point.

That’s not to say that my immigration process was all plain sailing. But I didn’t have the difficulties of arriving with a large family.

The seminar has made me think again about memoir. I did write one once, but when I reached the end, I decided I needed to start again and change the structure of it. I thought of a new way of organising it, began again and stopped. How could I be sure that way was any better? Maybe the best way, in the end, is to write it chronologically, because that shows the sequence of events and the affect each event had in shaping the personality of the author… me.

The seminar included a discussion of what Vivian Gornick in “The Situation and the Story” calls… well… the situation and the story. The situation is what happened. It shows the events – the descriptions, the conversations, the actions. The story is the emotional journey caused by the situation. The story is what we need to tell, but it’s not clear what the story is. This is something the writer has to work out. Without a story, the memoir is a jumble of events. The story tells the author which events to tell and how to tell them. It tells the author how to create order from chaos.

I suppose that’s why I don’t have a structure. I haven’t yet worked out what my story is.

The seminar was held in the picturesque neighbourhood of Yemin Moshe. It’s a neighbourhood of alleys and cobblestones. Of several stairways leading down to the Old City of Jerusalem. The view is magnificent.

Arriving early, as I often do, I decided to take a short walk around the area. My feet led me to the house we lived in for about fourteen years until we moved out seven years ago, and I realised how much I miss this place. I remember how lovely it was to be able to step from the house into this area of history and beauty, away from the noises and smells of modern day life, yet within easy walking distance of the town centre and the Old City.

Yemin Moshe - view along Malki Street

I’ve never missed a home before. Certainly not the one I grew up in. I was eager to leave the place with memories that were mostly sad. In one of my writing exercises in the seminar, which I read out loud, someone noted that, when writing about visiting my former house and school, I’d mentioned looking at both from the outside. That does reflect how I feel now about my former life. I’m outside it now and pleased to be so.